True measures of productivity — Companies are starting to measure performance results instead of office or seat time. Job seekers will need to show how they can contribute to project goals and organizations are becoming more intentional around choosing and monitoring KPIs.
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 Ashley Lonie.
Ashley Lonie is the CEO and Founder of Teamed, a unique platform for connecting digital learning professionals worldwide with opportunities. Her experience helping clients hire exceptional professionals and building and then rebuilding a hiring platform has given her unique insights into the perspective of today’s job seekers, the challenges faced by employers, and how the tools and hiring solutions are evolving. Her continued success stems from her keen ability to identify and attract the right people while providing valuable insights into their organizations.
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.
Life experience 1 — I had the opportunity to work for the Jack Welch Management Institute MBA program where I designed and developed curriculum. As you may know, Jack Welch is the former CEO and Chairman of GE and this program integrated his leadership and management philosophies. This meant I had an opportunity to immerse myself in his approach and even the opportunity to meet with him on occasion to pitch ideas and dig into his thinking. Being close to the ideas of a dynamic leader is life altering, particularly when it’s all about culture, leadership, and management. I learned about intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial thinking and the impact you can make when setting a vision and harnessing the hearts and minds of people. I credit Jack’s ideas and the culture at JWMI with changing the trajectory of my career. Sometimes, exposure to the right ideas changes everything.
Life experience 2 — I started a business, Teamed, that I thought would simply be a platform for connecting professionals with organizations, but I soon discovered that both organizations and job seekers needed more. I found myself doing a lot of recruiting, which gave me a window into the psychology and needs of job seekers and the key attributes and skills that make an employee exceptional. I’m in a unique position to build a bridge between job seekers and hiring managers. Along the way, I’ve uncovered surprising information about the challenges organizations and hiring managers are facing and what job seekers really want and need.
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?
This is an interesting question because we are going through a massive change right now that is still shaking itself out. The one thing I know for certain is that no matter how the workplace or workforce changes, who’s on your team matters. When we get to the core of getting a job done or creating and maintaining a competitive advantage, professionals with the right skills and motivation are game changers.
Through the changes of the pandemic, we saw that organizations can thrive when work is flexible and individualized. There is no one size that fits all employees. For example, parents may be reluctant to forfeit time with their families to commute into an office. On the other hand, we see many new graduates who are eager to join a bustling office culture, but not at a traditional 5-day a week schedule. We are excited to see people and organizations experimenting with ways to create connection and engagement in a multifaceted workplace.
What’s different in the future? That’s the tough question, but given what I’ve been seeing, I believe;
1. We will have more collaborative teams locally, nationally, and globally.
In the past, it’s been a challenge to collaborate effectively as a team, particularly across time zones. Into the near future, the tools we have available will evolve rapidly and so will the makeup of our teams. People will find more ways to work together regardless of proximity, culture, and nationality.
2. We will work alongside smart AI.
There are a plethora of solutions coming into the market to support knowledge access and management, workflow optimization, and auditing, just to name a few. These solutions will help guide the flow of work and improve decision making so our teams can be more accurate and productive. These tools will free people to do more of the creative and people-centered work that only a human being can achieve.
3. Our roles will become more specialized and technical.
Enormous advances in user friendly technology have enabled all of us to do more. For example, I can act as a somewhat competent graphic designer, video editor, data analyst, and even accountant. But, while the tools have become easier to use at the surface level, the depth of skill needed to do jobs well will become more sophisticated. I believe we are going to make a shift into an increasingly specialized world of work where each member of the team fills a specific and vital role.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
If I had to boil it down to just one sentence I would say this: People are the secret to success. What does that mean in practice? It means employers need to:
1. Take the time to do hiring well.
Hiring is one of the most important things your organization does. You’re not just looking for someone who is competent, you’re looking for the right and best talent. It’s more important than ever to set up a strategy and system for attracting great talent. If you’re not already, I recommend leveraging attraction marketing best practices. Also, consider bringing in experts. HR teams are often stretched thin and don’t have the time, expertise, or reach to find the very best talent for each type of role. Reach out to recruiting agencies and other platform hiring solutions that specialize in the relevant niche.
