Flexibility: The pandemic has fundamentally changed what people expect from their employers, and flexibility is now table stakes. Gone are the days when folks struggle to manage work and their personal lives. Workers today need the ability to work remotely or have more flexibility during their shifts, and I think we’ll see more and more employers offering it.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Adam Robinson.

Adam Robinson is the co-founder and CEO of Hireology, driving his mission to help business owners make better hiring decisions using predictive data and innovative technology.

With more than 20 years of experience, Adam is a noted recruiting industry expert and speaker. He is the author of The Best Team Wins: Build Your Business Through Predictive Hiring, host of The Best Team Wins Podcast, and columnist for Inc.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.

Early in my career, I was fortunate to work for an early-stage company with a fantastic leader who took a chance on me, giving me the opportunity to perform in a high-impact management position. That opportunity, and the challenges that came with it, accelerated my professional development by ten years. It opened my eyes to what it really takes to manage at a high level and built my confidence in my own skills and capabilities.

That life experience is always top of mind in my role as CEO, and I’m constantly working to identify those high-potential individuals in our company who have the ability to take on big opportunities. I’ve never regretted doing so.

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

I think 10–15 years from now we will still have workplaces (whether in-person or virtual) made up of folks who truly care about their jobs and find happiness and fulfillment in what they do. And that these groups of individuals will still come together to build awesome things or make a difference in the lives of their customers and clients every day.

But what I think will be different is that it will be the norm for employers to provide even more flexibility and career advancement opportunities so that folks won’t have to compromise on their family and personal lives in order to succeed at work and vice versa. The pandemic has shown us that balancing work and life as we knew it before the Covid outbreak is really tough for most people, but especially working parents. So increased flexibility is going to be something that we’ll see more widely incorporated into employers’ branding and recruitment marketing efforts.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

Spend some time deeply understanding the needs and expectations of your target employee. Every organization is different and is looking for different types of folks so there really isn’t blanket advice I can provide. What matters is that you learn what they want out of work and what would make them choose a competitor (or even choose to not work at all) over working for you. And then pledge to take that feedback seriously and incorporate it into your business.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

The biggest gap between what employees want and what employers are willing to offer is flexibility. People have had a lot of time to re-evaluate their lives and they want to be able to work fulfilling jobs that they love, but they also want to have a balanced personal life alongside that. And they aren’t willing to compromise there. So, employers need to offer flexibility wherever they can. If you’re a company that can offer remote work options, you need to do so. Period. If you’re not one (think: retailers, hotels, restaurants) then you need to prioritize some alternatives — maybe you have more flexible scheduling or you make room for people to come and go during their shifts for things like childcare or other life responsibilities.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

The last two years have already profoundly influenced the future of work. Employers and employees alike have realized that we can work productively from wherever and that there is no need to force folks to be in an office setting five days a week and compromise their mental health and personal lives. So, I don’t think we will ever go back to the “before times” given the results of this experiment. That said, I do believe there is value in personal connection and face-to-face interaction and that in-person work will return — but in a different capacity. For example, at Hireology our team has the freedom to work remotely, but we fly everyone into our headquarters in Chicago twice a year for a weeklong planning and team building event.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

I think it’s understanding that for workers, home and work are not always two separate things. For most people it’s just “life.” And so, employers need to realize that if you’re not making it as easy as possible for folks to manage both aspects of life, they’re going to find employment and income elsewhere.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

Based on my interactions with Hireology customers, my greatest source of optimism is that employers really do want to change and evolve for the better. They often come to us looking for ways to improve their recruiting and hiring processes so that they can better meet the needs of the workforce, attract great talent, and build their best teams. And I think it’s that open mindedness that is going to help us collectively improve work for the better.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

Addressing mental health is an absolute must as we consider the future of work. You have to deeply care about your employees as human beings — not only because when your team is healthy, they are happier and more productive, but also because it’s the right thing to do.

Some of the innovative strategies I see include: no questions asked mental health days, free access to counseling and other third-party resources, and perhaps most importantly, a fundamental shift in workplace culture to support mental health (think: no more long hours, bad managers, and toxic team environments).

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

The most important message leaders need to hear from these headlines is that folks aren’t going to work for you if you don’t truly listen to them. They have other options for income and work, and they do not need you. You have to show them that you can and will provide them with what they want. And that means things like prioritizing mental health, offering more flexibility, providing career growth opportunities, and fundamentally shifting your workplace culture. Your culture should be a place where folks can grow and contribute rather than a place that brings them stress and conflict with their personal lives.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Faster hiring processes: People don’t have the time to complete lengthy applications or go through 3–4 rounds of interviews for a job. And frankly, they don’t have to. They have so many options for work and have the upper hand that businesses need to make some changes to allow for a faster hiring process — or you’ll miss out on the best of the best.
  2. Modern hiring technology: Along those same lines, people don’t have the patience for outdated tools and technology. For example, they aren’t going to pick up phone calls from unknown numbers, instead they prefer text. Or, they don’t want to complete physical onboarding paperwork when it’s absolutely possible to do that type of stuff online.
  3. Recruitment marketing: At a time when job seekers have the upper hand, more and more HR teams are going to start adopting traditional marketing techniques in order to attract and win over top talent. So, look out for things like employers using Instagram and TikTok to attract workers. And employers prioritizing word of mouth recruiting via more robust employee referral programs.
  4. Flexibility: The pandemic has fundamentally changed what people expect from their employers, and flexibility is now table stakes. Gone are the days when folks struggle to manage work and their personal lives. Workers today need the ability to work remotely or have more flexibility during their shifts, and I think we’ll see more and more employers offering it.
  5. Mental health: Similarly, the pandemic has brought mental health issues to the forefront. As a society we have endured a lot in the last two years and employers have a responsibility to not only address that but offer resources for folks to take care of themselves — whether that’s mental health days, access to counseling, or improved workplace cultures.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

In my first job out of college, the President of our company made a comment that will always stick with me: “Your network is your net worth.” He went on to explain that, for him, every big opportunity in his professional life came from a relationship he had built at some point in his career. He coached me to consider thinking about relationships like bank accounts; in order to have anything of value to withdraw from that account, you have to be making deposits all along the way.

That conversation shaped my approach in a few very important ways. I do my very best to approach professional relationships, asking myself what I can do to help this person, or to create value for this person, with no expectation of reciprocity. And when I think of my biggest professional successes, I can always trace the genesis back to a relationship I’d built and maintained going back years, sometimes decades ago.

I think of that concept as “service without expectation.”

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

That answer for me is easy: Bill Murray, the actor and comedian. In addition to growing up watching just about everything he’s created; over the years I’ve been wowed by his capacity for spontaneity and joy. He’s legendary for his random acts of humor, and his actions remind me that a little bit of humanity goes a long way in today’s world. He likes making people happy and it shows.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.