Technology innovation with a people first focus — many companies were pushing for cloud migration and digital transformation pre pandemic but the push for tech innovation burned out many employees. The trend now is developing technology solutions with a ‘how does this impact our people’ lens first.
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 Cheryl Cran, future of work expert.
Cheryl Cran is the founder of NextMapping and a future of work expert. She has been named #1 future of work influencer by Onalytica and in top then future of work experts by GoCatalant. She is the author of 10 books including, “Super.Crucial.Human” and 9 other books on the future of work, hybrid workplace and leadership. Cheryl is on a mission to ‘change the world’ by helping leaders and teams focus on a ‘people first’ future.
Her clients include Amazon, Upwork, Salesforce, Touchstone Energy, and many more. Cheryl’s thought leadership has been featured in Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Huff Post, Inc, Forbes and more. Find out more at nextmapping.com.
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.
I was raised by a single father, and he always said that anything a boy could do I could do we grew up on a farm and so he expected us to work hard and find creative ways to solve hard problems. My father encouraged me to lead not follow. In school I was drawn to drama class and speaking/debate club and when a teacher told me I had a ‘gift’ for speaking in public that gave me the courage and confidence to pursue a career that allowed me to lead and speak to groups.
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?
The things that will remain the same about work is that people will still seek work to fulfill purpose and meaning.
What will change is the attitude towards work — socially this is already happening people are asking themselves deep questions about what work means. For example, why do I work where I work? What does it give me? Am I learning and growing? How much money is enough money? Etc.
Organizations and their leaders will adjust the work to match the talents, and strengths and lifestyles of their workers.
In 10–15 years’ work will be far more fluid — it will be mostly entrepreneurial based. Workers will work primarily in a remote capacity and technology will allow the true ease of WFA (work from anywhere).
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Employers need to embrace the hybrid workplace and equip their leaders to lead effectively in a hybrid future. Digital transformation with a people first focus is a MUST to remain in business and to future proof. Employers need to prioritize leadership development and democratize access to learning and skills development for all workers.
A learning organization is a future proof organization.
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?
Biggest gaps are employers holding on to traditional ideals about work such as 9 to 5 or five-day workweeks. Workers are seeking autonomous work — work that they can do that meets goals AND can be done within their time structures. Employers are recognizing that workers want flexibility, and this is a big gap to be filled in order to both attract and keep employees as we move forward.
Strategies to reconcile the gaps include helping leaders to shift mindset about work — shifting from traditional views of work and opening mind to more loosely organized work. Leaders need to develop multiple perspectives and the ability to ‘share leadership’ by gathering insights, listening to feedback, and implementing ideas shared by their teams.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Hybrid is here to stay. Not everyone is suited to work from home or remotely some people work much more effectively with the structure of going to an office. Other workers perform very effectively in a remote environment. The opportunity now for leaders and teams is to evaluate a hybrid workplace policy/strategy that matches a worker’s strengths with their preferred work location.
In the past few years everyone has had to be more flexible to leveraging digital tools such as MS Teams or Zoom for example. We are now permanently able to do a fair amount of work tasks virtually and this will influence the way everyone works now and in the future.
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 have conducted research on the social attitudes and values shifts since the pandemic. Collectively people have realized that they were spending a lot of time commuting — time that when they worked from home they shifted to exercise or time with family. The values shift for everyone has forever changed the way people view work and how they want to live their lives with a focus on increased health and well-being. In addition, people are evaluating their employers and deciding if they companies’ values/leaders’ values align with how each person wants to live and work.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
I am a pragmatic optimist — I believe in humanity — I believe things are improving. My greatest source of optimism is that the collective values shift is creating positive change. More and more of us are taking action that is aligned with a cleaner planet, sharing resources, democratizing access to resources and realizing that the future is about ‘we’.
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?
Employers recognize that an employee’s health and wellbeing is paramount to reaching strategic goals. We can no longer just throw work at people and burn them out — people are leaving those workplaces. Workers are prioritizing health and well-being and they are seeking employers who honor that.
Many employers are doing things such as giving everyone half day Friday’s so that they can have a longer weekend. Others have completely converted to the four-day work week — other companies are giving increased ‘well-being’ days as rewards.
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?
Leaders need to just accept that we are in a ‘workers market’. What that means is that in the past employers held the cards. Employers set the work structures, the job descriptions, and the terms of work. Now with workers/employees reevaluating life and work they are the ones in power. If a company says that there are no remote work opportunities workers are leaving to find work that aligns with their lifestyle and values.
The best way to lead in a ‘workers market’ is to listen to each worker and what they want, you won’t please all people but doing the best you can to customize the work for each worker is an opportunity today.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- Worker’s market — 25% of workers are quitting jobs without a job to go to because they are keeping their options open this is a reality linked to the ‘great resignation’.
- Global workforce — Workers can now live and work anywhere which means the competition for talent is greater than ever before and also there is greater opportunity to recruit from a larger talent pool. A company like Deel helps employers to hire global talent for example.
- Technology innovation with a people first focus — many companies were pushing for cloud migration and digital transformation pre pandemic but the push for tech innovation burned out many employees. The trend now is developing technology solutions with a ‘how does this impact our people’ lens first.
- Remote work will continue to rise — 55% of workers worked full time in office in 2021 — in 2022 there was a 22% rise in workers seeking full time remote work opportunities.
- Rise in freelance work — as more workers seek flexibility and autonomy many are choosing to do contract work, seasonal work or freelance work. Over 10 million workers sought freelance work in 2021.
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?
I keep quotes on Pinterest, and I screenshot quotes on Instagram, and I share them on my LinkedIn page too. My favorite quote is Maya Angelou’s, “” Do the best you can until you know better, and when you know better do better”.
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 have to say Viola Davis — I follow her on Instagram, and I have ordered her biography her integrity shines through what she shares, and she has turned major life challenges into living an inspiring life. I would also say Michelle Obama — her leadership style and her impact is incredibly inspiring.
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 find me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/cherylcran/
My YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/cherylcran
Our website is: https://nextmapping.com/
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.