With 2018 well underway, our bi-annual strategy dinner was well timed to discuss some of the big trends that are already underway or making an appearance for the year. The traditional icebreaker and introduction of ‘what are your predictions for the year?’ to the room of business and strategy leaders proved, once again, to be an interesting source of conversation and a chance for us to gain an insight into what to expect to make waves over the next few months. Said predictions tend to be varied and wide-ranging in what they cover and this evening was no different.
This year there was an obvious preponderance towards the political and in some instances reflections on the downright gloomy! But three main topics that arose from the icebreaker were:
1) We’re still talking about UK and US politics
Brexit and Trump remain ‘favourite’ topics of conversation and for various different reasons remain foremost on the agenda. With businesses criticising the UK government last month for their decision to postpone the publication of a key document regarding plans for immigration, the situation is most certainly ‘hugely frustrating’ – especially when asking a room of people attempting to make long-term strategic plans for their businesses.
Predictions around Brexit covered everything from the hard soft / border debate in Ireland, to whether or not Teresa May will still have her job at the end of the year and, if not, who may replace her. There was even an argument from a European attendee that, if the newspapers in Europe are anything to go by, Brexit may even fizzle out with a resolution on both sides of the negotiating table claiming to win a great victory; but the status quo would remain essentially the same. Either way, there was an overriding feeling that the government needs to move away, at least in part, from the Brexit debate and focus more on other pressing matters such as Education, the NHS, construction and transport that are being ignored with the constant press coverage of the negotiation table!
Similarly, regarding The States, there was some talk of a prospective Trump impeachment as a result of the Democrats potentially taking over of the house if they win the upcoming mid-terms. As Trump continues to churn out ‘dramatic’ and at times nonsensical headlines with unknown, far-reaching consequences, his antics will be no less relevant in 2018; if not becoming slightly less surprising.
2) The gender pay gap issue spilling from boardrooms to blue collar jobs
Tesco has already been very much front and centre with regards to this prediction with employees claiming unequal pay between male and females in their distribution stores. As well as the interesting back pay question mark over the situation raising the stakes considerably, the question of ‘equal-value’ jobs are quickly becoming a dispute that could cost the supermarket chain a record £4bn. Whilst a lot of focus until now has been on executive level roles and diversity in the top FTSE companies, the Tesco development pushes the issue into a new realm of blue collar jobs and increases the focus across all levels for businesses.
We’re sure that 2018 will hold a lot more developments around this topic and is something that particularly and affects business strategy from junior hiring to internal structures. Read more about this in our recent article on 'How to solve the gender pay gap'.
3) Space tourism and AI
With Tesla sending the first car into space the day before our dinner, everyone was certainly interested in what’s next for technology and how this will affect our working lives. It’s something that can’t be ignored, and businesses continue to have to innovate to stay up to date with the changes that technological advances bring about. One attendee went a step further and predicted that Driverless cars will become a thing much quicker than we think it currently will – a brave new world awaits!
Other predictions varied from England to win their record-breaking 3rd Six Nations and a potential further swansong for Roger Federer, right the way through to a far more dramatic forecast of a major global conflict! Whilst we can only hope that the latter guess is far from reality, the general conversations in the room showed that the year ahead holds a large amount of political uncertainty, technological complexity and an overarching theme of social reform and equality. So, as ever, lots more for businesses to bear in mind to be able to navigate the far-reaching impacts that these trends can bring with them.