Workplace Predictions for 2017

By Stacey Engle

Each year, top leaders within organizations are required to confront pressing internal issues, many of which result from events taking place both nationally and internationally. Events from 2016—including the presidential election, growing Millennial workforce, and technological advancements—have created a new set of workplace priorities as we head into the New Year.

The impact of the last year is affecting organizations in a real way by bringing to light a number of issues company leaders are looking to address head-on in 2017. As organizations commit to ensuring leadership development skills are prioritized, here are some important trends last year’s issues have inspired that we can expect to see over the next 12 months, and how employers can address them:

Trend #1: Diversity and inclusion initiatives will be top of mind. Regardless of your political views, it’s apparent that a rift has been created within our country due to this year’s presidential election. This division of beliefs can create conflict or discomfort in the workplace if individual workers feel excluded, alienated, or afraid.

Recommended Approach: Organizations need to take control of this conversation if they want to maintain the overall health of their companies. By doing so, they can ensure that employees are taken care of by creating an inclusive and accepting environment within every department internally, as well as with external stakeholders. This control can be achieved by inviting perspective through conversation, welcoming differences, and implementing diversity programs aimed at creating a sense of company-wide acceptance.

Trend #2: Change leadership will be prioritized across all levels. In a world that values efficiency and progress, change is inevitable—from structural shifts to leadership changes to industry disruption. These can be major transformations or several small adjustments over time. Historically, organizations have created change management teams or appointed individuals in charge of getting a company or team to manage change, yet data shows that 70 percent of change initiatives fail.

Recommended Approach: Company leaders should shift their focus from leaving the expertise on change management in the hands of a singular team to viewing change management as a critical skill, essential for every leader within an organization. Ensure your organization is equipped to handle any change that may come by incorporating change leadership into all levels within the company.

Trend #3: Conversations will play a key role in performance management. The once-a-year review is gone for good. However, many employees, Millennials in particular, are looking for more action-based feedback from their employers, on an as-needed basis.

Recommended Approach: Organizations need to increase their focus on the competency of conversations—from coaching to feedback to confrontation. Leaders should focus on empowering individuals to meet their goals by initiating conversations and ensuring they receive what they need, when they need it.

Trend #4: New technologies will be embraced. Advancements in technology are happening fast, and their impact on HR training and development continues to increase. Organizations of all sizes want greater options when it comes to on-demand, digitized versions of programs that provide lessons in a truly interactive way. Learners want more concrete options for implementing what they’ve learned beyond a session, and technology can and will play a large role in making this not only possible, but a real game changer.

Recommended Approach: To keep up, organizations need to be open to the idea of using up-to-date, innovative digital options when it comes to expanding the depth, scope, and reach of training to ensure the impact on the largest number of individuals.

Trend #5: The desire for participant-driven learning will increase. Partially due to an increase in Millennials in the workplace, employees want to have a hand in what they’re learning and how they learn it, specifically when it comes to leadership training skills.

Recommended Approach: Organizations that want to stay on top of this trend will need to put a greater focus on placing participants in the driver’s seat of their education. Employees are demanding their workplace be one in which they are able to advance on their own terms, and working to meet this demand rather than resisting it inevitably will lead to greater employee satisfaction.

While every organization will face its own unique set of issues, there is no doubt this year will be a pivotal one in how we respond to challenges surrounding diversity, technology, and change. And most importantly, how we respond to each other.

AUTHOR:  Stacey Engle is executive vice president at Fierce Inc., a leadership development and training company that drives results for business and education by improving workplace communication. For more information on how Fierce can transform your conversations, visit


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