5 Questions Forward-Thinking Leaders Are Asking Themselves Now

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

What will be the biggest challenge facing leaders in the next five years? It’s the same challenge that’s faced leaders since the beginning of time. It’s people. Ask any successful business owner and you’ll learn that the key to their success is always the people in their organization. This fact will always be the same, even as people dynamics change. Want to be surviving and thriving five years from now? Then make sure you’ve got the answers to these five questions about your people.

1. Am I fair?

A new report released Tuesday by the the U.S. Census Bureau says that more than half of the country’s children will be part of a minority race by 2020. The Bureau alsopredicted a few years ago that, by 2050, minorities in this country (that would be Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans, etc.) will be the majority and the number of residents over the age of 65 will more than double. Another report predicts as much as a third of the incoming CEO class will be made up of women by 2040. In 2013, thebuying power of America’s LGBT community was estimated at $830 billion. In the next five years your workforce will become more diverse. People will look different, dress different, practice different religions, come from different cultures and have different sexual orientations. They will be open, unabashed, and more self-confident to express their views. And they will expect to be treated fairly. Successful leaders will ensure that there are policies in place so that these expectations are met. Otherwise, these talented, hardworking, productive individuals will help someone else become successful.

2. Am I practical?

Statistics published in Fortune Magazine places the freelance population at over 42 million individuals. What’s even more astonishing is that some entrepreneurs speculate that the freelance population will quickly overtake traditional employees by 2020. Elance, a leading site for independent contractors, has seen its number of registered users grow from less than 4 million in 2012 to almost 10 million by the end of 2014. Outsourcing is established, accepted and a bona fide way for self-employed entrepreneurs and established business people to profit from each other. Over the next five years successful leaders will use a practical combination of independent contractors and full time employees to enable their companies to grow and prosper.

3. Am I flexible?

Despite Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer’s concerns, a recent report has found that “tele-working” has grown 80% since 2005 and another survey last year found a greater increase in the number of companies planning to offer telecommuting in 2014 than those offering just about any other new benefit. Thirty-six percent of employees surveyed would choose flexible work arrangements over a pay increase and 95 percent of employers say telework has a high impact on employee retention. The Pew Research Center reported that fathers have tripled their time with children since 1965. This is important. Successful leaders in 2020 will allow their people the ability to roam, travel, work from home, be on the road, move about and most importantly better integrate their work responsibilities with their personal lives to both theirs and their employers’ mutual benefit.

4. Am I current?

According to this great presentation Facebook has more than 1 billion users, 90 percent of all Internet traffic in 2017 will be video, mobile traffic as a percent of Internet traffic is growing 1.5x per year and the average U.S. adult spends 141 minutes a day using mobile devices. The next generation of workers will have grown up on social media, video and mobile and they will be expecting the same experience at their place of employment. They will not understand systems that are not on the cloud and that don’t provide immediate delivery of data anywhere and anytime. They will have little patience for systems where they cannot collaborate, share data and communicate freely and quickly. They are not used to printing things out, faxing paperwork and using a pen to write. They are on the move, with short attention spans and even less patience. They will expect their employer to provide technology that addresses these needs. To attract and retain the best talent, successful leaders in 2020 will have invested in systems that meet these expectations.

5. Am I generous?

In October, Apple announced new perks for its employees that included increased parental leave, a wellness center and paid time off for volunteer or charity work. Your company is not as big as Apple, but the compensation you pay your employees will grow ever more important over the next few years. And it’s not just money. Only 11 percent of Gen Y workers define having a lot of money as a definition of success,according to marketer Brian Solis. You will need to be more creative (and generous) in the perks you provide. This will not only be flex time as mentioned above but more vacation, free food in the office, discount programs, company teams, charitable activities and reimbursed training. Your flexibility, generosity and compassion to your employees will determine how successful you will be as a business owner in the next five years.

Why do CEO’s at big companies make so much money? It is not just vision and intelligence. It is because they are the most skilled of managers. They are leaders who are able to move thousands of people in the direction of their goals. And when it comes to their people, they are always fair, practical, flexible, current on technology and generous. This is how they succeed today. And this is how you will succeed over the next five years.

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