The world has changed a lot in five years.

Who could have predicted the disruptive repercussions of the sharing economy? Or the domino effects LinkedIn and Twitter have had on B2B communication?

The world is moving fast, and the next five years promise to be an exciting ride.

Here are four trends that will play a large role. Make sure you've got a dialogue going about the following, or risk getting left behind:

1. The war for talent is tougher than ever.

In a climate dominated by headhunters, it's increasingly difficult to retain top talent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost three million Americans quit their jobs in December 2014. (This number has steadily increased over the past five years, since the turn of the financial crisis.)

What you need to consider:

What are you doing to keep your people around? Maintaining open communication with your employees can help you stay in tune with their goals, plans, and desires.

And don't forget about the increased influence of entrepreneurship. Top performers regularly leave stable jobs with great companies to start their own ventures. (Maybe that's what you did.)

But a high percentage of startups fail within the first four years. Your former employees are now older and wiser for the experience. Has your company left the door open for them to come back?

Even better, keep them from leaving in the first place--give employees the chance to flex those entrepreneurial muscles now.

2. Freelancers are changing the way we do business.

Fifty-three million Americans work independently (according to the Freelancers Union), nearly 34 percent of the work force. This number is expected to hit 50 percent by 2020.

What you need to consider:

Hiring freelancers can cut down on your overall costs, but not without headaches. How can you attract the best ones? How will you manage them? How do you keep them from stealing business?

It's complicated. I predict that companies that get creative will benefit the most. What can you give besides a paycheck? Can you provide additional training? Performance-based bonuses? Simple things--like how quickly you pay--mean a lot, too.

Striking a balance between providing extra employee-style benefits and out-of-the-box thinking will be integral to taking advantage of this trend.

3. Globalization already affects you. Whether you realize it or not.

The old business model said work locally, and only enter an overseas market if you've got a good reason. But nowadays, "overseas" comes to you, urging you to make decisions before you're ready.

Additionally, workers from other countries continue their influx: America remains the top destination for skilled immigrants.

What you need to consider:

A diverse market or work force brings along many advantages but plenty of new challenges, too. Different cultures mean different communication styles and ways of thinking. How do you deal with them?

Strategies will differ, but don't rush your decisions. Create an open and comfortable dialogue with potential employees and customers. Show interest in learning the differences between your culture and theirs.

In addition to building strong relationships, this will broaden your horizons and help you see things from their perspective--and that can only be good for you.

4. The mobile workplace is the new standard.

According to this report by software juggernaut Citrix,89 percent of organizations worldwide will offer "mobile workstyles" by 2020.

What you need to consider:

What's your remote-work strategy? Many positions can be filled from anywhere in the world, which can be especially beneficial for small to midsize companies. (Just check out this blog post from Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne, on the joys and benefits of working as a distributed team.)

But there are disadvantages, too. A Telco or Skype call is OK, but it doesn't beat an in-person meeting. How can you keep workers happy yet maximize collaborative impact?

Buffersummons the entire team to multiple retreats per year in different locations around the world. Gascoigne says that in addition to helping maintain company culture, the meetings are extremely productive.

If your company is larger, you'll need a different strategy. Whichever direction you head, you should already be having the conversation.

The world is changing quickly, but that's nothing new. Keep asking yourself the important questions, and don't be afraid to adapt.

Because the only thing that's constant is change.

Published on: Mar 31, 2015
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