This blog will continue our series on looking at the issues that will shape 2017. Previously, our outlook has included:
- Brian Crosby’s look at 2017 Arc Flash Game Changers
- Dan Maxwell researched New Products and Technologies in Gas Detection Planned for 2017
- Brent Weigel wrote about LEED v4, ASHRAE Guideline 36 and other MEP Engineering Trends for 2017
- And, I shared my thoughts on 4 Trends to Watch in Industrial Automation
Here, we will look at some issues that will likely have some impact on all businesses in 2017. Whether you are in manufacturing, higher education, healthcare, construction or retail, these changes will affect you or staff and it is important to be ready.
We are truly in a time of rapid technical innovation. The way we work is going to continue to evolve in 2017, including how we design and build new products or facilities, how we learn and how we communicate with customers and employees. There are many forms of technology that are changing the way we work, including Social Media, Cloud Computing and Smart Devices are all prevalent and widely adapted technology platforms in most business settings. New areas that have been written about, but are not yet as widely accepted include Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT).
While it is not always clear what role new technology can play in our business, it is very clear that those companies that adopt and embrace new ways of thinking thrive and prosper while those who only focus on the “way we’ve always done things” eventually go away. One approach is to regularly challenge your existing business processes. Sometimes this requires assistance from outside your organization who may be able to identify blind spots in your approach.
To stimulate thought, here’s an article that looks at technologies that will emerge in the next 5 years.
Depending upon what skills your business requires, you might find a shortage of available talent to be a major challenge in 2017. While the recent elections gave a lot of attention to the topic of jobs and unemployment, the nation’s unemployment rate hit a 9 year low in November at 4.6%. And, those of you who require highly skilled employees have likely found the pool of candidates to be small. This recent article describes how the shortage of skilled workers for the “innovation” economy might limit the ability of businesses to grow.
In addition, our aging demographics as the Baby Boomers near retirement is also leading to a potential drain of valuable skills and experience from the labor market.
There are a few things we can all focus on for our business:
- Attract and retain our people. Focus on developing a culture and environment that meets the needs of a multi-generational workforce is vital. It is too hard to find top talent. You need to create a company that people want to stay and be a part of.
- Provide flexibility for “sun setting.” Many employees are looking to ease into retirement. These individuals can fill valuable roles in organizations through part-time positions or flexible work hours.
- Develop robust training programs. The labor available in the workforce may not have the skills your business needs. One other option is to create a strong training program to train or retrain new employees.
There are many areas of interest to watch in our economy in the coming year, but what will be most interesting for me will be our trade policy and the ripple affect it will have on our economy. As alluded to in item 2 above, the so-called jobless recovery has led to an economy of haves and have nots as the skill gap widens between traditional manufacturing jobs and new “innovation economy” jobs. A trade policy that promises a return to yesteryear is bound to disappoint as the world we live in has changed.
It is difficult, if not impossible, for most of us to fully understand the impact of NAFTA or other trade agreements. What we can try to do is to understand what impact changes in trade policies might have on our business. Do we depend on exports for our revenue? And, will new trade policies impact our ability to sell our products outside of the United States? Do we rely on imported materials to manufacture our products? And, will new trade policies increase our costs to affect our competitiveness in the market place? Perhaps tariffs on foreign goods will increase our ability to compete domestically?
It will be interesting to see how these changes will affect the overall economy, including job growth, inflation and interest rates.
These are some of the things that I will be watching for in 2017. Please feel free to add your comments to share your thoughts about important trends in our industry in the coming year.
About the Author
Keith is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a BSEE and an MBA. He has been with Hallam-ICS since 1988 as an electrical engineer, manager of integration services, CFO, and CEO. He focuses the company on understanding and meeting the needs of each individual client while at the same time delivering the highest possible level of technical expertise.
Read My Hallam Story
Hallam-ICS is an engineering and automation company that designs MEP systems for facilities and plants, engineers control and automation solutions, and ensures safety and regulatory compliance through arc flash studies, commissioning, and validation. Our offices are located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Vermont and North Carolina and our projects take us world-wide.