More — not less — red tape. 2020 saw a record number of legislative changes globally. With more and more countries needing to account for a globalizing workforce in their tax and employment laws. This is likely a record we’ll see broken again year after year. Fast-changing international and local laws and regulations will keep HR and legal teams on their toes. Executives trying to navigate the complexity of international expansion will likely need an expert partner to guide them.

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 Bjorn Reynolds.

As the Founder and CEO (or as we affectionately call him, Chief Guardian) of Safeguard Global, Bjorn is the driving force behind our company’s vision, strategy and culture. His commitment to excellent service and the success of our clients and Guardians is inspirational and of paramount importance to him personally. Bjorn has been recognized in Payroll World’s Top 50 and by Workforce magazine as a “Game Changer,” and he has been nominated as EY’s “Entrepreneur of the Year.”

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

Act fast in breaking the mold you built as the “way to do business.”

It’s the only way to create change right now, and I think as we move into the future, every organization has to be willing to adapt and be flexible. Otherwise, you lose your customers and your employees.

There are a lot of ways this will manifest. I talk to other leaders about what is keeping them from breaking the mold and rethinking the way they operate. And more often than not, it’s about issues of comfort around accountability. The truth is, seeing your people every day isn’t making them more accountable or productive. Measuring them against clear objectives and understanding how they are performing against them is a better measure of both. Developing a culture of transparency can provide the motivation for your teams to hold themselves accountable for their objectives pretty quickly.

However, it means breaking the mold of “it’s always been done like that”, which we should be breaking anyway to create innovative solutions for our clients.

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?

This is something we are thinking a lot about — as you know, this past year has seen a lot of change for employers and their employees. Really, it was a fast-tracking of what was already coming: remote work and finding ways to support a fully distributed workforce. And it worked!

What this proved to all of us is that it’s possible to work fully remote for many, but also that the tools exist to increase the flexibility around our work environments. While the ability to go fully remote worked out, the need to accomplish this exposed some challenges and made clear there needs to be more balance in people’s lives and that they are going to demand flexibility in their workspaces to accomplish that.

When we talk about “flexibility”, it’s more than just remote, it’s a new future of work. At Safeguard Global, we call it Work in Any Way. It’s all about the reality that employers and employees are going to have to collaborate a lot more to build work relationships and environments that work for everyone.

Fortunately for employers, employees are making their expectations clear. The first part of the strategy is that we as employers need to listen and put in the resources to build work environments that can remain flexible and agile enough to support what our talent really wants. Examples could be the ability to work asynchronous schedules, to be a digital nomad, to adjust pay frequency, or even to change worker classification.

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 work can be summed up in one word: flexible.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was steady growth in remote work. Yet this experiment — to borrow your word — proved out the hypothesis that the traditional work model wasn’t the only way for businesses and employees to work successfully. At the same time, people had experiences that broke the idea of “work / life balance.” Instead, people realized they need an integration of their work and personal lives in order for them to be fulfilled.

As a result, we’re entering a new idea of the workspace. It’s changed due to a change in the worker and employer dynamic. And it’s not going to revert back. The “future of work” itself has changed, and we’re looking at a version that offers the worker a lot more power.

Work in Any Way is our recognition that in order to build the best work experience for everyone, it’s going to need to be rooted in flexibility. For employees, this new future of work means asking questions like “can I get on a different pay cycle that better serves my lifestyle?” or “can I get my pay in different currencies while I live abroad?” Or they might ask “how can I work asynchronously to accommodate my family commitments?” or “how can I leverage worker classification to best suit the needs of the projects and work I want to take on?” As people continue to be more selective about their work experience and share their wants and needs, their influence on what employers need to consider will continue to expand. Employers are going to need to be flexible and open to considering ideas like these in order to recruit and retain the best talent.

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

Honestly, the fact that we took part in an experiment that turned the future of work into the present of work. And now there’s a new future of work to build toward.

