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Hopes, Dreams and Fears for 2022

The beginning of a new year is a perfect time to reflect on hopes, dreams and fears for the future. This is especially true, given the last couple of years as we have faced uncertainty due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, despite all of our hopes that COVID would be behind us by now, that challenge and the surrounding uncertainty it poses for business persists, and it appears we will likely not get back to “business as usual” this year.

So, as we begin 2022, business leaders need to support the organizations we serve with creative and smart ways to be even more flexible, agile, innovative and thoughtful in addressing the many challenges, changes and opportunities we face.

Here are my hopes, dreams and fears that we as business leaders might think about this year:

A New World of Work

“The Great Resignation” was a well-used phrase last year as millions of Americans left their jobs in 2021. That trend will continue in 2022 as people strive for more meaningful work and the desire to continue to work outside of the traditional office environment to achieve better work-life balance, physical safety from COVID, and emotional safety at work (especially for women and people of color). This exodus will continue to be a top concern.

And, that’s not all! A myriad  of other related concerns are also key, including attracting and retaining top talent, optimizing the employee experience and technology for remote and hybrid workforces, enhancing workforce culture and employee engagement, compensation and benefits, and paying attention to the mental and physical health of the employees who do stay. In addition, employers will need to invest in keeping their employees’ skills and competencies up-to-date in an era of continuously accelerating technological change.

The Great Resignation, social media and network platforms and online marketplaces have also resulted in a larger independent workforce, particularly amongst Gen Z, and others who don’t want their lives defined by work. Instead, they seek independence, control over their work-life balance and work that aligns with their values and passions. This has produced a new wave of entrepreneurialism, especially among the youngest segment of the workforce. Consider Korn Ferry’s prediction that tech platforms and marketplaces will continue to spread rapidly resulting in new jobs, new ways of working and new business models. 

Actually, this is an exciting time as we truly see the promise of a better future of work emerging. Work can be more flexible, human, inclusive, focused on core values and a positive work culture, and truly technologically enabled. We can finally realize the power of digitization and the promise of the 4th Industrial Revolution, a term coined at the World Economic Forum in 2016, but which we wish to see play out to its full potential.

Some companies may hold onto the traditional model of work and force employees back to the office — despite their desire for more flexibility and autonomy – and miss important opportunities for transformation. More likely, we will see many mis-steps by companies trying to navigate this new landscape of work and worker expectations. Those who don’t embrace the change, take advantage of these trends, listen to their employees, and pay attention to the impact of the rise of the independent workforce and Creator Economy – fueled by digital and social media platforms, online networks and blockchain, such as Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) – will ultimately fail.

Digital & Social Media, Cyber-security, Data, Big Tech & the Metaverse = Boards Need to Focus on Tech Ethics in the Boardroom

There is much to hope for, dream about and even fear (in a healthy, “I need to pay attention to this and learn more about it” kind of way) regarding to all things related to digital, data and Big Tech. We should anticipate more proposed legislative changes that will impact on the tech landscape. Congress will likely pursue legislative solutions for continued cyber thefts coming from China and the infusion of Chinese money into emerging tech.

The issue of misinformation and disinformation of social media platforms will also be top of mind. Meanwhile, according to Hubspot, social media has become the #1 marketing channel for both B2B and B2C, so the problem of mis- and disinformation will be exacerbated as more money continues to flow into those platforms for marketing and advertising spends.

Data privacy laws continue to become more ubiquitous and complex. According to Gartner, “by the end of 2023, privacy laws will cover the personal information of 75% of the world’s population.” This elevates the board’s role in compliance and risk mitigation as it pertains to digital and data matters.

I predict we’ll also see more Hackivists (hacking as a form of civil disobedience to promote a political agenda or social change). This presents not only a cybersecurity but also a reputational risk to business for which boards should prepare.