2. Rethink seat time, if you haven’t already.
With more professionals working from home we’ve seen no drop in productivity. Employees want to get the work done and often do better when given the freedom to do so on a flexible schedule. Time spent in the office or at a desk is no longer a measure of success. We should all be moving towards measuring KPI and OKRs rather than number of hours. This will also show you more quickly who is in the right role and who may not be.
3. Hire amazing managers.
As we move permanently into more flexible and geographically dispersed teams, we are all going to need exceptional managers. Look for people who can keep up with the pace of change and engage the hearts and minds of their teams. Amazing managers can innovate in process efficiencies across workflow and communication software solutions. They are cultural leaders who align teams around the mission, vision, and key next steps. Through their coaching, mentoring, and support, employees will deliver high quality results and advance their professional development. Is this a tall order? Absolutely. But it’s also the way to ensure you get the best out of your teams.
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?
Workplaces are coming to terms with offering remote, hybrid, and more flexible schedules. Many are also doing a great job of weaving in a greater sense of purpose and impact into organization mission and individual roles.
The next gap is what’s in it for individuals?
The big tech companies took us through version 1.0. They were trying to keep young, fairly affluent, educated males engaged at work for as long as possible. So they brought in video games, ping pong, beer on tap, free meals, and even candy dispenser walls. As much as we poke fun at this — they understood their audience and catered to them.
Today, more diverse organizations need to develop workplace 2.0. They need to understand the needs of a more age, culture, and location diverse group of workers to give employees what they want. Doing this successfully means recognizing that their employees are likely to be in different life stages and circumstances. The most important wants of these employees shift according to where they are in their careers.
- Early Career — They may be seeking a role that has a clear purpose and impact, they are motivated by opportunities for career advancement and financial well-being and seek out roles with pathways for advancement. Connection and mentorship programs will also be key as they are actively working on growing their professional community and skills. Although they may be willing to go into the office to build this community, they probably won’t want to be there five days a week.
- Mid Career — Professionals in this stage are often looking for opportunities to continue to grow in their area of expertise and lead. They are likely ready for more independent professional development and increased responsibility. At the same time, they may want more flexibility in the times and places where they work.
- Late Career — Their focus may be shifting back towards purpose. What legacy are they leaving, what impact have they made, how can they support others? They want to stay engaged but remain flexible.
At the end of the day employers will need to take a close look at what is most important to individual employees and figure out how to offer programs and working conditions that meet those needs.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
I’ve touched on some of this already, but it’s worth repeating. Our great work from home experiment has made it abundantly clear that in-office time or seat time is rarely a good measure of productivity. Professionals want, and will continue to demand, the flexibility to work on their terms. This means that job seekers are likely to gravitate toward jobs that offer flexible work arrangements.
This demand for flexibility will lead to the development of better and more streamlined ways to collaborate with people working in different places and at different times. New technologies and improvements on existing tools will make this possible. Bringing the right technologies on board will create even more flexibility for workers, who can build lives that work instead of trying to balance life and work.
Companies will need to focus on creating processes that are clear and repeatable, but still leave room for creativity. This will create a greater demand for project managers and others who can help coordinate work across employees, teams, and locations.
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?
I’m really excited about how the pandemic has hit the fast-forward button on how we think about work and our lives. It’s an opportunity for all of us to consider our personal priorities and to design our lives in a way that is fulfilling. While it’s not perfect, nor fully equitable yet, more people have chosen to pursue a fully remote role or quickly upskill to pivot in a new direction. We all have a great opportunity to think more broadly about what we want our lives to look like.
In terms of societal changes, I believe this will move the needle on more equitable hiring and greater economic opportunity across the board. With the move away from in-person work, more diverse groups of people have access to opportunities. Our clients are requiring that we present diverse candidate recommendations as they are committed to creating an inclusive workforce. The other factor that makes this possible is the move towards skill based learning and hiring. When we think about hiring from a skills perspective without limits in location we create a meritocracy where everyone has greater access to opportunity. There are a number of trends moving us swiftly to a world of work that is based on actual abilities and performance.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
My greatest source of optimism about the future of work is increased connectivity. We can more easily share knowledge, ideas, and opportunities. This is an incredibly exciting time because it puts power into the hands of individuals. With access to people, information, and opportunity we can choose what skills to develop, what type of work to do, and which companies to share our time and energy with. We also have a greater likelihood of solving the most pressing and challenging issues of our time when we can connect experts with those who have the funding and motivation to solve specific problems. Connection to knowledge and each other amplifies our possible impact and enables us to optimize our work life as individuals.
