9 executives on their workforce predictions for 2020

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Not only does 2020 signify the start of a new year — but also of a new decade. As with every season, workforce and workplace trends transform, challenging employers and employees alike to roll with the ebbs-and-flows and switch speeds. From various strategies that need to be implemented to new ways of considering freelance work, 2020 will set the stage for the months (and years) ahead. The smartest of companies will stay on top of these shifts, and bring along their top talent for the ride. Here, nine executives make their predictions for what’s ahead — and how to prepare effectively.

A bigger focus on the environment at the office

“Employees are going to drive change in offices as they bring their personal values around consumption and sustainability to the office. This may look like reducing plastic use by cutting down on individual takeout orders at lunch, consolidating online shipments, eliminating plastic silverware and to-go coffee cups, and allowing employees to telecommute when possible. Different people may prioritize different elements of a sustainability program to best fit for their own values and habits,” —Jen Berliner, the CEO of Medlie.

An uptick in integrated wellbeing and whole-health programs

“One trend we’ve noticed that will continue into 2020 is the desire for integrated wellbeing and whole-health programs. This includes not only healthy snacks in the kitchens but thoughtful lighting and noise reduction measures, as well as the addition of things like houseplants for air quality. Exercise rebates and benefits for gyms and classes should also be considered. As we move into a new decade, I anticipate this trend will only grow in importance as employees search for work-life integration,” —John Adcock, Senior Vice President, People at RetailMeNot.

Cross-functional collaboration is the new normal

“Traditionally, cross-functional collaboration has been a default configuration in time-limited projects, task forces and special initiatives — though still a less popular setup in business-as-usual processes and operations, where silos tend to be the norm. This paradigm is shifting, at the very least on the marketing playing field. Marketing departments are beginning to collaborate more cohesively with other departments and functions, resulting in much more mature brand management and success processes. When designing digital content, Human Resources look at the message from an employer brand perspective, Legal anticipate liabilities, Product makes sure specs are accurate, Sales check on resonance with the field and Finances foresee stock market implications,” —Thibaud Clément, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Loomly.

Investment in personal development and value-centered leadership

“With the average turnover rate of two years, companies don’t have years to figure out team-members top strengths and weaknesses. More companies will invest in coaching and training to help people recognize their strengths and weaknesses faster, for better overall team performance. This includes engaging personality and skills tests and investing in team trainings and retreats. Also, more customers are buying from brands based on shared values, and more workers are choosing companies based on the same. People want to feel purpose in their work. More companies will lean into defining and developing a company culture that is rooted in a clear mission and defined values in order to lead the company forward based on defined values,” —Amber Swenor, Business and Brand Strategist.

More full-time freelancers will enter the workforce than ever before

“More than 35 percent of the U.S. workforce freelanced this year, and many of them are finding greater flexibility, freedom, and income potential a better fit for their lifestyle. Younger generations have been turning to freelance already as a way to make extra money or capitalize on digital skills, but a greater percentage of them are choosing to stay full-time. From virtual assistants to graphic designers to web developers, marketers, and content writers, companies are using freelancers to address their technical skills gap and partner with the best contractors regardless of geographic location,” —Laura Briggs, author, freelance writer and TedX speaker. 

A rise in the acceptance of remote work

“In 2020, more companies are going to be open to employing remote workers. Studies have shown that people who work from home are happier than their cubicle-dwelling counterparts, as well as more productive. Tools like Asana, Trello, Zoom, and Slack make keeping remote workers organized and communicative easier than ever, so the traditional objections to allowing employees to work from home (or wherever) are becoming less relevant. Remote work benefits everyone, and more employers are starting to recognize it. On the employee’s side of things, people who work from home save an average of 500+ hours per year on the ‘get ready to do a job they’re already ready to do’ routine and commute. On the employer’s side, hiring potential is no longer limited to a small geographic area — this opens the company up to a significantly larger talent pool,” —Kari DePhillips, CEO of The Content Factory and co-host of the Workationing podcast.

A bigger focus on internal communications

“Organizations tend to try to solve communications problems with ‘more’ and, specifically, more from the top. More emails, more newsletters, and so on. While all of these things have a place, most of us know that when you say too much, or in the wrong setting, you end up saying nothing at all. Employees will continue to seek more real-time information that impacts how they work. This means fewer company-wide emails, more scrum-style meetings with specific job-related updates, and digital communications that meet employees where they’re at, whether they be in-office, mobile, remote, etc. We will continue to see communications be a challenge if we don’t offer the practices and tools to connect traditional, in-person, and increasingly distributed workforces and incorporate more specific information and real-time appreciation,” —Amanda Herring, Vice President of Creative at livingHR & talvibe.  

More artificial intelligence than ever before

“The markets are always unpredictable, so employers are looking for smart ways to protect and scale their companies. There is a growing demand for technology solutions to support employees and enhance workflow through automation.  Robots won’t be taking over the workplace anytime soon, but expect more employers to utilize ‘augmented intelligence’ solutions to support and empower their employees. Employees are a company’s most valuable resources, and automation software can help employees perform better and avoid burnout,” —Nelson Lee, CEO and Founder of iLIFE.

Expansive cultural diversity

“Companies will begin to realize a more diverse workforce means a more diverse consumer base. Those companies, agencies, and organizations that value diversity will benefit overall, as the more culturally diverse their workforce, is, the more productive it will be, due to the minimization of monolithic thought processes and the overall makeup of the company. Companies must begin to look more like America looks. Those companies that don’t adapt will lose out via impact, influence and even income. A more diverse workforce also enhances workplace morale and promotes more innovative collaboration which is a plus overall,” —Keith L. Brown, “Mr. I’m Possible“, international speaker.