With the veritable "shocks" of 2016 still fresh in our collective memory - Brexit, Trump, animal fat in the new £5 notes - 2017 is set to be an interesting year.
Firstly, and obviously, flexible working will become a bigger business, but not for obvious reasons. The 2017 debate will steer away from whether to allow flexible working or not, and focus purely on how to implement it. The best employers in the UK have cottoned on to this and are doing amazing things. But what about those companies who have yet to pull their heads out of the sand? Well, in 2017 and beyond, they're likely to go the way of the dinosaurs as the battle for talent will be won or lost under the standard of flexible working.
Secondly, there were some serious wins for gender diverse leadership in 2016 - Theresa May and Emma Walmsley to name but two - but these headlines are unlikely to grace our papers in 2017, for a number of reasons:
• The Davies Review has been replaced by the Hampton-Alexander Review - rather than focussing on female directors on FTSE boards - which could be seen as a bit easy and a bit meaningless - the Hampton-Alexander's targets focus on executive directors and senior managers in the FTSE 350. These new targets will prove more difficult to achieve, even if they are a more scalable and admirable targets than their predecessor.
• Ethnicity and socioeconomics will overtake gender - don't let this make you think gender diversity isn't an important issue, it is, but with half of the workforce being female, the focus will shift to ensuring the work populace is more ethnically and socioeconomically diverse. An equally important goal.
• Society needs to do its fair share of changing - the pressure on companies to diversify their workforce has been steadily increasing and gaining some ground, but this has failed to catch on to the same degree in general society. Firstly, let's see a sharp increase in male childcarers and female engineers before counting 2017 as a win for gender diversity.
Thirdly, technology will come on in leaps and bounds, making the lives of working parents and carers a whole host more manageable. We've already developed our new backup care booking app so parents can book emergency care at the touch of a button when their usual care breaks down. From its launch, we've already seen 10% of our bookings come via the app, and this is set to jump up in 2017.
Likewise, talent retention will become more of a digital business. Retaining all those valuable parents going on parental leave will be made easier for employees as online platforms dominate the leave, during and return phases. It'll become a normal part of the HR infrastructure and will give a whole new generation of parents the power to control their leave and the sureness of a confident return.
And lastly, childcare. 2016 was a fairly miserable year when considering the laughably shambolic 30 hours of free childcare. It fell on its face, and for very good reasons. 2017 will be different, however.
We'll see a hard-nosed minister step up to the plate - think Caroline Dinenage - and scrap the scheme altogether, channelling the funds into the much more appropriate scheme of Tax Free Childcare; spelling the end for Childcare Vouchers once and for all. We'll also see a sharp rise in the number of childminders - the cheapest and most flexible childcare out there - as they fill the void left by the odd nursery closure. A positive move for all those working parents out there.Suggest a correction