What is the top skill required for early talent leaders?

Jun 19, 2024 | Development, Home Featured, Opinion

Bruce Daisley, bestselling author and technology leader, considers how work has transformed.

A few weeks ago I was chatting to a senior UK leader of a well-known technology business and he was telling me that young workers would surely benefit from being a little more like him when he started his career.

“I was in five days a week before eight o’clock, I loved it.” The leader assured me that this formula for success wasn’t subject to the vagaries of time, it was objective fact.

Reflection

I started to ask questions of his own circumstances. Firstly, this turned out to be around the Millennium – twenty to twenty-five years ago, a span of time that might have felt recent in his memory. This invited us to reflect on what else had changed since then.

He’d lived close to his job, in London’s Zone Two so almost certainly his journey into the office had taken him around 30 minutes. I pointed out that today SpareRoom calls London a ‘no grad zone’ as there isn’t a single postcode in the city that is affordable on a new starter salary.

It’s reported that those living in the capital spend 53% of their wages on their rent. It’s fair to say that other big cities aren’t far behind.

Rise of the commute

All of this means that younger workers are living further and further away from the jobs that they are recruited into – and so are presented with substantial travel costs and long commute times.

One recent estimate suggested that someone who travelled into their job every single day would spend a quarter of their salary merely getting to their desk.

By now he was intrigued what else had changed. He’d been fortunate and had bought his first property on his thirtieth birthday, but that’s no longer the case.

High debt

Graduates are leaving college with an average of £45,000 in student loans. It’s worth saying that the outlook for new entrants to the world of work is getting worse. In 2016 the average age of people in a house share was 24. In 2023 it was 31. Half of the people in flat shares were over 30.

By the time we’d finished talking we’d reached a new stage, the leader was no longer as certain that his own experience was directly translatable to those he might bring into the business today. In fact, he was filled with empathy, a little humbled by his own mistakes in jumping to conclusions.

Since 2019 we’ve seen a generation of change take place in five years. The pace of transition can leave us flatfooted at times, our instincts of what is right might land badly with our teams who have seen their lives transformed by greater flexibility.

The greatest skill for a leader today is empathy – leading with questions and challenging their own assumptions. The pace of change is reason for us all to pause, reflect and re-examine – things might not be as we first imagined.

You can hear more from Bruce about how work has transformed and growing resilient talent for the future at the forthcoming ISE Student Recruitment Conference, taking place 24-25 June 2024.

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