… Generational Changes: Every generation that would enter the workforce brought something very different in the workforce compared to the preceding generation. That means that as we are seeing more generation Gen Z coming in to the workforce, they’ll be bringing different perspectives, which will challenge the expectations around workplaces.

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 Clair Kim.

Clair Kim is a CEO / Principal Consultant of Allennials at Work, DE&I Consultancy that helps high growth enterprises create an inclusive culture that fosters high performing teams. Clair’s insights has been featured in Forbes, MSN, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Today Show, and more. You can learn more at allennialsatwork.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’d have to pick the time in life where from the university student perspective, nothing was going well. So everything from part-time job, internships, grades, feeling great about the program etc, just wasn’t there. It really got me thinking, “do I want to let this situation define how my life is going to pan out? What can come out of this?”. It was the first time in my life where I solely looked inwards and to the long-term destination without considering any other external factors. It really changed how I approach life in general. If it wasn’t for that situation that triggered these thoughts, I probably wouldn’t have chosen entrepreneurship.

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 fundamental expectations such as a need for positive recognition, a need to belong, or rewards will never change. However, what will change is the employer and employee dynamic. Employees will be as invested in the employer only as much as the employer invests in employees. It’s a two way street just like every other relationship. But it wasn’t until recently where more employers started to catch on that. This will show up through the employees’ willingness to give input, how they select their employers, or how they perceive what it means for a workplace to meet these fundamental expectations.

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

Don’t overcomplicate the fundamental principles — especially around human relationships or your relationship as a leader with the different employees. Make sure that no matter what happens in the workplace, your employees are feeling valued and well-compensated. Another piece of advice is to be aware of your existing strengths. Employers either feel pulled to 1000’s of directions or they completely resist change. The only way to find a good middle ground is to be cognizant of strengths and weaknesses of the organization as those qualities probably never changed.

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?

I love this question! The biggest gap would be the tension between the status quo and the pressure from the employees to get the employers to adapt as quickly as possible to the changing expectations. The changes that employers are willing to offer are based on precedence within the company or an industry-wide norm. It’s a degree of change that doesn’t rock the boat and has been proven in the past. So they come from very past-oriented lens. But employees don’t look at these precedences or the industry-wide norm. The changes they expect are based on the vision of how they see things evolving from ground-breaking start-up’s, or companies that made it to news for doing something revolutionary. It’s more future focused and may not always be coming from that “proven” change. Reconciling these gaps come from communicating the intention to change and executing them. Make the intentions same and clear — creating the best company for the employees, customers, and any other stakeholders involved. Involve employees of various seniorities in the conversation. Everyone in the room needs to agree to the work ahead with the vision in mind and stick to what they promised.

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

I’m a zillennial (millennial / gen Z cusp) founder and built my company to be fully remote from day one back when remote work was a very strange concept for many. So this experiment has been really interesting! If there’s anything that this experiment proved, is that working at home shouldn’t just be treated as a unicorn on the wishlist. It’s been proven to be possible, cost-effective, and more than do-able for so many companies. Companies that are pushing for 100% in-person environment will need to have a very strong case on why. The reasons such as “the higher-up’s just prefer it that way” or “we are afraid people won’t get work done” won’t cut it. This experience has catalyzed many of the incoming trends within the future of work and placed flexible working arrangement as one of the “musts”.

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?

I see two necessary changes that needs to be made at the societal level. First one is clear boundaries for work life differentiation when working from home. Many people don’t really have an optimal setup to work at home. Even if they do have great setup, they are constantly being interrupted because their household members assume that they’ll be more available than the ones in the office… Even if they’re working on the clock! That narrative needs to change.

The other one is further integrating diversity, equity and inclusion. We’ve made some progress here and there. But we still aren’t at a place where everyone of all backgrounds feel safe going to work or just living their lives. The struggles of employees coming from under-represented backgrounds are continuously being shut down by, “don’t get political” or “you’re just being sensitive, you’re the only one that feels that way” etc. There needs to be societal changes around how we’re expected to navigate different perspectives.

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

We are literally just getting started. I’m really excited to see how the workplace continues to evolve!

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’ve seen no meeting policy and tangible mental health support, which has been awesome to see! The no meeting perspective comes from the notion that 56% of meetings in a remote environment are considered unproductive or quite irrelevant. We are challenging the paradigm of “meetings are needed to get the work done”. On the note of tangible mental health support, I’ve seen this happen through employe hotline partnerships, mental health apps, or wellness classes. Mental health is a complex subject and is best handled by trained professionals. So helping employees get the professional help from someone who’s not in the organization (which helps with the privacy aspect as well) is great to see!

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?

A lot of these discussions that are popping up these headlines lead back to “changing expectations”. But they really are not. They have been coming up for ages. The most important lesson leaders need to hear from these headlines is pay attention. How company cultures need to be evolving in order to adapt to that is to evolve in a way that is people centric in all fronts — processes, systems, day to day interactions. Not just in the value statements. When you are a company leader, it is really easy to feel that the job is complete when you put something in a strategic objective or a fancy mission statement. Theoretically, it should be. But the reality is that’s where the work starts especially when dealing with corporate culture. Most of your employees will never look at these roadmaps. So their perception of corporate culture will be shaped based on their day to day processes or experience. What systems are they exposed to? What processes are they executing or witnessing? Do they trust their supervisors in their abilities to get their concerns resolved? Many companies are in the right direction. So they just need to continue that by minding clear top to bottom communication on all fronts.

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

  1. DEIB (Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging): it wasn’t until in the recent years where it really started to be a topic that got started to get the attention that it deserved. That means that from both the consumer and employee expectations front, the companies that are going to stand out are the ones who are able to continue to create inclusive workplaces for their team members and treat them well. It’s becoming a requirement as to how talents approach the workplace.
  2. Generational Changes: Every generation that would enter the workforce brought something very different in the workforce compared to the preceding generation. That means that as we are seeing more generation Gen Z coming in to the workforce, they’ll be bringing different perspectives, which will challenge the expectations around workplaces.
  3. War for Talent: There has already been a shortage of highly skilled or knowledgeable talents. The war for high-performing talent won’t get easier. It’ll get even more competitive as remote work made it so that talents could be recruited by companies that aren’t even in their countries. This means that companies will have to really start thinking like marketers because even talent market is global now.
  4. Life First, Work Second: Pandemic made talents question their life priorities, which is what triggered the great resignation. As people re-evaluated their priorities, they realized that their workplaces weren’t meeting their expectations. If employees get a feeling that they are constantly burning out or feel they have to put their personal life aside in order to work, many of them will be willing to walk away to find a workplace that’s aligned with their priorities.
  5. Metaverse: Metaverse will determine not only the jobs that are being introduced in the workplace, but at the same time how people and the overall workplace dynamics is as well. More companies are using metaverse office solutions to make synchronous interactions possible while replacing their in-person offices.

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?

My favorite quote right now is by CS Lewis, which is, “you can’t go back and change the beginning but you can start where you are and change the ending”. It’s always been a good reminder to keep your eyes focused on the prize while making the best out of the moment that you’re currently in.

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.

If I had to pick one person I would say Jay Z. I’d love to learn how he’s been able to establish himself as a leader across various industries. How he’s been able to create such success and providing opportunities for ones coming from under-represented talents is amazing.

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?

The best way to stay connected is through my LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/clairk

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!!