Trends: What we have to look forward to in 2016

The business world as we know it is rapidly changing and 2016 is set to be no different. Rhonda Brighton-Hall shares her predictions for the year ahead and where we can expect to see the greatest shifts in the workplace gender equality debate.

As I prepared to write this, I did the typical ‘google’ search.

What were the trends predicted for 2016?

I found the internet awash with predictions around fashion (big chunky chokers are going to be the thing, as long as you never match them to your earrings – evidently, matching is very last year!); a reasonable amount on home decorating (it looks like we’ll all be renovating in what I’d describe as various shades of uninspired beige); a piece or two on food trends (evenly divided between eating organic and trying new wonder diets); plus the usual bunch of economic trends (which ranged from dire to modest growth, with a smattering of predictions around China’s ideas to stimulate their economy).

There wasn’t much on social trends…and even less about work trends.

As I rattled disappointedly through the roller coast ride of possibilities, I decided to think differently.

What should be the trends for 2016?

If we adhere to that old adage “we blame society, but we are society”, then what would we like the trends about work to be in 2016.

Here’s the Top 10 list I’d like to see trending –

1. Gender pay gap will be completely obliterated. Not only would all companies sign up and diligently apply the WGEA 6 Steps, but each and every boss would take personal responsibility to make sure there is NO gender difference across the pay of their own team. At the aggregate, that’s got to make a dent in the 17.1% gap we’re looking at today.

2. Flexible work will move from being a slogan to an actual reality. The number one reason that women don’t return to work post children remains a lack of availability of flexible work. The 71% of Australian women who have children, and many who have the primary caring responsibilities, will find themselves welcome and encouraged back into a receptive workplace. From 2016, companies would think more innovatively about the design of roles and work, looking for contribution, not ‘hours in the office’.

3. Careers would be designed much more creatively. Career breaks and changing tracks will be increasingly the norm. Recruiters will be open to the learning and humungous personal development that comes from a non-traditional career path.

4. Women will make it to the top in greater numbers than ever before. With this new focus on flexibility and career redesign, the break in the talent pipeline that exists in so many companies around the middle management layers, will be mended. We’ll stop being ‘happy’ with 18.1% of all directors being women, and start thinking ‘why not 50%’ (we are after all 51% of the population).

5. Domestic Violence would be taken seriously. The 90 recommendations that went to the Senate Committee earlier in 2015, will be taken seriously, and the best applied, starting with places for victims to go to be safe, move quickly to looking at compensation for emotional, physical and financial abuse, and then on to education and thinking about prevention for future generations.

6. Child Care will be a new debate. If we really want to harness the full economic contribution of women and men with caring responsibilities, and we want to ensure we have a great ‘next generation’ coming through, we have to have a new debate around childcare – availability, quality, cost and tax. While we’re there, the other 51.9% of companies who do not yet have paid parental leave, will sign up for it.

7. The gender inequity in Superannuation will be addressed. This is one of the first steps in addressing the relatively poor economic status of women. The recommendations around ‘catch up’ Super post-career breaks will be considered seriously by Government and our most progressive companies will stop talking and start acting to fix this complicated gap.

8. Men (and fathers) everywhere will break out of the gender schemas of another generation and actively play the role they’ve always wanted to play in their kid’s lives.

9. Schools will acknowledge that some Mums work and put on two Mothers Day breakfasts, one at 7.30am (like they do on Father’s Day) and the other at 11am for the mums who have the ‘morning responsibilities’ and can’t do early.

So, this is just a start, and I stopped at nine, so you could add your own Number 10 to the list.

Now, some people will think, getting anything on this list would be a miracle, but it wouldn’t take much. Sure, they’re complicated issues, but they’ll never move forward without action. If we all woke up on January 1st, 2016 and said “this year is going to be different, it’s going to be better”, it would be just that.

About Rhonda

Rhonda has spent her career on the people stuff, working with some of the biggest and best companies all around the world, but she has always thought – “we could do this better. We could make work (and leadership) better for all of us – more inclusive, more real, and more ‘human’.

She fundamentally believes that inclusion, good leadership and treating each other as equals, is not only foundational for good people practices in organisations but equally of more equitable and prosperous economies and communities. In short, if we include as many people as possible in work, then we start to build the sort of community and society we all want to live in.

Rhonda is also co-founder of mwah, a Community, a Toolkit, a Think Tank, and a Boutique Consultancy, all aimed at Making Work Absolutely Human. A knowledge base and a community of all the real stuff you need to lead and work with people, today and in the future.


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