The future is the great unknown. There are an unlimited number of situations or circumstances that can potentially impact your business, so preparing for each one individually is impossible.
However, given what we know about emerging digital, demographic and environmental changes, there are some key strategies businesses must adopt if they want to remain both competitive and sustainable.
This post will look at five of the strategies you should consider adopting today, in order for your company to prepare for the future.
1. Winning at mobile will mean having an app.
Mobile usage is at an all-time high, and shows no signs of slowing down. Consumers are using mobile for everything from buying products, to communicating with friends, to playing games, to finding local businesses.
Over the past couple of years, business owners have taken this trend to heart, optimizing their sites for mobile through the use of a responsive site design. And while this is a great first step, it may no longer be enough to future-proof your business.
Research shows that 89 percent of all mobile media time is now spent in apps, while only the remaining 11 percent is spent on the mobile web. This means that not having an app for your business is almost certainly costing you. If you don't already have an app, now is the time to start planning for one.
2. Increase your use of freelancers now so you're not playing catch-up.
We now know that 34 percent of the US workforce are freelancers. This works out to over 54 million freelancers in America who contribute $700 billion annually to the national economy.
It has also been predicted that by 2020 (that's just four years away!), freelancers will make up 50 percent of the workforce. That will seriously impact how you do business!
There are many benefits to using freelancers to build and grow your business. However, one of the most important "future-proof" benefits is this: in the event of an economic downturn, using freelancers will make you and your business far more nimble. Not only will it allow you to find and hire the best global workers, you won't need to pay costs like office space or employee benefits.
3. Prepare for the aging workforce.
As older workers begin retiring, companies will be left with openings in key leadership positions. To fill these gaps, businesses will need to consider whether to hire internally or externally. While smaller organizations may need to look almost exclusively to outside hires, the "world's most admired companies" (WMAC's) know that hiring internally is the wave of the future. According to Fortune, only 11 percent of WMAC's anticipate hiring externally, while 81 percent say they're preparing current employees to take over key positions.
Now is the time to begin identifying high-potential individuals within your organization. This will give you time to invest in training and development, ensuring they're ready for their new roles when the time comes.
4. Adapt policies attractive to millenial employees.
According to the Workforce 2020 Global Research report, one of the top concerns organizations have in terms of labor-market shifts is the rise in millennials entering the workforce. And while executives believe there key differences between how Millennials and other generational groups operate in the organization, most don't fully understand exactly what these differences are.
Millennials are less bound by loyalty, and expect to have up to 9 employers over the course of their lifetime. In their report, Millennials At Work: Reshaping the Workplace, PricewaterhouseCoopers offers some important insights into the differences employers should consider, including:
- Due to recent economic downturn in many parts of the world, Millennials now expect to work for up to six or more employers over their lifetime. This means decreased loyalty toward employers, and therefore greater turnover.
- Millennials value flexibility and diversity in terms of their working hours, location, training and work/life balance
- Millennials prefer to communicate electronically rather than in-person or on the phone. Employers will need to adapt their current model to accommodate this.
- Millennials prefer a digital wallet over being paid by check. They are demanding a new wave of ease in payments.
5. Prepare your business for environmental and social sustainability.
While becoming socially and environmentally sustainable is currently not a requirement in most industries, it may become so in the future. Beginning the process of becoming a so-called "future-fit" business can help you start the process now, ensuring you continue to grow and thrive into the future, without doing harm to society or the environment. Millennials really care about both of these issues, so you may want to up your own game in both of these social issue areas.
Using the Future-Fit Business benchmark, businesses can define their own future-fit goals to ensure they're on the path towards becoming sustainable. Businesses can aspire to a list of 21 goals, each with its own set of key fitness indicators (KFIs).
Be aware that pursuing this course can have significant impact on the way you do business. The report authors write, "We believe that when businesses see the gap between their current performance and the necessary future-fit level of environmental and social performance, they will abandon their incremental efforts and embrace innovative breakthrough efforts...Some companies may find that they need to redesign their business model to reach the benchmark and capture the benefits."
No one can predict exactly what's in store for your business in the future. However, by monitoring current trends, it's possible to prepare your business now for possibilities that will very likely become realities in the near future.