Future of Work. This is described as the way the company will get work done over the next decade. This includes influences like generational, societal, and technology. Organizations will need to grow and move forward. The only way this can happen is with the acceptance that change is inevitable.

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 Anne Bloom CPHR, SHRM-SCP, Principal Consultant with The Osborne Group.

Anne Bloom has worked in human resources in Toronto, Canada for over 30 years. She has led the function in large, global organizations and now works as a Principal at a small consulting and interim executive firm called The Osborne Group. Anne leads talent, culture, and operations in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. She is a trusted, forward-thinking advisor and excellent relationship manager who builds cultures characterized by inclusivity, diversity, equity, and collaboration to help organizations succeed. Anne has her finger on the pulse of many HR issues and has written about the recent trend of The Great Resignation in both Canada and the United States. She looks forward to providing thought leadership and lessons for organizational leaders and employees as they try to navigate the challenges of this tumultuous time.

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 human resources career, I was given the opportunity to lead a diverse group of individuals. My goal was to instill trust, empathy, and open communication in the team and, through some adversity, (telling vs asking) learned what type of leader I didn’t want to be. I determined that I wanted followers and employees who knew that, although I keep business top of mind, without great employees, a business has no chance at success. After that realization, I made it my goal to support employees by ensuring that human resources was a safe haven. There would never be retribution for stating what is on anyone’s mind. Listening vs telling was what engaged and motivated my team. This learning gave me a path to follow and although there were forks in the road, it led me to building a business of my own and, ultimately, to consulting to help other organizations be successful and continue growing.

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 way I see it, everything will be different. Many jobs that exist today won’t exist in 10–15 years due to the high rate of growth in technology. Organizations that don’t adapt to this change likely won’t exist either. Prior to COVID, there was ongoing discussions about the future of work, business, and skills. Leaders had a predictable outlook 10–15 years into the future. All that changed overnight with the pandemic, and leaders now had to recognize issues and make changes in a period of 36 hours. Some organizations sent employees home to work; some kept key employees in the office; some developed a hybrid model on the fly. Organizations had to supply technology at home as it became the workplace–sometimes with distractions and often with difficulties. As we come out of COVID, and with the advent of this new variant, people are struggling again. I believe that what once was, will never be again. The pandemic’s forced us into a new way of life that will continue to change and have an impact on the way we work, shop, live and entertain.

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

Employers need to listen to their employees; they need to actually hear what is being said and to learn to adapt to the new way of work. The one thing I know for certain is that change is inevitable. Organizations need to grow with the changing times and need to adapt to new technology and new skills. They need to adapt to new ways of working, learning, sharing information and collaborating. Future proofing means to change the way we think, act, and behave. Further, organizational cultures need to change to meet the needs of employees, current and future, as labour markets tighten, and good people have choices.

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?

Organizations today are struggling with what a return to office means. I was recently speaking with a colleague about this struggle in his company. Many people are not willing to return to the office, preferring to continue working from home where they know they are safe. One challenge that results from this shift is whether wages paid for working from home should be different than an office-based employee. In my mind, decreasing or offering a lower salary changes the market value, the skills worth, and the way organizations value their employees. We should not be lowering salaries if organizations make the decision to keep their employees at home. Employees have worked harder, longer hours and been more productive at home than they were prior to COVID. Another large gap that needs to be closed is health and safety. Organizations need to ensure that working from home is safe and that employees have a proper environment. Closing these gaps is not easy and takes time to reconcile through building strategies that reflect employee needs. Listen to your employees — they know the answers.

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

I think it’s fair to say that working from home at least part of the time is the future of work. We have learned in the last 2 years that work can be accomplished from anywhere in the world and that collaboration can still be achieved. With the advent of technology, people can meet with colleagues face to face, ear to ear or by email or instant message. Organizations that accept this change will continue to thrive and grow. Employees, both current and future, will gravitate to an organization that allows and supports employees to be successful from anywhere.

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?

