Eight drivers of change

Eight drivers of change: Social trends


Values, attitudes and behaviours are continually evolving, representing an important driver of change in society and consequently the workplace. The other drivers of change all play a part in influencing and accelerating such social trends.

Technology drives societal change, not least through the role social media plays inside and outside of work. It arrived with the promise of democratising communication and in many ways has succeeded, making it one of the most significant changes in society in the last decade. Facebook launched only seventeen years ago and now has three billion users worldwide. Social media has transformed the ability of employees, customers and other stakeholders to communicate. Employers have quickly recognised its potential benefits, overhauling marketing and recruitment strategies and creating new types of work. Employees acting as influencers and brand ambassadors (subscription required) are increasingly critical in enabling employers to attract good candidates and new business. Employers have to balance this, however, against the need to control negative comment and manage their employees’ social media use. Throughout society, the dangers of uncontrolled (possibly uncontrollable) “fake news” have become apparent and employers are equally vulnerable to such risks. Nonetheless, in an environment full of mistrust and misinformation, businesses are regarded as the most trusted institution, with employers emerging as a bastion of reliability. Expectations on business to solve today’s challenges are increasing.

Demographics also impact our values, attitudes and behaviours. Tensions inevitably rise as differing views evolve more frequently into intolerance towards others’ viewpoints. Age is often a feature of these differences (see demographics – generations). An example of these value-based fault-lines in society was the Brexit referendum, in which a majority in each age group over 45 voted to leave while voters in each age group under 45 voted to remain. In the youngest voter group (age 18 to 24), nearly three times as many voted to remain as to leave (see globalisation – Brexit). Divergence can similarly be seen in the so-called “culture wars” between conservatives and liberals, where attitudes to issues such as abortion, LGBT+ rights and multi-culturalism collide.

Despite this, there is evidence that the British population is becoming more tolerant and more liberal, possibly as a result of generational changes. Attitudes to issues such as social security, immigration and Brexit are softening (see role of the state – state intervention; and globalisation – migration). People are becoming less tolerant of income inequality, harassment and discrimination (see demographics – gender). More and more people see sustainability as important, a factor that is reflected in the environmental, social and governance expectations placed on businesses (see sustainability – ESG).