Talent will be without borders. A single region, territory, or even a country won’t matter in this new work culture. It will be about who has the best skills for the job. With remote, hybrid, and people-centric work models, we’ll see more agility in talent.

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 Amit Mishra, Founder and CEO of iMocha, a skills intelligence and assessment platform that enables talent teams to make smarter talent decisions. Amit started his career with IBM as a software developer, but left to found his own software company. In the early days of that startup, Amit struggled to recruit qualified job candidates with the right skills for the tasks at hand. One day, while sipping a hot mocha, inspiration struck. Amit realized that by creating a job-fit world where an individual’s skills and talent could be assessed and quantified with greater speed and agility, it would solve many problems for leaders like him. Realizing that this was something transformational, he left his startup venture to launch iMocha, a skills assessment platform. Today, iMocha’s platform is being used by over 450+ organizations in more than 70 countries for their recruiting and upskilling programs.

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?

One instance that has really shaped my thinking was when I was attending a Microsoft accelerator program. I had the opportunity to speak with Ravi Narayan, then the global director of the Microsoft accelerator in India and Southeast Asia. He gave me a spiritual-seeming mantra, which I now realize was more professional than spiritual.

He told me, “As entrepreneurs, we will often come across struggles where we’ll have to make decisions based on either ego or spirit. Ego will stop you from making the right decisions, and spirit will encourage you to make the right decisions. In tricky situations, you’ll have to keep your ego aside and let your spirit make decisions.” That mantra has really stuck with me. It has not just made me a better person, it has made me a better professional, and as a result, I am always receptive to learning.

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?

Around 30–40 years back, the company you worked for was your entire career. An organization where people would begin their career often used to be their last company. Until about 20 years ago, you only had one career for your whole life. Fast-forward ten more years, and that has changed to workers switching companies and professions based on what interests them and drives them. Whatever you wish to do is essentially your career, and you can change as often as you need to. This shift gives us some predictability of what’s to come.

In the coming 10–15 years, it won’t be the company, the job, or even you, for that matter, that’ll be the fulcrum of your professional life. It’ll be the skills you have. If you upskill yourself in one area, you’ll get opportunities. Your degrees won’t limit you in choosing one profession or another; it’ll be the skills. In the future, there won’t be “blue collar” or “white collar” professions. There will just be a “skills collar.”
I often say that job roles and skills are dispensable, but your people are not. In the last few years, we’ve seen a huge shift to focus on upskilling and reskilling current talent. Over the next ten years, we will see major organizations spending as much as $5000 per employee on learning initiatives. Businesses will look to their internal teams to fill job roles by investing in them and allowing them to learn new skills for the future.

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

I’d advise them to build a skills taxonomy. A skills taxonomy is a straightforward and easy-to-visualize comprehensive inventory of all the skills that can help your business optimize decisions and make the best of the available human capital. When the full matrix of existing skills becomes clear, organizations can design their approach and vision and can carve out a definite skill ontology to map to various jobs.

With a skills taxonomy, organizations will also be able to map which adjacent or parallel skills can be utilized and determine which people can be upskilled or reskilled. They can even identify future critical skills that they should start building now.

Here’s a quick example from the automotive industry. Some automakers are going electric, and a few are leaning towards hybrid. Here, the goal is the same: utilization of clean energy. So, clean energy will dictate the skills taxonomy, but the direction (electric or otherwise) will dictate ontology. As an organization, you need to be aware of both to make intelligent talent decisions.

Skills are changing rapidly. Will businesses hire new people for all the future skills needed? Absolutely not! They will need to nurture the existing employees and help them build new skills to meet future demands.

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?

Work should be done by the people who can do it the best, and it should be done most conveniently, in a location where it can be delivered the best. Organizations cannot dictate whether one location or the other should work for their employees; they should rather give the employees the agency to choose the best for them.

Previously, work was office-centric — we had to be physically present in the office. Organizations will have to move to people-centric work models to reconcile the gaps.

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

The future of this will look different for each industry and organization; there’s no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to this.

This has been one of the major catalysts of people-centric work designs. When we all started working from home, we didn’t know how long it would continue, but we know now that work-from-anywhere is here to stay. Most organizations have remote or hybrid work policies in place. This also compelled organizations to shift focus to employees’ mental well-being and act as a social safety net of employees. As a direct result of this, in the future, we’ll see employers planning and devising for resilience to ensure they’re covered in case of any further tail event.

Increased remote work will change the work experience for both remote, contingent, and on-site employees. Organizations will have to accommodate that as well.

