As in many other industrialised countries, the last couple of decades have seen a major restructuring of British industry away from the more traditional heavy engineering and primary sectors towards the service and high-tech fields.
This process has also coincided with radical shifts in approach to management and company structure. Many of the hierarchy and class issues which were so much a feature of the British industrial landscape have been replaced by more modern business models – often heavily influenced by US thinking.
Ideas of jobs for life have largely been overtaken by an expectation of rapid change in work patterns and prospects. Many current British managers no longer expect to spend most of their careers with one or two companies, but rather look for progression through moving from employer to employer. One result of this could be the much talked of British short-termism associated by many continental European business people with UK companies.
Generalisation, rather than specialisation, tends to typify the British approach – with less merit being placed on pure technical ability than in some other countries. Some commentators have quoted this tendency as one of the reasons for the demise of manufacturing in the UK over the last four decades.
As with many other European countries, the UK (with a heavy reliance on the Banking and Finance sector) was badly hit by the financial crisis of 2008 and faces a painful journey back to growth and prosperity. The Brexit decision on 2016 adds to this sense of economic uncertainty and the coming years could prove decisive for the long-term viability of the UK to survive as a global leading economy.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
The United Kingdom remains one of the largest, most competitive markets in the world. It is a global centre of excellence across a wide range of business sectors as well as being a world-leader in higher education. The City of London, along with New York, continues to dominate international finance and UK-based legal firms retain their pre-eminence as global players.
Despite these massive positive factors, the UK faces a number of challenges going forward. How will the UK cope with a post-Brexit world as it navigates its way through the Brexit negotiations and looks to forge new partnerships outside it traditional markets within the EU? Will the UK be able to improve its notoriously poor productivity levels and will the City of London be able to retain its leadership role in global finance?
All of these questions will be answered in the coming decade but in the intervening period the UK remains open for business and the prospects for doing successful business in the UK remain positive. The UK actively seeks overseas companies who see the country as an attractive market and world-class incentives are in place to help you take advantage of a sophisticated consumer base and a highly educated workforce.
If you are considering doing business in the UK, you need to consider the cultural issues you are likely to encounter. Put simply, the British are quick to take offence. Your communication style might be viewed as aggressive, when you thought you were merely being helpfully direct or your negotiating style could appear confrontational when you thought you were offering useful alternatives. Study the UK approach to business in advance – it will pay dividends.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of business culture in the UK in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: