Generational Understanding — To my C-Suite friends: change with the times or risk losing your workforce. If you are unable to change the workplace culture that is open and understanding to new generations, you will lose good talent to your competitors. It’s not worth the risk.
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 Dr. Bina M. Patel.
Dr. Bina M. Patel the founder of Transformational Paradigms dba Bina Consulting LLC. Dr. Patel is an independent, neutral conflict resolution practitioner who provides an informal and confidential forum to all employees to help address workplace concerns.
Dr. Patel’s experience ranges from establishing alternative dispute resolution programs in the private sectors and extends to working in the federal government as a conflict resolution expert and an ombudsman. She is an avid publisher and trainer on conflict resolution related topics such as communication, multiculturalism, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and transgenerational trauma, conflict management, and ombudsman. She is an Adjunct Professor at Southern New Hampshire University.
Dr. Patel earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping Analysis with honors from Nova Southeastern University and a master’s in International Business in Business Administration, magna cum laude. Dr. Patel also earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in Spanish Literature from the University of Florida. She is an expert mediator, facilitator, trainer, and consultant on conflict resolution within complex organizational systems. Dr. Patel is certified in Myers Briggs and Conflict Dynamics Profile. Dr. Patel enjoys researching the human mind specifically as it relates to female suicide terrorism. Her publication, Depicting Female Suicide Bombers: Understanding the Radicalization Process depicts what makes people tick! Her work has been published in journals, online magazines such as ThriveGlobal.com, Authority.com, Medium.com, and quoted in Forbes. She has spoken at over three dozen conferences on topics related to terrorism and conflict resolution. As a side hustle, Dr. Patel makes organic bathbombs and candles. Check out her products on Etsy: ZenSoyCandles33 (Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ZenSoyCandles33?ref=shop_sugg).
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.
The person I am today has shaped my view of the world. I have always been a forgiving and kindhearted person. My love language is giving. I give my time and thoughtful gifts to people who I care a lot about. I also give my time to strangers who need help with simple things such as fixing up their resumes, or guidance on how to resolve a workplace issue. I am compassionate, empathetic, and understand the emotions of others. This is why I love what I do best: I am a conflict resolution expert. It is my passion to help people, embody a shift in the mindset to shift behavior in the workplace to increase morale. And with that I love to start new ombudsman programs in organizations, shape a workplace culture, and watch it thrive. Success means people working in a psychologically safe space with true leaders. I am a firm believer that organizations and leaders need to value their workforce. I use the analogy of a chariot to compare an organization. A chariot cannot move without its wheels. Wheels represent the workforce. The workforce are the people who engage in day to day tasks. The driver represents leadership. Even if leadership tries to steer their chariot, without their workforce to run the operations, the chariot will not move. Leadership can steer their organization in the right direction, but it is important to navigate their wheels collaboratively. Leadership should always consider the input of the workforce via listening sessions. Putting aside all political agendas, it is vital for the workforce to have input towards decisions related to the mission and vision. Leaders at all levels need to value their workforce by always having a “our people first” attitude.
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?
I predict that all workplaces will always have a top-down structure. A top-down structure is the foundation of any organization, especially in the future. What I do predict that will be different is how these organizations value its workforce. Right now, we are in a transitional state where companies are holding onto the old ways of doing things. This is an authoritative mindset. By having a collectivist mindset, currently leaders at the top are making all the decisions considering the input from directors. The future needs to actually incorporate input from the employees to run the day to day operations because they see the gaps, understand the needs, and will actually tell leaders how to be more efficient and effective. There should be no middle-man. Leaders must go directly to the source- employees! Employees want to come in and do their jobs. They want systems and tools that will make their jobs easier, efficient, so they can be more effective. It comes down to just asking and listening to what they are saying. I highly recommend a strategy that has ALWAYS worked: climate assessments.
Climate assessments are like wellness checks. Just as we make an annual wellness visit to our doctors to keep up to date on our health, climate assessments serve as a proactive measure to keep a pulse on the workforce. If a leader wants to know what is always happening, it is vital to carry out climate assessments at least twice a year.
