I’ve been enjoying a little time off over the holidays. A little more sleep than normal, a little more eating, and a lot more reading. This week, my inbox feeds have been full of New Year’s themed posts. I’ve decided to hop on the bandwagon and bring you my own predictions for 2017. I’ll warn you that my predictions aren’t quite as “out there” as some; I’m not talking about space travel, or geopolitical strife, or artificial intelligence. This is a blog about healthy, happy, and productive workplaces, so my predictions are all in that vein. By sticking to a topic I know well, I’m increasing my confidence that these predictions will come true.
Communication (trending up)
In 2017, effective communication will continue to be the difference between good, bad, and ugly workplaces. The latter will continue to communicate at one another, still relying on email and other one-way transmissions of information, thereby setting themselves up for misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and misalignment. On the plus side, good teams will shift more strongly toward true dialogue, foregoing technology wherever possible and using better technology where required. Slack, HipChat, Trello, and Basecamp will make inroads. By the end of 2017, enterprise communication will be better than it is today.
(One bonus prediction: Baby boomers and Gen Xers will still squander the benefits of video-based communication technologies because they will continue to leave the video off for fear of seeing themselves on screen. Sigh.)
Feedback (stuck in a rut)
The outlook for feedback is still extremely poor. In 2017, people will continue to tout the benefits of effective feedback while lacking the guts (and the skills) to provide it. I see no reason for optimism on this front. Although feedback in the abstract is valued, when it comes to crafting and delivering constructive feedback, fears about having an uncomfortable interaction will persist. The only reason for hope is that a few teams are starting to reinforce the importance of feedback and to provide training on how to deliver feedback skillfully. The teams that make feedback a habit will learn and adapt faster than everyone else. Unfortunately, no one will want to leave these teams so evangelism will be slow.
Meetings (trending up)
2016 might have been the year when those on the bleeding edge finally figured out that meetings are killing us. The rise of meeting free days will continue in small organizations and begin to permeate larger ones. More organizations will implement meeting structures that are fit for purpose with content, attendees, duration, and format all tailored to the task at hand. We won’t cure our meeting addiction in 2017 but we’ll at least admit we have a problem.
Adding Value (trending down)
I’m less optimistic about the value that people will add in 2017. The stock market and its inherent short-term orientation will continue to drive leaders into the weeds. The vicious cycle of micro-management will continue and thus, more and more organizations will be strategically rudderless. With their boss’ meddling in their work, more and more good employees will become disengaged and leave in search of places where they can make a meaningful contribution. Sadly, I’m very sure that 2017 will not be the year when executive compensation catches up to the fact that the majority of leaders are overpaid given the value they’re adding.
Work-life Balance (split)
If there was one trend I found most disturbing in 2016, it was the continued deterioration of work-life balance, particularly at senior levels. The always-on phenomenon continues and our brief 2009 reprieve from excessive business travel is long gone. To be fair, there are bright lights on this subject. First, France just mandated that companies give employees time to disconnect. (Will this sanity be restricted to Europe or will it make its way across the pond?) Second, one of the most important macro-trends in our economy is the move to freelancing. For some people, that will provide more flexibility to keep work in its place. The problem is that for others, the lack of full-time work will mean finding the next gig (and the next mortgage payment) will become all-consuming.
Bill Gates once said “we overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” I think that’s very true.
I’m hesitant to say that we’ll make significant inroads on effective communication, fewer and better meetings, and improved work-life balance this year, but I’m confident that we’re on a path to making each of these significantly better over the course of the decade.
At the same time, I’m worried about where we’ll be in ten years if we don’t reverse the troubling trends in other areas. Our inability to deliver feedback (or to deal with uncomfortable situations, in general) and the inability of leaders to stay at the right level won’t do us in this year, but our organizations will be in trouble if we don’t make progress soon.
So there you have it. My predictions for 2017. What are your predictions for 2017…I’d love to hear them!