As a result, new opportunities are available now. As I mentioned earlier, the whole concept of the workscape is shifting. It is no longer organized around only the employer needs. For more than a year we have all seen that our employees can work from anywhere, make difficult choices about their time, and still produce. As a result, they have earned the leverage to demand a different work environment — one that brings their ability to balance their needs to the forefront.

The vision for our global employment solution is to open the employment options to people around the world. People will no longer be limited to working for companies in their city or town. Rather, every person has the opportunity to work for an industry-leading company without having to move to where that company has a brick-and-mortar entity and for companies, it means they have the ability to hire talent from anywhere in the world and organizations recognize they can be comfortable capitalizing on that opportunity.

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?

We used to hear a lot of the future of work initiatives and benefits as investments in making things work better for the organization. And it’s a crucially important big-picture conversation to have — because I do believe that in the end, more efficient and effective resources and processes make the work-life of our employees better. However, until recently, mental health and wellbeing was often sidelined — when it should really be at the core of the equation.

It’s my hope that more companies begin to recognize that the objective of creating more efficient and productive work environments is to free our employees to bring the creative and innovative sides of themselves to the work. “Whole person” development within teams means ensuring that your employees aren’t burned out or struggling to maintain a healthy balance between work and life. Strong business outcomes will always be important, but there are no outcomes if there is no team — and there is no team without engaged and satisfied people.

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?

We need to move toward greater transparency and flexibility. Where we work, how we work, and in many cases who we work for are all changing rapidly. The longer we struggle with the pandemic, the more people will need assurances that we are all doing the best we can for each other. Leaders are going to need to get a lot more comfortable with being transparent about how the business is changing and adapting. And then we’re all going to need to be flexible to create workspaces that fit our 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?

Here’s the thing. I think of this as the “Great Awakening.” Not only is this a more positive description of what is occurring, but I think it’s a good frame for both workers and employers. This is a game-changer! This is the catalyst that’s going to make all of us better. We have to get better at how we employ and incentivize people and how we manage their work experience. As I mentioned before, there has been a power shift — and employees are the ones in the driver’s seat right now.

Although the coverage around the Great Resignation focuses on the role remote work and the global hiring shortage have played in driving this change, I believe that this Great Awakening means opportunity. Organizations will either have to do better by their employees or risk losing them. People will need clear ideas about what they need within their experience to better identify and develop career paths that match the lifestyle they seek.

Company leaders should keep in mind the lengths employees have gone through during the pandemic: flipping their lives upside down, shifting to work from home, and managing dramatic changes to their work and personal life essentially overnight. A lot of effort, growing pains, and patience have gone into figuring out how to do this. Now, it’s leadership’s turn to step up to the plate and ‘make it work.’

To attract new talent — and to retain and better engage the employees they already have — companies should prioritize getting up to speed with the new status quo of ‘work from anywhere’ in tandem with developing their ‘hire from everywhere’ strategies. Then, they should figure out how to go above and beyond those basic expectations and provide flexibility in new, compelling ways.

As an example, our Chief Technology Officer needed to grow our engineering team. He directed our recruitment team to look around the world and he found the right team members in Nigeria. We hired these talented employees at rates they do not have access to with local employers — so we got great talent and they are getting paid salaries based upon their skills and work, not the local market rate. This is what I mean by “The Great Awakening” — we looked outside our normal recruitment pool and our new employees found an opportunity that’s going to be lifechanging.

It all comes back to that idea of Work in Any Way: finding the common ground between the flexibility employees are demanding and the choices that are within your power to offer.

