Flexibility — Due to the labor shortage, employees’ desires for flexible work arrangements continue to push the market towards a hybrid model. There is growing demand for flexibility over where people work, how they work, and even when they work, so long as the job gets done.
As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Andrew Hoag, the founder and CEO of leading distributed spend management platform Teampay.
Prior to founding Teampay in 2016, Andrew founded or co-founded five companies, including urbantag, which tackled the trillion-dollar online-to-offline commerce market and was acquired in 2012. In addition to these entrepreneurial and leadership roles, he has served as an angel investor and advisor to various other companies, helping them to raise venture capital and design product strategy. Prior to that, he held management roles in customer engineering, product management, internationalization, business development and marketing at VeriSign, and, most previously, he connected and built supercomputers for NASA. Andrew loves to code; in fact, he created the first prototype of Teampay.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped you?
I initially came up with the idea for Teampay when I was in the early stages of some new projects. As an operator, I was trying to focus on the business strategy; however, I found myself constantly sidelined and bombarded by requests from employees to buy things, use my corporate card, make purchases on their behalf and/or reimburse them for things I didn’t even know they had purchased. At that moment, I realized just how much corporate spending has changed over the last decade. Between the explosion of SaaS software and fractional services, the overwhelming shift to on-demand, and a rise in freelance and remote work, today’s purchasing department is no longer a centralized procurement team — in a modern company, every employee is involved in making purchases on behalf of the company. And yet, the tools and software solutions have continued to lag behind the times. Today, finance is tasked with managing this new world of decentralized purchasing; however, because of outdated systems, they are struggling with policy misalignment, manual work, and best-guess accounting, not to mention regularly having to chase down employees for receipts and other missing information at the end of each month. Teampay’s mission is to help modern businesses spend money more efficiently.
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?
Work is evolving quickly. Across-the-board, companies are increasing their investment in software, including the digitalization of services and process reengineering. Remote work has accelerated the need for workplaces to update their tech and the explosion of SaaS tools has pushed organizations towards digital transformation. We expect to see a certain amount of streamlining and consolidation, as companies seek end-to-end solutions for departments that will reduce friction.
- We’ve seen an influx of spend on initiatives aimed at employee retention, including new work from home stipends (after companies shifted their return to office dates due to Omicron), new wellness benefits, and even health/safety. In fact, in Q4 2021, Teampay data showed a major uptick in companies purchasing COVID-19 rapid test kits for their employees.
- While offices determine exactly what their return to office plans will look like, companies are doubling down on remote and hybrid work.
- Business travel will forever be changed. Moving forward, we can expect work-related travel will be less frequent, but more impactful (i.e., longer trips, less often.) We will replace the old practice of hopping on a plane for a one-day trip with more efficient Zoom calls, as companies recognize the cost-savings that accompany a more measured approach to business travel.
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?
In addition to the pandemic, the reimagination of the workplace has also been fueled by Generation Z and millennials rising the ranks. Employers need to recognize these generational changes and tailor their approach accordingly to address gaps in communication and expectations. Gen Z and millennials grew up in an “on-demand” world–the way they shop, eat, travel, watch TV/movies and communicate has been completely shaped by technology. In fact, Gen Z is the first generation to be considered “digital natives,” as they have had access to WiFi, social media, cell phones and tablets their entire lives. The way Gen Z and millennials interact with the world carries into the workforce. Younger employees are increasingly autonomous, prefer self-service and expect instant gratification/response. They carry an unparalleled sense of persistence and momentum, and expect faster cycle times and more agility from their employer. Furthermore, younger employees are also more likely to be value-based, self-aware, and empathetic–they want to align with their company’s mission and vision. Subsequently, employers are shifting their company cultures to attract Gen Z and millennial talent by adopting a human-centric approach. From user-friendly platforms to flexible, autonomous and value-based company culture, the future of the workplace is about people.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Technology can serve as a great enhancement to your workforce, as there are some things that technology and software can simply do better than people can. That said, humans aren’t going anywhere, as soft-skills like creativity, problem-solving and relationship-building are irreplaceable facets of the workplace. Technology simply serves as an enhancement to human capabilities by enabling better/more informed decision making, creating efficiencies, and empowering employees to act more autonomously. People aren’t going to be pulled out of the chain; technology will just automate some of the manual work that computers and software can simplify. It’s a symbiotic relationship that allows employees to focus on the bigger picture — something that, as I noted in my last answer, is particularly motivating for millennials and Gen Z. Finding the right balance will be crucial for years to come.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
In 2016, I founded Teampay after seeing a major change in the way companies operate. The pandemic has further accelerated those shifts at an unprecedented rate. Due to the ongoing tight labor market, employees are increasingly in the driver’s seat. Their desires for flexible work arrangements are pushing companies to adopt a hybrid model, in aims to attract and retain top talent. While remote work will remain a mainstay of the workplace for years to come, in-person collaboration will continue to have its place, too. Humans are social animals who genuinely benefit from being in the room with each other. I anticipate a fluidity between the two extremes: companies will get together for team building purposes, and empower employees to do their day-to-day work from home. The traditional ‘all employees in the office five-days-a-week’ model has largely been replaced by a decentralized workforce.
