There’s reason to be optimistic about the economic outlook for the new year. In a recent poll conducted by RefreshLeadership.com, Express Employment Professionals’ blog for business leaders, the vast majority of respondents indicated they predict growth in 2018.
Of those who participated in the poll, 23 percent say they will see "exponential" growth, 58 percent plan on "moderate" growth, and 16 percent said they would remain "steady, but unchanged." Only 2 percent of businesses predict a decrease in business volume – a nearly 4 percent decrease over 2017’s predictions.
These results continue a positive trend that has been observed over the last three years of the annual poll.
"There’s a lot to be optimistic about in 2018," said Bob Funk, CEO of Express. "For the third year in a row, there is a drop in the number of people who expect business activity to decrease, and the number of companies that predict growth continues to increase. Although there are still challenges on the horizon, like the widening skills gap, overall indications point toward a strong year ahead."
So, what are some trends to watch in 2018 that could have a major impact on business and the workforce?
The skills gap is widening
Across most industries, there are jobs to be found. However, candidates with the skills to fill in-demand positions are becoming fewer and far between. Attracting and retaining top performers continues to be one of the highest priorities for businesses as more than 42 percent say it is “somewhat” or “very” difficult to recruit for and fill positions, according to Express’ first quarter 2018 Job Insights Survey.
In fact, results of the survey indicated that the top three reasons business leaders say jobs are going unfilled are lack of applicants with experience, a shortage of applicants in general, and applicants not having the necessary hard skills.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) adoption continues to grow
In a survey conducted by The Economist, three-quarters of respondents predicted AI to be “actively implemented” in their business within the next three years. And in a study by Accenture, research showed that increased incorporation of AI across a wide variety of industries has the potential to increase the rate of profitability by 38 percent.
Advancements in technology are profoundly changing the way businesses operate. Many jobs have already been replaced by machines, and many more will see the same fate. Due to their technical nature, future jobs will likely require more training. So, an emphasis on employee development will be key to maintaining a productive workforce.
Millennials are staking their claim to leadership roles
According to the Hartford Millennial Leadership Survey, 80 percent of Millennials identify themselves as business leaders, and 69 percent aspire to be business leaders within the next five years. And there are many factors that point toward this generation being successful in their endeavors.
One of the key strengths Millennials bring to leadership roles is their tech savvy and ability to integrate new technology into the way their companies operate. They are also one of the most diverse generations in the workplace and actively seek out purpose-driven initiatives or ways to support important social and charitable causes with the work they do.
Baby Boomers are redefining retirement
Research from Bloomberg indicates that the boomer generation are increasingly opting to delay retirement. About one-third of workers say they expect to work past age 70. And statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics project that by 2024 “36 percent of 65- to 69-year-olds will be active participants in the labor market.
From trying out new jobs to exploring entrepreneurship to mentoring younger generations of workers, the path to retirement is becoming less traditional for baby boomers. Businesses that actively embrace and help facilitate the changing retirement needs of older generations stand to benefit from the knowledge and experience they bring to the workforce.
Only time will tell what 2018 has in store for businesses and the economy, but there are many signs that show cause for optimism. Early preparation and forward-thinking strategies are the key to putting your company on a strong foundation for the new year.
Alyssa Chumbley is vice president of Express Employment Professionals.