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Jan 24, 2017

Note: This is part one of two parts. The second part will post tomorrow.

If you thought 2016 was rough, the next 12 months are unlikely to bring much respite.

Case in point, the latest Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report, which surveyed 7,000 companies in 130 countries, found that a whopping 92% of organizations see a need to redesign their entire structure from top to bottom. Likewise, leading HR thinker Josh Bersin suggests that the “world is moving from a top-down hierarchical model to one of a ‘network of teams’ in which people iterate and solve problems in a dynamic, agile way.”

As you might expect, all this change will hit first-level managers hard. It will be up to HR and L&D teams to help these all-important leaders deal with 2017’s curve balls and ensure they’re prepared to weather the storm.

What are some of the things to look out for? Here is the first half of my 10 predictions for 2017 and how first-level managers (and really, managers at all levels) can get ahead of them.

1. Managers must walk the talk when it comes to change.

Regardless what changes an organization is facing, leaders at all levels must be on the same page. Employees will watch managers closely to see whether the messages they’re spreading are mere lip service or actually tied to concrete behaviors. The more significant the change, the more important it is that employees feel bought into the new way and fully equipped to handle it.

To help their teams cope with change, managers should have a clear implementation plan and, where possible, give direct reports a voice in the planning process.

2. Lengthy learning materials must be pared down.

One thing managers never have enough of is time. In a consumer world where everything from news to conversation is delivered in sound bites on small mobile devices, today’s adult learners increasingly will prefer succinct, bite-sized content and real-time feedback and insight. Short, clear instruction, available anywhere and on any device, will meet these learners’ needs far more effectively than “traditional” classroom-style training or long-form manuals.

3. Diversity and inclusion will be more than a talking point.

Not only are diverse, inclusive workplaces good for business, they’re a moral imperative, and 2017 will be the year that D&I broadly moves from a feel-good talking point to a key organizational priority. For managers at all levels, this will mean careful self-reflection and a conscious effort to overcome personal biases (we all have them!).

4. Tolerance for bad managers will vanish.

Blowhards, manipulators and pushovers: We see you. Sites like Glassdoor now are standard in helping job seekers decide on their next career move. They also are the place where unsatisfied employees go to gripe about ineffective management. While the prospect of a negative Glassdoor review strikes fear into the hearts of HR recruiters, increased transparency is a good thing! It represents an enormous opportunity for companies with great leadership to stand out in a competitive talent market.

5. Company and employee values must be aligned.

According to this year’s Employee Engagement Study from Cone Communications, “Two-thirds of American employees feel their work and personal life are becoming increasingly blended and nearly all (93%) want to work for a company that cares about them as an individual.”

People have pretty much always preferred to work for a company that does good things. But as the job market recovers more fully from the Great Recession, employees are increasingly likely to hit the road if they believe their leadership lacks a moral compass or treats employees poorly. Paychecks still matter, but value, purpose and development opportunities matter just as much (sometimes more).

Regardless of the industry or company, managers and employees everywhere will be facing some big, common challenges in the New Year. We’ll continue the list of likely changes and trends in part two. Hopefully forewarned will be forearmed.