Do they have to come with expiration dates?

We publish many articles on TalentCulture from great HR professionals, innovators and thought leaders. In fact, we’ve been sharing useful ideas from various experts for over 14 years. When we started this journey in 2010, I obviously had no idea what the future would bring. But thanks to the continued contributions of our community, we’ve built an incredible library of wisdom on the most important trends in the workplace.

Most of this content is perfectly trendy when it is published. But recently, while revisiting a popular #WorkTrends podcast from several years ago, I started wondering about its shelf life. How well do all the insights and advice hold up over time? For example, are articles still applicable a year later? Should industry blogs start adding “best if used before…” dates?

(By the way, if you want to know what inspired me to start asking these questions, check out my fresh take on this 2021 conversation: “End of Jobs? A Different Look at On-Demand Employees and Remote Work.”)

Well, after that podcast redux, I was hooked. I couldn’t stop there. So I started digging deeper into other TalentCulture content. And I’ve found some gems that would benefit from a refresh in light of the current context. Here is an example that deserves renewed attention:

4 workplace trends: then and now

In February 2023, we published a popular post from work futurist Cheryl Cran: “What Hybrid Worker Preferences Reveal About the Future of Work.” The piece is based on a combination of primary and secondary research conducted in 2022 by Cheryl’s consultancy NextMapping.

The piece is packed with interesting statistics and analysis. But fast forward to today, what is still relevant and accurate? Here’s my updated take on some of Cheryl’s key observations:

1. What has changed

Before 2020, there was labor disruption. The pandemic only focused our attention and accelerated the pace of change.

Yes and no. It’s clear that before the pandemic, organizations were experiencing disruption as digital transformation continued to evolve. But when Covid hit, the speed of change wasn’t the only thing that accelerated. We also had to adapt to a whole new way of working together and getting things done. Nobody saw that coming.

2. Flexibility rules

Above all, people want work that is flexible enough to fit into their lifestyle. And they are willing to make the necessary professional adjustments: 66% of employees worldwide prefer to participate in a hybrid workplace, and 52% prefer hybrid work to a fully remote model.

This is still fairly current. By the end of 2023, Gallup research found that 60% of employees in jobs that can work remotely prefer a hybrid arrangement, while about 33% prefer fully remote work. Meanwhile, less than 10% prefer to work on location. And well-being remains a key concern.

3. Meetings are madness

People want fewer meetings and they want every meeting to be more effective. In fact, 66% say that ineffective meetings reduce their overall productivity.

Meetings! Instead of skipping forward with this, I’m going to hit rewind. Unfortunately, this is a prime example of a workplace trend repeating itself.

Meetings were certainly a problem long before the pandemic hit. For example, in late 2019, a Korn Ferry survey of nearly 2,000 employees found that 67% felt excessive meetings distracted them and prevented them from doing their best work. Furthermore, only 16% of respondents say meetings and calls help their teams achieve the greatest impact.

Unfortunately, not much has changed on this front. Meeting overload increased during the pandemic as videoconferencing became a staple of remote and hybrid work life. Zoom fatigue still plagues many of us. Yet meetings remain a fundamental aspect of the employee experience.

But there is one bright light here. As Cheryl wisely noted last year, organizations have increasingly replaced meetings with polling and survey tools to gather employee insights. I participate! Who wouldn’t prefer a 10-second pulse exam to an hour on Zoom?

4. The development gap persists

Employees prefer an employer who invests in their future plans, but only 55% of employees say their company provides learning roadmaps, growth opportunities and succession plans.

First, I will point out the obvious disconnect between employee sentiment and employer actions. 45% of respondents did so not feel that their organization is investing in their future. No wonder Cheryl called on employers to demonstrate their commitment by focusing on growth opportunities, talent mobility and retention.

How are we doing now, a year later? One in three workers do not have the foundational digital skills needed for today’s business environment, and the lifespan of a job skill is becoming increasingly shorter. Ouch.

The fact is that even if employees want to stay, they may not be up to the challenge. So retention or not, we still have a lot more work to do when it comes to learning and development.

Foresight is a relative term

Is this comment a harsh judgment? Not at all. In any case, it’s a compliment with a small caveat: the future is not easy to predict and no one has a crystal ball.

That’s why many of our contributors adapt their worldview as circumstances arise. It comes with the territory. Cheryl Cran knows this. That is why she followed the hybrid work guidance for leaders at the beginning of this year.

And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with statements that fit today’s circumstances but become less relevant in a year. Why? Just compare working snapshots from November 2022 and 2023 – before and after generative AI came on the scene. In less than a year, we saw an astonishing impact, with 73% of companies already adopting GenAI in some form.

We often see plot twists coming. But sometimes they blind us.

The truth is that no matter how carefully we try to determine the future, we cannot predict with certainty what will happen in the future. I think back to the outbreak of the pandemic four years ago. Just days before the lockdown, we published posts on how to build employee trust, the value of data accessibility for a strong work culture, and why globalization brought about the need to improve employees’ soft skills. In terms of the big picture, none of this was wrong. But we had no idea how critical these issues would become.

Hindsight is 2020, as they say. But what I see with many of our blog contributors is that their observations tend to stay on track over time. Change is more a matter of how we perceive a phenomenon, and whether we see it as part of a broader, overarching trend. For example, consider concerns about how meetings continue to shape the employee experience. Same problem, different day.

Of course, everyone is entitled to their perspective, and we celebrate diversity of thought and a spirit of discovery here at TalentCulture. But from time to time, it’s helpful to take a step back and consider whether our claims pass the litmus test.

Reality checks like these show us that we are indeed capable of change. Indeed, we are already changing. And in some ways we are seeing progress. This is especially important now, in a complex and dynamic world that challenges us to stay focused and keep up.

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