The business trends to expect in 2015

From flexible working policies to mobile hiring, businesses in 2015 will have to continue adapting to a cultural upheaval that’s revolutionising working patterns from top to bottom

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group. The company recently introduced a new policy in which employees can take as much holiday as they want 

As Millennials continue to replace baby boomers hitting retirement in the upcoming year, the dynamics, policies and patterns of businesses look set to continue in their fundamental transition.

One of the key trends affecting businesses of late and set to accelerate in 2015 is the shift towards what workplace trend writer Larissa Faw terms in a Forbes article, ‘millennial multi-careerism’ – a Generation Y move away from traditional career paths. “There used to be an order in life: finish your education, go find a job, buy a house. This generation really mixes it up”, Sandy Thompson of Young & Rubicam advertising agency told Faw. That’s in turn likely to influence the way businesses hire (see Fig. 1).

More and more are job-hopping
The shift means job-hopping is increasing – 86 percent of employees are on the hunt for jobs outside of their current role, according to a 2014 study by That trend is likely to continue into 2015, as online staffing and freelancing become increasingly popular. According to Dan Schawbel of research firm Millennial Branding, freelancing is predicted to account for one in two Americans by 2020, and for the first time ever it’s on the up even as the economy starts to recover. Once dictated by economic factors, freelancing now seems an increasingly popular choice for those seeking a more flexible, less traditionally company-oriented approach.

That certainly has its benefits for businesses, as binding contracts are gradually replaced by flexible terms that allow both parties to pick and choose without long-term commitment. What it does threaten is stability and long-term planning, and businesses must build new models around the trend to compensate. To assist with the continuous job search that an ensuing high staff turnover is driving, businesses in 2015 would do well to focus on developing smartphone-suitable career platforms – a study by CareerBuilder found that a mere 20 percent of Fortune 500 company career websites offer a mobile-friendly version, despite the overriding majority of applicants who use those devices for job searches. According to Schawbel, firms are also likely to increase their use of social media to attract new talent.

Available job postings

Those social networking tools are likely to serve a further purpose; driving consumer purchases, as the ‘buy’ buttons being introduced by Twitter, and tested by Facebook, start to take effect and widen the sources of revenue for online retailers. That should enable companies to directly measure which social media campaigns are generating sales, meaning SMEs could then adapt their marketing strategies accordingly.

Big data will also help in gaining consumer insight, according to a report by Verizon Enterprise Solution. “Predictive analytics is huge and it is sitting right at the heart of the C-level conversation”, says UK and Ireland Joint Managing Director Antony Tompkins, according to Business Reporter.

The Verizon report adds that Internet of Things (IoT) technology will become increasingly popular among businesses. Although some analysts are celebrating that uptake – Tompkins argues it could be advantageous in simplifying processes – smartphone and other IoT technology could present security threats. Stepping up reliance on connectivity means increasing the risk of cyber-crime, and businesses must find ways of combatting those risks over the coming year. Outside of the technology sphere, Schawbel argues that one of the key business trends will be an increase in transparency (see Fig. 2), as firms follow in the footsteps of companies like Whole Foods – which makes bonuses and salaries data accessible to every employee. Transparency is also set to become the ‘most important tool’ within the marketing sector, according to industry specialist Avi Dan in a Forbes article on 2015 marketing trends.

That would certainly be beneficial in helping businesses to gain consumer trust, as well addressing wider matters such as the gender pay gap and sustainability. Given the regulations set to be introduced from July in the EU – which will require oil, gas and mining companies to report taxes and other payments for each project and country – transparency should indeed be on the up.

Increasing transparency
But the picture isn’t necessarily as rosy as Schawbel makes out, with the world’s giants – including Amazon, Apple, Google, IBM, Honda and a number of Chinese businesses – ranking among the most opaque, according to a report by Transparency International. That suggests it’s likely to take more than just the next year for the big global players to properly step out of the darkness. Until they do that, Schawbel’s prediction that the pay gap will ‘start to close’ in 2015 might actually prove to be overly optimistic.

Top 10 most transparent

What does seem to be on the cards for the year is a continued uptake of more agile working patterns, in line with the general trend away from traditional, straight career paths and toward increased employee freedom. Richard Branson sparked attention in 2014 when he introduced a policy allowing Virgin staff to take as much holiday as they like – mirroring a similar policy at Netflix, implemented in 2004. A host of tech start-ups have now jumped on board with the same idea, while the Swedish city of Gothenburg trialled a six-hour working day for its public sector staff earlier in the year. These initiatives seem to mark a general, and much-needed shift away from clock-watching toward actual productivity.

And these more open, innovative policies are no longer just limited to tech companies but are starting to seep into more traditional industries; following Branson’s announcement, London law firm Mishcon de Reya publicised plans for its own unlimited holiday policy alongside a three-day working week.

In 2015 that trend towards ever-greater employee freedom is likely to continue; it seems an appropriate indicator of the growing demand for flexible working among a rising digital generation hungry for variety and advancement.

Given those conditions, it’s clear the year is likely to be one of further change as the digital economy advances and cultural attitudes continue to undergo an important shift. As new technologies come into play and social media takes on an ever-greater role in business, companies must move fast if they are to keep up with the latest trends and compete on a global scale in 2015.

The headquarters of Netflix in Los Gatos, California. Netflix introduced an unlimited employee holiday scheme similar to Virgin’s back in 2004
The headquarters of Netflix in Los Gatos, California. Netflix introduced an unlimited employee holiday scheme similar to Virgin’s back in 2004