Employees need to recession-proof themselves (Forbes). In order to remain relevant from a skills perspective, employees need to ensure they’re staying up to date with continuing education and upskilling opportunities. By being irreplaceable, employees are making themselves recession-proof for employers during these uncertain economic times.

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, we had the pleasure to interview Charlie Schilling, President of the Enterprise Business at Emeritus.

Charlie Schilling is the President of the Enterprise Business (North America and Europe) and a member of the executive team at Emeritus. Emeritus is committed to teaching the skills of the future by making high-quality education accessible and affordable to individuals, companies, and governments around the world. It does this by collaborating with more than 50 top-tier universities like MIT, Columbia, Wharton, IESE, and Cambridge across the United States, Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia, India and China. Emeritus’ short courses, degree programs, professional certificates, and senior executive programs help individuals learn new skills and transform their lives, companies, and organizations.Previously, Charlie was General Manager of the Enterprise Business and a member of the executive team at General Assembly (GA). Prior to joining GA, Charlie was General Manager of Corporate Markets at GLG, a member of the CEO’s Office at Bloomberg LP, and a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. Schilling began his career as an investment banker focused on technology, media, and telecom.Schilling holds a BA from Georgetown University and a MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth College. He lives in New York City with his wife and their daughters.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

Organizations are facing multiple challenges today, from the war for talent and growing technological and leadership skills gaps to increasing economic uncertainty. Future-proofing is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have, and education is always the key. Organizations need to provide proactive, supported, and targeted opportunities for employees to upskill and reskill, so that both employees and employers can benefit.

Employers who invest in building and empowering talent create a culture of stronger engagement and retention, develop better agility in responding effectively to future challenges, and build competitive advantage to drive long-term success. Education is the best investment to create organizational readiness for 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?

The great thing about workforce education is that it’s a win-win for employers and employees. But expectations and business needs are changing, and it’s increasingly critical that employers provide sponsored education pathways and clear employee growth paths.

McKinsey projects that 87% of companies are anticipating skill gaps by 2026. This means that companies have an organizational imperative to build up their digital and technical readiness. Twenty years ago, companies may have pursued a reactive strategy and expected to fill gaps with new hires. Today, that’s not possible: technologies change too quickly, the costs to hire new people are high, and it’s an incredibly competitive market for great talent. Instead, companies that proactively upskill and reskill from within can better retain and attract talent and close those skill gaps faster. This is a whole new mindset for employers, and it’s an increasing expectation from employees.

Practically, the number one thing that employers can do is make sure there is financial and logistical support for education. Understandably, employees are less likely to take advantage of upskilling opportunities if they have to foot the bill upfront or pursue learning in off-hours, which is how gaps widen even further for women and underrepresented groups. It’s on employers to close those gaps, build up organizational readiness, and create real opportunities.

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

I’m very encouraged by conversations around the importance of work-life balance. Education is about economic empowerment, but it’s also about living a full life. At the end of the day, we want to move the business forward, but we also want to foster joy and fulfillment. We want to find ways that we can harness the power of technology and all these fast-changing skills to live more whole, human lives. As the husband of a female CEO and father to two daughters, I’m excited to see growing conversations and norms about building inclusive teams, working smarter not harder, and finding that balance. There’s so much to be excited about.

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 challenges are prevalent, and this creates challenges for employees and employers alike. We all can relate to stresses and concerns, and these can start at work, or they can start from outside and then affect work. Well-being should always be a top priority, and at the same time, we also know the business impact this can have: lost productivity, fragmented cultures, and team attrition.

Many companies are just getting started taking these issues seriously. Particularly through the pandemic, employees have felt disconnected, and organizations now realize it’s essential to create connection points for individuals and foster relationship building.

At Emeritus, we’re a remote-first organization, so intentionally fostering connection has always been important. And, simple things can go a long way. For example, during our all-hands team meetings, we always begin with five minutes in randomly selected Zoom breakout rooms to discuss a prompt. These can be somewhat silly, like “what’s your ideal superpower” or “what’s your dream vacation,” but it’s a great way to build bonds. It breaks up the day and reminds us we’re human first.

