Top 2017 Workplace Trends: Employee Diversity, Change Management, and Self-Directed Learning

by Kim Bohr, Executive Vice President of Operations, Fierce, Inc.

The past year has undoubtedly been a trying time for our country, and its impact can be felt on both a personal and professional level. Organizations, with urgency, will need to address a growing employee demand for safe, inclusive work environments and opportunities that will allow them to advance on their own terms. Strong leaders are needed now to successfully manage these evolving demands and make the connection to improved results when investment in areas like these are made.

2017 trends

While outside societal forces push the need for inclusion, employees are gaining a greater interest in being in the driver’s seat of their own learning.

These two forces—social inclusion and a lean towards more autonomous learning—will be important in the coming year. As key members work together this year to address the most pressing issues within their organizations, here’s what we can expect:

Diversity and Inclusion Efforts Will Be a Top Priority

It was a challenging year for many, bringing issues of diversity and inclusion to light with unprecedented urgency. As we move further into the New Year, organizational leaders will play a crucial role in creating unity between employees and stakeholders alike.

Regardless of your political views, it’s apparent that opposing beliefs can create separation in the workplace, especially if individuals feel left out, marginalized, or even fearful. An objective within organizations should be to create an environment where all employees can feel at ease and capable of understanding differing perspectives that exist, regardless of gender, race, generation, religious affiliation, or any other aspect of identity.

Leaders need to take control of this conversation by inviting different viewpoints into workplace conversation in a way that leaves workers feeling valued and heard, as well as implementing diversity programs aimed at increasing all employees’ commitment to cooperation and understanding.

It’s also important that organizations have a trusted resource and defined process where individuals who feel even slightly uncomfortable, for any reason, can get the tools necessary to confront the issue head on—either directly or through the company’s leadership.

For these efforts to be authentic and actionable, it will be important that leaders at all levels understand the sensitivity these concerns have and the importance of follow-through on the actionable items that come from these conversations.

Change Leadership Will Touch More Members Throughout Companies

Change is inevitable. 2016 proved this to be true across the board. In the workplace, this can range from the complete rebranding of an organization or simply getting a new boss. Historically, organizations have largely focused leadership training on a select few, while outsourcing the role of change management to a single team within the company.

Skills related to smooth transitioning and adapting to change, however, are paramount across all levels within companies.  Data shows that nearly two-thirds of all change initiatives fail when they are segregated to a small team or chosen individuals.

Organizations can adapt by shifting from the view that expertise lies in the hands of a singular team to one that views critical skills as being essential for every employee within an organization to master as the standard way of operating. By shifting to this view, inherently a greater sense of accountability is created on an individual level.

Additionally, incorporating change leadership into all levels within the company will ensure an organization is equipped to handle any change that comes its way as there will be greater alignment between the business initiatives and individual contributions. This heightened level of accountability will enable issues related to change to be managed where and when they arise, which may be within departments, between individuals, or across the organization.

Demand Will Grow for Participant-Driven Learning

The last year also saw a rise in Millennial workers that have influenced an increased desire for learning to be largely participant-led. Given that the new normal in business involves doing more with less, this learning approach creates flexibility and control for all generations of employees over what they’re learning, how they’re learning, and how it’s being implemented.

It also provides an outlet for organizations to reinforce the connection and impact employees have in the work they do to the strategy and initiatives that are in place. Allowing employees to have more control over their learning initiatives is a positive step towards accommodating preferences and provides the opportunity for greater personal involvement, generational diversity, and showing acceptance for other perspectives.

Company leaders can adapt to these projections by implementing relevant inclusion programs, creating opportunities for self-directed learning, and implementing company-wide training to manage change. Transparency and consistent follow-through will be critical for trust and alignment to exist. The outcome of open and honest discussions, be it with coworkers or between employee and boss, are the cornerstones of feeling valued and producing real results.

Kim Bohr is the Executive Vice President of Operations for Fierce, Inc. Fierce is an award-winning leadership development and training company that changes the way people communicate with each other. Fierce helps organizations transform company cultures by building conversational skills that spark curiosity, ignite innovation, invite cross-boundary collaboration, and drive results. For more information, visit www.fierceinc.com

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