This past year has been filled with many challenges for small businesses and, sometimes, those challenges pick up a catchy name like “The Great Resignation of 2021.” That is because there were record numbers of people who quit their jobs for several months straight this year. But major movements in the labor market also create consequences in other areas. As small businesses look ahead toward the new year, it appears a new catchy phrase is picking up steam, and that is “The Great Restructuring of 2022.”
The forces of supply and demand in the labor market are accelerating the transition to artificial intelligence and other technologies. Although that is not a new trend, the shifts in economic conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic are forcing businesses to look at a new way to operate sustainably and profitably. That becomes especially true when small businesses are losing employees and struggling to replace them. They will have to change their business models to be less reliant on people, leading to fewer jobs in the market.
So, what is on the horizon for the small business community? Here are five economic trends to watch for in 2022 to prepare for the Great Restructuring.
- Outsourced jobs will be the new normal. With fewer applicants, businesses will turn to gig workers for nonessential positions and help manage administrative tasks within departments. Gig workers are independent contractors who specialize in certain skills or task for a fee. Although there are more jobs available than people who can fill those positions, many are for entry-level and lower-level positions.
- Having a polished online presence will become more important. Every business must have an online presence, especially if you are a small business of one. The shift to a digital economy was the most significant during the pandemic, and small businesses relied on online sales to stay afloat. Having a polished online presence means you have set up the bare minimum to be able to conduct business digitally, such as an online store, email, website and social media channels.
- Sustainability is the way to go. In every sector, businesses are struggling with rapid transformation, and the climate change crisis is shifting investments toward more resilient business models. Every business must find a way to eliminate or reduce its environmental footprint. This means reducing waste and costs up and down the supply chain, and looking at the current operations to improve sustainability all around. Sustainability is linked to resilience, and resilience means being able to adapt and survive for the long term. Any business that ignores sustainability is unlikely to do well in this age of conscious consumption.
- Reimagining the employee experience. The way we work is also evolving and there are younger people entering the workforce every day. Businesses will need to reimagine what traditional full-time employment means to them and align the work to their teams’ motivations. It is not a new trend, but research shows that a leading reason for the Great Resignation this year was related to feeling disconnected to purposeful and fulfilling work.
- Purposeful businesses will be in fashion. As consumers seek more authentic brands, businesses must no longer ignore important issues that are meaningful to their target market. Businesses now must exist to serve a meaningful purpose — and not just serve up profits to shareholders. A strong purpose has the promise of striving for something better — be it a better world, a better way to do something, or whatever is important to your business.
For some businesses, the change will come fast, and every small business will need to review its strategy as it enters the new year. As businesses adapt to a new reality, the Great Restructuring will reveal new opportunities for businesses to dramatically succeed.
EDGAR RAFAEL OLIVO is a bilingual business educator, economic advisor, and contributor for several media outlets. He’s a nonprofit executive who is passionate about education. He is certified in finance and data analytics and holds a business degree from Arizona State University.
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