5 Trends Shaping 2016…and beyond

Originally published on Linkedin Pulse by Anupam Kundu

The world is changing faster than we can fathom. D!gitalist magazine confirm with confidence that there are more people with mobile phones than toothbrushes today. Anyone, anywhere with access to internet bandwidth now can write a post on social media and initiate a revolution, use a 3D printer to make a mechanical arm at a public library, crowdfund anything of niche interest, or write smart adaptive algorithms that can help companies hire better.

While all these technology innovations are propelling us rapidly into a global network , there are few other fundamental shifts happening across the world that are going to change the nature of businesses and workplace behaviors significantly. Though these shifts are seemingly imperceptible than say the growth of cell phones, yet the impact they will have on businesses and hence humans like you and I, are second to none. Here are the 5 top trends that I think will have extraordinarily impact on the ways we do business this year and beyond. There is no specific order of these trends, rather, if you sit back, relax and think a bit, I expect you to uncover how all of them are intrinsically connected. The compounding effect of that combination is ushering rapidly a new world order that we need to adapt to.

Human Migration

Few months back I wrote an essay on how migration is shaping and reshaping the world and soon the global businesses will be run by immigrants, nomads and gypsies. Movements of humans across the nation-state boundaries, for me, will be the biggest driver of innovation and change in business. Human migration is not a new phenomenon however the refugee crisis experienced recently around the world has reignited conversation around employment and quality of work influenced to migration.

A Danish police officer plays with a Syrian refugee girl in the middle of the migration crisis in EU. Original image credit: Michael Drost-Hansen via Imgur

As per the latest UN report, over 243 million people live in countries that are not their birth home and it’s growing faster than ever before. This includes not just refugees but the population of people that leave their homeland, for a prosperous city or country, willingly in search of better life. Plus as we witness a transformational drop in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) across developed and fast-developing nations, there is a growing demand to attract qualified and arguably younger immigrants to inorganically boost the growth of working population of many such countries.

The socio-economic-political landscape of the host regions/countries are going to experience a seismic shift over the next few years and will directly influence the workplace norms. The human flux is going to create new breakout centers of innovation across the world while existing powerhouses will struggle to maintain pace. Acculturation will be strongly reflected in businesses connected to food, media, retail and art. We will work side-by-side with colleagues and partners who are not-from-here, everyday.

Companies that specialize in modern means of communication, international currency transfer and multi-culturalism like Skype, Whatsapp, AirBnB, Xoom, and Duolingo are going to see growth. Workplaces that intentionally focus on diversity in people and ideas will be leading while prominent businesses that are unable to speak with versatility and authenticity will flounder.

Lifelong Learning

Few years back, I watched this wonderful presentation by Dominic Barton of McKinsey speaking about the forces that are changing the world. In this, he remarked about continuous/lifelong learning being one of the many focus areas of growth.

Traditionally, we have been used to earning a degree or two and using them to get a life long job with a single company. However, with key aspects of our jobs increasingly becoming digital and automated, this traditional mode of learning is not working anymore. The longevity of a single skill is decreasing rapidly, leading to the need for lifelong learning and continuous education. As technology innovations make it easier to access knowledge, traditional teaching models and existing views of learning are being challenged and un-schooling trends are growing more popular. These new modes of learning are also a response to lack of proper public learning infrastructure that are under further stress due to human migration.

New types of jobs that do not exist today will be there in next 5 years (anyone for fixing home robots and drones?) and there is no popular curriculum yet available for that. According to a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) labor markets around the world will suffer from significant skill shortage, citing about 300 million youth between the age of 15–24 worldwide being not in education or training or employment. Hence, this is the time for businesses (and governments) to invest in continual learning like never. Michigan State University Broad School of Business recently published that on average companies are spending about $1200 per employee on continual learning and development.

Kids learning to code at a Coderdojo workshop in NYC.

Last year, I wrote how we are all getting challenged at our workplaces with new stretch roles and most of us are not-so-sure how prepared we are for these challenges. There is a revolution happening in the education space with companies like Knewton, Coursera, Ed-x, and Lynda becoming mainstream for up-skilling the global workforce. Additionally, institutions like Skillshare, General Assembly and Coderdojo have started providing off-line classes across the world to promote out-of-school learning experiences for adults and kids alike. Expect to learn new skills and gain expertise in subject areas to have a meaningful impact at your work in 2016 and beyond.

Decreasing Employee Tenure

My dad worked for the Indian Railways for more than 30 years. The longest I have ever worked for a company is my current employer (8 years in running). In USA, the average length of employment for a worker at a given company is 4.6 years. While some employees may stay over for more than the average duration, it is highly possible that those are leaving have the most in-demand skills. This drop in employee tenure will have a profound impact on both large and small companies going forward.