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?

Prolonged absences due to caregiving or illness are accepted now and even encouraged in most cases. There’s increased emphasis on mental well-being, and society is more accepting of taking time off to deal with burnout.

Another societal change we’ll see is less focus on gender roles. Earlier, women were compelled to take long breaks and absences from work due to caregiving and family, but with hybrid and remote work taking prominence, women won’t have to do that.

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

An important thing that the pandemic has taught us is that, as leaders, we need to be ready for changes. We need to create a culture where change is welcomed and realized smoothly. Changes can be anything from how your company operates daily to your hiring and talent development processes. There has been an interesting development in hiring strategies in the past few years. Unlike earlier, when recruiters based their hiring decisions on resumes and experience, companies now focus more on a candidate’s skill set. This makes me incredibly optimistic about the future of work. Tomorrow’s hiring managers will only be interested in the candidate’s skill set. Do they have the skills needed to do the job? It won’t matter what a candidate’s background, gender, race, or location is. If they are qualified enough for the job, then they’re hired.

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

An employee’s mental health and well-being are directly proportional to their company’s work culture. Work-life balance is essential for any employee’s mental well-being, and so is transparency. Employers should be transparent with their employees regarding performance reviews, rationalizing workforce, etc. Employees can’t give you 100% if they don’t trust you. Other than that, I believe you should develop a culture where every voice is heard. A transparent culture will help employers understand the problems that their employees are facing, and accordingly, they can take necessary actions to mitigate them. As leaders, we need to be more flexible in our work. Again, the hybrid working model is an excellent example of this.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

1. Identifying and nurturing critical skills and competencies will be a priority. As we move towards “skill collar” over blue or white collar, we’d see organizations putting more emphasis on reskilling and upskilling. The focus will be on shaping, not hiring, the workforce.

2. Talent will be without borders. A single region, territory, or even a country won’t matter in this new work culture. It will be about who has the best skills for the job. With remote, hybrid, and people-centric work models, we’ll see more agility in talent.

3. Offices will be more human. With the changing narrative where we see a shift from “workers” to “people” or “employees” to “individuals,” offices will play a more comprehensive role in each employee’s life. We’ll see organizations providing more mental health days, offering partnerships with therapists, and even office gym memberships. This is not just a ploy to attract candidates or get people to come to the office, but a greater effort to show the same commitment to their people that employees show to them.

4. Employee Value Propositions (EVPs) will change. Candidates’ expectations have changed due to the pandemic and subsequent events. This doesn’t necessarily translate to monetary terms (which is a part of the change), but in more holistic terms. EVPs will also focus on people as a whole and not just as employees of the company. Is the employee essentially a good person with a good work ethic? Do they want to be a part of something bigger and have a positive impact? If they’re a good cultural fit, then everything else can be taught through learning and development.

5. Planning for resilience and planning for the future will be the same. Operational efficiency and customer-centricity have always been great concerns and will continue to be, but we will see an increased focus on fostering workforce resilience. This will happen by shifting to a skills-first model, as compared to the previous role-first one.

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

One quote I revisit every now and then is, “Strengthen your strengths.” That may sound strange coming from the founder of a skills assessment platform. However, I firmly believe that instead of focusing solely on your weaknesses and spending all of your time improving them, your first priority should be to recognize and capitalize on the strengths you do have. Your natural talents and abilities are gifts to treasure and build on. Strengthen them to the maximum level possible, so no new scenarios or unforeseen circumstances can affect you.

My biggest strength has always been building good teams, empowering and motivating them to achieve our collective goals. I have always looked forward to hiring individuals better than me in their respective fields, so I don’t have to micromanage them and just let them work towards getting the job done.

Another quote that inspires me is, “Innovation is at the core of everything.” If you don’t innovate, you are likely to fail, regardless of which field you are in or how good your product is now. Why? Because we live in a digital world where new technologies and innovation are at the center of everything we do. This is why I always try to invest the most in innovation and R&D efforts.

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 doubt that the people I want to have breakfast with will have that much time on their hands, but one person I admired growing up is Bill Gates. He has kept innovating and marketing game-changing products and ideas for years. Innovation and marketing have been at the core of Microsoft. And in the last 40 years, he has done it repeatedly. He started with Windows, then Office, Azure, Power BI, and so on. Microsoft is still at the top of its game because of these continuous and timely innovations.

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?

They can get in touch with me through my LinkedIn, and I’ll get back to them as soon as possible.

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