Who are IoD members? The answer is less straight-forward than you might think. Members sit on the boards of large companies, but they also run start-ups. Some wear suits and work in the City of London, others wear hardhats and install power transformers in County Durham.
At a recent Business Barometer Breakfast, which we hold monthly to give the Director General and the Policy team a chance to hear directly from members about issues affecting them, among only a small group we had representation from sectors including biofuels, translation services and interior design. Members come mainly from the private sector, but we can also count University Vice Chancellors and charity heads among the IoD’s ranks.
Without wishing to labour the point, IoD membership is incredibly diverse. This is overwhelmingly a strength for us. The IoD exists to help directors (and indeed similar roles, like trustees) to perform at the highest level, whether they are building a business from scratch or the running a multinational company.
What they all have in common, is a belief that no leader is the finished article. That everyone can benefit from training, advice and support networks. But the sheer range of different types of organisation that make up the IoD does pose a challenge when it comes to another core part of what the IoD does to assist members: representing them to Government.
We know from years of data from Policy Voice surveys what the main areas of concern are for members.
While developments in Brexit negotiations (or the lack of them) can produce a noticeable impact on economic optimism, the issues holding business back are mostly more basic, long-running challenges. Aside from general economic conditions, which have become shakier in the first half of this year, other top concerns for IoD members currently include skills shortages, compliance with government regulation and business taxes. Late payment also continues to plague many firms.
These same issues also come up in conversations the policy team have with members across the country at events, and show us that despite the variety in our membership, there are common pressures. The IoD’s task, which we believe is important for the whole economy, is to provide advocacy and advice to help alleviate these pressures.
It’s no surprise that compliance with regulation has scored highly recently given the introduction of GDPR. The IoD’s Information and Advisory Service has been inundated with requests for assistance on getting ready for GDPR, helping 800 members over just one recent nine-day period. IAS is great resource for members, and if you haven’t used it before, I’d urge you to see what they have to offer.
In other areas, it’s not enough to just help our members understand and adapt to new laws or taxes, sometimes we have to tackle the Government head-on to seek change. Take the number three issue for members at the moment, skills shortages, where government policy is actively making the situation worse.
Politicians and businesses are in complete agreement that we need to increase the volume and level of training to fill skills gaps in key industries like energy and pharmaceuticals, and to tackle the country’s productivity challenge. The Government’s flagship skills policy, the Apprenticeship Levy, has backfired however, with a 25% drop in apprenticeship starts in a year, and companies reporting the scheme is too restrictive.
The IoD has been pushing the Government for reforms, such as allowing for larger up-front payments for courses (rather than the monthly instalments mandated by the levy system) and letting bigger companies pass more of the funds down to smaller firms in their supply chain, where the apprenticeships often are most needed.
Winning reform to make the skills system work better for members is a key objective for the IoD’s policy team. This is just one example of the work we are doing taking your priorities to government, if you have any contribution you want to make on this, or other policy issues, please consider joining the 3,000 other members on our Policy Voice panel. The survey results have a real impact when we take them to meetings with Ministers, and the more members who take part, the stronger your voice will be.
Because we want communication to flow both ways and give members with an interest in these issues the ability to discuss them more easily with us and each other, I’m excited to report that we have just launched a new Policy Voice hub for those on the panel, which features news coverage of IoD surveys and allow members to discuss these topics in greater detail, and interact with the policy team.
Existing Policy Voice participants can access the new Policy Voice hub after logging in. If you'd like to get involved with future Policy Voice surveys, register here first.
Policy Voice hub
Giving IoD members a political presence is one of the most important things we can do as your membership organisation, and the more input we have from you, the more successfully we will be able to do that. First and foremost, the IoD is a community of leaders. We rely on your input for our voice and influence, so please, get in touch and get involved!
Edwin Morgan, Director of Policy at the Institute of Directors
Edwin leads the IoD's team of policy experts covering issues ranging from tax and regulation to trade and infrastructure, seeking to represent the interests of IoD members to the Government and to foster " a climate favourable to entrepreneurial activity and wealth creation" - two core objectives of the Institutes's Royal Charter. He joined the IoD shortly after the 2010 General Election.
Previously, Edwin worked as a civil servant at the Office of Fair Trading and the Department for Transport. He studied English at Bristol University, and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from Goldsmiths, University of London.