Some of you might find it surprising that a company which provides support services for L&D professionals would write this type of blog post. Being able to keep on top of business trends, having an understanding of economic drivers, as well as being familiar with social trends can help L&D support their organisation in these times of uncertainty and flux. Business acumen is part of the core skillset for learning and development professionals, and understanding global business trends is a part of that.
What is driving business change in 2017?
Business trends have been changing dramatically in the last few years, continuing into 2017. There are many factors driving this: the speed and relative low cost of technological advancements; the effects of Brexit; Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential election; and potential major voter swings in European elections. There is also the continuing move away from in-house, full-time, permanent staff to an army of global, part-time, mobile freelancers. Even in-house staff show preferences for remote working options, leaving the concept of an ‘Office HQ’ much more fluid than it once was. Some of your high-performing talent may well work for more than one company, as they develop their portfolio careers. How will these trends impact businesses? And what will L&D need to do to respond to these changes?
Let’s look at these changes in more detail.
1. Global factors
One of the strongest winds of change is the increasing geopolitical uncertainty in the world. Trump’s victory and Brexit have not only affected the global financial markets but may also change some of the industrial and economical gauges that define progress within a country. For example, the GDP of some European countries might rise or fall due to the changing landscape of the trade they conduct with the UK; some companies will target different international markets than previously. Protectionism and nationalism are on the rise, and these can disrupt economic activity and hit profits.
2. Trust as the currency for business
Consumer trust has always been a major player in business. With the advent of new technologies, cybercrime and espionage are influencing people’s buying decisions. A major factor in deciding who gets a bigger chunk of the market will be the development of strong, trusting customer relationships. As digital forms of marketing become more widely used, businesses emphasise the security and encryption features of their products as major selling points – a trend that will grow in 2017.
3. Data analytics
Data analysis is an increasingly popular way of researching customer behaviour and gathering business intelligence. Businesses need to gain customer intelligence at a rapid pace in order to make good decisions, gain customer trust, and so maximise their profits. The proliferation of digital marketing trends means that companies have to analyse customer feedback from multiple channels.
4. An army of remote workers
It isn’t only companies that are getting ever more digitalised – employees and other workers are ‘going digital’ too. The trend for hiring people at lower rates and lower overheads (buildings, utilities etc) and expecting faster output has produced an army of remote workers who can boost productivity and reduce the cost of doing business. With advancements in Artificial Intelligence and robotics, we may be seeing the start of a new era in working remotely. But a potential challenge is looming, as some businesses may pay remote workers less than onsite staff. This is of course dependent on a range of factors such as geography versus cost of living, the type of role and reasons for remote working (employee-led versus company-led). Unless organisations have clear policies on hiring remote workers or freelancers, it is a potential mindfield for disquiet. There is a good discussion on this very topic here.
5. Consolidation as a sign of growth
Many industries consolidated in 2016 – a trend that is likely to continue in 2017. This will lead to rising profits and increasing market shares for companies as the economy grows – but also the need to deal with a lot of mergers and acquisitions. We have seen this trend recently in the eLearning market – between LMS suppliers, content suppliers and educational technology companies. The buyout of Lynda.com by LinkedIn shifted the focus of LinkedIn almost overnight. Can you imagine working in L&D in either of these organisations and leading your team in the adaptation and changes that need to take place? Would you be prepared for that?
The more you know about how the world is changing, the better you will adapt to that change.
6. A shift towards different forms of content
Capturing consumer attention has always been a key criterion for reaping higher profits. Some companies have mastered the art of developing content and marketing material that gathers crowds and wows the public. Thus, newer and greener pastures in content have been developed by those who understand the need for such measures.
Apps, video-based content, gamification elements and full-blown gaming, VR/AR, simulation and animated content will drive content trends – both in digital marketing and the corporate learning sectors. As people see more sophisticated content from online content producers – such as newspapers, publishers, and big brand digital marketing – so too will the expectation of better and more timely content grow in the corporate learning sectors.
7. New ways to sell offline
While the e-commerce industry grows at a rapid pace, many retailers have figured out that sales can be grown innovatively in the offline world. One such example is Amazon GOWhile the e-commerce industry grows at a rapid pace, many retailers have figured out that sales can be grown innovatively in the offline world. One such example is Amazon GO, a store that doesn't have cashiers, registers or even lines.
Amazon GO is expected to use machine learning to identify the products that people buy from an Amazon GO store. With virtual reality becoming a fact, stores are also eyeing growth here. A greater focus on automation will lead to change in this industry. It is expected that many companies will follow suit, with Amazon poised to take advantage of these trends and make use of automation in their stores. This will not only lead to higher efficiency, but will also make it easier for the customer to use the services.
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