Five leadership trends to stay ahead of in 2023

The last few years have seen radical changes in the way we work. Companies have been forced to adapt to huge challenges at breakneck speed, not just to remain competitive, but simply to stay in business.

As we experience the fallout of those changes and look ahead at how we want to shape the future of work, it is imperative that we create workplaces that engage employees: Low engagement costs the global economy $7.8 trillion a year, according to Gallup.

By paying attention to these five trends, leaders can craft a modern workplace that fuels employees toward increased engagement, productivity and ultimately profitability.

1. Skills growth is the answer to the talent challenge.

Offering your employees fulfilling work, ongoing opportunities to learn and grow, flexibility and diverse, value-oriented workplaces will be essential in 2023. Humans sharing their work with artificial intelligence and smart robots is becoming more prevalent and in turn, so is the need for upskilling, reskilling and recruiting new people.

Employers will have to address skills gaps in two areas: Technology like data science, AI and automation, as well as uniquely human skills like creativity, critical thinking, interpersonal communication, leadership and empathic qualities like caring and compassion.

2. Companies must intentionally cultivate employee retention and satisfaction.

In the wake of the war on talent, employee satisfaction and retention are more important than ever. Identify factors that encourage employees to stay and craft programs and policies toward them.

Flexible working arrangements and improved benefits that meet the unique needs of today's employees will be key. By prioritizing employee retention, companies can ensure they have the talent they need to achieve business goals.

3. Middle management's role will evolve.

Traditionally, this role's responsibility has been to manage employees and provide feedback on their performance. Today, a manager needs to be willing to work as a coach, mentor and empathetic leader. It's essential that business owners and leaders understand the role is changing and support these managers with the resources and training they need to succeed.

4. Diversity and inclusion will be increasingly important.

Research suggests the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace are numerous. Diverse teams are often more innovative and creative than homogeneous ones. They're also able to better identify potential risks and opportunities.

Diverse workforces help reflect the customer demographics which improves customer satisfaction. If you want to remain competitive, it's important that you diversify your workforce.

5. We must move beyond the remote vs. in-office debate.

Whether remote, hybrid or returning to the office, businesses have taken a scattered, and at times inconsistent approach to allowing employees to work from home. Many business owners have come to the realization that whether to allow remote work for their team is focusing on the wrong thing.

"It's about accessibility, not presence," Wired wrote. There is plenty of technology to support work, but some operations require and benefit from an in-person employee. Connecting the right people to do the work that needs to be done effectively should be the focus.

If the last few years of business have taught us anything, it's that things can change at a moment's notice. To stay competitive, businesses will need to stay ahead of these five trends, as well as remain agile enough to adapt to new ones that emerge throughout the year.

• Paul Eccher, Ph.D., is president and CEO of The Vaya Group in Warrenville.

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