As the workforce has shifted to work-from-home, work has become entrenched more heavily in the personal lives and routines of everyone. Employees now need to be given options on where to work, how to work, and what hours to work. For example, when students have to be home schooled, employers will need to make concessions for parents so they can keep their children safe. For the foreseeable future, COVID (Omicron) has all citizens in its sight, and we need to continue to live in a society where health, well-being and safety are considerations to support the future of work.

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

People are resilient and will thrive when given the right support and opportunities for growth. As employees continue their own personal and professional growth, salaries will continue to grow too. I am optimistic about continued business and personal development, learning and well-being in the future of work because I truly believe that organizations want the best for their employees and will continue to help them grow and be successful.

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?

If employees return to the workplace, employers will need to offer safe, clean, and socially distanced environments that support good mental health and the well-being of all employees. Where it used to be a negative connotation to someone taking a mental health day, employers should now make it a necessity. Employers need to be explicit in their policies, processes, and procedures about their definition of mental health and reaffirm the support available to employees to seek the necessary guidance or assistance they need. Awareness of mental health is the first step to helping employees feel supported and able to get help when needed. This help may be through the company EAP provider or speaking directly with someone– clergy, doctor, etc. Some very successful companies have even added counsellors to their staffs with a focus on employee mental health.

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?

We know that company culture has already evolved in the last 2 years. COVID has changed the way we work, collaborate, listen, and find solutions. Company cultures have changed due to people working from home, team meetings being conducted online and companies redefining work practices, including their dress codes. The United States has experienced a Great Resignation with 4.4 million jobs lost in the month of September, while Canada has had a somewhat different experience. In Canada, people are being laid off or are resigning from jobs because they now want to follow their passions outside their current career. People are being more selective in how they will earn a living. Working from home has encouraged people to rethink priorities and shifted focus towards what is best for them and their families. Companies need to evolve by accepting the change that is driving the way people seek employment and the way they work. They need to offer incentives — work from home, time off for families, sabbatical leaves and all without fear of retribution. Work is such a big part of a person’s life and leaders need to accept that, for some, a job is a job and family may be the biggest priority. That is a true culture where people come first and that will, in turn, help make the company successful.

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.)

I am paraphrasing somewhat from a recent article but in my opinion, the top 5 trends are:

  1. Skills — Organizations will need to identify the critical skills needed in their work. What skills will employees need to thrive in the future of work and how will employers encourage development of these skills? Further, what skills are needed to make an organization thrive and be successful?
  2. Culture — Culture will play a big part in the future of the organization. Building a culture takes time but allowing employees to have their say about what they need to be engaged and motivated to stay with the company is important to the future of work. The way an organization is designed — departments, leaders, communication, engagement — are all important.
  3. Leadership — Leaders need to build new skills as well. Leaders need to build empathy, listening, communication, transparency, understanding skills. They need to realize that engaged employees will help the business to grow and continue to be successful.
  4. Future of Work. This is described as the way the company will get work done over the next decade. This includes influences like generational, societal, and technology. Organizations will need to grow and move forward. The only way this can happen is with the acceptance that change is inevitable.
  5. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Diversity is the presence of differences within a given setting. Equity is the process of ensuring that processes and programs are impartial, fair and provide equal possible outcomes for every individual. Inclusion is the practice of ensuring that people feel a sense of belonging in the workplace. Organizations need a robust strategy to ensure DEI is making a difference within their organization and providing a safe, healthy workplace for employees to thrive regardless of ethnicity, gender, or race.

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 a quote by John C Maxwell that has stuck with me, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” I am not afraid of change, and I know that I need to continue the learning process. I know that every day something new will come to the forefront that will change the way I and others need to lead, coach, guide, and think. I have learned to be open to all possibilities, and to see the new world for all the inspiration it will bring, share, and provide. To grow both personally and professionally, I need to be open to change and accept that it is here to stay.

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.

If I could pick anyone, it would be Steven Spielberg. His brilliance shows in the movies he has directed and produced. He’s an icon that I believe has made a huge difference in the way people imagine the future and see the past — E.T. , Jaws, Schindler’s List — to name a few. The fun thought provoking films he has brought to me and many others is inspiring.

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?

I can be reached at [email protected] or on LinkedIn. I often post blogs and articles there and would be happy to continue conversations.

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