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Business must be clear about the role it plays in wider society, Gratton tells consortium

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The Future of Work Consortium, led by London Business School professor Lynda Gratton, kicked off its fourth phase last Friday, with Gratton announcing the three themes that will dominate discussions this year: the link between business and society; future talent; and organisational agility.

The consortium brings together 200 executives from 36 companies and organisations around the world including American Express, BT Global Services, Kraft Foods, Marks & Spencer, Microsoft, Shell and Tata Consultancy Services. It is part of the Hot Spots Movement, a research and development-based community that bridges academia and management practice, and aims to answer the question, 'What will work be like in 2030'? 

The research group uses a methodology of co-creation that brings together academia and practice around an online community portal, surveys and diagnostics, face-to-face workshops and masterclasses and 'jams' (between 48 and 72 online conversations). The fourth iteration will run for a year. 

Gratton introduced the themes that will be discussed and researched in detail at future events to over 70 delegates who had travelled from as far afield as India, Brazil and Oman.

She said she believed the biggest issue for businesses over the next year would be the role they played within wider society. "Companies need to build inner resilience and anchor themselves in communities," she said. "Business has a major role to play in contributing to solving the three major global challenges: poverty, youth unemployment and climate change. They need to build alliances with other companies, NGOs and governments and be clear about their role in the world."

On talent, Gratton said that organisations' view of talent and talent attraction is changing rapidly. In developed economies such as the UK, she said, a "hollowing out of the workforce", whereby many middle tier jobs have been outsourced overseas or rendered unnecessary due to technology, means that companies need to think differently about finding, attracting and retaining talent.

"More and more companies are going to have to think about the skills gap and educating children as governments aren't doing it properly," she said. "Companies will also need to find new talent ecosystems [talent clusters such as Silicon Valley]." She added that she believed business and HR practices should be globalised in order to attract younger recruits keen for a global experience.

On the subject of organisational agility, Gratton emphasised the importance of innovation and experimenting, and said that leadership was changing from an individual to a collective activity. "Leadership is about communities, not individuals," she said.

Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School and author of The Shift: The Future of Work is Already Here, (Collins 2011) and Hot Spots: Why Some Teams, Workplaces and Organisations Buzz with Energy and Others Don't. (FT/PrenticeHall, 2007). She is the founder and leader of the Hot Spots Movement.