Buckle your seatbelts because we haven’t seen a decade like we’ve just entered. Some questions we face every year: will there be a recession and, if so, when? Then there are other questions no one could have predicted like the coronavirus and its worldwide impact on health, trade, and the markets. Businesses will need to find new ways to stay ahead, meet their goals and rally their workforces. So, here is a list of the Top 5 Business Trends to keep an eye out for as we start “the Roaring ‘20’s.”

 

Corporate Podcasts – Engaging Your Workforce On Their Terms

This doesn’t mean businesses are giving away their vision. In fact, quite the opposite. Is your sales team on the road and your workers stuck in meetings? In an era of unanswered voicemails and ignored emails, the best ways for businesses to stay connected to its employees and for employees to stay true to the mission is through internal podcasts. We reached out to the global leader in business podcasts FieldCast, a company that makes podcasting easy for businesses. It has developed innovative software for your workers to create, produce and share podcasts. We found that its software is easy to navigate and intuitive so companies can assign an employee, regardless of their digital experience, with this role. At a time when company culture is a make-it or break-it issue, FieldCast allows your culture to grow, together, by putting your strategy and inspiration literally in the ears of your employees in the most personal and intimate manner. The software is secure so there’s no fear of your internal communications, with your “secret sauce”, being shared with your competitors. Another head-of-the-class feature we liked was of FieldCast’s analytics, which allows managers to track listenership and remind employees who haven’t listened yet, to do so.

AI… yi, yi

It’s amazing that AI is still talked about in the future when so much of our day to day lives is driven by artificial intelligence. Voice assistants like Siri and Alexa will get to know us even more and help us shop and take care of aging loved ones. AI gives us direction to search for new music and interesting podcasts. It’s also the backbone to self-driving cars.

Pandora and Amazon know our tastes and other brands know we’ve checked them out and then follow us around the internet, from retailers to vacation spots to homes for sale on Zillow. But moving ahead, AI has high aspirations and its ability to cull millions of data points and create mind-blowing user experiences will disrupt even more industries.

And those looking for the next wave of job openings should know that AI jobs are among the fastest growing on LinkedIn.

Brand Extension Through Original Storytelling

In an era of social media where so many brands are screaming “look at me”, it’s refreshing to see an original approach to our senses and values. Brands are celebrating the art of storytelling and aligning those stories with the sensibilities of potential customers and brand ambassadors. This “brand-beyond-sales” strategy creates relevant and engaging stories far beyond a sales pitch. These stories, produced in house and with media partners, provide premium content that resembles high quality journalism. Case in point, John Hancock’s video series “(Re)imagining Wealth.” They’ve partnered with Courageous Studios, the branded content studio for CNN which is independent from the news division at CNN. These mini movies are heartfelt, filled with beautiful production and create memorable moments. What does this have to do with selling insurance? Watch for yourself.

Working: From Home Alone to Shared Spaces

WFH! Get used to it. It’s a letter combination you’ll be hearing more about in the next 12 months. But the truth is, “working from home” will become even more prevalent as companies try to recruit and retain the best and the brightest.

As the workforce changes and the coronavirus outbreak looks to have a profound effect on the global society for the next 12 months, more companies will not just approve, but encourage, parts of its workforce to WFH. For generations, this was considered a perk that was greeted with grumbles of favoritism (from those who are stuck in a cubicle) to skepticism of actual productivity working in your pajamas. But the truth is, studies have shown productivity can be higher with remote workers, largely because they’re not distracted by, ahem, the workplace. Put a clock on it- employees trapped in those endless meetings without resolution, navigating outdated policies and procedures and consumed by the office gossip mill. Contrast that to a remote worker who, sure they may run out for a personal appointment, if graded by results, shine. They’re also more likely, without a commute, to get an early start on their workday, stay at it later and even on weekends.

And it’s not just full-time employees. The gig economy has led to the explosion in shared workspaces, from Impact Hub, We Work, even the office supply store Staples. Plus, there are plenty more, including boutique shared workspaces that attract creatives, start-ups and entrepreneurs working within steps of sharing ideas, networks and community.
The bottom line is stuff is getting done and it’s not all happening inside your four walls. As businesses expand and contract, office space costs rise, commutes get worse, and low unemployment makes hiring and retaining the best and diverse talent more difficult, it’s time to embrace the new workplace.

Social Good – For Your Business, For The World

  • While WFH will undoubtedly help companies recruit good workers and retain their best, the corporate social responsibility movement will expand in the year ahead. Let’s face it, if workers don’t feel connected to a company’s mission and values, it’s more difficult to reach its strategic goals. That’s why more companies are baking in a CSR strategy and welcoming employee-led initiatives that give back to communities in which they live. It’s also why companies are not just giving lip service to the new social compact. Take climate change, an issue that has broad support. Companies are transitioning to electric vehicles and zero-carbon fleets.
  • Patagonia makes outdoor clothing with recycled fabrics but its campaign “Don’t buy this jacket” is designed to discourage customers from buying too many of its products.
  • The Swedish retailer Ikea has invested $2 billion into renewable energy projects including wind turbines and solar panels on its buildings.
  • Companies like Walmart, Hewlett Packard, Dropbox, and Apple are part of the “We Are Still In Coalition” committing to the Paris Climate Agreement even as the United States is out.
  • The San Francisco-based footwear company Allbirds makes comfortable shoes with sustainable materials like sugar cane, wool and eucalyptus fiber. It’s co-founder Tim Brown believes “sustainability should be a non-negotiable” and takes responsibility in explaining exactly what sustainability means.
  • The online glasses retailer Warby Parker has distributed more than 5 million pairs of glasses to those in need through its “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program.

While trends may come and go like a topic that’s “trending” for the moment on Twitter, we believe these trends for 2020 are here to stay. For each one of them has something in common: people are taking charge of their lives and demanding that anyone, or any company, that wants to be part of their lives, will have to do it more on their terms.