Climate assessments seek to understand: what is working and why, what is not working and why, and ask the workforce to provide recommendations to make improvements.
There are 3 major benefits to climate assessments:
The first benefit is engagement. Climate assessments keeps leaders engaged with their workforce. In the remote workplace environment, it can be challenging to stay in touch with each employee frequently. Climate assessment serves as a space to observe employee engagement, understand and appreciate group dynamics, and know allegiances — all of which impacts the mission.
The second benefit: proactively mitigate issues at the lowest level before they become formal. When managers recognize trends in their groups such as broken trust, lack of communication, and/or unethical promotions, instead of going to compliance to file a grievance or acting upon a perception, climate assessments allow managers to see issues before they flare up. Managers can resolve them-quickly. For instance, if an employee did not get a promotion, they may think it is due to their age or race. For employees it is easier to go seek formal processes to file a complaint than making the effort to speak with a manager and receive honest feedback so as to understand why they did not get the job. Perceptions are not always based on facts but rather emotions which jade how facts are viewed and received.
The final benefit: establish a psychologically safe space that is built upon a foundation of trust, respect, and a growth mindset. In theory, psychological safety is a belief that individuals can speak up and take the risk to be vulnerable in a safe space. In practice, it is creating an environment where employees can agree to disagree respectfully, trust their opinions matter, and are considered, and be more innovative by offering alternative strategies. It is also a space where employees can feel safe to challenge their managers to improve the mission by asking questions that directly relate to the mission.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Listen to your workforce without any biases. Listen to what they have to say. And as a leader, share the constraints you are under, so they see the position you are in. Often leaders, employees do not understand your position, so explain it to them especially if a decision that you must make impacts employees. Listen, have a growth mindset, and be transparent — communicate!
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?
Generational Gap — this is becoming more and more obvious especially with the great resignation. Right now, Millennials, Gen Y, and Z see work as an option. Understand these generations and adapt! They will not adopt to an organization’s rigid schedule. They will leave. These generations show their feelings, talk about them, and bring it all into the workplace. Value what they are saying and become more understanding and flexible. Remember, if they want to get a coffee before their 10am meeting- let them.
And more importantly, be flexible! Although many companies are now entering a hybrid mode, having core hours can impact how your employees show up everyday. So offer them the flexibility to work at 2am and start at 10am. Trust me, you will see stronger and better mission related results.
Secondly, drop the “it’s always been done this way” attitude. No one wants to hear it, let alone deal with it. Value the ideas and efficiencies generations bring into the workplace. They are born to be smarter and faster because they are born in the technology era. Give them the opportunity to thrive and move up faster in the chain. They don’t need 20 years of experience to be a director. Trust me, they may lack 20 years of experience, but they can also take the organization 20 years ahead- faster and more efficiently. Give them the opportunity and a workplace culture where they are valued and will thrive.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Working from home is the future. Organizations should leave it optional for individuals to go into work. For the most part, people are thriving by working from home. Yes, there are times where people are having stress related issues managing work-life balance. This is a new norm so it takes time to re-create a routine that does not involve the drive time into work everyday. That’s okay. This will pass with new routines and the help of an ombudsman who can help individuals create new routines. Working from home should also be extended to working from any location, not just domestically. I am an individual who travels with their laptop. At the age of 40, I check in on my emails and students everyday when traveling for pleasure or work. It is easier to do knowing that I have the flexibility to do this because I work from home without limitations! Organizations that are flexible in many ways when it comes to “work from home” will retain their talent.
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?
Flexibility! Organizations need to do away with core hours of operation for all positions. I understand that certain positions need to be available during core hours. If possible, allow people to work at 2am as they will be able to give you their best work at that time. Avoid micromanaging — you will lose people and talent. Flexibility is not just about hours but it extends to managing — which means avoiding micromanagers. This will help to build trust and a psychologically safe space.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
Valuing the workforce. When organizations truly incorporate and act upon, “people first” the great resignation will fade out. Right now it has become an option to work. There are many companies offering “work for yourself at your own pace” such as Instacart, Ubereats, etc. Having a culture like Pinterest where folks can work remotely, in a hoodie, and be valued for what they bring to the table is the optimistic future of work.
