Building resilience to meet the global megatrends: what do you need to know?

Image of globe made up of jigsaw pieces which equate to megatrends happening all over the world.

Key takeaways

  • The four big global megatrends are climate change, tech advancements, shifting demographics and urbanisation.
  • Each of these megatrends have global impacts on society, business and individuals.
  • By harnessing innovation we can build resilience and turn these megatrends into opportunities.

In a world that is in the grip of some huge megatrends, it can be hard to stay hopeful and gain a sense of control, especially when it appears the outcomes of such trends are purely negative.

As L&D professionals, you have the power to support your organisation to navigate the choppy waters of the megatrends. How? By empowering your people and equipping them with the knowledge and skills to adapt, and flourish in this new environment.

By tapping into our resilience and adaptive capabilities, it becomes possible to not only regain control but also to leverage these trends to bring about a positive evolution. This process allows us to future-proof our societies, communities, and organisations.

In this blog, we’ll look at the four big megatrends facing our world, and the issues associated with them, before flipping them on their head. We’ll also examine business initiatives that have mixed innovation and resilience to turn potential adversity into opportunity, giving you some inspiration (and a bit of hope) to address these global problems.

The four major megatrends that will affect our world on a global scale

  1. Climate change
  2. Technological advances
  3. Demographic shifts
  4. Urbanisation

Let’s take a deeper look at each of these megatrends in more detail below:

Megatrend #1: Climate change

Climate change is undeniably one of the most pressing megatrends of our time, changing how we interact with our environment, and shaping the choices we make. And it makes sense, the environment we live in is being reshaped before our eyes. You might feel it in that scorching hot day in a normally mild summer, or that mega rainstorm that battered the UK, or even the eery silence of a spring day without the background chirruping of insects. While, the effects on our society might be less subtle, they’re just as profound, and if we’re to move forward, we need to find a collective solution.

The impact

A climate crisis, and a social crisis

Climate change is a global crisis, but it disproportionately effects the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Ironically, only one- tenth of the world’s greenhouse gases are emitted by the 74 lowest income countries, yet these are the areas most effected by climate change. By 2050 unchecked climate change might force more than 200 million people to migrate within their own countries.

In the poorest economies, people’s livelihoods are even more intricately linked to the environment, providing a source of food, water, and an income.  Climate change throws this delicate balance in to turmoil, with extreme weather events destroying food and water sources, as well as the land communities rely on. In fact, studies  show climate change could drive — 130 million into poverty by 2030, and crop yield losses could mean that food prices would be 12% higher on average in sub-Saharan Africa.

A gender issue

It’s easy to feel disconnected from the distant consequences of climate change. We might only see them through the colourful pixels of a television, or hear about them on the news, both of which we have the privilege of being able to switch off from.

Yet, we are simultaneously a society that cares hugely about social equality and gender. We simply can’t have a conversation about gender equality without acknowledging that right now climate change is disproportionately affecting women and girls.

Not only do they constitute most of the world’s poor (who are the most affected group) but the effects of climate change reinforce existing gender issues. Food shortages due to flooding and droughts can slip families into poverty, resulting in girls being taken out of education early. They’re also more likely to end up in domestic work, or early marriage.

Furthermore, with nine out of ten countries enforcing laws that impede women’s economic opportunities, women’s income (and their independence) is even more closely tied to the health of our planet. While men may be able to turn to alternative forms of work, such as factory work, office-based work, or city-based work, women are often restricted to work that ties them to the land. They may have to be close to their family, as they carry out their second (unpaid) role as a carer. Or they may be restricted by laws which prevent them from certain jobs, working at certain times, or even getting a job without the permission of their husband.

Building resilience a case study  Patagonia

You might know Patagonia as the environmental guru of the outdoor clothing industry. With values like integrity, environmentalism, and justice , Patagonia is trailblazing the way for environmental consumerism.

But it wasn’t always like that. What started out as a blacksmiths business creating rock climbing equipment, soon turned into the largest supplier of climbing gear in the US, and an environmental villain, which damaged rockfaces and disfigured crags. Patagonia’s first step towards a resilient future, one that cared for the environment was to swap their materials for aluminium wedges that minimised the damage to the planet. And the results paid off — their chocks ended up selling faster than they could be made.

This first step on the road to a sustainable future, led to Patagonia investing in multiple environmental projects. The first of these was the Ventura river project, where they funded Mark Capelli, a biology student, to protect the river and it’s vital habitat. Today, they make regular donations to small groups working to save and restore habitats, hold workshops to teach activism skills, and assess their supply line to see where they can minimise environmental damage. Through their innovative thinking, Patagonia has remained resilient in the face of environmental challenges, future proofing their business by protecting the planet in which they rely on for resources .

Takeaways

Whether your organisation has direct ties to the planet or not, when we strip everything back, every business relies on the natural world for the resources they use, the health of the people they employ, and foundations on which they build our businesses’ future. If they can recognise the inextricable link between their growth, and the health of the planet, there is hope that we can build future development from the foundations of a healthy earth.

