Your managers matter. Employees don’t leave companies; they leave managers. Consequently, if you want to retain your people, you need to invest in leadership training and coaching. When managers understand how to deal with different personalities and communicate more effectively, their people will stay with them longer.

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 Carol Schultz.

Carol Schultz, founder and chief executive officer of Vertical Elevation, is a talent equity and leadership advisory expert. Recognized for her proficiency in corporate leadership, Carol has spent three decades helping executives gain clarity in their careers and create cultures of performance by being empowered to make bold leadership moves. A firm believer in supporting executives to become more confident leaders, she’s advised countless individuals and companies, from seed stage pre-initial public offering to publicly traded companies.

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.

Without a doubt, the work I did with Landmark Worldwide shaped who I am today. It taught me to be an exceptional listener, how to look at my life more objectively, and how to be a great coach. All these things, and more, have led me to be unafraid of being truly authentic in my feelings, which translates directly to my business.

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 a difficult question. Before 2020, no one could have predicted where we’d be in 2022, so I think we may be living in a blind spot. If only I were omniscient!

My best guess is that employers will continue to look out for themselves, as they always have. This doesn’t negate the fact that many companies are committed to talent-centricity, but they’ll still look out for themselves first and foremost, especially when they have investors to answer to.

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

You need to be totally aligned at the executive level regarding your vision, culture, culture of feedback, and business strategy. Only when you have these things aligned can you build a sustainable talent strategy that will take you into the future.

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?

Companies thinking that recruiting and retention are just about money is an issue we’re already seeing. This is a huge fallacy on their part. The solution is simple: Companies need to ask their employees and candidates what they need and want if they want to retain them.

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

As someone who’s worked from home successfully since 2002, I firmly believe that companies will need to maintain either a hybrid or full work-from-home model. Companies have finally discovered that they can trust employees to get their work done without someone watching over them. The biggest challenge for leaders and managers will be creating a culture that works with a remote workforce. They’ll have to bring employees together at least two times a year, if not quarterly.

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?

The youngest people in our workforce, Gen Z, have been enabled by “lawnmower” parents who mow over any problems their children face. As a result, these kids don’t meet adversity well and aren’t prepared for real life. Now, this doesn’t remove a company’s responsibility to put employees first and build a talent-centric organization, but companies shouldn’t be forced to bend to the will of workers who aren’t prepared to live life outside of their bubbles.

I had a CEO recently tell me that his company has interviewed job candidates who are just coming out of college, and “they can’t string a sentence together.” Is this the fault of parents who give their kids smartphones and expect them to learn how to communicate via text? Is it the fault of the educational system? Companies shouldn’t have to teach employees how to communicate. We need to look at the root cause of this disconnect and stress the importance of communication for professional success.

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

Founders and CEOs are finally coming to grips with what I’ve been saying since 2008: we need to create talent-friendly workplaces. My greatest hope is that leaders have realized they’ll need to continue this and not let it fall by the wayside when our business environment inevitably changes.

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 have a number of clients who offer their employees mental health days. These days off aren’t scheduled and can be taken at the last minute. Building a culture of feedback — at every level of an organization — will also reduce employee stress, especially for lower-level workers who often feel they aren’t heard. A culture of feedback must start with the CEO and trickle down through the entire executive team.

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?

Gone are the days where CEOs say that their people are the most important thing, but they don’t act in ways to further that. If leaders don’t put their money where their mouth is, they’ll sink. Company cultures need to support both a company’s vision and business strategy, but a company’s talent strategy must also support these items.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

There are definite trends I’m seeing out in the field:

The most successful companies are talent-centric. The pandemic has slapped companies across the face as employees leave them in droves. Companies need to learn to ask their employees what they want and then provide a work environment where employees can thrive. This is critical as baby boomers leave the workforce. Without talent-centricity, companies won’t be successful as they could be otherwise.

It’s not just about the money for Gen Z. This generation wants to make a difference in life. The problem is that many young people are getting out of school with so much debt that they can’t afford to take a job that fulfills this need. Gen Z needs to spend some time working for companies that will pay enough to get their debt under control first.

Your managers matter. Employees don’t leave companies; they leave managers. Consequently, if you want to retain your people, you need to invest in leadership training and coaching. When managers understand how to deal with different personalities and communicate more effectively, their people will stay with them longer.

A culture of feedback leads to growth. A culture of feedback needs to come straight from the CEO. Anyone and everyone working for an organization should be able to go directly to their superiors and talk to them about what’s not working without fear of reprisal. They should also be able to take their concerns more than one level up, if necessary. In a culture of feedback, communication is needed, wanted, and expected as a contribution to everyone’s growth.

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 my favorite quotes is: “You don’t have business problems. You have personal problems that show up in your business.” This reminds me to keep my own coaching up.

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 U.S., 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’d love to have lunch with Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at NYU Stern. He’s incredibly smart. I’d like to strategize and figure out a better way for our country’s politicians to communicate. How do we get this country to start speaking sensibly to each other even when we don’t agree?

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?

They can follow me on LinkedIn and send a personal note to connect:

They can also reach out directly at [email protected].

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