Core Values: Alignment Between Personal and Professional. Employees are now expecting more from work, and one of the major areas where they crave alignment is between their personal and professional values. Although work has always been a large part of our identities, it used to be a more compartmentalized area of our lives, but younger generations are morphing that practice and considering their work more a statement of who they are and what they stand for. The alignment between personal and professional values may make the hiring process a bit more complex, but it also begets better loyalty and productivity in the long run, so it is an investment worth making.

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 Alyssa Phillips.

Alyssa Phillips is Chief Operating Officer of HCR Wealth Advisors with experience in multiple industries, including sports & entertainment, restaurant franchise, consumer products and wealth management. From building startups to executing change management, she optimizes companies and leads cross-functional teams to solve complex business issues in highly dynamic organizations. She specializes in strategy, infrastructure, operations, technology and human capital.

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?

I grew up in Los Angeles with three of my brothers and was raised mostly by my dad, who still to this day jokes that he “didn’t know how to raise a girl, so he raised us all the same.” As a child, I didn’t realize how unique and far outside of our cultural machismo norms that was, but as an adult, I’m incredibly appreciative to have been raised on an even playing field. My brothers and I had the same chores and rules, so it never occurred to me that girls had different social expectations from boys (outside of the obvious e.g. childbearing), especially within the context of the professional arena. Growing up on an even playing field set me up for success in many ways. I never thought to challenge myself less, instead, my upbringing taught me to compete with all my peers and strive for excellence. I don’t think twice about taking on challenges that would deter most people and have been successful in business and in life as a result.

Another facet of my childhood that helped shape who I am today was my mother’s battle with addiction. Seeing her struggles throughout my childhood kept me on the straight and narrow and motivated me to build a better life. I wasn’t exactly sure how to get there, but I was luckily “adopted” by the Asst. Principal of Guidance at my high school who guided me through the obstacles at home and helped me forge the path towards higher education and my way out. It is no secret that teachers and school administrators are unsung heroes, and I can say from personal experience that without her taking a keen interest in me and my future, I may not be where I am today.

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?

Over recent years, customer expectations have risen to levels we have never seen before, and I don’t see that ending anytime soon, especially with the constant evolution of technology. And although everyone is keeping an eye on evolving tech, I’m not sure that enough companies are cognizant of just how much they will need to train and reskill their staff in order to keep up with demands. As customer expectations rise, so do job requirements, so continuing with the traditional approach to training and basic job skills won’t cut it. Companies will need to provide more robust training programs that are adaptable to the changing environment and meet workers on their level to bridge the gap between what is already known vs. what will need to be known, or we will continue to have a mismatch of available employees and open jobs for which they do not qualify.

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

The only constant is change, so companies that aim to thrive for generations to come must battle complacency and embrace change. To future proof our organizations, I think we all need to take a step back to our startup days. I realize that sounds counterintuitive, but there are a few principles that are quite prevalent during the startup phase that will help organizations stand the test of time. The first is agility. For organizations to survive the amount of disruption in technology and workplace expectations that we are seeing today, they will need to be able to adjust quickly. The second is decentralization. Centralized business structures maintain formal decision-making power within one leader or leadership team, however this structure is slow moving and may not be the best to ensure that the company’s core values and vision are properly integrated throughout the organization, which is key to keep everyone rowing in the same direction. The third is adherence (and possible re-commitment) to the company’s vision. Remembering your purpose will provide the north star needed to help companies navigate through these turbulent times.

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?

Some employees are expecting or even demanding a 100% work from home (WFH) model, but all things considered, I believe a hybrid environment is much more reasonable and will likely prove to be the better model in the long run for most companies. Although there are various technologies in place to help keep people connected and projects moving forward, they still cannot completely replace in person, human interaction. Humans are social, tribal creatures, and although we may have differing opinions as to how much interaction we may like, the fact is, we all need it to some degree. WFH advocates are quick to point to success that companies have achieved while working in a remote environment, however they don’t necessarily highlight the pre-existing personal relationships among coworkers that provided the foundation for that success.

To help bridge this gap, companies need to figure out their unique team’s expectations so they can customize their solutions. There are dozens of strategies out there, but not all of them will be appropriate for your team. Providing a safe space for staff to voice their concerns via an anonymous survey or candid conversations will help to get all the cards out on the table so leaders can have an idea of the landscape they are operating in. Once you have that perspective, selecting strategies that work for your company and team will be much easier. Be aware, this will not be a one time project! Employee sentiment will continue to evolve during and post pandemic, so it is important to do regular pulse checks to make sure that as leaders, you understand where your team is.

