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25 Years Part 2 – Looking Forward

By December 1, 2022March 17th, 2023Coaching, Leadership

On 4th November we were 25 years old.  How did that happen??  In some ways, it seems like a few months ago that we started our consultancy but when we think about it, a lot has happened in our little world of Learning and Development (admittedly not as much as has happened in the wider world even in the last year!)

To mark our 25 years as a leadership and team development consultancy, we gave our thoughts last month, on some of the L&D trends we’ve seen since 1997 and the impact they had.  In part 2 of this article, we’ll attempt a bit of crystal ball gazing, looking forward to what the next quarter century may bring to the workplace and the impact it could have on learning and development.

Here are 3 emerging trends, that we think are ones to watch.

Falling off the cliff

We live in interesting times.  The concept of the “Talent Cliff” – a phenomenon where organisations lose employees at a rapid rate is not a new one but it is taking on a new meaning in 2022.  The largest workforce in recent history is due to retire before the decade is out.  Clearly, we didn’t get that memo.  Lots of others did though and a workplace already struggling with gaps as people re-evaluate and make changes post-pandemic, is going to get gappier.  The solution, we think, puts learning and development at its heart.  Employers need to think about opportunities to keep people for longer and attract people to join and stay.  Of course, decent pay and benefits play their part.  Writer and speaker Dan Pink encourages us to: “Pay people properly and treat them with respect and you get the issue off the table, leaving them free to concentrate on what matters”.  The key message here is to provide chances to grow, develop and stay interested.  If you lead a team, now is a great time to think about what you can do to minimise the impact of a potential landslide.

Flat is the new shape

Hierarchies have been around forever.  They help us know our place in the line, shine clarity on roles and responsibilities and give us something to aspire to.  They appeal to those motivated to climb the ladder and advance to the dizzy heights of senior leadership.  We don’t predict leadership lines disappearing but we do think the world is going to get flatter.  Organisations now are all about collaboration, consultation and breaking down the dreaded siloes.  That is out of step with complicated hierarchies.  Matrix systems where we all have a range of responsibilities, dotted lines and internal clients are becoming the norm.  We all want autonomy – to have a say in the what/when/where/how of our day.  To achieve this, we need freedom to act and make decisions for ourselves whilst feeling like what we do connects to something bigger.  In decades to come we believe structures will be much flatter and freer with good process in place to ensure everyone is clear without having to check in with a manager all the time.  Let’s get well prepared for it now by ensuring we feel comfortable to delegate and share responsibility with great comms in place to avoid confusion.  Complex hierarchies are on the out so don’t make a mountain when a molehill will do.

Gen Z calling the shots

Disclaimer:  In this section we will make a few generalisations. We find all that is written on the Generations utterly fascinating.  It informs the way we work and live, how we sell to customers, gain trust with clients and has a lot to teach us about how we lead future teams and individuals. As proud Generation Xers, we know how to work hard and play hard.  We embraced technology, put in long hours, socialised at work and juggled (not to mention struggled) our way up the career ladder.  We hid our tattoos and our piercings.  Okay, some of us did.  Behind us came Generation Y (also referred to as Millennials) and some new expectations.  If you fall in to that generation or you manage someone who does, you will know different things are valued.  For Gen Y it is about purpose not profit, work life balance rather than bank balance and output not hours.  They want to be paid properly by an employer who enables and provides opportunities for growth.

That may describe the now, but this is a blog about the future.  What of the generation entering work at the moment? Generation Z.  These are our future shapers and leaders so what do they want?  They’re digital natives, that’s a given – and it means they expect the right tools for the job; they want to work with cutting-edge technology so consider where you make your investments.  Gen Zs are in to ethics and sustainability.  They choose where they work, not just based on the job and conditions.  They want to know what you are doing to give back and what your policies are on how you work responsibly.  Interestingly, they value both flexibility and face to face interaction.  Flexibility is an expectation so ignore it at your peril, but they also want connection; to be more than suppliers of work, they want to be colleagues.  Consider how you can create an environment where Gen Zs can thrive, develop and become our next generation of leaders in this ever-changing world.  And what of the group coming up behind them, named Generation Alpha?  Given that as of now, the oldest they can be is 12 we’ll save our views on them for a future discussion.

Don’t be concerned if you consider your characteristics, wants and needs don’t fit with the generation your birthday assigned you (as per our disclaimer, we made some generalisations).  The point is, we need to continue to listen to what team members want from work and from their employer, if we are to keep and nurture talent.

So, there you have it and thank you for gazing in to the future with us.  What did you think of our predications and do they match yours?  In the end none of us really knows what the next 25 years will bring.  How could we (unless we are Bill Gates apparently) have ever predicted what happened in just the last few years?!  What we are sure of is that things change and we will need to evolve to survive and thrive in the future.  And we hope to be around for many more great conversations with you where we put the world to rights and with any luck, make it a better place.