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Prognostications, Predictions and Hot Topics For 2021

Welcome to 2021! We’re sure that everyone is happy and relieved that 2020 is over, but what will the new year bring? 

It’s time for our annual tradition of asking our Consultants Collective members to predict what the new year will have in store for us!  Below are a few predictions from our member consultants. From a focus on corporate culture, purpose and empathetic leadership to addressing new workforce expectations and employee burnout to the need for more work-life integration and new approaches to B2B marketing that merge the personal and professional to reflect our new work-from-home environment, the impact of COVID-19 has had a significant effect on what leaders will need to focus on in the new year and beyond. They see the need for a new approach to globalization and for leaders in both the public and private sector to increase their focus, understanding and commitment to addressing the the most important challenges of our time: equity and inclusion, climate change, and sustainability, ubiquitous broadband, cybersecurity, data privacy and protection, misinformation on digital and social media, the impact of emerging technologies on business and society, and re-establishing trust. 

We will continue to dive deeper into these and other hot topics and important trends in a series of articles and Consultants Collective Conversations online events. Stay tuned! 

Gurmeet Ahluwalia is a consultant, board member and adviser to the Minister of Innovation in Canada. His expertise includes transformation, M&A and post-merger integration, strategic growth initiatives, finance and fintech leadership. Gurmeet predicts that:

  • Global talent expectations will focus on flexible work-from-home policies and robust capabilities, post-COVID.
  • Misinformation will continue to be a key challenge and focus for governments and Big Tech.
  • The environment and climate change will be a big challenge and area of focus to face and solve.

John Clemons, M.S., APR, ABC and IABC Fellow is an Adjunct Professor at Loyola University New Orleans. John has served as a senior communications executive at Raytheon, Marriott, Walmart and other leading organizations. His expertise includes strategic employee communications and engagement, diversity and inclusion communications, executive communications, and change management. John predicts that we’ll see:

  • Innovation in education – from Pre-K to higher education – complemented by the continued use of, reliance on and innovation in digital tools.
  • Empathy and humility – American business leaders will need to foster and embody empathy and humility to earn employee trust and support.
  • Racial and social justice will remain a challenge for America, but there will be more efforts, progress and achievements that foster a greater understanding of racial and gender equality.

Mark Dollins’ corporate executive experience spans more than 30 years with Fortune 500 companies, where he served as head of Executive and Global Employee Communications for DuPont and executive communication leadership roles with PepsiCo. Mark’s expertise includes change management communications, employee and leader engagement, communications and marketing. According to Mark:

  • Culture and values will gain even greater organizational prominence as employees work through prolonged or even permanent alternative arrangements for work locations.
  • Collaborative technologies and related change management needs will accelerate as remote working becomes a permanent “new normal.”
  • Beware of employee burnout: Organizations will be forced to address mental health and burn-out solutions for employees working longer hours and juggling increasing family obligations that accompany the pandemic.

Mike Moran is an IBM Distinguished Engineer. His expertise includes AI, SEO, site search, text analytics and machine learning. Mike predicts that in 2021 marketers will focus on:

  • Digital experience: B2B marketers will massively shift their 2021 budgets to digital from in-person events.
  • Behavioral Data Insights: Companies that are aggressive about taking advantage of anonymous behavioral data will be ahead of those trying to squeeze more data out of the old techniques that are in eclipse.
  • Evolution vs revolution: Whatever 2021 brings, it will probably be much more evolution than revolution, and that will make us feel a lot smarter about predicting the future.

Ruth Stevens is a board member, author, speaker, professor and a former executive at Ziff Davis, Time Warner and IBM. Her expertise includes B2B marketing and sales lead generation. Ruth foresees that:

  • B2B marketers will focus on Millennials, who now make up half of the buying circle inside companies.
  • There will be new approaches to B2B marketing that merge the personal and professional to reflect our new work-from-home environment. The pandemic has torn down the wall between business buyers and their personal selves, and there are increasingly blurred lines between professional and personal life. As business people work from home, their interests as consumers must be considered by marketers.
  • Identity resolution techniques will help business marketers find their audiences as they work at home, using previously consumer-only channels like streaming media and connected TV, and tracking behavior across laptops and mobile devices along the buying journey.

Davis Schlesinger is a former Chairman of Thomson Reuters China. His expertise includes media, digital, journalism, political risk, Asia, China, offshoring, organization, change management, startups, tech media, and fintech. David says:

  • Sentiment has turned against China. The globalizing trend that created “Made in China” as the dominant world brand of manufacturing is over.
  • We need a new, kinder kind of globalization: The COVID-19 crisis has made obvious the need for a new kind of globalization, one based on cooperation, sharing, coordinated responses and a new approach. Countries and companies will have to treat each other differently and make decisions in a completely new way. Executives will have to break the old paradigms and think strategically with a whole new mindset.

Lisen Stromberg is an award-winning journalist, speaker and former CMO and CEO. Her expertise includes leadership development, workplace culture innovation, purpose alignment, human capital innovation, future of work, flex work, women in leadership and 21st-century leadership. Lisen predicts that:

  • “Purpose” will stop being a buzzword as companies will finally realize that to attract the best talent, deliver the highest customer experience, and add value in the communities in which they operate, they need to put people and the planet ahead of profits.
  • Culture will become the competitive advantage for hiring and retaining the best, most diverse talent.
  • Evaluating a company’s ability to thrive in the 21st century will increasingly focus on its commitment to environmental, sustainability and governance (ESG) issues.

Jen McClure is the CEO of JEM, publisher of Biznology and managing director of our consulting division Consultants Collective. She is also a board member of several organizations and serves as a Distinguished Principal Fellow of the Marketing & Communications Center of The Conference Board. Her expertise includes corporate governance, strategy, digital transformation, communications, marketing, media and technology. She says:

Leaders in both the public and private sector need to increase their focus, understanding and commitment to addressing the the most important challenges of our time. The list is long, but in so many ways these challenges are interrelated — from equity and inclusion to climate change and sustainability, the need for ubiquitous broadband, cybersecurity, data privacy and protection, addressing misinformation on digital and social media and the impact of emerging technologies on business and society, and the imperative to re-establish trust. 

As a communications professional, I’m struck that good, clear communication is more important than ever before — in politics, in business, in the media, in public health. Communication is crucial to understanding, to collaborative problem-solving, to re-establishing trust, and a belief in truth and facts and helping our nation and world to heal and unite. And yet, communication in a digital world is challenging. From algorithms that promote disinformation, to simple misunderstandings that arise from the tone of an email to increasingly relying on online meeting platforms for face-to-face communications. Fostering good clear effective communication in an increasingly digital world is an important challenge that must be tackled in 2021.

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