What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?
It’s interesting–we’re all still figuring this out in real-time, including how companies can cultivate superior culture, without in-person interaction. Historically, most companies have relied upon verbal communications, such as sharing stories and in-person gatherings to foster relationships. Companies who have invested in remote-first work use an asynchronous communication style, which means they depend more upon writing. These two worlds are now converging. Striking the right balance of both verbal and written communications will be a juggling act for many years to come, but once companies find their sweet spot, they will be able to foster their culture to its fullest.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
At Teampay, we are extremely excited about the rapid transformation of the workplace. The trends that we first identified five years ago, including increased employee autonomy, greater decentralization of work, and technology’s role in improving the quality of decisions, are ushering in a new wave of the employee-focused workplace. Long gone are the days of punching the clock and doing manual repetitive tasks on a factory line; in 2022, employees are valued for their strategic thinking, problem solving, and creativity.
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?
Employees now have more leverage than ever before. After dealing with two+ years of unparalleled uncertainty, workers desire more control over their own destiny. Employers need to understand what employees are actually looking for, including more flexibility about when and how they work, and better tools to help increase their efficiency. Largely, employers need to become more human-centric. Employees want to align with their employers’ values and connect with their company on a deeper level.
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?
The employee experience has never been more top of mind. As I mentioned earlier, the pandemic accelerated employees’ expectations for the workplace. Every step of the employee journey must genuinely promote and put emphasis on wellbeing. Creating a culture that supports employees must be authentic and holistic–there is dissonance in saying you value employees’ time and energy but then having complicated and time-consuming processes. The employee experience must span everything from benefits to flexibility to PTO to career development. Using tools that make workplace technology as easy to use as personal technology improves efficiency and worker satisfaction.
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Watch In the Future of Work?”
- Decentralization and distribution — The workplace is becoming increasingly decentralized, as it shifts to a flexible, hybrid model. Plus, there’s an increased distribution of the workload–long gone are the days of expecting an executive to serve as a controller for their team, run a finance department in their spare time while they’re also trying to run an engineering team. Technology helps redistribute the workload, allowing employees across the organization to contribute to processes that were once done manually.
- Flexibility — Due to the labor shortage, employees’ desires for flexible work arrangements continue to push the market towards a hybrid model. There is growing demand for flexibility over where people work, how they work, and even when they work, so long as the job gets done.
- Human-centric — The future of work is focused on the employee. It understands that people are a company’s biggest asset and that longevity requires top talent. Employee wellness will take a center seat for companies, as will investing solutions that enhance the employee experience.
- Autonomy/self-service — Younger, digitally-savvy employees expect to be able to book their own flight and submit their own expenses, with limited friction. We’ll see a rise in technology’s ability to streamline processes in the workplace and create a more autonomous work environment.
- Better access to data — British mathematician Clive Humby coined the term “data is the new oil” in 2006. It’s become a bit of a cliche, but at the end of the day, having the right amount of information to make decisions is one of the greatest assets a business can have. There’s often a communication gap between the C-suite and line staff that technology can help fill, as it quickly gets everyone on the same page and creates actionable situational awareness.
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?
“There is no secret ingredient” — Kung Fu Panda.
Basically, people go through life looking for a silver bullet, only to realize there is none. Your “superpower” is something that just always exists inside of you. I think that’s a very interesting perspective. From the outside you always assume that there’s some secret ingredient but on the inside of it, there really is not.
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.