2017 is shaping up to be a bumpy one for the world of work. Should we recalibrate and reallocate or stay the course? The strategies we take may carry us smoothly over some of the coming speed bumps. But we may be surprised by where some of the blind spots are.
Here’s my take on five critical trends for the world of work in 2017. Buckle up:
1. No Matter What, Do Not Reverse Course
Some of us are biting our nails at the prospect of possible policy shifts. But now more than ever, reversing strategy on one front could trigger unintended shockwaves. That’s because this new world of work is entirely interconnected. Key changes to how we work now weren’t legislated into change, they were innovated into change (as in the cloud) and emerged shifting populations (millennials). Culture and function are enmeshed: Employees will continue to expect a workplace that 1) has a transparent and human-centered culture that prioritizes employee experience, and 2) enables work to be conducted anywhere/anytime, reflecting the fluidity and agile functionality of digital.
2. You May Not See It, But You’re Leaking Talent
According to a recent MIT Sloan report, we’re not paying enough attention to talent flight. Companies slow to adapt to digital change should watch out. Those still in early stages of digital development face the biggest risk: more than 50% of employees plan to leave in less than three years if development doesn’t accelerate (as opposed to only 25% of employees at companies further evolved digitally). It’s not just millennials or junior level looking for the door: 30% of senior VPs, VPs and director-level leaders cite a poor digital environment as reason enough to leave in less than a year.
3. Don’t Ignore The Signs: Diversity Matters
Forget the politics if you disagree with them, but diversity is a proven business strategy. A benchmark Forbes Insights report found that 56% of executives believe that diversity helps drive innovation, particularly for larger ($10 billion +) companies. Recent studies continue to link diversity to more competitive recruiting. It’s estimated that by 2020, between 1 and 2.5 million jobs in tech will go unfilled due to a talent shortage, but the gap may be filled by reaching out to minorities and women (smaller firms like Etsy have worked that angle to strategic benefit).
4. If You Ignore Recognition, Watch The Exit Ramp
The surprise here is that companies need to make this more of a strategic priority than they are — and make sure the C-suite is involved. We also know that recognition drives engagement, but only one in three U.S. workers in a recent Gallup study reported being recognized during the course of a week. Of those who listed the most memorable source of recognition, 24% cited it as coming from a CEO or high-level leader. Here tech has helped push the envelope, with a whole slew of apps and systems that enable endless forms of recognition on any platform (mobile is key here). But executives had best be on board. High on Forbes "America’s Best Employers" list for 2016 are companies whose executives made a point of recognizing their employees (including SAS and Southwest Airlines). But in this new era of transparent employer brands, a workplace that overlooks employee recognition stands to lose out in terms of attracting talent, let alone keeping it.
5. Anyway, You’re Not The Driver Anymore
While we debate the importance of social media to HR (very), or whether most employees prefer learning in five-minute video tutorials or hour-long classroom stints (take a guess), the next inflection point is looming. The World Economic Forum’s "Future of Jobs" report marks 2018 as the year robotics and AI begin transforming work yet again. Just as the cloud, big data and mobile became key and rapid drivers of workplace change, so will these (along with 3D printing, nanotechnology and other innovations). The report surveys CHROs and other executives on what they believe will change work between 2015 and 2020. The future of work is going to change in ways we can hardly imagine, but it’s only a year away.
So roll up your sleeves, everybody. The bottom line about the coming year is that we can’t take anything — or anyone — for granted.