Jason Walker and Rey Ramirez are co-founders at Thrive HR Consulting, a minority-owned HR advisory firm. Views are the authors’ own.
December is a time for reflection and anticipation, as we close out one year and begin another. With that in mind, we sat down together and started talking, taking stock of the past year before gazing into the tea leaves to see what 2023 has in store — not just for us but for HR as a whole. We expect the following topics to rise to the surface over the next 12 months.
We paid particular attention to ideas that we feel are most salient in terms of employee happiness, employee concerns and the direction companies will need to take to keep their top talent happy.
The patterns we’re paying attention to fall under four categories: corporate leadership, work/life balance, compensation, and massive global trends.
The evolution of corporate leadership
In our consulting work, we’re often asked to help with employee development at a leadership level. As is ever the case, the times are changing. They were permanently altered in 2020. Now, coasting into 2023, they don’t show any hints of reverting back to the old ways.
So, what does leadership development mean for a decentralized workforce? We expect to see further evolution toward guiding businesses through these complex and sometimes choppy waters.
Parallel to that, we expect to see the demise of the hoodie-wearing tech CEO at the helm of a company — specifically the one who lacks personal skills. Whether businesses accept it or not, there is a very real need for leaders to embrace empathy and deliver high-quality management.
On the flip side of that, we’re seeing more trends toward inclusive leadership development. There’s no longer a one-size-fits-all model for what a leader must be to succeed. There’s space for all kinds, provided that whoever is leading does it with empathy and great people skills.
As leadership roles evolve in this way, we think we’ll see a stronger focus on filling critical vacancies with current staff. Less external hiring, more leadership knowing their organization’s talent and filling open roles with employees that are great at their positions and familiar with the company. Taking such a tack provides examples to other employees so that they can grow with the company.
Balancing the scales between home and work
When companies successfully pivoted to absorb the uncertainty of 2020, their resilience was rewarded with the flexibility to keep doors open during a chaotic pandemic. Now we continue to reckon with that shift away from a centralized workplace location.
The division between home and work is more ambiguous than ever. We’ll continue to see companies wrestling with this issue. If economic conditions tighten as many forecasters have predicted, this topic may be less of a challenge. But if the vise loosens, employees will ask for the option for remote work quickly.
As the call for remote work continues, we anticipate seeing more existential questions come up. These inquiries might extend toward sorting through how to fully embrace happiness at home and at work. What are the mental skills needed to establish a convergence like that? Things like that matter, especially when we weigh them against other complex questions, like the viability of remote work.
As dialogue heats up over these topics, we’re seeing another hefty quandary: how to support employees who are managing elderly parents in any fashion.
Elderly parents are one thing, but some employees are dealing with parents who have neurodegenerative diseases. The question for companies with employees facing either is how do we support these workers so they’re not forced to choose between work and family life? How does a business allow their workers to be part of their parents’ aging and end-of-life journey so they can feel they did as much as they could for their parents?
The economy and how it relates to employees
We anticipate seeing further developments in relation to employee pay. This breaks down into topics diverse and complex, such as pay transparency and the feasibility of cryptocurrency in lieu of the dollar.
Employees are eager to know that they’re being paid fairly, but there’s more to it than that — they also want answers on how to move to the next level in their career. What does that look like for various positions?
We anticipate seeing clearer communications developing over the next year on pay, along with well-demarcated career ladders, which are becoming critical for even smaller organizations.
The inevitable influence of massive global patterns
We’ve classed these trends as complete tsunamis — the type that form hundreds of miles out in the middle of the ocean and then barrel toward land. They’re heading everywhere at once and nothing can stop them, but they will leave a path once they hit land.
De-globalization is one of these trends. We might say that it started in 2020, as supply chains were shaken up and pieces fell like dominoes. Global integration has its perks, but the drawbacks can wreak havoc, and we’ve now seen large-scale just how devastating it can be to a company’s bottom line to rely on something as complex as global shipping routes.
Bringing operations back onto U.S. soil reduces the amount of risk a company has when it comes to product development as well as assembly-line production. But it doesn’t solve everything, such as demand for rare earth metals in specific industries.
New issues will arise as industries bring more arms of their business back to the U.S. Personnel that corporations borrowed from other countries will either need to move as well, or we’ll need to see skilled workers rise through the ranks in the U.S. to fill positions at all levels, from assembly lines to R&D and executive roles.
We’ve already seen the government step in at a federal level to facilitate the return of fabless chip manufacturing. We suspect that won’t be the last time, as the machinery positions itself to reduce the U.S.’s reliance on foreign governments and their willingness to pander to our interests.
Another chilling development that we’re interested in watching unfold is the current transition toward AI as more and more industries fall to this inevitable explosion. Recently, we witnessed the explosion of AI art and the war over copyright as artists and graphic designers battled over the process of bots creating original “art” from illustrations and photos found online.
The ramifications are yet to be determined, but we suspect the fields of illustration and graphic design won’t be the only industries impacted by the continuous learning of AI. This is the tip of the iceberg.
In 2023, we expect to see more battles between skilled workers and AI, as it threatens more industries. We’ll keep our eye on what employees can do to safeguard their careers. The advent of AI is inevitable, a force of nature as sure as the tides and wind; however, there will be ways to harness it.
Forecasts aside, we’re excited to see what the future brings. There’s only ever one direction to go, and that is into the darkness. But we will not go gentle, as Dylan Thomas once said. We plan to continue to bring light wherever we can.