August 24, 2022

September Trends to Watch

4 min read
By Khairunnisa Mohamedali PhD

In 2020, we were finding our footing through the start of what has become an extended period of crisis and even, for some organisations, chaos. We’ve written in the past about the impact of leading and managing through the limbo period of the late-pandemic.

Now, we seem to be entering a period of collective recognition that “crisis mode” may well be the status quo for the next 12 to 18 months at least. The pandemic, economic uncertainty, geopolitical instability and, for many, emotional upheaval are seeming less and less likely to move into our rear view mirror any time soon.

This month’s trends cover how both individuals and organisations are navigating an extended period of heightened uncertainty and collective anxiety about the near future.

1) Crisis as Crucible

This trend is about making lemonade when the universe gives you lemons. At the start of the pandemic, there was a surge in writing and thinking around how to manage, lead, and learn from periods of uncertainty. An emerging theme from this early-pandemic period is currently resurfacing: crisis is a ripe opportunity to identify the leaders in your business.

Put differently, crisis is the crucible through which leaders are forged. This is a painful test for identifying your emerging leaders, especially because the toll of the current series of crises on people managers and leaders is high. Burnout is skyrocketing, with almost half of people reporting being somewhat burned out—a number that is considered to be an underrepresentation of the real number.

However, it is also an opportunity to recognise the people in your organisation who have helped balance the boat during a storm or showcased the values your business celebrates.

One thing you can do to be ready for this…

Take stock of the individuals in your organisation who have lived your values, exhibited behaviours well worth recognising, or enhanced your culture. Once identified, recognise them. Gratitude and recognition go a long way under normal circumstances. During times of crisis they are valued even more. Beyond ‘thank you,’ consider the development and career trajectories of these individuals, and ensure you have a plan to keep them engaged and growing for the long run.

2) Mind Your Language

Beyonce and Lizzo have both recently cut an ‘ableist slur’ from their songs in response to fierce criticism. This is part of a larger shift towards heightened awareness of (and openness to) inclusive language and representation. We are increasingly using more of a critical lens in evaluating how we, as individuals and as a culture, represent and speak of historically or culturally marginalised, disadvantaged or otherwise oppressed groups. For example, Disney is revisiting its catalogue, removing cartoons with racist imagery, or adding disclaimers.

In the workplace, this increasingly critical awareness of language can vary widely: for some, it includes reconsidering the term ‘return to work’ which implies people were not working during the predominantly remote phase of the pandemic. For others, it involves a long, hard look at power dynamics reinforced by the everyday words and expressions we use—for example, ‘guys’ when referring to a group made up of men and women.

These are both important conversations to be having. Women are more likely to self-select out of roles or have lower levels of engagement in organisations that use gender-exclusive language, like ‘guys’. Put differently: the language people use within an organisation directly impacts the sense of belonging people feel within that organisation.

One thing you can do to be ready for this…

This one is simple to say, hard to do. Take a good long look at the language used in your organisation and by your people in their everyday interactions. Think of the systems you can build to make inclusive language a norm—for example, embed inclusive language in your L&D sessions, your attraction and recruitment collateral, and your internal communications. Language is power. Use it to reconfigure power relations.

3) Quiet Quitting; Joyful Joining

“Quiet Quitting” has been taking over TikTok and is now taking over newsfeeds. Quiet Quitting consists of no longer going above and beyond what is required in one’s role. In a nutshell, people are reneging the hustle culture, the side hustles, and the grind valued and valorised in the years preceding the pandemic.

Hustle culture is giving way to more critical and personalised reflections on how people can engage with work more sustainably and with care for their mental health. This has become especially important in our increasingly uncertain times. For some, the result is Quiet Quitting. For others, it is ‘joyful joining’—the concept of mindfully choosing a career path that brings joy rather than silently disengaging from an unsatisfactory work environment or career path.

Whichever it is, engagement is emerging as the critical challenge of the day for employers. While hiring is slowing down in some sectors and geographies, labour shortages are likely to continue, and one in five people say they are likely to resign in the next year.

One thing you can do to be ready for this…

Overinvest in engaging your people in your business. There are many ways you can consider doing this, from investing in their development and upskilling, opening up opportunities for internal mobility, or even simply listening more to your people. Identify which approaches and strategies work best for you. Incorporate your people’s needs into how to execute these.

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