On December 8th 2021 AllAfrica participated in a global media webinar with Marian Salzman, an internationally recognized communicator and one of the world's top trendspotters. In fact, her annual trends reports are eagerly anticipated as they deal with life-changing topics such as corporate (Marian Salzman is also Senior Vice-President of Global Communications at Philip Morris International), education, science, technology, culture, digital world and more.
In her 2020 report, she suggested that "we make peace with uncertainty" as the world was facing the first months of Covid-19 global pandemic. In her new report titled: '22 for 2022: measuring up what we thought we knew', she has chosen to share 22 trend sightings for 2022. She says: "If we could name one shift of this past year that stands above all others, it would be that 2021 has made us question lots of things we had taken for granted. The picture of America as a shining beacon of democracy and equality; the concept of a 9-to-5 job bracketed by commutes; the beckoning lights of big-city living--these are but a few examples of 'truths' no longer seen as quite so solid."
For the thought leader, one of the positive effects of this unprecedented situation is the growing awareness and seriousness around mental health. For her, "the common ground between wealthier countries and Low and Middle-Income countries, is anxiety" She expanded by stating "As the world gets wiser to these so-called diseases of despair, the time is ripe for the widespread adoption of programs, tools, and technologies that tackle problems and foster good mental health. Ever-present smartphones offer a vast range of standalone apps and a growing number of apps that work with wearable neurofeedback devices such as Mendi and Muse. Smart companies understand the benefits of minding the minds of their employees. Already, many major multinationals--such as Bristol Myers Squibb, Philip Morris International (PMI), and Whirlpool Corp.--are putting in place support systems for their workers, including employee resource groups (ERGs) that foster diverse and inclusive workplaces and create a closer feeling of community. Etsy offers employees unlimited mental health days."
In particular, the new generations are really aware of these topics, thanks notably to social media, and they are the ones grounded in a strong will for change:
"The generation coming of age under the dark skies of climate change, COVID-19, and uncertain-to-bleak economic prospects are not looking toward a future filled with promise and prosperity. Unlike their parents and grandparents, they do not expect their lives to be better than those of the generation that went before them. For many, that leaves two options: fighting for radical collective change or pulling up the drawbridge and looking out for number one (whether individually or by supporting nationalistic and nativist policies)"
New generations have unlimited access to global information and years to live and change what seems unbearable for them:
"Throughout the pandemic, the jobs and income of many millions of people were lost or suspended. Poverty and extreme poverty increased globally for the first time in 20 years... After decades of just accepting 'the way things are,' the public is becoming increasingly sensitized to inequities and less willing to tolerate them. This is going to shape political, social, and even corporate developments."
Another mutation foreseen by Marian Salzman deals with the conventional ways of working that have been vastly replaced by unconventional even disrupted ways of working. With the pandemic, the corporate world has accelerated this change and succeeded in adapting to the 'new normal' with smart work and greater flexibility, also facilitated by change agents and facilitators who are increasingly desired:
"Change agents will still have a role in the post-pandemic world-- these people are no less valuable--but another type of catalyst will also be in high demand. As organizations and employees experiment with infinite permutations of hybrid working, cohesion cultivators will bring the scattered parts together in new and fruitful ways--either from within the organization or as external consultants. These specialists will understand the workplace faults and unmet needs and opportunities that were revealed by the pandemic.
She added that "they will be skilled in fostering the right balance between creating space and flexibility and facilitating togetherness and structure. In a world where workers have become more discerning and aware of their value, the impact of cohesion agents will show up in key metrics of talent retention and employee satisfaction ratings. In the legislative and nonprofit spaces, in particular, we are seeing variations on this specialization crop up, including Chief Cohesion Officers, Community Cohesion Officers, and Social Cohesion Support Officers. Such positions and titles are certain to move into the corporate space in 2022 and beyond."
Covid-19 exacerbated inequity around the world
There were calls for solidarity and equity when Covid-19 hit the world last year.
Quoting the Financial Times in its article published in September 2020 that said: "We're in the same storm but not the same boat." Marian Salzman noted that, indeed, inequalities were even more present and widely spread by the pandemic:
"The world's wealthiest got wealthier. According to Credit Suisse, the global number of millionaires expanded by 5.2 million to reach 56.1 million in 2020... Money is just one aspect of the inequity that was revealed and exacerbated by the pandemic. Racial inequities made headlines and pushed corporations to action in 2020, especially in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. And as extreme weather events become more common, it is apparent that some countries and communities are more vulnerable than others. The glaring inequity of climate injustice is that high-income communities are responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions, yet the negative impacts are disproportionately suffered by low-income communities", she added.
These last two years, countries where poverty and inequality remain a major challenge faced the most difficult obstacles. Even if many of them have drawn in their human, organizational and traditional reserves to tackle the pandemic, the failing of solid healthcare systems and infrastructure pushed into poverty and vulnerability millions of people according to the World Bank.
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