News in brief: planning, productivity, EU, job market

SMEs ditching the five-year business plan

There has been a clear shift away from the traditional five-year business plan, with 82% of SME leaders changing strategy at least once a year and three fifths doing so at least every six months.

This is according to a report by Standard Life which also found that, in order to achieve business success, SME leaders said the number one priority is to empower the workforce. Employees agreed, stating that the most desirable quality in a business leader is the ability to empower and trust their colleagues.

Agile business is embedded in the psyche and practices of UK SMEs today, with 60% of employees saying ‘adaptability’ is the most important attribute for professional success. The findings also suggest the traditional five year business planning cycle is largely a thing of the past, with a huge majority of SME leaders (82%) altering their strategy at least once a year – and almost three fifths doing so at least every six months.

Standard Life managing director of marketing, Stephen Ingledew said: “SMEs are an important part of our client base, and we wanted to take a closer look at the behaviours these business leaders and their employees adopt to achieve success and fuel entrepreneurship. Our research shows that UK SMEs are strongly committed to building working environments that encourage and nurture flexibility and innovation.”

Working from home could increase productivity

Employees claim they would be most productive if they could split their week into three days in the office and two days working from home.

However, according to a study of 1,019 British office workers by Hammonds, 52% of home-workers admitted to having a daily ‘siesta’ – and a further eleven percent admitted working the day from their bed.

As for bosses, 34% said they were ‘flexible’ in terms of home working – but an old-fashioned 20% said they preferred their team to do a traditional 9 – 5. Interestingly, 2% of bosses said they do not trust their staff and want them where they can see them.

Spokesperson for Hammonds Furniture Kirsty Oakes said: "Having a dedicated space for working from home will enable you to still be as productive and focused as being in the office. This doesn't necessarily need to be a devoted office room but it should be more than just a desk in a spare room. You should consider storage, lighting and how much space you will need for your work."

Roundtable to get more Scottish women in business

Scotland Office Minister Andrew Dunlop recently held a roundtable discussion on developing more female entrepreneurs and business leaders in Scotland. The roundtable looked at what worked for women who have set up their own businesses, how to help them grow, and how to encourage more female entrepreneurs.

Lord Dunlop said: “We have seen real progress in extending opportunity to women. There are now more women in employment, and more women-led businesses, than ever before. There isn’t a single all-male board left in the FTSE 100, and the gender pay gap is at its lowest level since records began. But we know that there is more to be done.”

Businesses represented at the event included: Hot Tin Roof PR, Flexiworkforce, Equestrian Reviewer, Findra Cycle Clothing, Cherith Harrison Ltd, Commando Spirit, Humble Pie Food, ExecSpace, Bespoke and Contemporary Kilts, WeDo Scotland, Highland Hustle and Mama Tea.

School-leavers not optimistic about job prospects

Nearly one in three (30%) 16-18 year olds expect to wait over a year to secure a job after leaving full time education.

The UK’s high youth unemployment figures (13.6% for October to December 2015) continue to lag behind comparable European economies such as Germany and Denmark (7% and 9% respectively). These figures are symptomatic of a wider inability to properly prepare Britain’s young people for skilled employment in the global world of work, and contribute to the UK’s poor productivity record.

These are the findings from research commissioned by Young Enterprise, the leading charity that empowers and teaches young people how to harness their personal and business skills.

Young Enterprise chief executive Michael Mercieca said: “Young people don’t need sympathy and rhetoric, they need opportunity to learn, not ‘guidance’ and ‘sign-posting’. It is essential that schools, charities and businesses work together in a long-term, national programme to ensure that all young people have the opportunity to develop these essential character skills and gain experience of work and entrepreneurism– no matter what their financial background.”

CBI claims EU reforms will be good for business

With the prime minister David Cameron’s EU renegotiation complete, the CBI has reviewed and made an assessment of the deal, claiming that, if implemented, the reforms will make the EU work better for British businesses.

The CBI acknowledges that different groups will assess the reforms using many different criteria, but coupled with the added impetus the renegotiation process has given to reforms already underway in Brussels considers that business can be pleased with the deal.

However, while it claims good progress has been made, more work needs to be done to cement the EU as an organisation with jobs and growth as its raison d’etre. Reform will always remain an ongoing process and the CBI will continue its push to make the EU more competitive.

You can read the full assessment here.