Preparation the antidote to uncertainty
You’d be forgiven for thinking Theresa May had a lack of focus on this side of the Irish Sea, given her apparent little attention to the surprise results of Northern Ireland’s recent election.
But, maybe David Davis has been lending more of an ear our way. In his interview with Andrew Marr on BBC One, just a few days after the IBEC CEO conference, he speaks to the concerns expressed there with more reassuring soundbites than have been coming from Britain in recent months. He was more open about the level of contingency planning underway in the event of ‘no deal’ with the EU and committed to creating an ‘invisible, frictionless border’ between North and South.
As Article 50 is set to be triggered within days, beginning negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, the jitters of the unknown were palpable among speakers and attendees at the conference. Together with global political upheaval and the possibility of more to come, I can endorse this sentiment. There is a tangible mood of uncertainty in the executive employment market at present. Uncertainty puts a spoke in the wheels of talent movement and in opportunity creation by companies who would otherwise be thinking innovatively.
IBEC CEO, Danny McCoy was strong in his encouragement that we step out of the cautious mindset of the bust and “get over it… It was 10 years ago.” The implications of Brexit, he says, are "so profound that companies cannot afford to take a wait-and-see approach". The opportunities possible for us are vast but we need to prepare, strategise and plan. The government needs to put priority on immediate investment in infrastructure and education, especially now, as borrowing can be secured at an attractive rate of interest.
Other speakers like Margot Slattery of Sodexo and Peter Barrett of SMBC Aviation Leasing similarly acknowledged the lack of clarity on what we are facing but expressed their belief that Ireland is still a great place to generate business in. Our continuing open economic environment gives us definite competitive advantage, even though our personal tax rate of 50% is high and a factor that’s being considered in the transfer of executives here.
Vicky Godolphin, Head of Digital, Accenture Ireland reassured us that digital disruption will continue to change our business and wider world. In their survey of over 10,000 workers in ten countries exploring the impact of technological advances on work, 95% believed they need new skills to stay relevant at work.
If the conference’s modern format was an analogy for our way of doing business now, it augers well. It was excellently planned and smoothly executed. Three clear sessions with snappy keynote addresses followed by focused panel discussions allowed for easy absorption of various viewpoints.
Despite the uneasiness about what lies ahead for the Irish business community, Danny McCoy is underpinning our ability to ride the waves with a strong note of optimism: “I have never been more confident about the Irish economy.”