Megatrend #2: Technological advances

From AI to automation, vaccines to virtual reality, and driverless cars, we’ve witnessed massive breakthroughs in tech in recent years. It’s important to acknowledge the myriad of benefits that tech has brought us; we now have wider access to knowledge, we’ve revolutionised productivity, and we can access data, innovative new ideas and processes that benefit society. And yes, while these may have transformed the way we work, interact, and live our lives, we need to look beyond the immediate impact of this megatrend and investigate the long-term impacts of living and working alongside these digital innovations.

The impact

Talent

The tech we use today has completely changed the way we work and interact with one another. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated our global digital transformation, and now we’re more tech-savvy than ever. Once time-consuming admin processes are now being rapidly automated, and hours of brainstorming have been transformed into rapid bursts of innovation, aided by AI.

However, with all this technological advancement, organisations will need to rethink the talent they need to recruit, and the skills they’re people will need to be equipped with. Today, collaboration doesn’t just mean working with fellow humans, teamwork now involved working alongside machines and AI.

Yet there’s a wide gap between the demand for people with the necessary skills to take advantage of these tech advances, and the available talent. In a survey of 3.5 million job postings in tech trends it was found that many of the skills in greatest demand have less than half as many qualified practitioners per posting as the global average. Organisations are finding that they just don’t have the talent with the appropriate skills. Those who have the digital literacy to work alongside this tech will be in high demand. However, on the flip side, now there is much more emphasis on the value of leaders and workers with the skills that AI lack, namely; emotional intelligence, communication, empathy and innovation.

While there’s lots of talk surrounding job loss as a result of AI, the demand for such specific digital skills can actually mean a flurry of job openings, but only for those who embrace the new digitised world.

Data

Worryingly, the use of algorithms can actually reinforce and amplify unconscious biases in humans. For example, whoever programmes or instructs a piece of technology may have an unconscious bias which is then written in to the algorithm. When applied in contexts such as hiring, recruitment, or medical procedures, these biases can inadvertently influence outcomes and perpetuate systemic inequalities.

Take Amazon’s automated recruitment system, which was intended to judge if someone was suitable for a role by looking at previous resumes. Women had previously been underrepresented in technical roles, so the AI system thought that male applicants were more suitable, making it biased against women. Relying heavily on technology, especially for significant decision-making processes, carries profound implications for diversity, inclusion, and equity . 

Equity

As we continue to advance our use of technology, there is a risk that we inadvertently create a divide between who has access, and who doesn’t. This gap is known as the ‘digital divide’, and it can be categorised in to three types:

  1. Access divide (do people have access to the tech?).
  2. Use divide (do people have the skills to use it?).
  3. Quality of use (is the tech they are using good enough for them to reap the benefits?).

The digital division can exacerbate socio-economic and gender inequalities, and is categorised as a form of social exclusion, as it deprives certain people of essential resources for wealth development by preventing them from tapping in to the growing digital and tech market. 

Building resilience: a case study — The University of Southern Carolina

It’s not all bad — when we use tech responsibly, it can bring innovative ideas and solutions to life, helping humanity stay resilient in the face of some of the global issues of today. The University of Southern California Centre for Artificial Intelligence uses an unmanned aerial vehicle to spot poachers and locate animals. The data collected by the drone is sent back to be analysed by machine learning tools that use game theory to help predict poacher and animal activity.

Takeaways

Tech might seem a scary prospect right now. And with all the talk of job loss, cyber threats, and talent shortages you wouldn’t be blamed for feeling cautious. But it’s all too easy for organisations to inadvertently trap themselves within this echo chamber of negativity.

In fact, the businesses that will thrive in this new digital age, are the ones who are able to look beyond this, and design innovative methods to tap in to the rich potential technology holds. If they do, they can unlock a force for good, both for society and their organisation.

Megatrend #3: Demographic shifts

Globally, population growth is slowing. Yet, take a closer look, and the statistics split in to two camps. Part of the world is growing (Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia), and another is shrinking (Europe and Russia). However, what unites both camps is ‘longevity’. Today, the older generation (65 and above) comprises the fastest growing group, and combined with declining fertility rates, the demographics of society are shifting…

The impact

Demographics impact business

As shifting demographics pulls the balance away from the younger population, and towards an older demographic, the amount of working age people reduces. Businesses find it increasingly hard to hire talent, and even more so with the up-to-date skills needed to drive business forward.

Competition for talent rises, and increasingly, businesses are turning towards tech, automation, and AI to fill the skills gap, and perform tasks or augment roles that don’t match the skillsets of the ‘silver economy’.

Demographics impact society

We currently live in an ageist society. Look around you, and you’ll see multiple design features and hidden social biases which simply push the aged to the fringes of society.

To adapt to shifting demographics, we must undergo a cultural 360. In fact, a study in America there was a pattern between ageist states and higher levels of medical costs, lower access to care and lower community engagement levels. And with an aging population placing a greater strain on the health-care system, plus issues such as loneliness and social isolation, maybe rethinking our culture is the way forward.

