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15 Big Ideas for '15: Predictions and New Directions

15 predictions for 2015CHAD TISONIKHNI Wisconsin President,
and JANINE TRACY, HNI Director of People

There's something about turning the page on the calendar that fills your head and heart with new possibilities for the new year.

The professional world shifting. The changes coming down the road are exciting and a little nerve-racking.

Leaning into this discomfort, though, will make us all stronger, smarter, and faster. No pain, no gain, right?

That's why we drafted this list of some of the 15 big ideas we'll be kicking around in 2015 — and likely beyond. Now's the time for organizations to start planning how they'll rise to the challenges brought about by these opportunities. In short, it's time to be proactive — vs. reactive — in strategic planning.

How many of these issues ring true with you, too?

1.) Recruiting: Filling the Ranks with the Right People

Many employers are witnessing a shrinking talent pool and a swelling skills gap. There's an especially acute need for skilled tradespeople. Because of this, it may no longer be the case that no degree means a candidate is a no-go. Winning attitudes and cultural alignment are becoming more important in bringing on talent. The networks of your employees — from LinkedIn connections to associations in which they're members — matter more than getting your position posted on a job board.

2.) Farm Team: Grooming the Next Wave of Leaders

Look to Major League Baseball for ideas on business perpetuation. Employers can start developing a farm team of top-notch, young talent. A successful farm team keeps in mind two things: who's retiring and who's on deck. You groom prospective teammates for the positions that will be opening up before you know it.

3.) Team Collaboration Strategy: Making Space for the Creative Spark

How we work together encompasses many elements: the areas of expertise of different team members, the physical space in which they ideate, the chemistry between collaborators, and more. To maximize productivity, individual work styles also must be accommodated. What are fair ways to measure output? How do you set realistic timelines? Most important, how do you make space for vulnerability, risk-taking, and meaningful feedback?

4.) Brand: Crafting the Right Impression

Brand isn't what you say it is; it's what they say it is. And as an employer, the "they" is clients, prospective clients, employees, and job seekers. Building your employer brand online and through sites such as Glassdoor is critical to the sort of talent you attract and the sort of talent you repel. Does your perception of your employer brand match the reality? Employees need help, too, in building their own personal brands. Do's and don'ts of how to create and protect your employer brand easily can be adapted for the personal brands of your people.

5.) Culture: Leveraging Your Values

Culture drives your brand. Is your culture one that attracts top performers? And when they get here, does the culture support their development? Employee surveys on culture can be a barometer for the state of your culture (are there storms ahead? clear skies and calm waters?). On a similar note, earning "Best Place to Work"-type recognition — awards that call on employees to share what they love about their jobs — also can be used to dissect your culture and broadcast what makes you an employer of choice.

6.) Expectations and Orientation: Setting a Solid Foundation

You post a job. You interview promising candidates. You hire your top choice. Congratulations! On the other side of this relationship is a worker who (hopefully) feels like he beat stiff competition to land his dream gig. Expectations for what comes next flow both ways. Employer and employee both would prefer if there were benchmarks for what should be learned after 30 days on the job, 60 days, 90 days, etc. The newbie has a lot to prove, of course, but the employer also has to step up when it comes to orientation and training.

7.) Integration: Flexing Between Life and Work

Millennial employees see less distinction between work life and out-of-office life than the generations that came before them. But they also expect more flexibility when it comes to working from home, leaving for appointments, and using social media while "on the clock." Work-life balance comes from work-life integration.

8.) Data Trends: Which Metrics Matter?

What metrics really matter to your organization? What trends have been revealed through data about the health of your organization? If you don't know how to answer these questions, it's time to get honest and start IDing technology solutions to collect the intel you need to make the best decisions possible. Now might also be a good time to calculate some tougher-to-nail-down costs, such as what is the real price tag for employee turnover. Obviously you can't stop tracking revenue, but other data trends your missing could affect that revenue figure.

9.) Attitude: Finding Alignment on Your Team

As an employer, you want to bring on teammates who demonstrate a good attitude day in and day out, even when things get hairy. Pre-employment test can help identify who's got the right mind-set for your organization. You also should feel empowered to weed out folks who need an "attitude adjustment," because they're likely holding back other colleagues.

10.) Benchmarking: Discovering Where You Stand

More than likely, you're not a monopoly operation. You've got competitors, and you need to know — specifically — how you stack up against them. Don't let your benchmarking stop at financials. How do your compensation, benefits, and employee perks compare? Knowing where you also stand against players in other industries (i.e., companies that aren't competitors) can inspire innovative strategies and tactics.

11.) Technology: Social, Mobile Tech for a Team on the Go

As Internet, social, and mobile technology matures, now is the time to leverage apps and video technology when it comes to training your people and keeping them connected. Take a page from social media and craft messages as short bursts for busy employees with short attention spans. New technology can be used to better communicate employee benefits, enable enrollment, and onboard new hires. 

12.) Process Improvement: Getting Real About Workflow

We all want to work smarter and not harder, right? Of course! Easier said than done, though. Process improvement calls for calling out what we want to accomplish, documenting (in excruciating detail) our current workflow, and then being brutally honest in assessing what steps can be lost or streamlined. The best source of this intel is our front-line people.

13.) Priorities: Answer the Question, 'What Comes First?'

In today's workplace, distractions crop up with every email notification and text message buzz. We need constant, line-of-sight reminders about daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly (and more!) priorities to help us work on the stuff that matters when it matters. Teammates that connect over priorities can help each other stay on task and succeed. A repeatable mission/vision statement answers the question, "What comes first?"

14.) Simplicity: Back to Basics

Similar to the "priorities" big idea is a critical need to strip away complexity and complicatedness. You can't move forward without mastering the basics for the same reason you can't build a house on a compromised foundation. The basics are a touchstone for your people, where they always can turn when they're feeling overwhelmed and adrift.

15.) Transparency: The Plan for All, All for The Plan

Some organizations are like a one-way mirror. Management has a clear view of the workforce, but the workforce can't see what's on the other side. The thing is, when you "pierce the veil" and let your people know how the business is doing, and how their work fits into making the business better, they're going to feel like they have a stake and will work harder so that everyone can taste success. Feeling trusted and important will kick-start productivity with your talent in wonderful ways.

What big ideas have you fired up in 2015? How are you sharing them with your people? How have you solicited your team for their insight on what comes next? Please share in comments!

And if these 15 big ideas have you curious about our organization (and where you might fit into it), consider yourself invited to check out our careers page. Click the button below to get started!

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Ideas Worth Stealing in 2014 — and a Call for Blog Post Ideas

Busting Corporate Strategy Out of the Boardroom


Photo by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

Topics: Construction Transportation Manufacturing