As we wrap up 2022 and look forward to 2023, a couple items are popping up on our radar. The new year is also a temporal landmark—a date where a fresh start is more likely to lead to sustained change—which means as you roll (or crash) into the new year, consider re-evaluating the learning and development content and programmes you run for your people. After all, where 2022 was a year of navigating uncertainty, 2023 is likely to be a year of data-driven decision-making, minimising risk, and investing in people to manage the economic downturn and continued social and political unrest in many parts of the world. Here are your emerging trends for December:
Sustainability is everywhere. Rightfully so, as the impacts and anxieties of climate change are being felt in weather systems, food and water security, and our general physical and mental health. While increasing numbers of countries, businesses, financial institutions, cities and educational institutions are pledging to reach net zero emissions, these pledges are not consistently or robustly translating into clear standards or actions.
People are protesting this slow and insufficient commitment to change in various ways. Climate activists in various parts of the world blocked roads and motorways, or attempted to deface artwork in the last year. Greta Thunberg skipping Cop27 for greenwashing. The majority of Gen Z say they avoid applying for roles with employers that have even a perceived negative impact on the environment.
As a result, sustainability is becoming a critical practice in sometimes unexpected ways. For example, on a more lateral level, we’re seeing a rise in architects who rework and reclaim buildings rather than tear them down in order to be more sustainable.
Sustainable practices are valuable, but they only scrape at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to embedding sustainable ways of living, being and working. Embedding sustainability as a mindset could lead to deeper reaching and more, well, sustainable behavioural change from the ground up.
Teaching this as a skill across your organisation, from early careers through to C-suite and board level, could both help organisations embed sustainability as a lived organisational value, and also meet people’s demands that more be done when it comes to how their companies approach sustainability. What if, for example, lawyers, bankers or engineers thought in the same way as the architects who repurpose buildings instead of demolishing them? How might this change how we practice law, banking, or engineering?
Our working lives are feeling more complex, especially as we continue to figure out how to effectively work in hybrid. The technology that enables hybrid working means we get instant communication, much more communication (and miscommunication), and the feeling that our to do list will never end. We’ve written before on how remote and hybrid working blurred the boundaries between work and life.
This can be positive, for example the greater openness and acceptance in many organisations towards mental health and wellbeing, flexible working around childcare or caring for elderly relatives, etc. It can also have drawbacks: we are navigating how to manage these blurred boundaries, how to switch off from work without disengaging, how to do the actual work we need to rather than perform productivity, and (for managers and leaders) more accurately gauge when team members are stressed or overworked when not physically in the office.
Basically, we are navigating a complex series of factors in this transitioning world of work, while at the same time trying to do our day-to-day jobs.
As the new year comes and presents us with a temporal landmark for a meaningful fresh start, it is worth considering the skills you, your people or your teams need to contend with these increasing levels of complexity? Specifically, the skills needed to move from managing complexity to mastering complexity, and thereby transition to ways of working that better fit the current flux in the working world. Building this skillset is best done in three stages:
First: Managing complexity. Think productivity and prioritisation. How do you identify what you need to do, and then use the right tools to get it done most effectively?
Second: Mitigating complexity. Think intentionally moving into a state of flow when it comes to your work, so you can focus and shut out the noise. How do you, or your teams, set boundaries? How do you apply principles of mindfulness into how you work?
Third: Mastering complexity. This one is all about thinking in systems to pull away from the trees and take the forest view. Specific and select skills sit at the heart of mastery, drawing from the pantheon of foresight, insight, and sense making.
Are your programmes meeting these emerging needs when it comes to upskilling? If not, could it be time for a strategic programme review? Remember: a fresh start like the new year is the best time to make meaningful change and get ahead of developing trends.