2020 annual review: recap and trends
Executive Education / 15 December 2020
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Michelle Neumann is Marketing & Sales Coordinator Professional & Executive Education at Frankfurt School.

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If we dare to cast our minds back to December 2019, we find that the general mood was optimistic as people looked forward to the new decade. But then 2020 arrived – and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic severely tested our resilience, forcing us all to rapidly change the way we live and even the way we work. Here, we offer a brief recap of the year’s events and a look at the trends that will have a continuing impact on our personal (and professional) lives in 2021.

What has 2020 already changed?

Digital education: While this wasn’t (explicitly) a high priority before, 2020 obliged educational institutions to take rapid, practical steps to digitise their courses. In many places, digital teaching systems were highly successful, but elsewhere, online teaching and learning didn’t work at all. 2021 will see further developments on the way to true digital classrooms. Teacher training will also be needed to build the necessary digital skills and adapt lesson content to the ongoing technological transformation.

Remote working: One thing is certain – nobody will miss open-plan offices! Working from home (WFH) made huge inroads during 2020, showing companies that flexibility doesn’t just work, it actually increases employee motivation. Anyone who believes it will be easy to move from this new model straight back to a five-day office routine, however, is quite simply wrong. Specialists consider a 3-2-2 trend as the more likely scenario: three days in the office, two days of remote working, two days free (weekend).

Data protection: Remote working has also been the driving force behind further developments in data protection and digital security. Because so many employees now work from home or remotely, a number of important measures and data protection regulations have been put in place. GDPR led the way; more best practices will follow.

Technology: In many areas, deploying digital solutions has helped to keep social life running and enabled people to get on with their daily work. These include videoconferencing, digital learning, and apps for keeping track of attendance or stock levels in fitness studios and supermarkets. Since the coronavirus outbreak, novelties such as artificial intelligence, sustainable business models and blockchain have attracted considerable interest. The tech giants of our time have benefited hugely from the surge in digitisation – and forecasts suggest that demand will continue to rise.

Climate: COVID-19 has shut down tourism, both in Germany and abroad. This is good news for the climate. Cities became pleasanter to live in – the best example being Venice, where the canals suddenly appear much cleaner. Because public transport was deemed to be relatively unsafe, many people switched over to bicycles. The resulting mini-revolution has caused a burst of cycle-lane construction in major cities, paving the way for the consolidation of these new travel habits in the future. Remote working has eased rush-hour traffic and reduced congestion on the roads. On the downside, last year saw very little opportunity for climate strikes or demonstrations. So it’s important not to lose sight of issues such as Climate Catastrophe 2020, or Germany’s proposed law to phase out coal in 2021.

Globalisation: Globally distributed supply chains have been temporarily disrupted. But the pandemic showed that companies are perfectly capable of responding in appropriate ways. No doubt businesses will be considering whether to focus more heavily on domestic markets in the future, but experts believe this will have very little impact on globalisation as a whole.

What else we can expect in 2021?

Diversity, inclusion, equality: We’ve already addressed this issue in our blog post on the #SheTransformsIT initiative. Women in the workforce will be a top priority in 2021. Much has already been said on the visibility and equal treatment of women, and a number of changes have already been made. This isn’t just about diversity on paper – we’re talking about actual inclusion. Equally important: gender equality at work and in society as a whole should also include people with migrant backgrounds and disabilities, as well as the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalised groups.

Recession: There’s no question that 2020 represents something of an economic disaster. Economists fear that the impact on businesses in so many countries could herald a more wide-reaching recession. Systematic downsizing and the resulting unemployment are already a disturbing reminder of the last Great Recession between 2007 and 2009.

At least economic growth forecasts for Germany and Europe are not entirely pessimistic. If the right measures are taken to more effectively limit and rapidly control future waves of infection, they could actually help protect economies from the resulting impact.

Social commerce: Recent years have already seen a strong trend towards online shopping, and this gained even greater momentum in 2020. Especially now, as we face further lockdowns, virtual shopping is really the only option left to us. What’s more, innovations such as self-checkout models and cashier-free shops are transforming the bricks-and-mortar retail experience. Online and offline, people are benefiting from technological progress and changing patterns of behaviour.

Lifelong learning: While change can be painful, it is also inevitable – and the pandemic has accelerated the whole process. Jobseekers will face new challenges in the future, because the market will reserve the most interesting jobs for candidates who are clearly adaptable and ready to learn. This is why continuing education is increasingly essential. But: who will pay for it? The EU has responded by launching the European Skills Pact, in a bid to help companies build partnerships for continuing professional development (CPD) and retraining.

In 2021, Frankfurt School will continue to work alongside you as your expert partner. Our portfolio continues to grow, and you can count on our support – in person, online, or both!