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?
Mental health is personal. Organizations need to be mindful and considerate towards mental health. The struggle is real for an individual who is experiencing clinical depression. It is also real for individuals who are working in a toxic workplace where there is a lack of accountability for poor management. And as a result experience depression or stress related symptoms. Organizations also need to consider having an internal organizational ombuds. A skilled ombuds will be able to recognize trauma and help triage individuals to seek expert help. The ombuds is a first line of defense for organizations where individuals can report in a confidential manner, they are experiencing depression related issues. The ombuds can recommend how the individual can get mental health related help! This will not only save the organizations from losing its talent, but really do right by the people to help them personally.
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?
Avoid being a statistic of these headlines! It is never too late to re-vamp your workplace health. Leaders need to act upon a “people-first” attitude. Listen to the input your employees provide and value it. Value your workforce.
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.)
Please see my trends below:
- Employment is a choice. With the government benefits in the United States and the option to set up your own business online or as an expat in Mexico, Canada, Sweden, UK, Italy — right now people are looking for a place of work that offers flexibility. They have a choice to relocate.
- Mental Health. Right now employees are seeking to work for organizations that are flexible and provide a work-life balance. This means having the understanding and consideration to work with employees who are caretakers, need time off during the day to care for their kids, and/or work from home 100%. Having flexibility means taking into consideration how your employees deal with the stresses of life. This also means providing healthcare insurance that incorporates mental health services. And it means being flexible if an individual has an appointment with a therapist. Be mindful and considerate and do not punish them because they have a mental health issue. For example, I have seen managers beginning to micromanage their employees who share they may have a standing appointment with their therapist during their lunch break. Cherish they confidence in you to share something so important. And be empathetic. They should not be stigmatized. Treat them as you would normally.
- Generational Understanding — To my C-Suite friends: change with the times or risk losing your workforce. If you are unable to change the workplace culture that is open and understanding to new generations, you will lose good talent to your competitors. It’s not worth the risk.
- People First Mindset. All organizations must ensure their company culture is established upon a ‘people first’ mindset. Be considerate, empathetic, and understanding. Talent is hard to find and retain. Every organization has experienced losing good talent. When your top talent comes to you with an issue, take it seriously. It takes courage to speak up. Value what they are saying because it has not been easy for that individual to come forward. For example, if your top talent confides in you as a senior leader to address sexual harassment, open an investigation immediately (as opposed to offering mediation). Something as serious as sexual harassment should be addressed with zero tolerance policies. If you fail this individual, think of all those other employees who are watching who cannot trust and relay on systems and processes. Ultimately they will all leave- and perhaps work for your competitor.
- Internal Organizational Ombudsman. Every company in every sector should have an organizational ombudsman. Pinterest is the first company to start an organizational ombudsman office in Silicon Valley, offering employees at all levels a safe space to share their concerns and/or find an avenue to help with their concerns. An organizational ombudsman is an informal, impartial, independent, and confidential service that serves as the first line of defense to mitigate issues. Establishing an ombudsman office is critical in retaining your workforce, building, and sustaining long term relationships, and ensuring policies are applied with fairness and equity. And yes, an ombudsman will help to reduce turnover, increase morale and improve the company image, as well as reduce labor related lawsuits.
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?
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” By Johan Wolfgang von Goethe
The character of an individual is measured in my opinion, by how they treat others without any expectations or wanting anything in return. In my life, I have seen how good people are used by others. In my opinion, the true moral character of an individual is someone who works behind the scenes treating everyone, despite rank or position with compassion, equity and fairness.
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 be honored to meet Michelle and Barak Obama. They are humble individuals who have experienced a lot in life and yet overcame it. Being a minority despite being a President is not easy. Discrimination is real. What they have done to give back to the community is profound. I admire them with the utmost respect.
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.
Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to provide my insights with your reader. The honor is truly mine.