2016 has been shocking for the 80’s generation. From David Bowie to George Michael, the year, by leaps and bounds, has wiped out a cohort of influential artists who have had the most profound effect on our cultural development.
As sad as the closing of this year may be, with all our favorite, familiar faces gone too soon, 2016 has had us practicing a heart-rending but important skill – mainly, the art of letting go. This may, or may not have been in preparation for what’s to come, but here are predictions for some of the workplace trends, as well as some of the things which we will have to let go of in 2017:
1. Less than one in eight employees will be engaged at work
Worldwide, only one in eight workers is currently psychologically committed to their jobs and likely to be making positive contributions to their organizations. 87% of employees worldwide are cynical, ineffective and uncommitted to their work and workplace — a trend that has persisted for over 7 years and is not about to abate. Cynicsm, inefficacy and exhaustion happen to also be symptoms of burnout, which brings us to the next trend.
2. Workplace stress will increase by 1.5-3%
Burnout is an ever more present issue in the modern workplace, with stress being cited as one of the top five hazards at work. Since 2014 the specter of dangerous levels of workplace stress has increased by 3 points. Stress and burnout, are an inevitable response to chronic disengagement which, given the current statistics, is bound to exasperate.
3. The outdated “customer first” vantage point will be thrown out on its ear
Factoring client insights into business objectives should be a hygiene factor, not a guiding philosophy. The fact that only 13% of workers worldwide are engaged at work serves as a calling card that it is time to bring the hype of “client first” to an end. Our people are our license to operate. Without them we wouldn’t have much to offer our clients to begin with, and 2017 will mark the start of a shift in our service-profit chain. At Southwest Airlines (SWA) for example, employee happiness is claimed to be “more important,” or “come before customer satisfaction”. That’s a big claim, given that the airline employs “only” 47,000 people but serves more than 100 million customers every year. The PR headlines are promising. Bold letters about the fact that the “Airline values [employees] more than its customers,” give the high sign that the corporate bandwagon is being steered in the right direction. Even if according to employees Southwest leadership is still struggling to jump aboard, SWA serves as a trailblazer for what is about to become a corporate paradigm shift in 2017.
4. Performance reviews will become extinct
The cost at which performance reviews come is a good enough reason in itself to reconsider the model. At Adobe, the traditional performance review process was taking up to 80,000 hours of managers’ time, which amounted to roughly $5.8 million a year on managers’ pay alone (This did not include the time that employees would normally invest in filling in forms, getting together in meetings, or organizing feedback rounds.)
Adobe already understood in 2012 that a radical change was called for and set out to take the lead on the matter. The company abolished the traditional performance review process and encouraged other business leaders to “disrupt a process that no longer provided value.” ‘Check-in’ was introduced instead — the process of facilitating frequent, unscheduled feedback between management and employees.
Others followed suit. Eneco, one of the largest producers and suppliers of natural gas, electricity and heat in the Netherlands, stopped the traditional performance reviews 2 years ago. General Electric is about to as well.
In 2017, this trend will go en vogue. The “measure to manage” nostrum has been an accepted source of security for our society. Numbers give us the black-on-white, yet false warrant of our added value. They open doors, secure our bonuses, make us look more attractive, and so on. We have now finally evolved to a point where we are ready to forego aggregating data into complex Excel sheets over acting on information that is visible to our naked eye. Disengaged employees were once passionate, dynamic, go-getters that over the years have gradually gone quiet. One does not need to be an emotional Sherlock or conduct 360 reviews to note changes of that kind.
5. The net income per employee ratio will take a hit
Adobe has seen a roughly $90K per capita decline in revenue over the 3 ensuing years after the radical halt in the performance management review model.
Eneco’s net income has also remarked a decrease of €4200 per employee per year. Just as with any other change, the transformation in the performance management review model will come at a price.
6. Women will collide with the glass ceiling
In spite of all the quotas, Diversity & Inclusion Policies and the subject making headlines for years, the numbers of women in the leadership layers of business i not only not growing, but is on the contrary — decreasing. The Female Board Index, which is compiled each year (by Mina Lückerath from the Tias Business School in Tilburg), shows that out of the 212 leaders in 83 companies listed on the Euronext, only 15 are women. This is only 7.1%, which is not only staggeringly low, but compared to the 7.8% in 2015 is in a downward spiral. The women who left the board in the previous year were replaced by men, and no new female leaders joined. As the recent elections, in both, the US and other countries, such as Moldova, go to show, this trend is not about to abate. We are nowhere near ready for glass breaking.
7. The Feminine will break the glass
Whether you’re a proponent or foe of the topic of women in leadership, the business case speaks in favor of diversity. Studies show that companies with female board members reached a 70% higher return on equity than companies with no women at the top. Increased engagement, productivity, innovation and employee satisfaction are some of the less “hard results” of employing female leaders.
While women may not be openly embraced or welcomed, the feminine is actively and vigorously being resurrected in the business world.
Companies may struggle to raise above the status quo on the gender equally, but feminine aspects are infiltrating the organizational layers through other venues. While formerly downplayed as a “soft” or a “feminine” attribute, Emotional Intelligence, otherwise known as Emotional Quotient (EQ) is currently in high demand. Better yet — it is the new competitive edge for companies and a key competence for leaders. Companies such as ING, American Express, Aon, L’Oreal, MetLife, Medtronic, 3M, Motorola, Honeywell and Johnson & Johnson, are waging a war to be associated with EQ-equipped cultures. EQ is now being incorporated into their sales, management and leadership training.
Reframing cultures of front-liners and sales people to be active, empathic listeners and trusted advisors is just the beginning. 2017 is about to see a significant uptake in frameworks that predicate EQ-led cultures.