Whether it’s the eggnog, the roasting fire, or the winter chill creeping across the northeastern part of the United States here in New Hampshire, the signals of year-end are upon us. The transition from one year to the next is the chance to pause and reflect on the past 12 months and look forward with anticipation on what's to come in the year ahead.
And lots of people are looking forward along with us. Isabelle Roughol and Laura Lorenzetti Soper compiled a list of 50 Big Ideas for 2019: What to Watch in the Year Ahead. Polling LinkedIn members, they summarize their findings: “The business leaders, authors, journalists, and academics who gave us their 2019 predictions foresee a shaky economy, a troubled world order and continued anxiety — but also a renewed focus on caring for ourselves, for each other and for doing the right thing.”
Many of the ideas are rather dire (“The economy will slow down … and companies will prepare with preemptive layoffs.”). And the cumulative collection is broad (covering politics, economy, learning, technology, etc.), daunting, and makes me want to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. But, fear not; there are always glimmers of hope and opportunities for advancement.
I’d like to base my predictions for 2019 as a kind of reaction to Roughol and Soper’s 50 Big Ideas for 2019. As always, my predictions focus on the learning and development space.
Big Idea #2 and #3: The economy will slow down … and companies will prepare with preemptive layoffs.
My Reaction: I don’t doubt for a second that this is true. And I don’t doubt for a second that some industries — manufacturing and some service industries for example — know that to survive, they need to hunker down and weather the storm. And most other organizations will feel the pinch of a down-turned economy. We in Learning & Development (often viewed as discretionary/optional) need to focus on the key initiatives whether they focus on the customer or on employees. The battle for customer mind-share and employee engagement will push to the forefront and, because strategy will change overnight, we in L&D need to be nimble and agile, ready to pivot and move.
Big Idea #16: What will matter at work is your humanity.
My Reaction: The authors point to increased use of technology — including AI — that will impact how work gets done. So, they ask, when all this technology takes over our jobs what do we have left? The answer is our humanity. The authors point to soft skills including oral communication, people management, time management, and leadership as key skills that can only be filled by humans. While changing jobs may not be an option (as discussed in the previous Big Idea), applying discretionary effort will depend on how the employee FEELS … about the work, about the boss, about their contribution. Developing leadership skills will increase in importance.
Big Idea #25: CEOs will work hard to become more inclusive leaders — or leave.
My Reaction: The authors cite Carla Harris, Vice Chairman and Managing Director at Morgan Stanley: “I think you're going to see more leaders looking for leadership development or leadership guidance on how to be more collaborative, how to spur innovation, how to teach people how to fail and how to innovate. I think you're going to see far more money spent on speakers and resources around that.” We’ve already been seeing this trend with our clients; CEOs and senior leaders recognize the value of collaboration and inclusion. But many of these leaders don’t necessarily have the skills needed to be as effective as they could be.
Big Idea #41: Learning isn’t enough; professionals will focus on doing.
My Reaction: The authors cite Whitney Johnson, author of "Build and A Team" and "Disrupt Yourself," who says the next trend is to focus on improving our behavior, not just our expertise, in order to apply these lessons to our work and personal lives. In the world of L&D, we need to build opportunities for behavior change in our training. Learning isn’t enough; doing something with that learning will continue to increase in importance. Call it action learning, project-based learning, or job assignment, we need to consciously create those behavior-changing opportunities in our training. Our foundational leadership development program, Unleash Your Leadership Potential, is based on the philosophy that in order to change attitude, focus first on changing behavior. When you do something that works and do it over and over, you begin to realize and appreciate the results.
If, after you read the 50 Big Ideas, you find yourself overwhelmed and anxious, take a few minutes to read Nick Horslen’s response in the comment section and his link to A History of Global Living Conditions in 5 Charts. You will be pleasantly reassured that the world IS heading in a very positive direction when it comes to things like extreme poverty, literacy, democracy, child mortality, and other areas. (Did you know that global life expectancy DOUBLED in the last hundred years?!) Play with the interactive charts and be proud that we as a human species are collaborating, empathizing, advancing, and helping each other.
Here’s to a collaborative, prosperous, and generous 2019! As always, if we can be of service to you as you begin planning and executing your 2019 L&D initiatives, we'd love to hear from you.