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Workplace trends

With TikTok under fire, brands are getting worried

While companies have long known that TikTok could be a risk, these concerns are becoming more tangible now that the House has passed a bill that would ban the social media platform in the U.S. unless its Chinese owner, ByteDance, sells it. As the debate heats up, brands that currently rely on the app to boost their sales – particularly those in the beauty, skincare, fashion, and health and wellness space – are especially stressed. For many, TikTok has become an integral part of their marketing strategy and sales funnels, both because the short videos are easy to digest and because the platform is relatively inexpensive. Additionally, TikTok Shop, which launched last year, allows shoppers to buy products directly through the app, making it an extremely popular sales platform among beauty and fashion brands. Thus, as some companies turn to contingency plans, others are just anxiously hoping legislators won’t go through with the ban.

China has a new plan and slogan to spur growth

The Chinese government is heavily promoting a plan to fix the country’s stagnant economy and offset the harmful impact of a decades-long housing bubble. While it comes with a fresh slogan, “new, quality productive forces,” experts say the plan greatly resembles China’s typical economic playbook – spurring innovation and growth through major investments in manufacturing, particularly in high-tech and clean energy, as well as robust spending on research and development. Additionally, Chinese officials have made numerous promises to stabilize the housing market, but apparently few details have actually been released about how this would work. Regardless, the new mantra is at least partly aimed at relieving concerns that American-led restrictions on high-tech exports to China would stunt its growth.

The AI corner

Apple and Google are exploring an AI partnership

Apple is in discussions with Google about utilizing Gemini, the search giant’s generative AI model, in its next iPhone, as the company races to embrace the increasingly critical technology. The partnership talks are still preliminary, and the exact scope of the potential deal has yet to be defined, according to insiders, but if it comes to fruition, it would extend one of technology’s most long standing partnerships. Apple has already faced criticism for being late to the AI game, and the pressure is even more on now that Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has promised investors that the company will introduce new AI capabilities this year. Experts say this partnership could be a win-win for the two companies, with Google filling a significant gap in Apple’s products, and Apple giving Google greater AI legitimacy and access to a much larger user base.

The AI talent race is heating up

A new study was released from the Marco Polo think tank, part of the Paulson Institute, indicating where the global AI talent pool currently stands. Per the study, the U.S. and China remain in a cutthroat race to dominate in AI, with American companies leading in breakthroughs that power products like ChatGPT and remaining the most desirable place to work among top-tier AI talent, while China is producing far more research and remains ahead in the depth of its AI talent pool. The UK, South Korea, and continental Europe have also started to raise their game as destinations for top AI researchers to work this past year, though they’re still lagging behind China and the U.S. Additionally, while India remains a significant exporter of top-tier AI researchers, it’s getting better at retaining its talent.

The right way to kick off Q2


It’s hard to believe that it’s the last week of Q1, 2024. With one fourth of the year nearly complete, it’s officially time to check in on progress, outline Q2 goals, reevaluate certain roles and responsibilities, and update relevant KPIs based on first quarter results.

And with cross-industry layoffs continuing and conversations about AI replacing human labor persisting, many workers are feeling stressed and uneasy right now. Amid so many changes and ongoing uncertainty, as a manager, it can be difficult to keep your team members’ spirits and motivation up.

So, how can you kick off Q2 in a way that empowers your team members?

Acknowledge team wins

Set aside some time to bring your team together to celebrate Q1 successes – big and small. When possible, try to reference real data and statistics relating to your team’s achievements, and give individual shoutouts that feel personal and authentic. This meeting is also a great opportunity to openly address obstacles that the group faced and give relevant team members the space to explain how they managed to navigate hurdles. Doing so sends a message that success can come in various forms, including strength and resiliency. Additionally, taking the time to recognize your team’s Q1 achievements promotes a sense of positivity, demonstrates that you really value their contributions, and can each individual feel more empowered to drive greater results going forward.