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?
I think we’ve been seeing a push for some time now where employers are offering gym memberships, telehealth benefits, benefits that cover mental health without stigmas, and general wellbeing programs such as fitness tracking incentives, and mindfulness programs.
This is all good, and frankly, overdue. But the really exciting part is that employees finally have the combination of information, resources and flexible time to take care of their whole selves.
I love that employers are putting resources around this, but the greatest resource for wellbeing is the time to deeply consider and meet your own needs.
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?
These headlines all point to the same underlying conclusion. Employees are demanding more from their workplaces. The organizations that thrive will be those that:
- Are purposeful about organizational culture, connection, development, and engagement.
- Hire exceptionally well — this means going beyond old practices and having high or higher expectations for each new hire.
- Work consistently to build a great culture and a winning team.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- Critical talent shortages — organizations are going to be competing for critical types of specialized talent in a more competitive and connected market. We’re seeing this across basically every industry right now, and digital learning is certainly feeling the pinch. Employers are not finding enough highly skilled instructional designers who can create dynamic online learning experiences in the corporate and education space. Which leads us right to the second trend.
- Skills-focused hiring — Organizations are starting to shift from degree-focused to skills-focused hiring. Portfolios and work samples have become a greater part of the hiring process. But the really smart employers are also starting to request on-demand tasks from skill-based projects to questionnaires that demonstrate how someone thinks critically and creatively and how they communicate.
- Rethinking employee engagement — We’re seeing a shift away from perks and parties and toward real opportunities to connect and contribute. Think mentoring programs, career pathway options, contribution to a shared cause, and a focus on equity. As recruiters, when we are able to communicate how a role with a company opens up options for growth or meaningful contribution — it becomes less about making one decision and more about them planning for all they can accomplish. What does your organization do to help workers dream big and stay motivated on the job?
- New must-have skills — As the pace of change accelerates, we’re seeing a shift in the fundamental building blocks that make up great employees. These apply across positions, level of role, and industries. As a recruiting agency, we meet with thousands and review tens of thousands of resumes a year. Yet there are a handful of skills and abilities that make professionals stand out and a top choice for employers. The first are emotional intelligence and communication. Work is becoming more collaborative and employers need team members who can build relationships throughout an organization, lead via influence, and communicate highly effectively. The other must haves include flexibility — an ability to pivot quickly as circumstances change, technological, business, and data acumen, and lastly the ability to think critically and problem solve. If you’re looking for a great new hire — build these in as part of your criteria and if you’re seeking to develop your workforce, we should map and develop these skills and abilities (as well as other company and job relevance skills).
- True measures of productivity — Companies are starting to measure performance results instead of office or seat time. Job seekers will need to show how they can contribute to project goals and organizations are becoming more intentional around choosing and monitoring KPIs.
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?
One of the things Jack Welch used to say is, “We need to engage the hearts and minds of employees — not just their hands.”
From an organizational leadership perspective, this is one of my favorite quotes as it keys into the importance of how successful organizations are run. The people doing the work are essential and have the greatest insights into how to do the job well and better. As leaders it is our responsibility to ensure we have the right people in the right seats and then to engage, grow, and support these individuals as they contribute and innovate.
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.
Michael Crow the President of Arizona State University. He came into a very traditional space and thought differently about their responsibilities and purpose as an organization. He’s managed to create an engine of economic growth in Arizona and beyond, he’s challenged all universities and colleges to rethink exclusivity practices and to instead measure themselves by who they include and how they succeed. He’s strengthened the connections and direct relationships from education to work, and he’s created a widespread culture of innovation. I would love to understand how some of these core ideas developed, what his framework is for creating a culture of innovation, and what challenge he’s focused on next.
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?
The best place to connect with me is on LinkedIn (@AshleyLonie). Or they can follow our blog at Teamedforlearning.com.
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.