If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen, heard, and read one too many articles about trends for 2022. I even published a 2022 trend article myself. And as much as I enjoy thinking about and planning for the future with Audacia’s incredible clients, I’m also a realist.
Has anyone effectively predicted anything during the past two years? Fortunately, we don’t need to predict the future to build a solid strategy. What if we, instead, accepted the uncertainty and focused on building flexibility and the capacity for resilience inside our organizations?
With this in mind, let’s discuss what’s in, what’s out, and preview the flexible plan we’re implementing at Audacia Strategies this year.
As we continue to watch workplaces shift and organizations rethink how productivity happens, some corporate culture trends have real staying power.
1. Building corporate trust.
The pandemic continues to erode public trust in large institutions. Early last year, when we were mostly feeling optimistic about a swift return to normalcy, we talked about ways corporations could begin rebuilding trust. Back then, public trust of businesses stood at 61%, higher than any other institution, according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer.
Now, after enduring another year of working from home and dealing with the uncertainty of the delta and omicron variants, many of us have given up on the concept of “a return to normalcy” entirely. And the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that business holds onto its position as the most trusted institution, with even greater expectations due to government’s failure to lead during the pandemic.
Here are some of the key findings:
- By an average of a five-to-one margin, respondents in the 28 countries surveyed want business to play a larger role on climate change, economic inequality, workforce re-skilling and addressing racial injustice.
- All stakeholders want business to fill the void, with nearly 60% of consumers buying brands based on their values and beliefs, almost 6 in 10 employees choosing a workplace based on shared values and expecting their CEO to take a stand on societal issues, and 64% of investors looking to back businesses aligned with their values.
“Business must now be the stabilizing force delivering tangible action and results on society’s most critical issues,” said Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman. “Societal leadership is now a core function of business.”
2. Establishing credibility as a trusted information source.
The 2022 Trust Barometer also revealed that trust in news and information sources has eroded over the past decade. Trust in all news sources has dropped (with the exception of owned media, which rose one point to 43%). Social media experienced the sharpest decline at eight points to 37%, followed by traditional media dropping five points to 57%.
In addition, concern over fake news being used as a weapon has risen to an all-time high of 76%. And the most credible source of information is communications from ‘My Employer’ (65%).
Clearly, trust is at a premium now, which means there’s also a huge opportunity for organizations to establish credibility as a source of reliable information. Doing so will likely require skillful repetition of the truth and transparency in your internal and external communications.
It’s more difficult than ever for consumers to sift through all the available content and find useful information. Making increasing trust a part of your firms’ strategic plan in 2022 could be a serious differentiator.
3. Staying nimble.
Also, with all the challenges to public trust and uncertainty in the air, perhaps the best strategy for thriving in 2022 is to stay nimble. Where can you keep your strategic options open?
If you’re working on an M&A deal this year, for example, positioning your organization for the sale is key:
- As your business model and corporate strategy shift with the times, you may need to re-evaluate how M&A fits.
- Keep in mind that there are more options for M&A available now, such as SPACs and other non-traditional financial configurations.
- Make sure your due diligence covers more than just the financials. The unfolding of the criminal trial and conviction of Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of the debunked medical startup, Theranos, has driven home this point. Many Theranos investors have been criticized for not doing the proper due diligence.
With the above in mind, let’s turn to what’s striking a discordant note with consumers, investors, and trend-setters.
1. Overpaying for an acquisition.
We’ve seen some of the highest M&A deal volumes ever in the past year, and multiples are at record highs. Still, the M&A market remains competitive. While many deals are worth the multiple, there’s no good reason to overpay for an acquisition.
In fact, we see firms making this mistake for a variety of reasons:
- Deal fever: It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a bidding war. Instead, be willing to walk away from a deal that doesn’t really work.
- Cutting corners on due diligence: Due diligence is like going to the dentist. If you don’t do the preventative work, you may end up needing a root canal.
- Not getting real about your competition: The deal will have ripple effects. Do your best to anticipate how it will affect your competitors and the market in general.
- Getting entranced by “synergies” [or insert your favorite buzzword]: Don’t fall for talk that sounds good but isn’t backed up by substance. Always have a gut check strategy.
What we recommend: A comprehensive integration strategy that goes beyond IT systems and benefits (both vital!) and addresses culture, leadership style, behavior expectations, and just plain “what’s in it for me?” And by the way, this comprehensive integration strategy should include perspectives from employees, customers, and investors.
Consider one of my favorite quotes from Dan Doran: “Value is analyzed, price is negotiated.” Write it down on a sticky note and keep it top of mind for deal negotiations.
2. Mixed messages to employees and customers.
Remember how we’re inundated with information and unsure whether we can trust any of it? Well, one thing that contributes to this paucity of trust is mixed messages. So replace complex, inconsistent, and vague messages with simple, consistent, and transparent communications.
And also, it can’t hurt to approach all messaging with a healthy dose of realism and empathy. For many, January 2022 feels an awful lot like April 2020. Pandemic fatigue is at an epic level and right now it’s hard to be an employee, a leader, a customer, an investor, a parent, a kid, a teacher, a doctor, a nurse…a human.
3. Everything being a top priority.
With everything we have to deal with on a daily basis, we don’t need the added burden of everything feeling urgent. So it’s best to think extra carefully about your real top priorities as an organization.
Employee burnout is real. Customer burnout is real. No one has the patience to discern what’s a true priority. If you treat every task or project as if it’s Defcon Level 5, you’re likely to invoke a fight, flight, or freeze response.
Instead, pick your top goals, staff out each project appropriately, and give realistic deadlines, all with team input. Then maintain productivity by communicating your priorities and why to all levels and all stakeholders.
What We’re Doing at Audacia Strategies
Of course, by now, you know we at Audacia are always thinking about how we can walk our talk and 2022 is no exception.
Here’s what we’re doing to build flexibility and the capacity for resilience:
- Lots of deep breaths.
- One of our guiding principles: Start with empathy.
- Recommitting to our values and actively building our culture around them.
- Focusing on prioritizing our business investments: We’re doubling down on what has worked by augmenting our offerings and building our capacity to support executive transitions, exits (IPOs, M&A), and refreshed marketing positioning.
- Focusing on building our kick*ss team: We are proud to work with professionals who are the best of the best in their field, highly respected, customer-focused, awesome people with a fabulous sense of humor, and are no bullsh*t team players. We’ve already announced that IR pro, Mike Pici, joined the leadership team, and you can check out our team page to find out more about our strategic partnerships.
- More deep breaths…
If the question of building a solid strategy amidst chaos and uncertainty has your organization reaching for the Magic Eight Ball, contact us instead to schedule a consultation.
We haven’t been able to predict the future (yet!), but we do help clients develop strategies for dealing with anticipated and unanticipated transformations, and we can do the same for your organization.
Photo credit: Business Colleagues Having A Meeting Discussing Graphs And Figures by Flamingo Images from NounProject.com