Connect to the big picture

70% of employees say their personal sense of purpose is defined by their work, and when their work feels meaningful, they perform better, are significantly more committed, and are about half as likely to look for a new job, according to McKinsey research. So, as you discuss Q2 plans and update team goals based on Q1 performance and current company focuses, make sure to help your team members understand how their efforts and key initiatives connect to the larger organizational priorities and vision. Use this time to openly lay out challenges the business is navigating and main areas of focus so that your team members can make informed and thoughtful decisions as they move into the new quarter, while recognizing the big-picture impact of their day-to-day work.

Address AI concerns

It’s no secret that many workers are afraid that AI is coming for their jobs. In fact, in a recent EY study, roughly two-thirds of U.S. employees reported feeling anxious about AI replacing them at work. However, while it’s clear that certain tasks and processes will, in fact, be handed over to AI in the coming years, experts are increasingly concluding that generative AI won’t replace most jobs. Rather, it’s expected to redesign roles and produce new responsibilities that involve more collaboration between people and technology. So, if your organization is placing a greater emphasis on implementing AI this year, it’s important to recognize that your team members play a crucial role in its successful integration. As a leader, be sure to address fear-based obstacles for your team in order to help them start to harness the potential of AI – encourage them to get acquainted with the tools, and try to empower them to work with this technology, rather than compete with it.

Convey confidence

As a manager, your employees often look to you to set the tone for the team, which is why projecting confidence and optimism about the next quarter can seriously influence the overall sentiment among your team members. While things are often uncertain and you likely won’t have all the answers, it’s important to highlight what you do know and emphasize relevant actions you’re taking to position the team in the best way possible. Try to lead with a good attitude and use optimistic language like “we’ve got this” and “I’m really excited about all of the things we’re going to accomplish together this quarter” to promote unity and positivity.

Loop them into goal setting
As you build out goals and strategies for Q2, make sure to give your employees the chance to weigh in and share their ideas as well. Ask each team member to prepare a brief overview of what they worked on in Q1, with relevant data and findings, that they can present to the rest of the team, and schedule time to brainstorm Q2 plans altogether. Research by the Workforce Institute revealed that 74% of employees report that they are more effective at their jobs when they feel heard, which is why it’s so important to give your employees the chance to share their input and voice about upcoming plans and strategies. Letting your team members be part of the goal-setting is a great way to bring everyone together and ensure greater buy-in.

Check in on team members

As you wrap up Q1 this week, schedule brief check-ins with each of your employees to assess the morale on your team and identify what may be needed from you as a leader in order to kick off a strong quarter. It’s worth noting that 47% of employees are more likely to share feedback anonymously, per The Workforce Institute, so you can also send out an anonymous survey to the whole team to give everyone space to give their honest input. This way, you can get a real sense for where your employees are at and determine the right ways to move forward. For example, if you come to understand that a lot of your team members are feeling like they don’t have enough time to get their actual work done due to so many meetings, perhaps you should spend some time reconsidering all of the meetings they’re currently expected to attend and marking more people as optional in Q2.

Schedule social time together

Research has long shown that when employees feel connected to one another, they are much more likely to contribute to their full potential and feel committed to their work. That’s why it’s always a great move to kick off a new quarter with a team outing – whether it’s a group lunch or a fun activity – to create some time away from the office for everyone to get to know each other better. Even if your team is remote, it’s still really nice to organize a fun group meeting to simply chat about non-work related topics and connect on a more personal level!

Water cooler chatter

Glassdoor has started to identify users. Many of those who use the site, which has long served as a space for anonymous employee reviews of companies, are reporting that their names and job titles have been added to their accounts without their consent.

“They do not care that this puts people at risk with their employers.”
Monica, Midwest-based software professional

The Bank of Japan has raised interest rates for the first time in 17 years to 0% as the country’s economy finally starts to show signs of growth. After years of low inflation and wage stagnation, this move makes it so that there are no longer any negative interest rates in the world.

“It’s another milestone in the normalization of monetary policy in Japan.”
Arnout van Rijn, Portfolio manager at Robeco

Question of the week

Last week’s answer: More than 50,000

This week’s question: How many collective minutes did users spend on TikTok each day in 2023?

Just for laughs

In-office attendance from space
Arielle is a writer and storyteller currently serving as a content marketing manager at When she’s not busy writing, you can find her walking outside for hours on end or planning her next travel adventure.

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