Most companies are now short lived than ever before which in turn causes their their employees to be on the lookout for the next breakthrough opportunity. Most of the young educated workforce now are selective about the work they do; working for an organization is not just tied to the compensation but to other factors like learning new skills, taking bold challenges and opportunities for professional development. Traditional organizations with strict corporate policies and practices are unable to provide such opportunities at a faster pace than newer companies that excel at creating such environments, leading to exodus of quality talent. Additionally, though the corporate profits have surged in the last few years, wages are at their lowest in last 65 years. In the absence of a money carrot, a lot of enterprising employees are focused on starting their own ventures or go solo on the promise of the rising global freelancing movement. Also many large organizations value candidates with diverse work experiences over someone who have only worked with one organization.

Uber attracting new drivers to dive into the gig economy

Companies like Linkedin are making it increasingly easier to find the right skills needed to start a new business and create economic opportunities for a global workforce. Others like TaskRabbit, UpWork , Uber, Instacart, Fiverr and Amazon Home Services are redefining the marketplace for contingent work. Companies like HourlyNerd and Business Talent Group are making it easier for business consultants to take a slice of the gig economy and provide high-end consulting services for strategy to implementation and everything in between.

As we see more human migration, we will also witness an increasing skill gap for available jobs leading to investments in offline learning and rise in short term employment to support those continual education classes.

Rise of Mindfulness and Spirituality

Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, posted a very moving Thanksgiving message on her personal timeline last year expressing gratitude to her family, friends and everyone who supported and comforted her and the kids post her husband’s death. The message has about 52,000 likes and 1000 shares. I don’t remember last time I read something that personal and spiritual yet that public from a CXO. I sincerely believe, alongside many others, like my friend Katarina Chowra, that there is a global awakening of spirituality that is changing our traditional habits and norms about how we live and work.

Screenshot of the Facebook post made by Sheryl Sandberg on Thanksgiving, 2015

We have reached the limits of reason and rationality and now diving deeper into sensemaking of this connected and continuously changing world through a spiritual lens. There is increasing evidence that improving “mental fitness” through meditation and mindfulness practices can positively impact every aspect of your life, both at work and home. How many yoga places are in your neighborhood? Why are so many CXOs (and not just celebrities) speaking about the importance of mindfulness and meditation to be able to make better decisions? Why are so many doctors approving alternative therapies and recommending holistic treatments? Fitness now includes not just physical fitness but also mental agility and ability to meditate and create a holistic experience of well-being.

As we embrace the rapid pace of change around us, we would naturally gravitate towards meditation and mindfulness to regain balance and focus in life. A new breed of companies like SoulCycle, MapMyFitness, Well+Good, ClassPass andLululemon are taking advantage of this growth in awareness about mental well-being and blending it successfully with already established trend of physical well being. We will see a rise of new crop of individuals and organizations embracing and promoting mindfulness and associated benefits of health and wellness like never before. Existing experts like Deepak Chopra and Google’s famous mindfulness expert Chade-Meng Tan will see an increase in demand for their training sessions.

Organizations as Complex Adaptive Systems

Apple is a phone company. Apple makes great computers and large high-resolution screens. Apple is a software company. Apple allows developers to build apps on its app-platform. Apple could be a car company soon. Apple can be anything that they decide to. So is true with a lot of other companies around the globe like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Uber, AirBnB, Tesla, Xiaomi, Tencent, Reliance and more. We will see a continual organic and inorganic growth of companies into different business domains and successful scaling across the globe without losing their sense of higher purpose.

Increasingly large organizations are going to behave more like coral reefs (complex adaptive systems) with their survival being affected by a multitude of factors — structural, environmental, behavioral and more — that may/not be in direct control or influence of the organization

This rapid scaling into different business verticals globally will make organizations identical to biological species — or complex adaptive ecosystems, that need to respond to different emerging trends with faster feedback loops to remain successful and relevant. Traditional organizations who have been focused on core competency for a long time will find it harder to adapt to this new world order and eventually perish. This means a lot of large scale organizational transformation this year and beyond. Successful companies will start behaving as a living, breathing organization constantly responding to challenges associated with human migration, degrading employee health by making serious investments in continual learning and mindfulness training and promote their employment tenure.

I’m sure there are other trends happening across the globe that others may find more impact and meaningful than the ones mentioned here. Will be great to hear diverse thoughts to learn and understand more the global trends that underpin our successes (or failures) at work, home and community.

Anupam Kundu is a polymath: business leader, innovator, visual thinker and dog lover based out of NY, USA.He is a passionate change catalyst and contributor to the Stretch hive-mind.