Ten Workplace Trends Shaping the Future
The fight to keep top talent. Millennials in leadership roles. Addressing the skills gap. And more 2019 workplace trends we’re watching.
By Mike Esterday
The notion of work is changing in America. The idea of “going to work” and being “in the office” are being redefined in the workplace for 2019. Here are some of our top choices for changes happening around us that will have long-term implications for training and development in the workforce.
- Business transformation is escalating. Innovation is the name of the game in the modern workplace, and organizations across industries are scrambling to keep up. But with the stakes higher than ever, Forrester Research predicts that companies will have to get pragmatic about their approach to everything from leadership standards and business models to technology strategies and employee and customer experience.
- “Always on” means always distracted. Mindfulness is becoming the new mantra as more and more organizations are recognizing that non-stop accessibility has its downsides. Udemy’s Workplace Distraction Report shows that interruption-prone offices negatively affect performance, productivity and career development. It says something about the reality of today’s work environment that companies are now introducing “quiet zones” and “no meeting” days and encouraging single-tasking for deep work.
- Finding and keeping top talent is a priority. With unemployment falling to a near 50-year low in 2018, effective recruitment, retention and development strategies are becoming more critical than ever. A SmartBrief poll found that 40.5% of respondents expect recruiting and retaining talent to be their company’s biggest challenge in 2019. And it’s clear that gimmicky perks won’t be enough to solve this problem. Today’s up-and-coming talent place a premium on purpose, management style and the opportunity to grow. They will embrace coaching, but organizations need to effectively prepare their managers to coach.
- The skill gap is growing. Colleges and universities are not producing enough graduates with both the technical and soft skills — like effective communication and critical thinking — that they need to be successful in the workplace. Combined with a tight labor market, this skill gap is requiring companies to pick up the slack through their own learning and development offerings.
- Millennials move into decision-making roles. Millennials are not only the largest generation of employees today, they are now taking leadership roles at a fast pace. An estimated 73% of millennials workers are now involved in the decision-making process when their companies buy products and services, a statistic that is sure to have consequences for B2B sales teams and sales training approaches.
- The aging workforce presents its own challenges. Whether they can’t afford to or simply don’t want to, more employees are delaying retirement. For organizations concerned about the skills gap or a weak leadership pipeline, this can be an advantage, because they can rely on an experienced workforce to fill the need. But it also poses some challenges, from navigating interpersonal dynamics between generations to staying on top of business transformation to ensuring knowledge transfer and succession planning to carry the organization into the future.
- Face-to-face meetings are on the decline. A more mobile, flexible workforce, combined with the popularity of digital collaboration tools, has diminished the expectation need for an in-person meeting every time. With less face-to-face interaction, though, comes an even greater need for strong culture building and communication skills to build a cohesive team and engage effectively with customers and prospects.
- The future is here: connected and collaborative. From Big Data to the Internet of Things, tech is disrupting all aspects of our lives, including the workplace. New and emerging technologies are helping companies improve how they recruit, manage and develop employees; optimize their operations; design their workspaces; make pivotal business decisions; and grow and nurture their customer base. These “smart” workplaces will accelerate the need for new skills, while offering more targeted opportunities to develop and reskill existing staff.
- Consumers want to buy from companies and people they trust. Echoing a number of studies over the past several years, the Accenture Strategy Global Consumer Pulse Research survey showed that companies “that stand for something bigger than what they sell, communicate their purpose and demonstrate commitment, are more likely to attract consumers and influence purchasing decisions.” Ethical sales practices matter. Not only that, 65% of the survey respondents said their purchasing decisions are influenced by the words, values and actions of the company’s leaders.
- Growing complexity requires clarity of purpose. In its “Workforce of the future” report, PwC notes that a number of complex, changing and competing forces and mega trends will shape tomorrow’s workplace, but one thing is clear: “Businesses need a clear and meaningful purpose and mandate to attract and retain employees, customers and partners in the decade ahead.” Strong organizational cultures are built on a shared sense of purpose that motivates and mobilizes people to continually achieve more. And it can’t just be words in a mission or values statement; it has to be present in the behavior and actions of every employee.