A Close Look at Our 2018 Business Predictions: What to Expect, and How Leaders Can Prepare

Whether in our private lives or business, if there's one thing we know for sure, it's that change is inevitable. Each year we explore past and present trends as well as the ever-changing needs of individuals and organizations to forecast what we can expect to see as these changes unfold.

As the current year comes to a close, we're turning our gaze to 2018. Today we released our Fierce predictions for the coming year and want to offer more insight into why these predictions were selected, and what leaders can do to prepare properly for the anticipated shifts ahead.

We predict…

1. Organizations will increase remote work options.

Over the last decade, there has been a significant increase in remote work. A Gallup poll found that 37% of American workers have worked virtually in their careers, a four-fold increase since 1995. This is likely due to advancements in technology that allow for ease of communication at a distance, as well as a desire among workers to reduce commute time and work more flexible hours.

The more we as individuals learn about ourselves, specifically our own sleep cycles, tendencies, and work habits, the greater our desire for more flexibility around work. Some people are more productive late at night, while some find they get the most done in the early morning hours. Allowing remote work in order to accommodate the unique preferences of the individual can contribute to positive workplace cultures, better results, and more employee satisfaction.

We predict that in 2018, this desire for remote work will continue to rise. This can be a great benefit for organizations—research has shown that employees who work remotely tend to be more productive and work longer hours. Organizations should, when possible, be open to employee requests to work remotely. To effectively implement more remote work, leaders need to have direct conversations with individual employees to learn more about their preferences while communicating clear expectations that strengthen accountability. While granting remote work may not be possible in all circumstances, being open to the possibility can benefit both employees and the organization in the long run.

2. Identity politics will cause relational challenges in the workplace.

Stressors that occur in politics, society, and the world at large are not limited to outside the office, and related tensions over the past year have found their way into the work environment. This year, we released a survey on workplace diversity that revealed the following startling statistics:

  • 18% say they have seen others discriminated against based on race
  • 20% say they have seen others discriminated against based on political beliefs
  • 21% say they have seen others discriminated against based on gender

Both at work and outside the office, who individuals surround themselves with have a substantial influence on their worldview. There has been a shift to surround oneself with only like-minded people, likely due to the fact that people tend to feel safer in numbers. However, identity politics can create rifts, silos, and conflicts between departments and between employees, all of which can be detrimental to workplace culture if they are not resolved.

There will be an increased need for effective change management, and it's important for leaders in the coming year to maintain an awareness of the social climate in their workplace and address conflicts head-on through direct, open, and honest conversation. If left unaddressed, organizations may witness a decline in collaboration, engagement, and productivity.

We predict that organizations who aren't proactively addressing these issues will result in less willingness to consider alternative perspectives and thus fewer ideas being shared. It will be imperative that company leaders take both preventative and proactive measures by providing plenty of safe opportunities for everyone to share their ideas and perspectives, both one-on-one and in group settings.

3. Organizations will continue to improve the candidate-employer relationship.

As organizations grow, the ability to recruit and vet qualified, talented candidates is evolving, and efficiency and accuracy are becoming increasingly essential. The growing number of millennials in the workforce provide one explanation for the shifts we're witnessing in the hiring process, including a shorter overall process and an increased focus on company culture. The recruiting and interviewing process takes time and energy from both the employer and potential employee—simplifying this process through tools and the latest technology while ensuring the right people are in the room for the positions that need to be filled will save companies and applicants time, money, and headaches.

During the recruiting and interviewing process, department and HR leaders should focus their energies on creating quality experiences for potential candidates, asking the right questions related to the open position, and understanding that the hiring process is a two-way relationship. It's important for leaders to be transparent about their needs and the responsibilities of the role so that the candidate and leaders can accurately determine whether the relationship is an ideal fit for both parties. Organizations should also continue to solicit feedback from candidates, both those they hire and those they don't, and look for ways to continually improve their process.

4. There will be greater frequency and more transparency in performance reviews.

Confrontation and frequent feedback are becoming not only more accepted, but also essential within organizations. Much of this shift in delivery and frequency of feedback is being driven by the increasingly large population of Millennials in the workplace who want feedback early and often. Statistics show 82% of employees find feedback beneficial. Aside from being necessary for improving performance, it's also been shown that more frequent feedback results in higher levels of engagement.

We predict that in the new year, there will be an increased emphasis on face-to-face, ongoing feedback, both between manager and employee and between employees. If there is a conflict, company leaders should encourage those involved to discuss it directly, as the conflict occurs, rather than relying on a middleman. It will be beneficial for leadership to not only undergo feedback conversation training themselves, but also provide training for employees on how to give and receive feedback, as well as how to confront issues head on. How willing leaders and employees are to deliver feedback and confrontation, and how effectively they do so, will determine how successful this shift toward more transparency will be.

5. There will be an increased use of blended learning.

As we learn more about different ways individuals learn and what approaches are most effective, how we train employees will continue to shift. Whether classroom instruction or virtual learning is more effective depends on the subject matter—some materials are better implemented in-person, where people can connect face-to-face experientially, have open discussions, and practice the material in a social setting. Classroom instruction also increases a sense of accountability and active participation. On the other hand, virtual learning may be the best option if there is a need for time flexibility, concentration, and at-your-own-pace learning.

We predict that in 2018, organizations will increase their use of various tools to deliver trainings that will include both in-person instruction and the latest technology. This blend is important in ensuring trainings are not only successful in the short term, but also to ensure the trainings are retained and can play a role throughout an employee's career. As different forms of technology are integrated into the learning process, companies will be tasked with ensuring clarity and reducing any miscommunication that may arise as a result of these technologies.

It's important for leadership to have the conversations necessary to navigate challenges in the new year, and as long as leaders remain proactive, these changes can bring unique opportunities to strengthen cultures and create a sense of unity.

Change management is an organization-wide effort among leadership. If you're an HR leader, download the free whitepaper from the Human Capital Institute on HR's role in change management for more insights.

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