Eight drivers of change

Eight drivers of change: Social trends

SOCIAL TRENDS 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).

Social media

Controlling use

The rapid dissemination of information through social media necessitates the control of employee use. Employers want to avoid derogatory comments about their organisation and controversial comments attributed to their staff can damage employer reputations. 

Fake news

Fake news

The anti-vax movement has been fuelled by wild conspiracy theories with no basis in fact. Donald Trump was, on the other hand, successful at undermining facts in the eyes of many by labelling them ”Fake News”. Social media has made separating fact from misinformation a major problem and created the occupation of “fact-checker”. 

Recruitment

Recruitment

Recruiter and candidate now see social media as key to attracting talent. Job-seekers are aware that their social media history may be scrutinised by potential hirers. They also see it as a source of new jobs. Recruiters target social media to source the best candidates.

Employee influencers

Employee influencers

The power of social media is illustrated by the growth of “influencers”, including employees as advocates to prospective recruits or consumers, and the importance of social media to an organisation’s marketing and brand strategy.

Values and behaviours

Collective individualism

Collective individualism

Both within society and the workplace there is an increased recognition of the benefits of diversity and inclusion and allowing people to be themselves. Alongside this, there is more recognition of the need for collective purpose. 

Being green

During the pandemic “green behaviours” have declined slightly but will rebound as the need to tackle the climate emergency becomes ever more apparent. It is the older age groups who demonstrate more green actions according to a recent Aviva survey.

Culture wars

Culture wars

“Woke” and “cancel culture” are examples of new words or phrases entering the English language as the values of the tertiary-educated younger liberally-minded clash with the more socially conservative values of a largely older section of society.

Authority

Authority

The pandemic has highlighted a division between libertarians and those who favour restrictions in the interests of security and order. Many have been surprised at the public support for restrictions such as mask-wearing. Employers will need to manage these divisions amongst their workforce.

Worklife balance

Four day week

Four day week

Countries and businesses have been experimenting recently with a four day week with no cut in pay. Iceland (the country) recently announced a successful pilot which was found to boost both productivity and well-being.

Working hours

Throughout the G7 countries the average working hours per worker has gradually declined over the last half century. Even though there was a rise for those home working during the pandemic, there is no reason to believe that this trend will not continue. 

Family life

Various drivers are  increasing attention to a work/life balance post-lockdown including: caring responsibilities (people with dementia are projected to nearly double by 2040);  greater female labour-force participation; burn-out; and evolving values.

Switching off

Switching off

Home working during the pandemic highlighted increasing concern about workers’ need to switch off from a feeling of permanent connection with work: Countries such as France and Spain have introduced rules restricting when emails cannot be sent or read.

SOCIAL TRENDS - INTERCONNECTING DRIVERS

Technology

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Technology

Role of the State

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Role of the State

Sustainability

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Sustainability

Migration

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Migration

Globalisation

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Globalisation

Covid-19

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Covid-19

Demographics

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Demographics

Part 1 

DRIVERS OF CHANGE

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Part 2 

EMERGING THEMES

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Part 3 

PREDICTIONS

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