For our company, one of the most effective strategies has been to provide a flexible work from home policy, allowing staff members to telework as needed without permission, so long as it falls within reasonable boundaries and there is no disruption to business operations. We empower our staff to work out the details with their coworkers rather than micromanaging the process, which has been incredibly well received.

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

For many companies, the pandemic forced a hybrid/remote environment for the first time ever, which has now lifted the veil on the traditionally held view that presence = productivity and proved that with the right people, technology and processes in place, companies can find success outside of the classic, in person M-F 9–5 model. This has opened a plethora of possibilities for work environments moving forward, and many companies are currently clamoring to figure out the right mix for their particular company and team. Although this will vary widely as we all continue to experiment, I am confident that a hybrid model will prove most effective for most companies in the long run.

Another phenomenon we discovered during the pandemic is just how many effective options there are, as it pertains to where we work. Rather than just working from home or the office, employees have experimented with other alternatives like co-working spaces that may not have been as prevalent an option before. Large companies like Meta and Microsoft have been buying huge memberships in co-working spaces in recent months, and I imagine that offering flexibility not only in when, but also where, employees work will be key to retention and productivity moving forward.

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?

Over the course of the pandemic, social justice issues have gained much greater attention in the mass media and given us all a greater opportunity to understand other’s perspectives and experiences. Providing greater equity in the workplace and a safe space for employees to share their experiences with one another will be key to building a more inclusive culture and atmosphere.

Companies must find ways to help support marginalized groups, including but not limited to women, people of color, LGBTQIA+, etc. and it all starts with education. Learning about what these groups have experienced and how that shapes their expectations and needs will provide the foundation necessary to building a more equitable environment. Discussing these topics in the workplace used to be considered passé, however in our current environment, it is necessary to have these candid conversations and make adjustments as needed so employees can feel safe within their workplace.

At our company, we instituted a 2-year education program designed to help organizations more effectively assess and manage unconscious bias in the work environment. This program features an individual learning experience for core materials (including gender, race and LGBTQIA+ bias) then monthly micro-learnings to help individuals understand unconscious bias, how it works, and provides useful guidance on how to mitigate its impact in the workplace. This experience has opened up very candid conversations within our team that otherwise may not have happened, and we’ve become all the stronger for them.

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

I have really enjoyed seeing companies place a greater emphasis on having an impact and incorporating that into their vision and core values. We can all think of some impact brands that have tied their purpose to helping others, but rather than that being a niche approach, more and more companies are finding ways to have a positive impact on society, the environment and the world at large. This focus on having a positive impact that helps and influences others to have a positive impact as well, perpetuates a ripple effect that will serve the greater good for generations to come. Since employees are now considering the values of a company and how they align with them personally, it creates an environment where having an impact will become the norm, and not the exception, which makes me feel very optimistic about the future of work.

One small way we give back is through working with an organization that partners with nonprofits and social enterprises around the world through gift giving. Through each gift we give, we can help support causes such as children in need, economic development, women at risk, the environment, health and animal welfare. This program has been incredibly well received by clients, colleagues and staff and we look forward to expanding it in the future.

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?

Research by Mental Health Foundation indicates that 75% of US workers have struggled at work with anxiety due to the pandemic, and burnout, isolation and loneliness are also on the rise. Unfortunately, this comes as no surprise, considering that America is the only advanced economy nation that does not federally mandate any paid vacation days, holidays or sick leave, let alone provide paid days off for mental health and wellness. This archaic structure almost guarantees burnout, since many American employees feel guilty taking days off, paid or unpaid, outside of emergency situations. Rather than perpetuating a culture of working yourself to the bone and burning the candle at both ends, companies should consider a more balanced approach to time off and be aware of the social connotations surrounding it.

I have seen great success with unlimited vacation policies, which allow employees to take time off as needed, so long as it is within reason and doesn’t disrupt business operations. Giving employees the autonomy to choose when and for what they need time off creates an environment where taking mental health and wellbeing breaks is no longer questionable or discouraged. These policies also encourage better collaboration with team members to create space for one another to take care of themselves, which humanizes coworkers and helps strengthen personal and professional relationships.

Another policy that helps in this space is providing access to life/wellness coaches to staff. Being a worker is just one facet of who we are, we are also individuals, family members, friends, citizens, etc. and many of us could use the professional assistance to navigate all of these responsibilities. Helping employees hone such a fundamental life skill will give them the space and support to become better and more well balanced people.

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?

According to the US Dept of Labor, 11.5 million people quit their jobs in Q2 2021 alone, and 2/3 of people are actively searching for new job opportunities. These are extremely turbulent times and companies need to use this opportunity to reevaluate and adjust if they haven’t already.

