By Frank Kenna
Looking back on 2010, I’ve identified 7 trends and events that I think define the year pretty well in terms of the workplace. Here they are in order from least to most important:
7. Lower workplace accidents, deaths
The first few I mention are trend-based – while noteworthy, they are not game-changers as some of the higher-rated ones are. #7 is about lower accident and death rates in the U.S. While lower across the board, the highway deaths were notable, falling to the lowest number since 1950. As Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood commented, “Remarkable… a landmark achievement.”
6. Economic recovery
In September, National Bureau of Economic Research released a statement saying that the recession ended – last June, 2009. While it sure doesn’t feel that way to many, June 09 was when the economy stopped shrinking. As we battle our way back to economic health, the fact that the recession was proclaimed officially over was good enough news that it made my list, although maybe a year late.
5. Election results/spending
The mid-term elections were big news, with leadership being more evenly split between parties. This adds certainty to the business lookout, something that many managers were looking for. Then the recently agreed-upon tax extensions and payroll tax cuts showed that, regardless of the Tea Party warnings, spending is still an open spigot with almost another trillion or so authorized. That should also be good for businesses, at least for the next year or two. At some point we’ll pay for all this spending, but for now event #5 is a ‘pro’ for workplaces.
4. BP oil spill
Beginning on April 20 and ending on July 15, this disaster is notable due to its scale, the damage to the Gulf and loss of human life. The fact that it killed 11 and injured 17 got lost in the uproar about workplace safely conditions. The common question, “How could this possibly happen?” was never really answered.
3. Texting kills
2010 seemed to be the year when the texting epidemic became evident. Many studies indicated that DWT (driving while texting) is more dangerous than driving while drinking or smoking marijuana. It was brought home to me in June when I witnessed an accident caused by texting. This will be a top 10 safety issue for years to come.
2. Social Media at Work
What previously seemed like a faddish activity, social networking went mainstream. Whether it was the president tweeting, or a major motion picture about the founder of Facebook – who was also named Time’s person of the year, social networking has become a part of our social network.
In the workplace, you need look no further than LinkedIn. Almost everyone I know has a page there, and it is rapidly becoming an essential tool for communicating with peers, recruiting and checking out vendors, competitors and associates.
1. Smartphone/iPad revolution
Is there ANYone who doesn’t have an iPhone, Droid or iPad? In 2010 I saw several holdouts finally capitulate and get one of these devices. Why? Because this is how business people stay connected… to work, the web, each other… everything. Knowing that information is power, what is more powerful than having the knowledge of the entire word at your fingertips for instant access?
The connection of us – to us – as outlined in my top two events, will continue to change everything about our lives, at home and in the workplace. We will react faster, be more efficient, make connections instantly as needed. For starters, this will increase our productivity. But the real game changer is what this virtual and instantaneous collaboration will mean. When 100’s of millions of people’s brains are connected, is there any problem that can’t be solved? What products will be invented, what medical breakthroughs? It’s impossible to know, but it’s all coming at a pace more rapidly than we can imagine.
Happy New Year to all you workplace communicators out there… and here’s to a safe, productive and profitable 2011!