Almost half (45%) of Future Fit businesses say they have achieved significant growth over the past 12 months.

From sustainability and supply chains to technology and talent, getting fit for the future could help drive performance, manage disruption, seize opportunities and attract skills.

During a period of unprecedented economic and geopolitical challenge, survival has been the priority of many businesses. But resilience requires more than just a dogged determination to get through tough times. Our new research outlines how the most successful businesses today have shown vision and agility throughout this period of volatility.

Not only have these businesses overcome headwinds such as the cost-of-living crisis, supply chain disruption, the impacts of international conflict and more. They have delivered on objectives such as business growth, increased innovation, and enhanced sustainability.


Future Fit businesses are doing these things to outrun their competitors:

  • Measuring and verifying sustainability strategy (68% say all investments in sustainability are tied to long-term commercial objectives)
  • Committed to data-driven decision-making (92% make all or most decisions this way)
  • Determined to work more closely with value-chain partners (53% always involve suppliers in key decisions)
  • Passionate about their workforce (48% have mapped the skills they need for the future and planned for how to acquire them)


What is a high-flyer?

Our research, based on a survey of 1,000 UK businesses operating across 10 sectors, identifies a series of shared characteristics. Our findings reveal that just a third of UK businesses (34%) are currently Future Fit, but their example provides a beacon for peers that aspire to perform in this way.

No business should feel future fitness is out of reach. The research identifies leaders in each of the 10 sectors across the UK. Nor is size a limiting factor – larger companies, with revenues of more than £150m a year, are a little more likely to be Future Fit, but plenty of smaller businesses also make the grade.

These are businesses with grip and vision. They are focused on the immediate challenges they face but have not lost sight of the risks and opportunities coming over the horizon.

Jonathan Barrow
Head of National Sectors

"Getting your business fit for the future is not about size or sector," adds Jonathan. "It is more about state of mind – and the ability to make the connections that will drive the business forward."


The prize is significant

These leaders are significantly more likely to achieve their commercial goals. Almost half (45%) report they have achieved significant growth over the past 12 months, despite the difficulties that have been thrown at them. That is more than twice as many as other businesses we surveyed.

Businesses determined to join these ranks and fulfil their potential should focus on four pillars. In each case, leading businesses from across the sectors are outperforming in critical areas.


Sustainability helps drive competitive advantage

  • 68% of Future Fit businesses say all their investments in sustainability are tied to long-term commercial objectives and that their contribution to these objectives is measured and verified
  • 63% believe purpose is the primary objective of their efforts to improve company performance and culture
  • 74% agree sustainability investments provide competitive advantage 


Focusing on sustainability isn’t simply a question of doing the right thing or achieving compliance with a set of minimum regulatory standards. Businesses that are fit for the future are more likely to believe investment in this area can drive competitive advantage by increasing their attractiveness to customers and employees, for example, or by lowering costs.


Climate action is just one form of sustainability

Alongside decarbonisation, businesses are engaging with a wider set of issues from equality and fairness in society to integrity in the supply chain. They believe businesses should be governed with accountability and transparency.

In this context, our research defines Future Fit businesses on the sustainability pillar as those that regard purpose as their primary objective of efforts to improve company performance and culture.

Having some kind of purpose – a North Star that offers a guiding principle – can help your business look over the horizon.

Jonathan Barrow
Head of National Sectors

These businesses also tie their investments in sustainability to long-term commercial objectives, monitoring progress on these carefully.

When businesses work in this way, they are much more likely to show competencies in critical areas of sustainability including environmental measurement, monitoring and reporting; use of renewable energy, and opportunities for employees to contribute to sustainability activities.


Technology and innovation success depends on data and experimentation

  • 92% of Future Fit businesses use data analysis to inform most or all of the significant decisions they make
  • 62% continuously make iterative improvements to their products and services, based on feedback on the impact of these changes
  • Future Fit businesses are twice as likely to have already begun to implement artificial intelligence tools and capabilities, compared with the average we surveyed


Advanced data analytics tools are a critical point of advantage for businesses that are fit for the future. Their key decision-making processes in areas ranging from new product development to customer experience are driven by careful analysis of as much data and insight as they can secure.


This really matters – and never more so than in a period of heightened volatility. “Every business needs to understand the data they are creating and how to use it,” says Jonathan.