What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  • Dissolving borders. I’ll say it again: the future of work is global and flexible. Business is becoming increasingly international and hiring is becoming a truly global affair. Unfortunately for recruiters, the market is very competitive and their jobs are difficult — and remain so into 2022. Companies are now recruiting from abroad, seamlessly integrating international members into their teams and themselves into new, international markets. Employees, too, have a global reach — they can now weigh the value proposition of each company without their choices being made for them by relocation, tax or technology challenges. As long as the talent market remains this competitive — and we think it will — both employers and employees will need to remain flexible to harness their new powers of choice.
  • More — not less — red tape. 2020 saw a record number of legislative changes globally. With more and more countries needing to account for a globalizing workforce in their tax and employment laws. This is likely a record we’ll see broken again year after year. Fast-changing international and local laws and regulations will keep HR and legal teams on their toes. Executives trying to navigate the complexity of international expansion will likely need an expert partner to guide them.
  • Update your definition of “employment”. If you only have one definition of what “work” or “employment” looks like in your head, it’s time to break the mold of “how it’s always been”. Even before the pandemic, gig economy heavyweights were redefining ways to leverage skilled workers, especially on a short-term, employee-directed or other nontraditional basis. Yes, there were growing pains in the past and there will be growing pains ahead, but the gig economy has created tectonic shifts beneath the surface of the global employment model. 2022 does feel like a new beginning, not just for how we approach hiring and our work…but for how we define it altogether. This is one of the reasons I’m so personally passionate about what Safeguard Global is doing, and the direction we’re moving in: the right solution providers can be part of a fundamental shift of what “work” or “employment” means and how it’s managed in the future. I’m genuinely excited to be a part of it!
  • Payroll breaks out of its silo. Historically payroll was seen as a tactical function within the organization, but in the last few years we’ve seen it evolve into a critical strategic partner within the company — as evidenced by the rise in investment in people analytics. Workforce spend has always been key to understanding your ROI. Now, as we move toward a Work in Any Way employment model, with the potential for greater diversification of location and work classifications, companies need to invest in the right tools and partners to help keep their workforce data current and standardized so they can trust it. In the future, I see companies needing to break out of the standard payroll cycle — or even rethink the currencies they use — as more workers seek flexibility in how they are paid. This means payroll teams and their leaders will have a lot more to consider in terms of system set-up and payroll processing.
  • Building for an inclusive global workforce. More and more companies are realizing they can recruit and hire from anywhere in the world. For organizations with an international footprint, this is the norm. However, over the next few years, we’re going to see a rapid increase in a globally diverse workforce, as well as a rise in workers choosing to move around the globe during their work experience. As workforces globalize, teams will integrate a wider range of experiential and cultural points of view into their workflows. Savvy leaders will embrace, build, and help develop new cultures of inclusion that take into account broad experiences within the company as well as within individual teams.

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?

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal — a commitment to excellence — that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” ― Mario Andretti

I think this quote, and sentiment, best reflects the challenges for an entrepreneur and founder. Motivation doesn’t bring you success. Instead, it’s being unrelenting in your pursuit of the goal — the determination and commitment to never give up on your goal. If all that was needed was the motivation, everyone would achieve success. Whether it’s when hard times hit and you need to change your path, or when small successes occur and you’re tempted to drop focus — it’s that unrelenting determination that drives you to your goal. Being motivated merely sparks the idea. An unrelenting attitude until you achieve your goal is the ultimate path to staying inspired.

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.

This one would be personal — Patrick Stewart. He is a fellow Englishman, has been in many of my favorite shows, and has had an impressive career. In a business that can be fickle, he has managed to remain relevant and current for decades! It is a testament to his talent as well as his sense of humor. While he takes his work seriously, he is personable and looks to make his life and work enjoyable.

At Safeguard Global we take pride in our ability to work hard and build solutions for our clients. But we also have fun with our colleagues and strive to make working with us enjoyable for our clients. When people like working with you, they get more satisfaction out of their own work — whether as a colleague or client. And Patrick Stewart seems like someone who is really enjoying his work and his life. We should all take the opportunity to spend time with people like that!

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?

This is a great idea! I know that we will be rolling out a lot of our Future of Work thoughts on our site at a page dedicated to it. Our Work in Any Way page will host a lot of that content.

Additionally, feel free to follow me on LinkedIn. I have been quiet recently, but I am looking forward to sharing more there.

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