Reflections on 2017: Your 2018 Wake Up Call

Before we slide into 2018, and this may be premature, but it’s not; it’s worth looking back at 2017. Calling it a volatile year is an understatement.  This was a tipping point, “sea of change”, seminal year. Pay attention as the paradigm has shifted. So, if you didn’t get the memo, here it is and consider yourself warned. We made a list and suggest you check it twice.

Harassment. 

At the top of the list is making sure you’ve got your workplace in order. You know exactly what I’m talking about.  Any type of harassment is verboten. Period! And it’s about time the cone of silence is over. This applies to both sides of the equation. If you haven’t sussed out your team and done your diligence, get cracking. First, monitor your workplace. If you don’t frequently get out among your employees, start. Talk to them about the work environment. Secondly, take all complaints seriously. If someone complains about sexual harassment, act immediately to investigate the complaint. The NOLO legal network advises, if the complaint turns out to be valid, your response should be swift and effective. Finally, adapt a clear sexual harassment policy. If you don’t have one, get advice and put one in place.

Data Breaches.

While we’re talking about getting your work house in order, take a closer look at your software/technology house. 2017 was a year of shocking data breaches and another wakeup call to business owners everywhere. Again, this is going to sound like a broken record (and the old school analogy is apropos), but being aware is the first step. Be more prepared than ever (and invest) to prevent privacy and data breaches. Do a top to bottom review inclusive of core system protection, encryption, real-time system alerts, system scans, and top notch firms who can review your systems. It’s painful but worth the diligence. There are lots of solutions out there and credit card fraud is also at the top of the list. One of my personal favorites is the Kount system for fraud in the ecommerce arena. If something does go array, be transparent. Some companies have had their images so tarnished that they’ve even checked two boxes this year — harassment and lack of transparency. They are going to pay dearly.

OMNI Channels.

Let me add a little more pain to the list. The retail world has been turned upside down. Retail is not necessarily dead, it’s just changed. It’s an OMNI channel world and retail is being reinvented top to bottom. If you’re not prepared, then get started. Start by focusing your company-wide efforts on your online face. Update your site. Review everything from the design, with mobile versus desktop driving design. While you’re at it, review the checkout experience, add multiple payment methods, check your cart abandonment rates, and then focus on your backend operations. Your fulfillment experience is critical as consumers expect a new level of responsiveness. You need a 3PL that can service web, retail, showrooming, call centers, and strong international shipping options. Note to outdated 3PL’s, your days are numbered.

Employee Benefits.  

Another hot topic is how to lower work force turnover and be more responsive to the needs of an increasingly millennial workforce. Flexibility and reviewing work spaces can go a long way to improving the environment. Your checklist should include reviewing work hour flexibility, offering remote work options, adding personal days after especially grueling work periods, creating idea-sharing, open-space work environments (as this is a generation who works well in groups), and possibly expanding health benefits with a focus on health and wellness.  With new startups declining in 2017, this is a window of opportunity to retain valued employees.

Inquisitive Consumers.

The questions are coming fast and furious as consumers what real answers on work conditions to sustainability. If you are not already familiar with the SA 8000 which is auditable certification standard that encourages organizations to develop, maintain, and apply socially acceptable practices in the workplace, familiarize yourself with it. Two other hot buttons are quality assurance standards and sustainability. Make sure to assign accountability to experts in those areas who monitor results and get regular reports and do onsite visits.

If this list seems insurmountable, it’s not. The best methodology is to prioritize which issues are top on your list and then assign specific time periods to tackle them. As my Do.List app constantly reminds me, keep it manageable. More than 10 tasks (in a day) is too many, and more than 10 major projects in a quarter is probably also not doable.  Divide and conquer to make 2018 a banner year.


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