Prioritizing sustainability. A company’s Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) measures are predicted to improve as they become more fit for the future. This refers directly to the company’s commitment to developing sustainability. As customers demand for businesses to support these issues, businesses will also level up their ESG score, ultimately boosting business performance while meeting customer expectations. Not to mention, organizations investing more in these scores will now subsequently improve their credibility on issues that will only become more urgent in the near future.

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 David Joosten.

Joosten is the President and CEO for Vodafone US Inc. In this role, he leads Vodafone Business commercial operations throughout the United States, Canada and Latin America, in addition to Vodafone partner markets including France, Belgium, and Netherlands, and Luxembourg, the Nordics and Vodafone’s international public sector customers. With more than twenty years in international IT, telecoms and sales, David brings a wealth of experience to the role. David joined Vodafone in 2007 and has held many international roles over the years, including most recently Head of International Sales, a position he held from 2016–2019.

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.

The birth of my 2 children changed my life dramatically. Being their parent is the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had! The second experience would be when I was appointed as head of the US region and moved to New York (during COVID lockdowns), changing my career and leadership immensely.

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 onset of the pandemic in March 2020 changed the way we work, connect and collaborate. It threw into sharp focus what it meant to be a “future-forward” organization, accelerating transformation across all aspects of every organization and prioritizing technology-driven choices to adapt to the new digital normal. Ten to fifteen years from now, the organizations that succeeded in adapting today to this acceleration will be the ones left standing. In fact, we looked at this idea in a recent Vodafone Business study done with the London School of Economics and found that 45% of companies in the U.S. that made those technology-forward changes in the last 12–24 months expect to hold on to those new practices. Yet while technology will wield a strong influence, it remains to be seen what effect it will have on company culture and the employee experience.

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

Prioritize the acceleration of digital transformation plans, and lean into an adaptable mindset to help them succeed. Future-ready companies should focus on improving processes and implementing technologies to create efficiencies and boost employee productivity. Data has shown that forward-thinking companies are better suited to overcome challenges and thrive, and that willingness to be the first in trying new technologies will be a competitive edge in driving growth and revenue — and outpacing the competition.

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?

Flexibility. A recent Vodafone Business study found that 86% of US companies have some concern about remote working while maintaining productivity and managing the security and protection of data. Employees are demanding flexible work models from their employers, and it’s critical to balance that desire with the operational priorities of data security and management. Building a culture and process that embraces work-life balance alongside productivity is the challenge. This is the biggest challenge of the new future-forward workplace, and one that will require operational agility, flexible processes and technology adoption — and a willingness for organizational leaders to see change as an opportunity to innovate, grow and lead.

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

We’re witnessing, in real time, the tidal change in how people think about work. Employees want freedom and autonomy to work the way they want — as well as where and when we work. At minimum, working from home will continue into the future alongside the adoption of other flexible models. From condensed work weeks to flex hours with only required periods of time for collaboration — even shorter meeting times — we can expect to see further evolution on the remote work approach. Bottom line — it’s not going anywhere and those progressive companies embracing this change will be the ones that succeed.

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?

Given the continued emergence of COVID-19 variants like Omnicron, it’s pretty clear we’ll continue to deal with restrictions and lock downs, so flexible and adjustable work models will likely remain the norm. In a world where so many people are working remotely, building a culture of connection, collaboration and belonging will remain a challenge — especially as new and diverse employees enter the workforce and seek to develop their skills and talent. Organizations will need to continue to build a culture that embraces this desire for all employees, creating further flexibility, support systems and stronger network communities to help them thrive. And leaders will need to continue to refine how we lead, prioritizing greater curiosity, empowerment and genuine care for our team members.

