Life At The Top November 6, 2018

Hot or not for 2019? The top trends every business leader needs to be aware of

Hot or not for 2019 The top trends every business leader needs to be aware of

Business trends come and go. Just when you think you’ve got to grips with the latest one, five new ones pop up and make you re-evaluate everything. Some make good business sense and are built to last, others are all style and no substance, and the rest are clickbait flashes in the pan. So how do you know what’s worth pursuing and what’s not?

We’re here to tell you what all the fuss is about, and whether these trends are hot or not for 2019…

Tech talk: Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been much more than just a buzzword in 2018 - and it’s not only big businesses that are tapping into its power. As the sophistication and use of AI grows, so does its accessibility to small and medium sized businesses.

Take manufacturing, for instance. The 2018 Annual Manufacturing Report found that 92% of senior executives believe ‘Smart Factory’ digital tech (which includes AI) will help them to increase productivity. From spotting defects on a production line to real-time problem solving, in the not-so-distant future, AI has the potential to transform the entire industry. But it certainly won’t happen overnight.

While more businesses are adopting these technologies, a factory needs to be networked for data collection in order to become ‘smart’ - and this type of digital transformation takes time and money.

The switch to AI, of course, isn’t immediate; you won’t turn up at work one day with a cyborg next to you. Progress is iterative, and there are plenty of smaller scale implementations of AI cropping up for SMEs. Just look at the rise of chatbots for one, improving customer service without increasing costs massively. Little improvements like these are how AI slowly takes hold within businesses, and more businesses will be adopting the technology over the next 12 months.

According to a report by Gartner, IDC and Forrester, 58% of businesses are researching AI systems but only 12% are using them. However, the same report also found that 50% of businesses will have implemented a digital transformation initiative by 2020, compared to just 22% in 2016. In short, there won’t be a massive revolution in 2019 but this trend is definitely hot - and it’s only going to get hotter.

Our verdict: Hotter than lava

Data protection

Before you say ‘GDPR is so 2018’, data collection and protection is still a hot topic - and it’s set to get hotter in 2019. While most companies are compliant with the new legislation, there will be plenty that aren’t, and, as the fines are doled out next year, we’re sure to be reading about it once again.

With growing demand for digital privacy, 2019 is therefore likely to see not just compliance with GDPR under the microscope, but also clearer communication from brands to let customers know that their data is completely secure.

Verdict: It’s about to get hot for the noncompliant

Millennial mania

Do you remember when you couldn’t read anything without the word ‘Millennial’ popping up about a hundred times?

Presented as an enigmatic group with the power to either save or destroy the world, Millennials have had more airtime than most generations. From being entitled and difficult to manage to being inclusive and courageous, the theories have served to deepen the belief that understanding this generation is the key to business success. So, will we still be talking about them in 2019?

Hopefully not. The term is essentially meaningless for a couple of reasons. One, it’s an incredibly broad demographic that really serves no great purpose. You can’t say Millennials think in a certain way because that suggests an 18-year-old from a council estate in Bromley has similar opinions to a 34-year-old accountant from Glasgow.

However, we don’t think this is the reason you’ll hear less about Millennials. We think the sole reason you’ll hear less is because marketers and press love a good buzzword. There’s been such a backlash to the term, we think they’ll move on to the next generation - Generation Z.

In 2019, Generation Z will, for the first time, outnumber Millennials. For the purposes of segmentation, Gen Z is no less problematic than Millennial. But that won’t stop everyone banging on about them, just wait and see.

Our verdict: Not

Wellbeing initiatives

With a growing focus on mental health and research showing that employee absences cost UK businesses £77 billion a year in lost productivity, the last couple of years have seen an increased focus on health and wellbeing in the workplace.

From support with mental health issues to free fruit and cycle to work incentives, business leaders have recognised the fact that happy, healthy employees mean more productive employees. Having a wellness plan can also help to attract and retain the best talent.

Free fruit promotes wellbeing in the workplace

Despite the obvious benefits to both employees and businesses, a 2017 study found that 54.8% of businesses had no wellbeing strategy in place. However, almost all of the respondents planned to implement a wellness plan at some point, and 23.8% planned to have one by 2020.

Far from cooling down, it looks like the wellbeing trend is only just getting started, and, as more companies get on board, the offerings are becoming more nuanced. In 2019, wellbeing initiatives are likely to become more digitised and data-driven in an effort to personalise employee health and wellness.

Our verdict: Hot

Open plan office spaces

Pioneered by big tech companies like Google, back in 2014, open plan offices were billed as cool and sexy; the antidote to stuffy corporate rigidity. The idea was that by removing walls you would break down the metaphorical walls hindering the free flow of ideas, collaboration and creativity. The reality hasn’t been quite so rosy.

Instead of improving productivity, open offices actually reduce overall productivity by about 15%, according to a study by the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Constant distractions prevent employees from getting into a deep flow of work, face-to-face communication is reduced rather than increased (by 73%, according to a study from Harvard Business School), and more introverted individuals can feel self-conscious.

In 2019, we predict a further step away from the now not-so-trendy open plan office and a move towards more flexible, remote working. More businesses will adopt the ‘coffice’: meeting in coffee shops or other public spaces to work together.

Our verdict: Not even tepid

Going green

The trend for environmentally sound, sustainable businesses isn’t really a trend at all, rather a significant cultural shift in attitude. We don’t just want good value for money or great quality, we also want to know where our products and services come from and what the environmental and ethical implications are.

According to not-for-profit Ethical Consumer, the ethical services and products sector was valued at nearly £40 billion in 2016. But the move towards ethical business isn’t just about satisfying consumers. Adopting more sustainable practices can save businesses money ($12 trn a year globally by 2030) and help to attract the best talent as young people increasingly look for jobs with companies that reflect their own ideologies.

With demand for sustainable products and practices growing, sustainability is increasingly essential for businesses in 2019. Those that don’t keep pace with the demand will likely get left behind.

Verdict: Hot hot hot

Innovation labs

Innovation labs have been a hot business topic for the last few years. Their purpose: to stay one step ahead of the game by exploring and adopting emerging technology. The trend began in 2015 and took off in 2016, when the number of innovation centres jumped from 67 to 456. Despite this rapid growth and enthusiasm, innovation labs face many challenges.

One problem is the relationship between the lab and the parent company. Innovators develop products but they often face resistance when it comes to scaling these products. This has led to the belief that unless the ideas are put into practice, innovations labs are a waste of money and resources: they create an illusion of innovation but are perhaps nothing more than a wild stab in the dark.

A report by Capgemini found that up to 90% of innovation labs are now failing, a fact illustrated by companies like Disney, Coca Cola and Nordstrom all drastically reducing or closing their innovation centres.

Verdict: Not anymore

Trends come and go, but the fundamentals of business rarely go out of fashion. Vistage groups are designed to help business leaders work through the toughest business decisions, offering a support network for the people that need it the most. Find out more here.

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