As luck or prescient knowledge would have it, seven of the ten workplace predictions I made last year turned out to be correct.
While I am happy with that outcome, I hope to do even better in 2018.
Here are my top 10 predictions for the 2018 workplace:
- Digital workplaces will continue to leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI), further promoting “the intelligent workplace.”
For 2018, AI will likely have a profound effect on both workplace and culture, continuing to change how everyone works (i.e. the practical flow of how work is accomplished). Specifically, AI will no doubt replace certain workers, as explored in “Meet Your New Coworkers: Robots.”
AI holds immeasurable potential to both compliment worker productivity and reduce workplace stress. Better real-time data, logistics, planning, and reduced workplace errors and incidents will all result from higher, and better, utilization of AI.
- Digital literacy will become an essential competence in the workplace.
Very much related to prediction #1, organizations will not be able to compete successfully without attracting and retaining top talent who possess the proficiencies associated with the digital workplace. Leaders lacking digital literacy will struggle mightily, underscoring the importance of placing increased emphasis on retraining and teaching digital literacy.
- People analytics will continue to grow, especially since workplace software will track and monitor us as never before.
The broad range of software tracking and monitoring services will continue to grow in 2018, as will the related concerns that George Orwell’s 1984 “Big Brother” is afoot in the workplace. Technology advances have made it possible to track every employee’s electronic moves. Unlike the technology in Orwell’s novel however, the world’s advances are not focused on sordid or scary uses. Rather, one of the greatest benefits of the technology is that both productivity and outcomes are better measured and therefore better managed.
- Collaboration tools accelerate the shift from individual ego to collective team contribution.
Having been raised in a culture promoting collaboration and team-based learning, younger workers, especially Millennials, expect and even demand that shared knowledge exchange, teamwork, and collaboration will be the central staples of their work environment. Anything else might be labeled as “selfish” or “ego-driven.” This collaborative mindset will continue to substantially change workplace culture in the years to come, further focusing workplaces from individual to team.
- Microsoft will remain the top workplace enterprise platform, despite some recently introduced competition.
Yes, competitors such as Slack, Yammer, Google Suite, and Workplace by Facebook have all introduced novel and welcomed new approaches. However, the reality is that Microsoft still reigns as the royalty of workplace enterprise solutions, and this is unlikely to change for some time to come.
- There will be a continued shifting from leveraging technology towards changing personal behavior and workplace culture.
Even years after his death, the famed management guru Peter Drucker still gets it right:
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
While technology and the associated strategy have great value, their return on investment will never exceed that of the culture, values, and beliefs of an organization and its employees. Organizations continue to recognize this trend, with numerous organizations recruiting people to fill the role of Director of Employee Experience. Indeed, over the last three years, studies by Gallup, Deloitte (Bersin), and The Conference Board have all concluded that organizations (and their CEOs) have placed much more importance on staff, culture, behaviors, and how their staff works internally to support their external success.
- Intranets will keep improving performance and become fully utilized.
For both economic and practicality reasons, tailored and customized Intranet solutions will continue to attract higher attention in 2018. Ask any IT manager or IT consultant worth their salt, and they will tell you that high-performing, well-designed Intranets are still the key application or “window” to the broader digital workplace and collaborative environment mentioned previously.
- Younger workers will continue to have a strong desire to demarcate work versus life.
One of the oft discussed characteristics of Millennials is their desire to separate work and life, and this is not likely to change in 2018. Remember, Millennials are not living to work, as Boomers like myself were taught, but rather working to live. To successfully retain this younger generation, it is imperative that you provide workplace flexibility and not be the “old school” manager who demands that employees be present during set and rigid business hours. To Millennials, that is their definition of a workplace prison.
The Millennial generation values freedom because they want to be in control of their own experience. The secret is hiring the right people, so you can trust them and let go. Track their outcomes, not their time in the office. Millennial employees want and appreciate being “free range,” and working in an open and flexible environment.
- The internal digital workplace will continue to rise in stature.
The trend of workplaces recognizing that they cannot be competitive externally without effective internal digital systems is more than likely to continue. This recalibrating, from external to internal, unleashes exciting opportunities for digital work teams to set bold new goals and make internal digital investments for the future.
One such example is Workplace by Facebook, which is a place where workers can share ideas, brainstorm, collaborate, and achieve more work together. This relatively new Facebook tool connects and unifies employees with their preferred digital and internet tools. Success stories of organizations using Workplace abound, especially from such notable companies as Starbucks, March of Dimes, GoPro, Heineken, Domino’s Pizza, and Walmart. Workplace has helped transform those cultures by “getting employees out of the dark,” and into the illumination – of strategic information, culture, beliefs, goals, recognition, and performance feedback, just to mention a few.
Getting this “Employee Experience” right from a digital workplace standpoint is hard work, as already discovered by many organizations. Myriad factors can stand in the way of creating the ideal and smooth flow of digital connection we would ideally like employees to experience throughout their workday. Best-in-class organizations will think through these obstacles and employ successful solutions to them before, during, and after deployment of these digital systems.
- The trend towards mobility will become even more pronounced.
Mobility within the workplace is becoming a very prominent topic. Employees value the ability to work from wherever, whenever, while benefiting from the same advantages as their peers in the office. Moving forward, the requirement for all digital workforce applications to be unified (including Intranets, HR, HCM platforms, document management, as well as the aforementioned Workplace by Facebook) will only increase the demand for more efficient mobility deployments. This trend will not go away in 2018; in fact, I predict it will become even more pronounced, with employees continuing to push for more mobility in all aspects of their lives.
In 2018, I foresee mobility discussions to be centered around Telehealth and providing real-time performance feedback.
Let’s first look at the former: Telehealth, which provides the ability to receive healthcare advice and healthcare electronically, is being catapulted upon society. This trend is likely due to younger generations’ preferences for mobility, as well as the economic reality that in many cases, healthcare can be delivered more economically through electronic technology.
Second, both millennials and the subsequent generation, often called “globals” or “digital natives,” have a strong desire for real-time performance feedback. In fact, as reported in some of my previous blogs, 80% of millennials want feedback in real-time.1 As organizations’ continue to recruit and retain millennials and younger generations, the need for real-time feedback in mobility platforms and in mobile roles will continue to increase.
And that’s it for my 2018 predictions. Let’s look forward to watching most, if not all, of these predictions for 2018 unfold. Once again, Happy New Year!
- 2016 ICIMIS, Inc. Study