Looking ahead to 2019

As 2018 drew to a close, we were really keen to look ahead at 2019 to see what the emerging business trends and challenges might be.

During our annual festive event in Bristol, our Practitioner community discussed expectations for 2019. The opportunity to hear firsthand the experiences and emerging themes from our Practitioners within their areas of work allows us to be at forefront of organisations’ needs and the challenges they face. A variety of interesting topics and themes came out of discussions, here are the top 3:

  1. Businesses are going through times of ambiguity, uncertainty and change.

With the UK in the grips of political ambiguity, it’s easy to see why change through uncertainty is at the forefront of everyone’s minds in 2019. How we feel about situations not only influences our feelings but is instrumental in our decision-making. If the decision-making part of the brain (amygdala) identifies a stimulus as a threat, it sends a powerful emotional response to act upon the perceived danger and bypasses the higher thinking brain (pre-frontal cortex). For example, if our basic needs such as security, safety and autonomy are not met, we feel threatened and this in turn can considerably impact our performance in the workplace. Throughout 2019 it is important that organisations focus on minimising the feeling of threat to employees, placing a focus on being open and fair.

As a leader, not only do you have to adapt to deal with ambiguity but you must be resilient, and more importantly, you must demonstrate and exemplify resilience to your team.  It is essential to reflect secure and strong leadership within an organisation during times of ambiguity to build confidence and security. Without this, employees risk feeling a lack of empowerment, confusion and low future goals. All of which considerably impacts the productivity and well-being of individuals.

Agile leadership is a key component when navigating an organisation through ambiguity and uncertainty. Agile leaders are those that can adapt to an ever-changing and uncertain environment and initiate ways of working that respond quicker to the changing external landscape. For organisations to facilitate a culture and leadership capability that enables a more agile way of working, it important to re-think what it means to be a leader in 2019. Assessing the climate and culture of an organisation is an essential step to effectively managing problems, challenges or goals. Through exploring an organisation’s climate and gaining an in-depth understanding of how leadership is experienced by employees, organisations can gain clarity on how to improve leadership and create a dynamic, agile and thriving environment.

Finding out your organisation might be moving their headquarters or making cuts is never nice to hear. But finding out through social media or news articles rather than first-hand is even worse. Leaders should seek to develop their own Emotional Intelligence (EI) and awareness of others in order to create an open, transparent and trusting environment that empowers their employees and improves communication.

Having high EI can help yourself and others to move successfully through change. It is important to recognise when employees may not be coping with change and to create an open environment so that they can voice how they are feeling during times of ambiguity. Understanding how others are feeling and recognising barriers is the first step to putting in place strategies to overcome these challenges.

  1. Awareness of employee well-being, mental health and resilience

The American Psychological Association estimates that 550 million workdays are lost each year due to employee stress at work, and 60-80% of workplace accidents are attributed to stress [1].  Following on from the mental health awareness drive in 2018, people will continue to push for new and improved mental health and well-being guidelines at work. However, we feel the real work is in helping employees remain aware and in touch with their emotions. As the rise in flexible and remote working increases, employees will need the internal tools to alleviate stress and increase resilience. The ability to talk it out with a colleague might not always be an option.

As a result, we predict more investment in personal development and aspects of self-management.

Our EI framework is divided into two streams; personal and interpersonal intelligence. People who are low on personal intelligence (self-awareness and self-management) may focus too much attention on the needs of others and fail to meet their own needs leading to them becoming unwell and burnout. Therefore, providing employees with a tool-kit to remain in touch and aware of emotions is key to being effective and productive at work.

Focusing on the development of EI helps to build the capacity to deal with and respond to adversity. Our habits and every-day routines play an integral part in our ability to respond to ambiguity, uncertainty and change. With increasingly fast-paced lives, it is easy for sleep, diet and work-life balance to fall by the wayside. However, the extent that these basic needs impact our resilience should not be underestimated. Adequate sleep[2], a healthy diet and achieving work-life balance[3] helps us to regulate our emotions and build our personal resilience – essential when responding quickly and effectively to times of ambiguity and uncertainty and also the impact this in turn has upon our wellbeing as individuals.

We are often faced with challenges in everyday life and how we respond is based on our EI. For example, self-regard, the degree to which an individual accepts and values themselves, is the corner stone to EI and affects individual well-being. It is this core attitude that significantly influences an individual’s personal resilience. Resilience is a process and all phases of the Thrive Cycle of Resilience help build our overall resilience and raise our capacity to deal with adversity. Through the development of the 16 scales of EI an individual is able to improve how they respond at each stage of the resilience cycle. As a company we have started to offer personal development Resilience workshops.

  1. Future of Leadership

As our roles become more complex and the way we work more dynamic, the traditional model of 9-5 employment is rapidly changing and in 2019 we expect to see a further shift. Employees from newer generations are coming to expect more flexible work options when considering employment. Literature suggests that there is a positive relationship between flexible working and improved employee health, mental health and stress reduction [4]. By 2025 it is expected that the younger, values driven workers will make up to 75% of the workforce. For leaders,  understand the expectations of newer generations, and move away from old modes of leadership, is essential to achieving leadership success. Research has shown that more working hours does not mean more productivity[5] and organisations have started to realise that individual performance needs to be at the core of their development – regardless of where it physically takes place or at what time.

Working at home or allowing flexible working hours outside of the traditional 9-5 can produce considerable benefits for employee productivity and with a new generation (Gen Z) entering the workforce this is going to soon become the norm and expected working style amongst younger employees.

However, for leaders, there are additional considerations for the ever-changing workforce. For a successful work environment, it is important for generations to understand each other and work together. Focusing on the development of agile leadership brings the opportunity to build a successful and dynamic multi-generational workforce. Leaders, at any level, need to acknowledge and understand the value of a diverse workforce and focus on the interplay between generations to create a dynamic and thriving organisational culture.

Excelling in 2019

It is unequivocal that 2019 is going to be a year of ambiguity, uncertainty and change and placing an emphasis on developing the ability to effectively manage our emotions is essential when dealing with such challenges. Whether you are a looking to develop your own resilience or the resilience of others, the first steps to improving how you deal with the challenges 2019 brings is to develop an awareness of how you are feeling. Our 21-day feelings tracker is a tool to help you track and record feelings. Tracking feelings across a variety of different situations helps to build emotional self-awareness and develop how you respond when faced with challenges.

Contact myself or one of the JCA Global team to see how our business solutions can help you and your team excel in 2019 at hello@jcaglobal.com


[1] https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2014/stress-report.pdf

[2] https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/resilience-through-sleep-2167-0277-3-e105.php?aid=4641

[3] Huppert, F. A. (2009). Psychological well‐being: Evidence regarding its causes and consequences. Applied Psychology: Health and WellBeing1(2), 137-164.

[4] M. Shapiro, C. Ingols, R. O’Neill and S. Blake-Beard, “Making Sense of Women as Career Self-Agents: Implications for Human Resource Development,” Human Resource Development Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 4, 2009, pp. 477-501.

[5] https://hbr.org/2015/08/the-research-is-clear-long-hours-backfire-for-people-and-for-companies

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