What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

“Share the credit, take the blame.” I am not sure where this quote actually comes from, but I have always been moved by it, and I think all good leaders do it. In my career, I’ve worked for a few selfish people who took the credit and minimized the contributions of team members, but the stronger, more fulfilled, and more productive teams were with leaders who put their teams out front in the spotlight. The best leaders are the first to take responsibility when things are going wrong, never throw people under the bus, and quickly move to get working on better solutions.

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?

Today we’re seeing that too many people do not have the skills they need to keep up with the pace of today’s workplace demands. In order to close these gaps in the next 10–15 years, employers need to provide learning paths and upskilling opportunities to help current and future employees succeed. Gartner recently did a study about the skills that were posted in a typical job posting in 2017 vs. 2021. Even in that very short period of time, 33 percent of the skills that were listed in 2017 typically were not listed in 2021. That’s an example of how quickly things are changing, and that will only continue in the next 10 years.

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 took some adjusting at first, but it brought both opportunities and challenges for all, even nearly three years later. I think it definitely brought more awareness to different working styles, inclusivity, and the importance of flexibility that we’re all learning to embrace. That said, it is clear that people and teams thrive on human interaction. So, even ‘remote-first’ companies need to be intentional about creating the space and time for team-based gatherings. Our team has been doing more of this, and it clearly makes our teams happier and more energized.

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?

Employers should give their employees a reason to want to stay at their company. With the emergence of remote work and hybrid teams, culture is often one of the first things to go, which is unfortunate. This also makes employees want to look for different and potentially better opportunities. It will be the proactive, forward-thinking employers who invest in building talent and culture that will have the best places to work in the future, no matter where their people are based.

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?

The main message leaders need to hear is that employees have choices, and are willing to walk if their needs are not met. One of the effects of more remote work and better technology is that switching costs are lower for many employees, especially in technology and related industries. To combat this and retain top talent, employers need to give people a reason to forge a path and stay committed to their companies. One way to do this is by creating a culture of growth and learning, celebrating those who take steps to better their own careers.

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

  1. Creating a more inclusive and diverse workplace (Inc.) I feel very strongly about ensuring people from any background, gender and class have opportunities to grow at work and eventually have leadership roles. When leaders embrace this type of mentality, it empowers everyone around them, and I think this will play a major role in the success of organizations in the future of work.
  2. Employers encouraging their employees to upskill and continue their education (SHRM). In order to close massive skills gaps around the world and keep pace with today’s digital-first workplace, people at all levels should have the opportunity to upskill.
  3. Providing employees the benefits they need and want (HR Magazine). When benefits are catered to the needs of employees, they’re more likely to be utilized. Continuing education is a big part of this and employees are more likely to pursue opportunities when employers foot the tuition bill or proactively offer opportunities.
  4. Employees need to recession-proof themselves (Forbes). In order to remain relevant from a skills perspective, employees need to ensure they’re staying up to date with continuing education and upskilling opportunities. By being irreplaceable, employees are making themselves recession-proof for employers during these uncertain economic times.
  5. Academies will play a bigger role in the workplace (Josh Bersin). Many major organizations used to run in-person university-style programs to upskill their workers, but with an increase in digital learning platforms, in-person corporate academies largely disappeared. I expect this to change as companies turn to learning academies to offer a welcome new approach that will help them invest in the future of their employees.

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.

Sure. I’ll name one professional experience and one personal one.

On the professional side, I was shaped by my early career as an investment banker. I started my job in 2000, just before 9/11 and the burst of the technology bubble. This taught us all something about resilience, but also about having a team-first mentality. I was fortunate to work for a group of people who got through that crisis as a unit, putting loyalty and care for each other and our clients at the fore.

On a personal note, becoming a husband and a father to two girls has shaped my approach to everything I do. This forces lots of prioritization and trade-offs, but it’s brought great joy, purpose, and perspective to my life and I am incredibly grateful.

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.

For sure: Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. The goods Yvon and his company create have great utility, have unmatched brand affinity… and he is using it all to make an incredible, positive difference in the world by combating climate change.

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