UK leads the world in talent, but it needs the right culture in which to thrive

London at nightWe should never take the UK’s talent base for granted. According to a new report from Deloitte, when it comes to employment levels of people in knowledge based jobs in high skill sectors such as digital media, banking, legal services, software development, telecoms and publishing, London is comfortably the world’s leading city. The study found that London employed 1.5 million people in the 22 sectors surveyed, compared with 1.2 million in New York, 784,000 in Los Angeles, 630,000 in Hong Kong and 425,000 in Boston. The report also predicts that London will enjoy rapid growth in employment levels in these sectors over the next seven years, adding around 100,000 more people and that while a decline in employment is foreseen in financial services, this will be more than offset by strong growth in creative and media businesses.

But the UK’s success in terms of its talent base  isn’t solely down to one or two sectors. The Deloitte study found that London leads the world in a remarkable 12 of the 22 sectors. It’s worth naming them all.

  • Culture
  • Retail and investment banking
  • Legal services
  • Management, scientific and technical consulting
  • Accounting, tax and payroll
  • Architecture and engineering
  • Insurance
  • Publishing (except Internet)
  • Digital media
  • Fund management
  • Telecommunications
  • Primary and secondary education

We can all take a large measure of shared pride in this, but success always brings its own challenges and in this case it involves developing the culture and infrastructure – both technological and physical – needed to support this burgeoning talent base and consolidate London and the UK’s position as a world leader. We live in a very dynamic world and we have no time to rest on our laurels.

We should also acknowledge that this challenge isn’t the sole preserve of London, but also affects some of the UK other talent hotspots. Cambridge is home to 1,500 tech firms employing some 50,000 people and generating £50 billion a year. Salford’s Media City is now a hothouse for creative talent and a global leader in media and production. And technology, media and telecoms companies are thriving in belts across the UK including in central Scotland, the South West and along the M4 corridor which is now home to companies such as Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, Ericsson, Vodafone, O2, Citrix, Dell, Huawei, Lexmark, LG, Novell, Nvidia, Panasonic, SAP and Symantec not to mention the countless other smaller businesses, consultants and freelancers that share this hothouse.

The implications of this hothousing is already apparent in the market for commercial l property.  A BNP Paribas survey earlier this year predicted that in the TMT sector, office take-up in the UK will reach 4.65m sq ft by the end of 2014. The challenge will be for firms to provide the technological infrastructure, cultures and workplaces to attract and retain the best possible talent, convey the right image for clients and staff and also maintain a great degree of flexibility to deal with both short and long term changes to their needs.

The challenge will become more important in the very near future. A report from Boston Consulting Group suggests that the proportion of the UK’s GDP related to the technology and media sectors is set to grow from its current level of 8 per cent to over 12 per cent by 2016. Employment will grow in the sector as a result but so too will competition for staff, many of whom will be knowledge workers from Generation Y who have different expectations of work and the workplace than those of older generations.

While the TMT sector may be at the vanguard of this new and enlightened approach to office design and fit-out, the same can also be said of all of the UK’s sectors. Having a well designed and well managed workplace is essential for all contemporary organisations and can have a significant impact on both individual and overall performance, cutting costs, delivering better service to clients, attracting and retaining employees, conveying corporate identity and – ultimately –adding to the bottom line.

We should be very proud of the fact that the UK leads the world in the most progressive business sectors. But we should never take that position for granted.


PhilipRossPhilip Ross is a consultant and commentator on the impact of technology on our lives, work and workplaces. He is also the driving force behind the global Worktech series of events. Worktech London takes place on the 19th and 20th November. More information is available here