We’re living through a time of rapid and unpredictable change. Disruption in politics, society and the economy can create a challenging business environment, but they can also create opportunities for the most responsive. By Joseph Bradfield, PR & Communications Advisor

As we head into 2023, we at Sussex Innovation have been taking stock of the trends we see happening globally and locally. We hope that sharing these insights will help inform your strategy over the next 12 months. 

Mega trends for 2023 
Accenture’s Fjord Trends 2022 report identifies five key trends that are impacting our relationships with brands, technology and businesses: 

• Come as you are. The economic shocks of the past year have led to an explosion of micro businesses in the creative, crafts and retail sectors. From content creators and influencers to Etsy stores, a huge proportion of people in their 20s now have a secondary source of income. These side-hustle projects not only offer financial security, they can also provide more fulfilment than the 9-to-5. 

• The end of abundance thinking. From the continuing effects of Brexit, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, to the increasing visibility of the climate crisis, consumers are becoming more conscious of how fragile production and supply chains are. This awareness has influenced a shift away from pure consumerism and towards a range of more sustainable practices including making and mending, thrift shopping and upcycling, and vegan products. 

• The next frontier. While ‘the metaverse’ is yet to find the right application to turn it into a mass-market product, we seem to be entering a new phase of technological connectivity and artificial intelligence. Having witnessed the unintended side effects of the information revolution of the past 20 years, consumers are increasingly demanding that big tech consider the ethical implications of their products – particularly as machine learning, AI, blockchain and other technologies become more and more sophisticated. 

• This much is true. Public trust in political leaders and the media has been shaken, resulting in more scepticism and less patience. Brands and employers that are able to combine integrity, openness and responsiveness are set to benefit most from the backlash. 

• Handle with care. Mental health and wellbeing are higher in everybody’s priorities than ever before. Organisations that fail to make space for their employees’ care are losing the ability to recruit and retain staff, while customers are voting with their wallets for businesses that demonstrate kindness, compassion and empathy. 

What does this mean for my business? 
We’ve spent most of the past year working closely with SMEs across East Sussex on behalf of the UK Government’s Community Renewal Fund. The stories we’ve heard on the ground show that local challenges often reflect these global mega trends. 

Creative problem solving continues to be a major need, with the end of abundance thinking and the emergence of new technology affecting each business in unique ways. Supply chains continue to be unstable, and proper environmental and social governance is becoming a necessity as legislative pressure increases to build a more sustainable future. Savvy management of innovation processes has never been more crucial. 

But the number one problem that business owners have mentioned to us time and again is with recruiting and retaining talent. Employees – and particularly younger generations – are not prepared to settle when it comes to their working lives. They are looking for jobs that provide them with both a fulfilling purpose and a work/life balance. 

This recruitment challenge combines nearly all of the mega trends listed above – people may be more conscious of the purpose and values of their employers, and may rely on several sources of income instead of one stable salary. They are likely to be less trusting of authority and leadership, and seek a workplace culture that values their health and wellbeing by providing flexibility and empathy. 

That’s why we believe that the most important strategic conversations you can have going into 2023 are with your team. A better understanding of what makes them want to work for you – and where they are frustrated or unfulfilled – will go a long way towards helping you retain your best people and become an employer of choice for new prospective hires. 

We are currently developing our core consultancy programmes for 2023, with a focus on these issues. We plan to support the SME community by facilitating open, honest and unbiased dialogue with their employees, developing their customer insights to better understand emerging needs, and offering innovation coaching to help solve legislative and supply chain challenges with agility and flexibility. 

Watch this space in next month’s Platinum Business for an introduction to our new consultancy offering. 

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