We have a new year!
It’s 2019, and the predictions of what lies ahead are less and less accurate. Entering a new year, I’ve always liked to think about some general trends that continue or develop.
But there are risks here, for two reasons: technological advancement and a volatile national and world economy. Don’t infer any doubts about the strength and growth of the U.S. economy — it’s just hard to find the right levers for growth and success. That said, here are a few thoughts about the trends set to continue this year.
With regard to people: There will be more millennial executives influencing businesses and the economy. And Generation Z (those born in the mid-1990s) will continue breaking into the upper rungs of enterprise. So, expect more change in the structure of organizations, with more team clusters united in pursuing ever-changing goals, pushing decision-making to the lowest level and providing a greater focus on service, both to customers and employees. This trend will continue to affect businesses large and small. Retention will still be a major issue, but with millennials and Generation Z, there will be fewer concrete job descriptions and greater opportunity to move about the organization and make contributions wherever needed, based on continuous competency development.
Both of those younger generations are interested in creating value for business — and for society, as well. They will encourage more ethnic, linguistic, religious, racial and gender diversity, with the inclusion of the LGBT community. These generations grew up in the most diverse classrooms. They are more blind to racial and ethnic diversity. And they will have a greater say in business problem-solving as baby boomers continue to retire.
There will also be a greater push for businesses to serve their respective communities. Businesses are building greater trust with customers by increasing their visibility and impact within the community. This complements the trend of providing greater service to customers and their communities.
With regards to business operations: Technical savvy will provide not only greater use of analytics but also greater efficiency and timely decision-making. More than before, speed will be a factor in responding to the expected and unexpected changes that will occur nationally and internationally. This year, expect more change occurring at greater speeds than before.
Leadership toward the end of 2019 will be more service-oriented, both externally and internally. You’ve seen a greater emphasis on customer satisfaction. A greater internal focus will develop a culture of service within companies that suggests employees can support each other, when time and resources permit. This broadens the focus of success from shareholder benefits to stakeholder benefits.
Both leaders and implementers will exist in a world of greater interaction for success. John Mackey of Whole Foods in 2007 put it this way: “(S)ystem interdependence … promotes a sense of responsibility for stakeholders other than investors.” Individual goals and corporate goals will be more integrated than before.
Two industries will continue to change with greater speed this year: banking and health care.
Banking is trending toward greater cybersecurity and the need to provide greater opportunity for digital banking. Nowadays, people want to bank anywhere and at anytime, which requires both the technology to enable that and the security to protect it. Banks will provide even more online tools and techniques to grow and move money around. Blockchain technology — distributed and ostensibly perfectly secure digital ledgers; the technology that underpins cryptocurrency — will see more widespread use in banking. Where already implemented, it reduces bank processing costs. Santander, a large bank headquartered in Spain, estimates the potential cost savings of blockchain implementation to be $20 billion. Banks will continue to benefit from the fintech (financial technology) world as blockchain systems see further adoption.
In health care, look for continued efforts to make the service delivery an exceptional patient experience, with better diagnostics and understandable dialogue with physicians. Innovation breakthroughs will continue in treatments for cancer and diabetes and for less invasive robotic surgeries. Artificial intelligence will play a greater role in patient diagnostics and treatments. And patient-specific products, produced by 3D printing, will provide new and more personalized health care options.
These are a few trends you’ll see in 2019. I trust there will be more to keep our service economy growing in the years ahead.