Around the world, every country is facing significant disruptions. Some are global, such as COVID-19. Others are more local, such as Brexit in the UK.
In very different ways, the disruption and challenges of both COVID-19 and Brexit have caused us to pause and rethink a wide range of topics. Such challenges force us all to act decisively and redefine ourselves — individually, professionally, and as a nation.
In the UK, the ratification of a post-Brexit EU trade deal has given us a greater degree of certainty about what Brexit really means. At the same time, worldwide, with vaccination programs now underway in many countries, a primitive means and timeframe for slowing and ultimately ending the pandemic is taking shape. Such progress will help us all plan the way forward with much-needed confidence and optimism.
However, we must resist the temptation to see this purely as an opportunity to “get back to the way” as quickly as possible. The disruptions we faced brought us to a critical turning point — and a defining moment in history. Now we have to decide where we go next.
Momentum is growing around ambitions often proclaimed as “building back better.” Few generations of leaders, across communities, businesses and governments, have had the opportunity to rethink the future like this.
Aspiration for better
As we plan for that future, we must focus on other pressing issues, such as climate change, skills shortages and social inequality. While extreme events tend to amplify injustice in society, they can also highlight what needs to be developed and arouse a greater desire and capacity to make that change a reality. real.
One of the next lessons I’ve learned from 2020 is that we’ve discovered depths of greater resolve, more caring for each other, and greater creative, problem-solving abilities. than perhaps we ever realise. We must let those lessons in agility and creativity become part of the muscle memory that shapes the way we work from now on.
None of us have a “handbook” for dealing with the types of disruptions we face, but among our responses, there will be elements in common, such as increased investment. into digital skills and competencies; reduce disparities between regions to open up opportunities and untapped potential; and create more sustainable ways of living and working.
As we rethink our attitudes about everything from travel and lifestyle, to the role city centers play, to our global footprint, we have the opportunity not only to think about where we want to go but also rethinking what we had before; what we want to take back; what we want to switch from; and which changes are made in a hurry that we should dip in.
Leverage for growth
Before the pandemic hit, we looked at all the levers the UK could pull to grow its post-Brexit economy. Those things are now more important than ever, and every country should do something similar – assess what they can dial in for improved economic efficiency and greater social cohesion. .
In the UK, we have identified potential £83 billion boost to GDP that can be done by “upgrading” and closing the regional productivity gap that exists in the UK.
“Upgrading” may be a strategy in the UK to spread prosperity more evenly beyond London, but importantly it also has implications for so many other parts of the world where jobs and opportunity to focus on a narrow geographic scope. The UK economy is service-based, so making sure service-based jobs are accessible in all areas is key.
At PwC, we’ve focused on rebalancing our headcount outside of London, not just within desirable alternatives, such as Manchester and Birmingham. Two years ago we opened an office in Bradford – a city with higher unemployment than the national average and traditionally less social mobility. We have undertaken numerous outreach activities to schools in and around Bradford, recognizing the need to tap into the broader talent pool and the benefits to be gained from doing so. Since opening our Bradford PwC office in May 2019, we’ve more than doubled the number of jobs we’ve created there.
It is also important that the UK continues to be an attractive destination for foreign investment and an effective trading partner with major economies around the world. To do so, we cannot rely solely on existing skills, historical ties or inherited perceptions. We need to improve connectivity and digital infrastructure, along with strengthening digital capabilities across the country. We need to harness the innovation and problem-solving that has been at the forefront of this nation’s response to COVID-19.
Those priorities will help us adapt and reinvent the services, areas, and relationships we rely on to drive growth.
The pandemic response shows how quickly we can overcome both inertia and hypothetical barriers to digital transformation, and demonstrates the critical need to invest in new technologies to secure our future. PwC research quantified the significant economic value that could be delivered by 2030 with emerging technologies, including blockchain (US$72 billion to UK GDP; US$1.76 billion globally), virtual and augmented reality (US$69.3 billion to UK GDP; US$1.5 billion globally), and Unmanned aircraft (42 billion pounds to UK GDP).