What can we expect in 2019?

The new year has arrived and it’s the time for business leaders everywhere to feel refreshed, revived and reinvigorated for the year ahead (unless attempting to decipher the latest implications of Brexit!)

It’s also a natural point to make business predictions for the future – even when change seems to be the only constant! All successful business leaders know to keep their eyes on the news as part of their business strategy market assessment. Yes, a good strategy should be robust enough to ride out market ‘wobbles’, but even the best will be challenged by changing conditions.

With that in mind, here are just some of the factors we expect to see making the headlines in 2019:

Faster change

With digital transformation now a reality rather than an academic possibility, changes in the business landscape are accelerating. We must be ready to use the tools at our disposal – such as big data and strategic analysis – to identify the challenges which might disrupt our industry, the opportunities which might open up new doors and the fundamental and longer-term trends which will continue to shape our business strategy.

The #MeToo movement will take hold

It started as a social media campaign and became a movement that mirrored the way in which women across the world see themselves socially, professionally, culturally and individually. The move towards genuine equality feels more possible than ever, and businesses will need to consider what this means in terms of their commitment to diversity at all levels (not just for quotas and reporting purposes.)

Leaders will need to have more skills than ever

Many believe that economic challenges are around the corner, regardless of the Brexit result. At the same time, customers are demanding more, technology is driving forward seismic societal shifts and a new generation is entering the workplace. Leaders will need a far broader skill set than ever before, and one that is ready to evolve and be flexible when needed.

The practical impacts of Brexit will be felt

As we await the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, businesses know that there will be inevitable impacts on trade, tariffs, regulations and labour movements. Supply chains may need to be evaluated, recruitment processes re-worked and legal arrangements re-negotiated. It could be a challenging time – albeit one with opportunities if trade deals are favourable and businesses are agile enough to adjust.

Flexibility and holistic working will be expected

Today’s employees want to experience flexible working – whether to support parental responsibilities or to benefit from digital capabilities that make remote working viable. Employers want the flexibility of skills access, as evidenced by the rising wave of freelancers and contractors. Collectively, these influences mean that the age of the 9-5 at an office desk may well be numbered. In a similar way, employers will be expected to offer more support on areas such as mental health and wellbeing. The new arrival of Generation Z employees is likely to force the trend for ‘holistic’ working conditions further.

Customers will expect more

Consumers now want to experience and connect with a brand. They also expect a superb experience. Digital capabilities can greatly facilitate the delivery of these expectations, but commercial businesses must be ready to up their game. Expect to see this in retail particularly, where in-store sensory experiences and online gamification will be just two examples of a richer engagement between brand and consumer. This may also lead to a rise of ‘bricks and mortar’ retail once again. Nike is just one brand investing again in experiential physical spaces.

Expect to see new roles appearing

Ever heard of data ethicists? They are just one role that you can expect to see being advertised this year. In the wake of ongoing data scandals, data ethicists will ensure that AI systems are being designed and coded to respect individual rights for privacy. These data scientists will be responsible for programming hugely complex computer systems with the subtleties of human ethics in mind. For today’s brands, this will be vital for maintaining trust and credibility with security-conscious consumers.

Skills gaps will see a huge investment in training

If Brexit sees a reduction in skilled labour migration, businesses may struggle to access the talent that they need. Skills and talent are huge issues for industries as diverse as construction to pharmaceuticals. Employers are likely to invest more heavily in skills training and employee engagement strategies that retain highly trained workers for the longer-term.

Data and tech all the way

Big data, robotics, AI, VR, the IoT, cybersecurity, cyber currency, the blockchain… technology and its big-data driver will see industries and businesses appear, grow, and fall away at a dizzying pace. Business leaders must seek to understand the implications for their business, recognising that there are huge opportunities available with smart technological investment. Those business leaders who recognise that their strengths lay elsewhere will be ready to bring the latest subject matter experts on board – and to listen to them!

The implications of these business predictions

How does your strategy stand up as you consider these influences on the business year ahead? Are you still certain that your course is correct and your delivery plan robust enough to get you to your goal?

The business strategy help you need

The experts at Intrafocus are here to help. As strategic consultants, we work with businesses of all sizes and type and across all industries. We provide support and guidance at every stage of the business strategy cycle, typically beginning with a facilitated strategy workshop. Whether you are ready to create a new strategy, reshape an existing one or review progress to date, our team will ensure you see the maximum results from your investment. Contact us to find out more.