Are You Ready for Workforce 2017?

Next year is upon us, and likely we’ll notice little change from this month to next, but by this time next year, how will the workforce in the U.S. look? Self-described leadership expert Roberta Matuson shared her workforce predictions for 2017 in Forbes.

Matuson predicts that “record” numbers of employees will be seeking new employment next year. What do you think of that? I already am, myself, so maybe that’s so! A competitive salary is only part of the story in retaining star players. The other keys are quality of work life, and a feeling by the employee that the company has an interest in developing his or her career. Quality of work life depends heavily on an employee’s manager, so to prepare for a more competitive labor market, evaluate your managers, including doing 360-degree performance evaluations, if you aren’t already. I’ve never been employed by a company that used 360-degree performance evaluations, but with my current disaster of a boss, I sure wish my current company would! Quality of work life also means a corporate culture that allows for flexibility in where and how employees get their work done, and opportunities to feel a connection to the local community through fun and meaningful charity projects (especially important to Millennials).

“Mature workers will be back in vogue,” says Matuson. At my company, they’ve never fallen out of vogue. As I’ve written, at my company, there are so many seniors staying for so long in their positions that us middle-agers, and those in their 20s, have few open higher-level slots to move up to. What do you think? Will there be more “mature” workers on your payroll next year? With a seemingly re-energized economy, it may be the perfect time to give them an incentive package to leave, opening more opportunity for the next generation (your future). Do you think we should be trying to retain mature employees, or incentivizing them to mentor younger employees and then gradually exit?

Matuson says “executives will flee” their companies. Like my feelings about the over-saturation of seniors at my company, would it be so terrible if some (or many) of your current executives fled? I’m ready to put together a “go bag” for any executive at my company who wants help leaving. Exiting executives means more opportunity for bright up-and-comers with fresh ways of approaching old ideas. What’s there to be afraid of? Rather than focus on retaining the most senior members of a company, organizations should be putting the bulk of their energy into retaining the best of their entry- and middle management. Those are the people who will be with your company the longest—who have the most years ahead of them and often the most energy—and they are the ones most in danger of being lured away by competitors. They also tend to be the most savvy about the new world of social media marketing.

Organizations will continue to spend too much on training the weakest members of their workforce, and not enough on training those with the most promise, Matuson predicts. I have to agree with her on this. Organizations often don’t realize the importance of recognizing excellence, and then building those people up even further. Recognition shouldn’t depend on a single manager. Find ways to ensure stellar employees are recognized. That could be done by nomination of the most valuable employees each quarter by peers, or could be done through performance evaluations that get feedback from more than just the employee’s manager, but other managers he or she interacts with. Sometimes another manager can recognize faster than an employee’s own manager what a great asset that person is. Sometimes manager are so close to their own employees that they can’t see the big picture of everything those employees do, and their total value to the company. They may be too fixated on critiquing daily minutia to see the big-picture value of the employees they manage.

Matuson thinks new apps will emerge that allow employees to “speak their truths” about their companies, thereby pushing organizations to improve or else find it hard to attract top talent. I’d like an app that allows you to vent Glassdoor-style about your company, and then delivers your anonymous commentary to major publications and media outlets, promoting your thoughts about your employer. There also could be an option for the app to deliver your commentary in an untraceable way (impossible to link back to you) to your Human Resources department. There still is too much fear about being honest with managers and Human Resources when you have a toxic (human oil spill) boss.

“2017 will be the year of musical chairs,” says Matuson, who believes employees will jump from organization to organization searching for what she calls “Nirvana.” I don’t know about Nirvana, but it would be nice to feel like I’m working under a boss who is on my side, and a company that doesn’t take it for granted that I’ll be around the next time the ball drops.

What are your workplace predictions for 2017? Are you optimistic, or concerned, about the challenges that lie ahead? What new learning programs is your company rolling out for the New Year?

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