Unpack the future trends shaping a lucrative year for independent consulting powerhouses
2024 has all the signs to become the best year yet for solo consultants and boutique consulting firms. The year is going to be filled with more opportunities than ever. There will also be challenges for some, especially if you have a small client base and can’t seem to grow it any further or you are trying all of the marketing tactics that seem to work for all of the other businesses but don’t work for you.
US businesses will continue to grapple with increasingly complex challenges. While there are many, I keep my eye on these top three to look at for consultants:
Brands will be focusing on this despite economic uncertainties, with a spotlight on adapting strategies, experimenting, and honing in on profitable avenues. An essential part of this growth will be managing privacy correctly.
Trends suggest a push by consumers for innovation, which could lead to a reshaping of the retail industry. For example, in 2024, I expect a significant uptick in the use of augmented reality (AR) and computer vision in the retail sector, with predictions of a 50% increase in their usage.
AI and automation are also set to redefine the digital marketing space. The sophistication of these technologies will continue to climb, leading to elevated efficiency and heightened personalization. Furthermore, as voice-activated devices become more prevalent, optimizing content for voice search will be crucial.
However, there's a note of caution with social media. A perceived decline in the quality of these platforms may lead to half of consumers reducing their usage significantly. I am one of them. This is partly due to concerns about the spread of misinformation by generative AI. I expect LinkedIn to be least impacted, but X, TikTok, and Facebook? I do not see it.
The global workforce has grown to love the flexibility that remote work offers, allowing them to manage their personal and professional lives better. They will continue to resist returning to the office because it often means a return to less flexible hours, longer commutes, and returning to the stress and rigidity of office environments.
Many employees feel they are more productive when working remotely, contrary to some prominent executive beliefs. They fear that returning to the office might disrupt their newfound productivity and work-life balance.
That’s why companies will increasingly have to support flexible work hours, invest in efficient work management tools, emphasize mental health, and educate employees on setting clear boundaries between work and personal life.
Cloud technology is crucial to make all of that happen. It offers accessibility, flexibility, and integration with remote access tools that ensure that team members can work efficiently irrespective of their location.
Remote access tools are becoming essential as they enhance productivity, security, and flexibility for distributed workforces. But which ones to choose? How do small business owners evaluate features like high-speed connectivity, end-to-end encryption, and cross-platform compatibility?
Personally, I always wonder, why any small business opts to work with Microsoft Teams. But that’s subject to another conversation.
But let’s not forget the need for robust cybersecurity, including advanced endpoint security, multi-factor authentication, and AI-enhanced threat neutralization.
There will be a strong movement toward environmental consciousness among companies. The EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive will require over 50,000 companies to disclose the impact of their operations on nature.
This regulation is set to extend to even more companies in subsequent years, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 80% of the Global 2,000 companies will be recording and reporting their carbon data using quantifiable metrics of their environmental impact, marking a significant increase from 50% today.
As nations confront climate change. This renewable energy boom will likely continue to alter the global energy delivery infrastructure profoundly. 2024 could be a turning point for technological sustainability. Innovations in solar power and eco-friendly gadgets are set to lead the trends.
Cross-functional partnerships that leverage technology, policy, and finance in support of the growth of the clean energy market are likely to become as unusual as seeing someone wearing a mask at Costco.
Some industries, such as healthcare, non-profit, and education will continue to strive to create more inclusive workplaces. The return-to-office policies may affect DEI outcomes, with implications for employee burnout, turnover, and engagement.
In 2023, CHROs began addressing the "unadjusted pay gap" and are expected to continue this into 2024, as it becomes a crucial metric for fair and equitable treatment in companies. Performance reviews, traditionally biased, will pivot towards a data-driven approach to mitigate these biases and foster diverse, high-performing workplaces.
Performance reviews will evolve as CHROs leverage data analytics to overcome biases that affect career progression. Pay explainability will differentiate companies, as they must now justify compensation practices and career opportunities. Because pay equity and career equity are now seen as interconnected, CHROs will have to communicate this integration to stakeholders, influencing corporate narratives and business growth.
Pay insights will decentralize, empowering front-line managers and recruiters with the information necessary for fair pay decisions, facilitated by advanced data analytics.
AI's integration into HR will mature, moving from experimental to strategic use. CHROs must ensure AI use aligns with policy and strategy, maintaining human oversight for decision-making in HR processes.
Overall, the synergy between pay equity and career equity is becoming more pronounced, with increased disclosure requirements and pressure from various stakeholders pushing companies towards more equitable practices they’ll increase their search for cutting-edge expertise that specialized consultants bring to the table.
Given these trends, let’s look at what types of consulting services might become under pressure in 2024. In general, here are a few areas where demand will decrease based on current trends:
Remember, these predictions are based on current trends and could change with new technological advancements, economic shifts, or unexpected global events. It's also worth noting that as some areas decrease in demand, others will rise, creating new opportunities for consultants to adapt and thrive in changing markets. Always keep an eye on the market, continue learning, and be ready to pivot your services to areas of growing demand.
Then here is where I see increased momentum:
Boutique consulting firms that can offer expertise in these areas will likely see increased demand. This could include helping companies develop sustainable business strategies, implement social impact initiatives, or navigate regulatory requirements related to environmental and social issues.
Given all that, here are my predictions about what businesses will increasingly look for in boutique consultants in 2024 and where opportunities are:
Are you ready to adapt and thrive? What will it take for you to find your sweet spot in 2024? Consider doubling down on what’s already part of your offering, pivoting to a new consulting direction, or repositioning yourself.
Many potential areas of specialization can help boutique consulting firms get the boost they want in 2024. Here are just a few examples:
The list could potentially expand as new trends and technologies emerge. And of course, this list does not factor in uncertainties of a looming climate catastrophe and caustic elections in the US.
Precisely because of that, to speak with Kenney Chesney, we’ll need to build a better boat. That includes refining our sweet spot with every change that impacts our ability to grow and thrive.
What I asked all of my clients to do now is two things:
And if you’d like some help defining your sweet spot in 2024, book a Sweet Spot Momentum Call with me: https://www.teamlawless.com/schedule-pumpkin-plan-momentum-call with me. It’s free.
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