Stacey Engle, Senior Vice President, Fierce, Inc.
Significant events over the past year—including the presidential election, the ever-growing millennial workforce and key technological advancements—have brought to light a number of issues. These events have created tension and given rise to new demands in the workplace.
Although 2016 is behind us, the wake of the past year’s events has shifted workplace priorities in 2017 for many organizations. CEOs and company leaders are faced with a new level of urgency to resolve discord and meet growing demands if they want to keep employees happy, and in turn, grow revenue. Here are the five main areas that will need to be addressed over the next year:
#1: Implement Diversity and Inclusion Programs and Initiatives
Regardless of your political leaning, 2016 was no doubt a divisive year, bringing frustrations and fears front and center like never before. In some organizations, differing views are no longer kept to oneself, but instead have become topic for debate from the watercooler to the boardroom. In others, people are becoming silenced. Regardless, many employees may be feeling marginalized, unwanted or fearful. It’s critical for company leadership to initiate conversations that address these feelings in order to maintain a cohesive work environment, and ultimately employee satisfaction. The intention of these conversations should be to ensure the work environment is welcoming to all, and should take place before issues arise, not waiting until they do. CEOs should also consider developing more formal diversity training programs for all employees. This will help ensure everyone across the board is equipped to really leverage diverse perspectives and facilitate an environment where all employees feel safe and appreciated while at work.
#2: Expand Change Leadership to All Areas of the Company
Significant political and social events in 2016 proved that change is inevitable. And organizational change—be it rebranding, rolling out new technology solutions or making cutbacks—is often met with some form of resistance. Historically, change leadership has been designated to one or a select few throughout an entire organization. This designation is shifting—change leadership training is now needed company-wide. Extending training to a larger population within an organization will allow issues to be dealt with and resolved as they occur. Additionally, employees will have the tools to adapt on an individual level to the occurrence of workplace change. Take the necessary steps to expand training efforts and establish the skills needed to manage change across all company levels.
#3: Prioritize Conversation in Performance Management
Once-a-year reviews are becoming passe, and companies are seeking ways to replace them with something more frequent and effective. Consistent feedback is expected now, more than ever, largely due to the growing millennial generation. Millennials in particular value direct, consistent communication and progress benchmarks, and expect this from their employers. In addition to more formal reviews, ongoing communication and conversations should be prioritized at every level to assure employees are heard and feel current with their goals. Approach conversation from a position of wanting to provide employees with what they need when they need it, and commit to tackling issues head-on through open communication.
#4: Seek Out and Adapt New Technologies for Learning
Many believe it is imperative for organizations to stay ahead of the curve with regards to new technologies, including technology related to training methods. Employees have come to expect to learn in ways that resonate with how they live the rest of their lives through interactive and engaging resources. Consider introducing flexible, digital options for workplace training, and research possibilities to update existing processes for all employees, even remote workers. Exploring available technologies will be valuable for organizations who intend to grow and remain leaders in their industries.
#5: Broaden Opportunities for Participant-Driven Learning
The growing millennial workforce is passionate about participant-driven learning opportunities. While the desire to develop leadership training skills is assuredly present, what’s being learned and how it’s being learned are becoming increasingly important to the learners themselves. Allowing employees to have more control over their learning initiatives is a progressive step toward accommodating different learning styles and increasing personal involvement, generational diversity and showing acceptance for other perspectives. It’s crucial for organizations to meet rather than resist this request for self-directed learning in order to empower employees, increase retention, and in turn, produce better results.
Adapting to annual shifts in business climate can be a challenging endeavor, and turning these predictions into plans of action will be a significant step in ensuring organizational success in 2017.