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

I’m optimistic about the focus businesses are placing on their sustainability efforts. Despite the many challenges the pandemic has presented, businesses have remained in tune with the growing consumer demand for brands to take an ethical stance on social issues. Our research shows that businesses believe sustainability is even more important to their organizations, viewing it as “absolutely necessary”, with plans to increase their spend on ESG and CSR in the next year. Things are heading in the right direction and I’m thrilled to see companies embracing the opportunity to positively impact our world and the communities they serve.

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?

It’s been a tumultuous few years. Every new variant and challenge thrown our way is taking a toll on our collective mental health. Yet, while it’s been exhausting, I’m inspired by conversations and initiatives to de-stigmatize these topics. I’d encourage leaders to be intentional about listening to feedback and proactively inquiring about what they can do to support their employees. Decide what they need from you and deliver. Invest in mental health services, cultivate a culture where work-life balance is encouraged and celebrated, and implement a flexible model that’s customizable to your staff’s 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?

Employees now want more flexibility from their employers and businesses have to prioritize the following to effectively recruit and retain staff — provide the latest technology in the workplace, promote employee wellness and mental health, and support flexible working hours and remote work… and then listen and respond as those priorities take effect. Strong leaders encourage feedback and respond, no matter where or who it comes from.

Our research shows that businesses that demonstrate greater adaptability and an openness to technology, recognizing the significant value and opportunity it could provide the organization, can enable the flexible working environments, create efficiencies and prepare their workforce to flourish in a rapidly transforming world.

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

  1. Evolving customer needs. Our customers have evolved — and businesses are evolving too. Around the world, companies of all sizes rose to the challenge of operating through a pandemic and ensuring the customer experience advanced simultaneously. Businesses that balance the increasing appetite for digital services and a personalized approach, alongside the need for in person interactions will remain in line with customer demand. Additionally, customers are looking to support businesses with a clear stand on social, ethical and sustainable issues. It’s key for this to be on the agenda, and for businesses to find new ways to positively impact our world.
  2. Prioritizing sustainability. A company’s Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) measures are predicted to improve as they become more fit for the future. This refers directly to the company’s commitment to developing sustainability. As customers demand for businesses to support these issues, businesses will also level up their ESG score, ultimately boosting business performance while meeting customer expectations. Not to mention, organizations investing more in these scores will now subsequently improve their credibility on issues that will only become more urgent in the near future.
  3. Supporting the employee experience. Progressive companies were investing in the employee experience long before the pandemic, but COVID-19 and the Great Resignation have shined the spotlight on its importance. Your team is your most valuable asset and providing a supportive and enriching environment is the key to retaining and attracting talent. From competitive wages and benefits to flexibility and more — we can expect to see this as a top investment area for companies moving forward.
  4. Navigating the hybrid world. The trend towards flexible working is only increasing and businesses need to welcome this to become ready for the future of work. Leaders need to understand that we’re never going back to the way that things were. You’re not going to have your entire company in one place, under your eyes, like you used to pre-pandemic. Companies that aren’t willing to offer a flexible working environment where people have autonomy over the location and hours that they work will lose.
  5. Leveraging technology. Technology is becoming an increasingly important strategic asset and businesses unwilling to embrace the digital world will be left behind. From social media to IoT and AI, tech is advancing every single day, and it’s becoming essential to the operation of modern businesses. Future ready businesses are adapting to our digital world faster than the rest and, overall, are more likely to step outside their comfort zone and embrace new tech — and it’s never too late to start. Forward-thinking businesses are optimistic about technology and see it as a way to improve existing jobs by minimizing mundane tasks. They’re using it to prepare their workforce to flourish in an automated world.

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’m a big believer in the power of active listening. Listening carefully and being open to new ideas, without being too excited about your own ideas, is a skill all strong leaders should have. I truly believe it’s the only way to learn. Additionally, think twice before you speak to ensure what you’re saying is valuable.

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 Richard Branson and Bill Gates are around, I would be honored to pay for their lunch and soak up their wisdom.

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?

Check out my LinkedIn! I also write for our Vodafone Gigabit Thinking Blog from time to time and invite you to sign up.

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