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 Allen Brooks of Building Momentum.
In his role as Chief Creative Officer, Allen Brooks helps lead a diverse team of creatives and engineers. Since he joined Building Momentum in 2017, he has been instrumental in growing the team from four employees to over 20 and revenue has grown from less than 1 Million dollars to more than 5 Million dollars in just four years. Allen has worked with this incredible team to build The Garden, the company’s event space that has become a meeting place and beloved community hub in the DC Metro region.
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.
My undergrad was incredible. I decided to pursue a creative career and got into the theater program at Christopher Newport University. That program taught me how to listen, how to be a professional, how to interact with other humans, and how to be prepared to pivot in my career. It was absolutely the best program I could have gone through to prepare me to be an adaptable, creative, and passionate professional.
The other was meeting my wife. I am so lucky to have a partner with whom I am able to grow, change and develop WITH, not in spite of. Alisa and I were able to step into our professional lives with a sense of teamwork and mutual respect that not a lot of couples necessarily have. Having that support system in absolutely integral to success. We are each other’s cheerleaders, advisors, and venting-recipients. You’ve got to find people that can be that for you as well.
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?
The nature of work has been changing for a while now and it took a major event like the COVID pandemic to really push things over the line. From the training that we do at Building Momentum, we get an up close and personal view of how teams work together to get things done, solve problems and reach solutions. What we know now is that not only do employees want to be heard and have flexibility, but it’s also crucial for employees to be working on goals that mean something and give back to their communities. It’s not enough to just solve for the biggest profit margin. You have to be solving for impact, around you and in the world writ-large.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Listen to your staff and over communicate. Don’t just listen to them but really hear them and address their issues and concerns head-on. As long as you have your finger on the pulse of your organization so that you can ensure you’re meeting the needs of your clients and innovating at the same time, you will be prepared for anything the future might hold — even if it’s a global pandemic.
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?
I’ll start with the reconciliation. It’s all about transparency. One thing we do really well is being open about our policies and decision making. So any time we roll something out and a staff member has questions, they’re more than welcome to come to leadership and ask. We also have a really progressive benefits package, with 14 weeks paid parental leave, 4 weeks PTO per year, 401(k) matching right away, free gym memberships, and a TON of other small benefits (lots of free food, etc).
I think that the gaps come from a mismatched set of expectations. Employers who are unable to simply listen to their employees needs are doomed to have those employees go elsewhere. Just saying “you’re lucky to have what you have here” isn’t good enough more.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
We are a hands-on organization that builds, teaches and creates physical things so we were never fully “working from home.” We are fortunate to have an extensive workshop facility that enabled us to socially distance. That said, we were forced to pivot our training programs to virtual and we did so seamlessly. In terms of moving forward, I believe there is a hybrid solution that will enable plenty of in-person opportunities while also providing flexibility to those that need it.
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?
Society and particularly the older Boomer generation is used to having everyone in the office at all times. Younger generations are keener to use technology to form connections and they are much more comfortable doing that both inside and outside the workplace. Society is now realizing that most work can occur remotely by leveraging tech tools and once everyone begins to embrace that, I think we will see a lot more acceptance of the hybrid work model.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
My team. We have an amazing, diverse group of people working at Building Momentum and they inspire me daily. I know that with these future rock stars leading organizations, the future of work will be just fine.
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?
We have always considered ourselves progressive in our approach to mental health. In fact, way before the pandemic we encourage employees to take mental health days, seek counseling and therapy when needed and we openly discussed our own struggles in this area in order to provide a safe space for team members to open up and feel supported. We also let staff use flex time to go to therapy, the gym and spend time on themselves.
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?
People need to be responsive, honest, and trustworthy with their employees. It doesn’t serve anyone to be an obfuscator with what decisions you’re making that will directly impact them. One of the best things that Brad Halsey (our CEO) did during the pandemic was bring everyone together, and honestly tell them: “We don’t know if this is going to work out. We don’t know what’s coming, but we do know that we are going to try our best to make it through, work together, and do what we do best as a team — Solve Problems.” And I think that level of honesty is great, it’s what engenders trust, and brings a team together.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- Hybrid Work
Flexibility is absolutely a key factor coming out of the pandemic. Being able to adjust to individual’s needs on weekly, if not daily basis is a really important factor. We try our best (despite being a fully in-person business), to accommodate these needs, adapting as necessary to give the best quality of work/life balance to our people.
- Workplace Wellness
We provide mental health days, encourage our employees to seek therapy and care for their mental health, and as leaders, we openly discuss our own struggles, emotions, wins and losses thereby fostering an inclusive open environment for our team to face their own struggles. We also provide free gym memberships, group fitness experiences, and flexibility in the office to accommodate everyone’s wellness as best as possible.
- Transparency and Communication
By fostering an environment of open communication and transparency, we are able to address issues in our workplace immediately. We have an open door policy and that enables our employees to directly come to anyone on the leadership team to voice concerns.
- Prioritize Culture
We have always placed a significant importance on workplace culture. When employees believe in their culture, it increases engagement, happiness, productivity and helps retain and recruit. It’s also the hardest thing to successfully implement and maintain, culture. We are constantly examining our culture, from the moment someone applies to work with us through their entire employment journey, we are trying to make sure that we are a safe, healthy and exciting work environment where people feel heard and seen. We often give people the opportunity to be a part of that work and give us feedback on what is successful and not in these attempts.
- Be empathetic
Brad, our CEO, has really focused a lot of his inward work this last year on inserting empathy in all we do. He’s encouraging us to use phrases like “that makes me feel…” it’s something that sets us apart and creates an environment where we are focused on each other’s emotional, not just work, needs. It’s a philosophy of work that makes us better with our clients, each other, and the community we’re trying to impact.
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?
I don’t know where exactly I heard it, but I’ve been saying a lot as of late: “Change is hard, even when’s it’s good.”
Brene Brown probably said it, so let’s assume it was her. We are constantly changing at Building Momentum. There’s a new idea to explore, or someone has recently joined the team, or someone is, unfortunately, departing due to exciting life changes. Maybe we’ve got a new client and there’s a whole new opportunity in front of us. No matter the change, even when it’s for the absolute best, always brings difficulty, and it’s how we deal with that difficulty that really locks in weather this change is for the good or ill.
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.
Oh wow, so many. The aforementioned Brene Brown, of course. I loved reading what Kim Scott said in Radical Candor, or Priya Parker in Art of Gathering. And I would die a happy man if I could share a drink with Stanley Tucci.
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?
Check out our blog — we’re featuring entries from EVERYONE at the company throughout the year, and we are launching a podcast very soon. https://buildmo.com/blog/category/Blog — and our handles on all social channels are “buildmoalx”
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.