Here’s what’s on the horizon for 2023, and what it means for your leadership.
1. Inflation and economic downturn.
I’m always mindful of self-fulfilling prophecies and don’t want to add more fuel to this bonfire. However, the sensible leader will be noting where they might be exposed to fluctuating currencies and inflation rates. For some, this is good news. For many, not so much. Scrutiny of the finances is definitely in order. It doesn’t mean stop spending; it does mean consider what is an investment versus what is an expense.
2. Local economies strengthening.
The war continues in Ukraine, COVID persists globally, and international tensions are still tremulous. If you are reliant on supplies from overseas, then this is obviously an issue. Check your supply options and see if you can reallocate locally. Focusing locally will lead to a burgeoning of local economies as people and businesses look to build more resilience in their systems by having local supply alternatives.
3. IT security.
Recent breaches of personal data should have all of us just a little worried about our dodgy passwords. Every organisation will need to review their data security and device protections. This is not a fun trend! There may be a rise in solutions like crypto wallets. This is definitely something to stay abreast of because it may transform how we interact with customers and stakeholders.
4. Staff expectations: engagement continues to be wobbly.
The main complaint I hear from leaders is, “They just don’t buy in, they’re not motivated, they just focus on their own work, they don’t go above and beyond.” Is this a generation issue? No. Is this a personality issue? No. I believe it stems from two causes: lack of clear accountability structures that encourage autonomy and development, and lack of a compelling vision. Add a dash of crisis fatigue and you have the perfect recipe of staff ‘blahs’. All this can be remedied with a good strategic revamp of KPIs and an energising focus on purpose.
5. Customer expectations: do good in the world, and give me a good experience.
While there are still plenty of bad business behaviours that are tolerated (pollution, excessive use of plastics, sexism, discrimination), where people do have a choice, they are often making it for businesses that are going above and beyond the basic legal requirements. Being progressive is more attractive than being a laggard. All of us can do more in this space.
In addition to the ‘be a good corporate citizen’, customers are looking for unique experiences too. There are huge opportunities to include robots, AI, and virtual realities in your customer service experience.
6. War for talent continues: people want a life, a lifestyle, and a purpose.
Work is just one part of people’s world now. The opportunity for leaders is to make it a fabulous and wonderful part of people’s experience. People won’t live to work anymore. Nor will they work to live either, if we design work and workplaces that uplift the human spirit. Work can become an important integrated way of being in the world. So much potential in this trend!
There are three shifts leaders need to make to meet these trends:
1. Employee Experience: Circles not triangles.
The distributed workforce (multiple physical locations connected through virtual technologies) means that leadership and responsibility needs to be distributed as well. This is not an easy or natural thing for people to step into. Leaders will need to guide their team members in how to be independent and autonomous workers, how to collaborate effectively with each other, and design decision-making frameworks and parameters that allow teams to be flexible and nimble in responding to challenges as they arise. Command and control hierarchies will only slow your people down. We need to help leaders and team members develop new and healthy relationships to power and accountability.
2. Employee Capability: Networked development.
Because the war for talent will keep the pressure up on existing team members, we need to uplift the capabilities of those carrying the torch. Horizontal development means extending their abilities to lead, delegate, coach, make decisions, and think strategically. Vertical development means extending their (and probably your!) ability to see and navigate complexity. The investment in people development will serve two needs: allow your people to handle the nuanced challenges ahead, and encourage them to engage more with the organisation. If people can see how they can add value to a business, and are encouraged and enabled to do so, then this is incredibly motivating.
3. Customer Expectations: From sustainability to regenerative practice.
It’s not enough to tick the boxes on Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) commitments. We need to revamp business purposes to integrate practices that leave the Earth better than when we started. We need to encourage the regeneration of landscapes and resources. Rampant consumerism is out. Conscious regenerative practice is in.