Employees are no longer forced to deal with a company whose policies and practices do not fit their needs. Given the evolving landscape including a strong gig economy, employees are no longer dependent upon a single stream of revenue. There are a wide variety of gigs with a low barrier to entry that they can participate in. The gig economy provides flexible arrangements and increased autonomy, which some companies still struggle to provide, and now that many employees have either experienced these benefits through gig work, or have the opportunity at their fingertips, it puts them in a stronger position to leave companies that are not fulfilling their needs and expectations. Companies need to understand their employees, which structures work for them, what benefits are and are not important, and figure out how to make adjustments that work for both sides to be competitive in today’s job market.

These conversations have been long overdue, and the younger generations who are now taking over the workplace have different needs and expectations than their predecessors. Gone are the days where new hires aspire to earn the gold watch if it’s not a company that listens to their voice and meets their evolving personal/professional needs, all while making a positive impact on the world to boot.

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. Hybrid Environments and WFH Fluidity.

The traditional presence = productivity notion has been shattered thanks to the remote/hybrid environment brought on during the pandemic, so now companies are working to figure out how a hybrid model could work on both sides. One of the most valuable currencies in the workplace is, and always has been, trust, so this is a great opportunity for companies to show their employees how much they trust them by providing more autonomy and fluidity as it pertains to when and where they work.

2. Core Values: Alignment Between Personal and Professional.

Employees are now expecting more from work, and one of the major areas where they crave alignment is between their personal and professional values. Although work has always been a large part of our identities, it used to be a more compartmentalized area of our lives, but younger generations are morphing that practice and considering their work more a statement of who they are and what they stand for. The alignment between personal and professional values may make the hiring process a bit more complex, but it also begets better loyalty and productivity in the long run, so it is an investment worth making.

3. Culture Matters…A Lot.

Work culture has always mattered, but in recent years it has become more of a focus, especially as younger generations account for a larger part of the workforce. Full time employees typically spend at least half of their waking lives at work, so it should come as no surprise that they want to work in a safe environment that meets their needs. Companies who are at the forefront of providing an excellent work culture figure out ways how to sustain, not just retain, their employees, especially in hybrid and remote environments. Keeping the team connected while in different physical locations is a heavy lift and requires constant attention. As it pertains to culture overall, a multi-faceted approach with flexible layers that can be fine-tuned to suit the needs of individual employees will make them feel heard and appreciated. Providing transparency via career path development plans and incorporating unique benefits, such as support for planning and raising a family via subsidized childcare expenses and related programs, are also emerging differentiators.

4. Equity in the Workplace.

Thoughtful benefits and flexibility are great, however these will fall flat if a company does not address core issues such as equity in the workplace. First, it is important to establish the difference between workplace equality (which does not take demographic needs into account) and equity (which identifies the specific need of individual employees). As you can imagine, workplace equality can result in an unfair work environment, which is counterintuitive to providing equitable opportunities to unique staff members. There are many strategies to improve equity in the workplace, starting with diverse, cross-level representation and wage equity. Companies can also implement programs such as skills-based hiring and equitable access for all to help bridge the gaps.

5. Performance Alignment vs. Performance Management.

Traditional performance management systems with annual reviews are taking a backseat to more robust and timely performance alignment systems. These newer systems have much shorter cycles and provide a more holistic analysis of performance (including KPIs and 360 reviews). There are a variety of performance alignment practices, for example OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), that provide key result targets to each individual and show them how they align with company objectives. The timeliness of feedback for these updated systems makes much more sense. Would you want your coach to wait until the beginning of the year to tell you what they expected and how you could have been better last season, or would you prefer to hear the feedback on the spot so you can improve throughout the year? With an ever-changing environment and increasing customer expectations, workforces will need to be adaptable and performance alignment systems are geared to produce just that.

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?

It’s less of a quote and more of a philosophy, but I am a huge proponent of kaizen (Japanese concept meaning “continuous improvement” or “change for the better”). This idea has greatly shaped my personal and professional perspectives in that it encourages me to be in competition with myself every day and aspire to be better today than I was yesterday. This manifests for me personally in my health and wellness journey, I am disciplined in my workout regimens and love riding against my own personal record (PR) on my Peloton. As a business professional, I seek out ways to improve each individual job function, department and the firm at large, to make sure we stay on top of changing trends and expectations. I am also a lifelong learner and enjoy (yes, actually enjoy) continuing education wherever I can get it.

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.

I would love to have a meal with Oprah. She is an absolute trailblazer and has served as an amazing role model to so many of us all over the world. Her philanthropic work is inspiring, and she continues to push the envelope and break through glass ceilings in everything she does.

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?

Please connect with me via LinkedIn

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