And of course, there’s the emerging metaverse and its impact on business, media, culture and society. Turning once again to Accenture’s Fjord 2022 Trends report – and as I have been saying for years, “It’s hard to talk about what’s next without talking about ethics – and embedding ethics from the start should be an absolute must.” Digital, data and technology ethics is a crucial board issue. Let us hope board composition in every company continues to evolve to address these issues because today every enterprise is a digital enterprise.

ESG & DEI Finally Move from Acronyms to Embedded Values in Every Organization

A hope for this year is that environmental, societal and corporate governance issues (ESG) are truly top of mind for board leaders. Time is running out for us to prioritize climate action and it must begin with us as business leaders. Also, the SEC and institutional investors are continuing to increase their focus on corporations’ ESG strategies, commitments and actions through more formalized reporting frameworks. There’s some low hanging fruit here in the way we think about the future of work and the use of digital technologies, collaboration platforms and remote work, which is so much kinder to the environment than business travel and forcing employees back to office environments that require long commutes. We hope this will be taken into consideration as return-to-office plans evolve.

In addition, the supply chain crisis provides an opportunity to rethink how we can develop innovative lasting solutions to positively impact on the environment through the use of AI and blockchain to increase visibility and improve planning across the entire supply chain. Also, consumer habits and values are changing. According to Accenture’s Fjord 2022 Trends Report, consumers have stopped – or are ready to stop buying – as much clothing, footwear, furniture, etc. in the name of sustainability.

On the S&G side of ESG, we hope that the C-suite and board leaders will continue to focus on diversity and equity and support the organizations they serve in creating truly inclusive workforces. Women and people of color have disproportionately lost a lot of ground during the pandemic, and I truly hope boards will prioritize DE&I issues in their boardroom discussions.

Looking ahead, the minimum wage / living wage issue and demands from organized labor will continue to be top issues, and I hope this draws new attention and action to the too-long-ignored issue of CEO and executive (and board) compensation and the inequity with employees and workers pay.

So, we should all be busy in the boardroom this year!  The Boardwise Board Certification program tackles many of these issues. Please join us and register here.

This article was originally published here.

Jen McClure

Jen McClure is founder and CEO of JEM, a Silicon Valley-based global management consultancy and publishing group. She oversees the company’s consulting and advisory services division, Consultants Collective and its media business, including Biznology. JEM serves clients in a wide range of industries, including aviation, financial services, healthcare, life sciences, pharmaceutical and technology. A recognized business leader, Jen was named a “Power Player” in management consulting by Business Insider in its first list of the most influential executives disrupting the industry and having a positive impact within their firms. Jen has worked with her team to grow JEM significantly since its founding in 2015, and in 2019 the company received certification as a Women-Owned Small Business in the Federal Contracting Program, and is recognized as a Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) by the Department of Defense (DOD). Jen is considered to be one of the original authorities on digital and social media. She was named one of the “Women Who Rock Social” by Top Rank Marketing. She foresaw the significant impact that digital and social technologies would have on business, media, culture and society and founded the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) in 2005 as a think tank to study this impact. She served as SNCR’s Board Chair for 10 years, and led the organization’s merger with The Conference Board in 2016. She now serves as a Distinguished Principal Fellow of The Conference Board, supporting the organization’s mission to provide trusted insights to help leaders navigate the biggest issues facing business. In addition to her expertise in digital and social media, Jen’s executive experience includes roles in corporate communications, marketing, public relations, media relations and investor relations. Prior to founding JEM, Jen was Vice President of Digital and Social Media at Thomson Reuters. She was Chief Marketing Officer of Redwood Collaborative Media, and held senior marketing and public relations roles at Ziff Davis, Ketchum Public Relations and New Electronic Media Science. Jen is a Governance Fellow of the National Association of Corporate Directors. She is a member of the Leadership and Technology Councils of the National Small Business Administration. She currently serves on the board of KQED, the nation’s second largest public media organization, and on the advisory boards of Miracle Messages, How Women Lead and How Women Give. Jen earned her master’s degree from Stanford University, her bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College and a graduate certificate in History, Politics and Sociology from the University of Oxford’s Exeter College.

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