Some business trends go the way of Formica tables, as we learn in study after study (open office layouts, we're looking at you). But others evolve as the world develops, and those trends are the ones that demand a complete work overhaul. Educator and author Josh Levine, who has spent the past 15 years helping companies grow culture-driven brands, has done the legwork to pinpoint the top 10 upcoming trends worth your attention.
1. Employees and customers will choose brands for their business practices as much as features and benefits.
2. Company culture will become a critical competitive advantage.
3. The chief culture officer will become much more common/visible.
"When employment ratings sites like Glassdoor and social media-powered employee opinions reveal the truth behind 'what it's like to work with us' Web proclamations," explains Levine, "for better or worse, every company's inner workings will become visible to the world."
As an example of how transparency will force companies to think about how people perceive them, Levine points to Lyft and Uber. While the services from these companies arguably are comparable, the latter company has been wracked with devastating scandals that some customers might not want to stomach.
"Even when purpose becomes common," Levine adds, "it won't become a commodity [...There] will be those companies who try and fail, and those who will be skilled enough to use it to their advantage... [And by working with the CCO to focus] their full attention on the business tools that attract and sustain a highly engaged and aligned workforce, organizations will become more productive, coordinated, and agile."
4. Companies will hire talent who live further and further from urban centers.
5. Extreme distributed workforces will become the norm.
6. Work hubs--hyper-localized WeWork style co-working spaces--will replace traditional offices and headquarters.
7. SMBs will become micro multinationals as they hire and work regularly with international teams.
These four trends will be driven by both an increasing scarcity of highly skilled talent and the rising cost of real estate in urban areas. Technology comes into play too, making it easier for people to work from anywhere, anytime. And as individuals enjoy that option and demand schedule flexibility, companies will become even more accepting of remote work.
"It's going to be a gradual but powerful economic lift for non-urban regions, particularly those that have relied on dying or shored industries like coal and traditional manufacturing. The trend gives individuals who might otherwise not have earning potential a way to contribute, and on the other side, creates a market where businesses can seek the best talent at the best price."
But Levine cautions that relationship degradation can happen when the majority of work happens remotely, damaging team efficacy. So while companies must get comfortable with non-standard work hours and learn to accept a variety of start-stop times, they also must budget for in-person efforts to ensure that teams can work well together when they're not face-to-face.
"Even bringing together an entire team once a year will go a long way to facilitating great work the rest of the time."
8. The fight for employee retention will lose economic viability.
9. Companies will adopt "work cycles," a business methodology focused on high-speed, project-based work.
10. The majority of workers will need to build their own books of business and take responsibility for managing their own skills and development.
Levine predicts the average tenure of the American worker will continue to fall to below 24 months -- in regions like the Bay Area, it might even drop as low as 18 months. So, as workers flit to different options and explore, companies will double down on tactics like signing bonuses or paying premiums to headhunters for recruiting.
"If you can keep employees, you should," says Levine. "It is definitely less expensive than finding new ones. [But] it is the growth of the trend [to shorter tenure] that will eventually will drag down the ROI of retention efforts. Inside of a decade, job hopping will be the norm for most employees, and even the most tantalizing retention offers won't compete with the opportunity for new work with new people."
Companies can use work cycles to foster high engagement and productivity in a short time, as workers will be able to see the impact of their efforts fast. But the downside is that companies also have to deal with learned expertise walking out their doors on a regular basis. This is where culture becomes so important--if the worker has a good experience with you, then they'll probably accept another stint.
As for why workers have to shoulder responsibility for their own development and skills in this new environment, it's simply a matter of companies being unable to follow individuals through their career course.
"Once," Levine explains, "it was the company that provided the opportunity to learn skills, provided leadership support and access to mentors, but that ability will be limited when individuals hop from one role to the next. I think the more interesting question is what resources and organizations will the modern worker need. I think there is a business opportunity in filling that need."
As you try to accommodate the above trends, recognize there's as much work in changing attitudes as there is changing your logistics, and mistakes can happen in either area. Every company faces this challenge, and none will be perfect. But the ones who will come out on top are the ones that use every resource to recover from errors at lightning speed, and who are willing to learn from others to prevent new blunders. The more you listen and cooperate inside and out of your business, the easier your pivots will be.