Organisations getting fit for the future take data analytics seriously and are more agile as a result. They launch new products, services and initiatives according to what their data tells them. They constantly adjust their approach as data on the response flows in. They ‘fail fast’, dropping projects that don’t fly and reallocating resources to the most fruitful areas.


Businesses that are fit for the future on this pillar are those that make most use of real-time data and advanced analytics tools, those that use these competencies to inform every significant decision and those that work iteratively based on the feedback loops to which they now have access.

How supply chain partnerships deliver for all

  • More than half of Future Fit businesses regularly collaborate with suppliers 
  • A third work with customers on improvements to products and services, or on strategic decision-making 
  • More than one third have full visibility of their supply chain or are close to achieving it already 
  • Future Fit businesses are 50% more likely to have extensively implemented supply chain risk modelling, compared with the average we surveyed 


Supply chain relationships vary enormously from one business to the next. Some organisations see these relationships as purely transactional, where they focus narrowly on factors such as price when working with suppliers.

Others see an opportunity to operate more collaboratively – to learn and develop in combination with suppliers. They also look both ways across the value chain, recognising relationships with their own customers can drive benefits that go beyond the immediate sale.

Businesses that are fit for the future are more likely to take this broader view. First, when it comes to suppliers, they have full visibility of their entire supply chains, or are at least close to achieving it. This enables them to work more closely with key suppliers in areas such as product and process. It also supports their work on sustainability.

Equally, they are working hard to leverage insight from their broader value chains. A third (33%) say they regularly collaborate with customers on product and process improvements or even include customers when making strategic decisions.

Working in this way delivers substantive business benefits. A closer relationship with suppliers, for example, may help the business secure priority status during periods of supply chain disruption. And they are twice as likely as other companies to have put supply chain risk modelling capabilities in place.

Working closely across your supply chain can create a sense of genuine partnership and drive both innovation and value.

Jonathan Barrow
Head of National Sectors

How to win on talent

  • Future Fit businesses are more than twice as likely to have clear policies on flexible working, compared with the average we surveyed 
  • 68% conduct exit interviews when staff leave
  • 67% provide at least 75 hours of training for every employee each year


Amid a fierce battle for talent, the ability of businesses to secure the people and the skills they need could determine their success – both today, and over the medium-to-long term. However, this is one area where all companies, including Future Fit businesses, are struggling to make progress.

More than half the businesses (55%) in this research have not yet mapped the skills they will need in the future or put in place plans for how they will recruit to secure them.

Still, while businesses that are fit for the future are only doing marginally better in this regard, with 49% yet to take this step, they are ahead in other key areas. They think much harder about what will attract staff to the business – and ensure that people stay. For example, almost nine in 10 (86%) offer their employees wellbeing support, compared with only 50% of businesses overall; 78% have clear policies on flexible working, against 34% overall; and 68% conduct exit interviews when staff leave, compared with only 35% overall.


Has your organisation implemented the following capabilities, or does it plan to do so in future?

Power up your business to get fit for the future

Sustainability, supply chain, technology and talent are closely linked. Rising to challenges in each area could drive improved performance across the organisation.

Improving data analytics capabilities, for example, could secure greater insight on sustainability and improve supply chain visibility. Improved talent strategies upskill the areas needed to plug gaps on other pillars. More collaboration with supply chain partners is vital to confront the ESG imperative and could provide access to new talent. Businesses that act on sustainability could find it easier to recruit.

Working towards future fitness is about making individual improvements that add up to more than the sum of their parts. The leaders can look forward to a multiplier effect. “These pillars are genuinely connected,” explains Jonathan. “Make progress in each area and you create a virtuous circle.”


Take inspiration from Future Fit peers

Remember, 45% of Future Fit businesses have achieved significant growth over the past 12 months, even in trying market conditions. Future fitness translates into outperformance.


  • Sustainability improvements provide a competitive edge
  • Greater data and analytics competency drive agility and improved decision-making
  • A broader view of the value chain supports collaboration with benefits for all
  • More focus on skills mapping helps businesses secure the talent they need for the future

The material published on this page is for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice, or used by consumers to make financial decision. Terms and conditions apply to any products or services mentioned.

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