According to recent research undertaken by Vodafone, which explored attitudes to risk among senior managers across the UK, businesses currently put more emphasis on their business continuity plans to mitigate against technology risks than they do on risks to talent. Given that the UK is very much a people economy, isn’t it time that UK businesses rethink their approach to business continuity planning and find out what they can do to hold on to top talent?

In light of the current economic climate you can forgive businesses for being risk averse. So, it’s not surprising that our research, which forms part of the Vodafone Perspective series, found that three-fifths of senior managers reported that their organisations had become more focused on preventing risk over the past three years. What’s more, nine out of ten organisations with more than 250 employees have business continuity plans in place. Eight out of ten SMEs (50 to 249 staff) also have these kinds of plans at the ready. It’s clear then that companies are becoming more aware of the need to be prepared.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the greatest risks were considered to be technology related. Around three-fifths of those questioned said that IT systems failure was a significant concern with telecommunications failure (46%), the loss of confidential data (44%) and cyber-attacks (39%) also being mentioned.

However, what was perhaps most surprising about the research was how few of those questioned considered ‘talent risk’ a serious threat to their business or organisation. This is worrying given the service-based nature of our economy – we believe that finding and retaining the best talent is key to growing a successful business in this country. The risk of losing your best talent is clearly a serious issue, with employee defection an obvious potential risk. Previous research in our Perspective Series, which explored the changing nature of employee expectations, found that the average job satisfaction rating of UK employees was just 6.6 out of ten. What’s more around 1 in 4 people were actively considering changing jobs in the next twelve months. The disruption to a business caused by talent loss can be serious and lasting if the issue is neglected while considering continuity planning.

So what can companies do to make sure they attract, and crucially, retain the best talent? One clear way to be more appealing to potential and current employees is to offer better than average benefits such as higher-end salaries, a share in the company or a good pension. However, this is not always realistic, especially in the current economic climate when margins are being squeezed. A relatively inexpensive way of boosting morale and job satisfaction is to offer flexible working, which helps to reduce the risk of employee loss or defection.

Vodafone’s research showed that access to flexible working options and a better work-life balance are now among the most important factors for boosting employee morale and increasing job satisfaction. One way of doing this is to introduce new working processes and technology that enable employees to work flexibly and securely from wherever they need to be. This might mean a shift to measuring employee performance rather than attendance or equipping staff with the right tools to work flexibly. Often small changes can make a huge difference at a relatively low cost to the business.

Employers can never completely eradicate the risk of losing talent – people will always move jobs. On the other hand, they do need to be more alert to the threat if they are to prosper and thrive. Employees leaving can represent as significant a danger as technological and environmental risk but talent risk is much easier to control and eliminating it can bring about huge benefits for businesses. Identifying and managing talent risk as part of a business continuity management strategy is not only good practice, it will contribute to business excellence overall.

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