The annual trends report from Fjord—a design and innovation consultancy within Accenture Song—is among the most anticipated pieces that Accenture publishes each year. In this series of blog posts, I will look at the seven trends Fjord identifies in its 2018 report with a focus on what they mean for the human resources (HR) function in financial services (FS) firms.

Fjord highlights ‘tension’ as the overall theme driving its key trends for this year. The authors note that we are living in an age of polarization and tensions—social, political, economic. There is also the profound effect of technological change and its effect on society. What happens to workers displaced by automation? What does privacy mean in an age of big data? How do organizations keep up with an on-demand economy?

As Fjord puts it: “Each of our trends is born out of a fundamental tension, whether it’s a shift, a disagreement, a collision or a definitive rift in ideas. Digital versus physical, human versus machine, centralized versus decentralized, speed versus craft, automation versus control, traceability versus anonymity.”

I will be looking at each of the seven trends in more detail in the weeks to come—they are as follows:

  • Physical fights back: Digital has had the limelight long enough—there are two experience headliners now. The time has come to blend the digital with the physical.
  • Computers have eyes: As well as comprehending our words, computers now understand images without any help from us. This brings huge opportunities for next generation digital services.
  • Slaves to the algorithm: How do you design a strategy to win over the algorithms—immune to all conventional branding efforts—that sit between brands and their customers?
  • A machine’s search for meaning: AI might change our jobs but need not eliminate them. We can—and should—design our collaboration with the machines that will help us develop.
  • In transparency we trust: Blockchain has the potential to create transparency that will clear the fog of internet ambiguity, win back lost trust, and repair relationships with the public.
  • The ethics economy: Organizations must proactively demonstrate what they stand for, whether they want to or not. People will choose the brands that align with their own beliefs.
  • Design outside the lines: Designers need to evolve—how they work, learn, and differentiate themselves—if they are to continue having an impact across organizations.

HR teams in FS organizations can use these trends as a map to navigate the digital landscape as they seek to improve employee engagement, enhance productivity, harness innovation and design the adaptive workforce of the future. The way they traverse today’s tensions—regulatory, technological, human—and design for positive, long-lasting change will in no small way determine the future of their organizations.

In my next blog post, I will consider how the ‘Physical Fights Back’ trend is manifesting in the FS HR environment. In the meantime, you can explore Fjord’s trends in more detail here.

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