Three Tips for Managing Business Trends, and Three Trends We’re Watching
A quick Google search on “management trends for 2019” yielded 602,000,000 results. More than 600 million. That’s a lot of trends to navigate.
With knowledge increasing exponentially, and new techniques and innovations occurring in rapid fire, how is a manager supposed to determine what trends to invest in, which to keep an eye on, and which to ignore? Here are my three tips:
Tip 1 – Define your terms. The word ‘trend’ can be interpreted in two ways:
- The overarching direction something is taking; and, rather distinctly,
- What’s fashionable in this moment.
When evaluating a trend’s importance for you, ask yourself, is this something that speaks to the fundamental direction of my company, industry, geo-political climate? Or is this something that is currently popular but may not stand the test of time? A simple example: Flash websites were once a trend, but are now considered a digital faux-pas at best. The move to online itself, though? This was a trend that fundamentally changed the business landscape for virtually every industry (just ask video rental companies and mail-order catalogue businesses – if you can find one). Trends which reflect overarching change are ignored at management’s peril. Trends which reflect a novel idea or moment in time should be approached with greater discernment.
Tip 2 – Know yourself. That is, know your business, your industry, and your team. It’s a truism today that we are overwhelmed by choice. The +600 million Google results on management trends demonstrates that this is no less true of management trends. How can we determine which ones are relevant to us? By knowing our business, our company, our industry, our team, and the challenges we need to address. Stephen Covey famously said “Begin with the end in mind”. This is a useful concept to apply when evaluating management trends. What business problem(s) are you trying to solve? Start with the right question, and it will be a lot easier to determine which management trend will help you come up with an answer.
Tip 3 – One Size Does Not Fit All. Consider remote workers. In some ways, this has been both a momentary fashion (IBM famously had an increasingly remote workforce, large portions of which it called back into the office mid-2017, after realizing it was not providing them the expected advantages. Yet, the over-arching trend seems to indicate that increasing number of workers are indeed working remotely. What does this tell us? Not every trend is going to be correct for every situation, even though the trend overall might be valid. As IBM discovered, for example, its marketing teams are more effective in a face-to-face environment (whereas perhaps other employees, such as salespeople, may be more effective when they are free to determine their location based on their clients’ requirements). Don’t just consider the trend – consider how the trend would impact your specific situation, and apply, modify or pass accordingly.
Now that you have a sense of how to evaluate management trends, here are three trends which we’ll be watching in 2019:
- The gig economy: Statistics indicate that more than half of companies in the US will use some sort of contract or freelance labour this year. What does this mean for managers? The ability to build strong and effective teams will be paramount, as they will be challenged with integrating a diverse, possibly remote workforce, and guiding employees through the change process that an evolving workforce brings. Additional challenges can be raised because often freelancers and contract workers don’t report to management per se – despite the benefits to companies, these ‘gig’ workers retain a significant amount of control over when and how they work, and managers need to be able to influence and manage them, even without technically being “the boss”.
- Management coaches will be expected to bring real-world experience and measurable results to the table . As with any trend, in business the ultimate proof is in the numbers, and if value can’t be proved, it will be discarded. As the coaching space becomes more crowded, the best coaches will become increasingly evidence-based and will need to bring an understanding of the practicalities of real business world – and the bottom line.
- Workplace wellness will be taken seriously. It seems like a ‘soft’ problem, until you consider (as the linked report states) that mental illness costs the Canadian economy more than $50 billion per year. As mental illness continues to be taken more seriously as a legitimate form of disability, and not just something “in your head”, companies will take more responsibility for the role they play in their employees well-being – or lack thereof. Unreasonable and prolonged stress, lack of work-life balance, and 24/7 connectivity are among the key drivers of workplace burnout, and the related costs (including benefit plans and productivity) to business will continue to be taken more seriously in 2019.
Business trends often point the way forward – but sometimes they are just an unnecessary detour. Try these tips for evaluating trends, so you can make the best decisions possible for how you integrate them into your business.