In India, it is normal to have an extended family all living under the same roof, with the elders supported by younger members of the family, ensuring the elderly remains a part of the community. By creating supportive environments where older individuals feel valued and included, communities can alleviate pressure on medical services. Additionally, strong social networks enable individuals to identify and address minor health concerns early on, preventing them from escalating into more significant issues.

And the benefits are two-fold. When older generations become a central part of our communities, we tap into years of knowledge and experience, and disperse these learnings among our society. Communities can become more stable, as older people are more likely to set up social initiatives such as community groups, skills classes, and charitable events. What’s more, extended family members are integral in passing traditions down through the generations, which can have huge significance across the globe.

Building resilience: a case study — IBM

IBM, a multinational tech company, has deployed a reverse mentoring programme. Older employees are paired with younger, tech-savvy workers to gain insights into new technologies and trends. While the younger employees benefit from the wisdom and experience of their mentors, the older members in turn learn relevant and up-to-date skills that can help them continue to progress their career.

Not only does this promote upskilling, but it also promotes a more cohesive multi-generational workforce, enhancing innovation and knowledge sharing.

Takeaways

Organisations strive to be driven. Forward thinking, visionary and progressive are all words that might come to mind when mapping the future. Yet looking backwards, to past generations, can uncover transformative insights and learning — and even hold the key to future growth.

Megatrend #4: Urbanisation

It is estimated that by 2030, 60% of the world’s population will live in cities. Compare this to the 1800s, where around 8% lived in urban areas and you can see that we are drawn towards the bustling culture and bright lights of the cities, and at a rapid pace. More than 80% of global GDP is generated in cities.

The impact

Urbanisation is a climate issue

As we migrate to cities, the way in which they are structured and set out matters. Not only does urban expansion require more resources from our dwindling supply, it also taxes the planet with the energy, food and water requirements, and the waste it produces.  In 2020, urban areas collectively contributed to about ¾ of CO2  emissions, and urban land expansion is one of the primary drivers of habitat and diversity loss.

Urban sprawl is a huge problem, low-density, haphazard development that spirals out of the main urban areas. The buildings spilling out into the surrounding green spaces can disproportionately affect the ecology surrounding the city. Sprawl can cause an increased carbon footprint, increased energy use and pollution and congestion. In fact, low density cities are less efficient increasing their already large appetite for C02 and other vital resources. Today, cities must be built and designed with purpose. We need our cities to be resource efficient, biodiversity friendly, climate resilient, and equitable. 

Health

We all know that our planet’s temperature is rising, but these are exacerbated in urban environments, where the tall built up areas are good at trapping heat. This heat comes from the crowds of people, cars, buses, and trains, and it gets trapped at the lower levels due to the tall buildings. So-called ‘heat islands’ also often have worse air quality and more pollutants, which are prevented from dispersing by the urban landscape. In fact, 91% of people in urban areas breathe polluted air. Other health conditions relate to poor nutrition and the accessibility of unhealthy food choices, while non communicable diseases like heart disease, asthma and cancer can be made worse by unhealthy living conditions.

However, health outcomes can vary hugely simply based on which area of a city you live in. Urbanisation can increase health inequalities. The economic status of where you live, the levels of pollution, the density and access to healthcare can all effect the standard of living. The health effects of urbanisation can disproportionately affect poor and marginalised communities. Simply between 2 adjacent neighbourhoods in Clapham, the difference in life expectancy can be as much as 10 years.

Building resilience: a case study Hamburg

Hamburg has used urban planning strategies to tackle some of the key issues facing megacities today, one of which is flooding. The green roof strategy has already led to more than 140 hectares of green roofs in the city, which act as a sponge and absorbs rainwater, slowing its release into the sewage system. The roofs will also help with the effects of pollution and increase biodiversity.

Takeaways

For many organisations who have put their roots down in the bustle and bright lights of the city, future-proofing our urban areas is an often forgotten necessity for the security of business. It could be as simple as investing in community projects, giving employees time to spend giving back to the area, or building green spaces amongst the buildings and concrete.

Final thoughts

It’s possible to get  sucked in to a vortex of negativity when we hear about the implications of megatrends in the news or media. It might seem easy to sit back and think ‘there’s nothing I can do.’

Yet, at their heart, the global megatrends are people issues — they effect us all. For businesses, upskilling employees with the most relevant skills to adapt to, is one of the simplest things they can do to future-proof themselves, and their people. Our examples have shown that there is hope, and with a bit of resilience and innovation, we can flip these megatrends on their heads, and transform them into a force for good.

Workshop

Inclusion matters

As ways of working shift and develop, it is important that your understanding of what it means to be an inclusive workplace develops too.

Workshop

My wellbeing

Now more than ever, it’s important that we are equipped with the knowledge and skills to work in a way that prioritises our wellbeing.

Workshop

Resilience

In our fast paced world, the workplace demands more and more from us. Being strong in the face of challenges and bouncing back from setbacks is all in the power of a resilient mindset.

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