As the frenzy around the start of 2024 wears off, business owners and leaders must ensure that their trends watchlist for the remainder of the year includes more than technological advancements.

By Juanita Vorster, independent business strategist

Societal and behavioural trends can significantly impact the operations – and ultimately the success – of any business. Small and medium businesses are especially vulnerable if they are caught unawares.


Awareness and acceptance of neurodiversity

A notable trend gaining momentum is the increasing awareness, acceptance, and accommodations for neurodiversity in the workplace.

In 2024 business owners and leaders should challenge their perceptions of neurodiversity. The focus should shift to the potential strengths of neurodiverse employees like enhanced pattern recognition, unusually quick creativity, blunt honesty, and other elements that are crucial to working innovatively and resourcefully.

Fostering an inclusive environment that both acknowledges neurodiversity and adapts working conditions to the strengths and needs of neurodiverse individuals can become a key differentiating factor for a business.


Distracted employees

While employers strive for increased employee engagement and loyalty, the prevailing “cost of living crisis” is driving employees to seek ways to generate additional income in their spare time.

These longer working hours often lead to exhaustion which can in turn show up as distraction, disengagement, and even burn-out in employees at their primary workplace.

If businesses can’t afford to pay their employees more, adaptations to contracts and performance indicators could be considered. These adaptations could allow more transparent conversations – without fear of punishment – about the individual circumstances of each employee.



Businesses that have traditionally outsourced some non-core activities – often marketing, HR, and accounting services – should consider bringing the activities in-house with the assistance of AI.

On the other hand, businesses that offer services that can now be offered to some extent by AI tools must urgently reassess their offerings in the face of the resulting insourcing trend. It is now more critical than ever for these businesses to articulate their unique value proposition in a way that assists clients in making the outsourcing vs insourcing decision.


Knee-jerk decisions

In a world driven by viral sensations, knee-jerk reactions to capitalize on the latest trends can be tempting. It is however crucial to align such decisions with the overarching purpose of the business.

Business owners and leaders should avoid being seduced by opportunity into making panicked moves that might compromise long-term objectives in pursuit of short-term gains.


Social shaming

As members of the public shine their social media spotlight on practices and products that were once accepted without question, businesses increasingly run the risk of coming under viral fire for any negative impact caused by their raw materials, manufacturing processes, working conditions, and marketing tactics.

With a diverse workforce and client base spanning multiple generations, it’s imperative for business owners and leaders to not ban or ignore social media platforms. While the feedback shared online might not be fully accurate, it often contains elements that allude to the root cause of issues that are also on the mind of a wider client base.

Business owners and leaders should therefore remain attuned to any demographic shifts – and evolving behaviours – within their workforce and customer base. These shifts should be met with ongoing adaptation to product or service offerings and communication strategies accordingly.

The business landscape in 2024 demands a holistic approach that integrates technological, societal, and behavioural considerations. By remaining aware of these trends and their potential impact, business owners can position themselves to navigate the challenges and opportunities with more ease.