Networking beyond boundaries. Making connections beyond the boundaries of your organization is the key to the future. Fostering business and community partnerships will enable companies to stay relevant and successful for many years to come.

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 of interviewing Diane Egbers, Founder and President of Leadership Excelleration (LE) Consulting, a national leadership development firm based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Diane is an inspirational and dynamic executive coach, management consultant and facilitator who leverages the latest research and proven strategies to challenge leaders to reach their full potential. For the past 20 years, she has been engaging with Fortune 500 clients, major healthcare systems and government entities, while guiding her consulting team to offer transformative leadership development, organizational assessments and support for high performing teams. She is also author of The Ascending Leader, and founder and board chair of the teen suicide prevention non-profit, Grant Us Hope.

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.

My first professional mentor was managing partner of the law firm I worked with for a the time, and he was profoundly beneficial to my career development. Mike Burke, managing partner at KMK Law, really taught me how to manage strategic relationships, model leadership, serve clients, and always follow through on my commitments.

Another life changing experience for me was becoming a mom. Having children shifted the focus of my life dramatically. It taught me how to slow down and savor each moment. It also helped me to not take myself so seriously, have more fun, and improved my perspective around the importance of a proper work-life integration.

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?

Let’s start with what I think will be the same. We have a unique human quality to connect, a desire to belong, and to engage in a community. This part of work will be what survives and prevails over the next 10 to 15 years. Just about everything else about how we work will transform. Our ways of living will become even more integrated than they are already, and this will continue to shift at a dramatic rate.

Millennials and Gen Z are emerging and inspiring generations. Gen Z is also the first completely digital generation. They’re truly boundless. They have the world at their fingertips, and authentically want to make an impact. Regarding work, they will have less need for formal structure, seek more informal ways of working, including being more selective about hours and workdays. Work will become much more of a virtual community, with a focus on collaborative accomplishment.

A term we will all soon become familiar with is “connectional intelligence,” coined by author, Erica Dhawan, in her book, Get Big Things Done. According to Dhawan, connectional intelligence is the ability to introduce ideas or problems in a way that will influence and excite others to want to participate and help solve them. When thinking about the future of work, this concept really speaks to the kind of intelligence it’s going to take for our American work cultures to transition well into this new environment. In business, is essentially to make connections beyond traditional boundaries of organizations to create new possibilities in a more collaborative community of work.

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

Choose courage over fear. Think opportunistically and embrace the future. Trust and be confident that you’ll build the alignment, empowerment, collaboration and innovation necessary to lead your team into the future. As leaders, we must embrace the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that is going to continue to be prevalent in our world. We simply must choose to adjust and confidently navigate new opportunities to create a future we can thrive in.

Employers should also think about the influence their companies can have beyond the borders of their organizations. Younger workers are attracted to businesses that positively influence the communities around them and are not just focused within. Strive to make a positive difference in the world around you now, to attract top talent later.

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?

It’s an employee’s market, so employers must adapt rapidly to retain their high potentials and sustain productivity over time. Many employers are scrambling to remedy their immediate problems when they should be focused on strategies to improve work/life integration over the long-term. The biggest gaps I see are in the following areas:

  • Work/Life Integration
    This generation of workers believes they work to live, not live to work. I think this is also the healthiest generation of workers we’ve ever encountered, and they are paving the way of the future. Healthier families help our collective future potential to be greater, and employers must understand and embrace this.
  • Work Location Flexibility
    Employees are not only expecting more flexibility but demanding it. More employees will be demanding hybrid work schedules and the ability to work from anywhere. Companies large and small must embrace and create new ways to accommodate this philosophy, the technology and flexibility to support it.
  • Expanded, Personalized Benefits
    When we present the employer/employee relationship as reciprocal, high potential employees tend to want to stay. Smart, savvy employers are already responding well to this new way of thinking, like offering extended maternity and paternity leave, for example, to fully accommodate the needs of families.
  • Non-Traditional Advancement Opportunities 
    Offering high potential leaders varied opportunities to advance that are non-traditional, more entrepreneurial, and providing less formal ways of leading people will be key to closing the gap. Increasing titles, providing rapid learning and growth opportunities, and offering exposure, access to and advocacy from senior leadership will help, along with allowing high potentials the opportunity to scale at multiple presentation and project levels to interact directly with executives.

These work/life integration and culture shifts have already changed the nature of work. And this new way of working offers employers the unique opportunity to nurture the next generation, offering them benefits they want, while giving them reasons to commit and stay loyal.

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

Through Covid, we have exponentially accelerated the rate at which all of this was going to happen anyway. We are living out the future predictions about work by five to seven years. With this quick change, the group most at risk for employers are their high potentials. High performers are smart and will be opportunistic about this. They will capitalize on new opportunities faster than ever, so organizations must be keen on what most attracts and keeps top talent — a connected business community. This generation is value centered. They want their work to be about contributing to the community, no matter what field they’re in.

TOMS shoes is a great example. They based their entire business model and purpose around improving others’ lives, and they give 1/3 of their profits to what they call “grassroots good” initiatives, defined as mobilized charitable groups working to solve the unique obstacles of their individual communities. It’s an inspiring mission.

Another incredible example, right here in my hometown, is the collective work of Cincinnati’s largest employers P&G and Kroger. These two major brands are joining forces to launch a community-based career advancement and women’s inclusiveness program in conjunction with the LPGA Tournament, which is being hosted here in September. These forward-thinking companies are strategically leveraging their collective influence to contribute to our community in a meaningful and substantial way.

These company missions are centered around using business influence to impact the greater good. This is a concept this generation of workers will find meaning in and invest in, both personally and professionally. Futuristic and philanthropic companies like these are the ones attracting top talent right now.

As an executive coaching and business consulting firm, we at Leadership Excelleration have dedicated 10 percent of our time and talent to ensure our non-profit partner, Grant Us Hope, thrives and succeeds.

It is not only large business that can make a difference in our communities — every business can.

Innovative company initiatives and partnerships like these will not only boost brand reputations as organizations that empower and equip employees, but will also help retain top talent as well, ensuring sustained success.

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?

Our communities, networks, and interpersonal relationships are going to need to be stronger than ever in order to support the future and changing culture of work. Shifting our perspectives to be optimistic will be vital:

  • Change = Opportunity
    Remaining optimistic in the face of transformational change will be key. View change as an opportunity. Leveraging our relationships and building a community network beyond our business will also support this shift.
  • Connection = Impact
    Realizing the impact our businesses can make in the world around us by improving community connectivity is key. Strive to creatively leverage your relationships to network beyond your company with a focus on doing good in the community.
  • Service = Success
    When companies have outward-focused, generous, authentic community service goals, they tend to attract better employees who want to stay and be a part of furthering the company mission for the long-haul. Not only does this mean immediate business success, but it is sustainable and buildable as well.

We’re already seeing evidence of these cultural changes within some companies, and it gives me such hope.

What would the world be like if every for-profit company committed to doing good in their communities? Service-focused businesses will be the ones to survive and thrive in the future.

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

My greatest source of optimism is my fundamental belief in leaders’ ability to innovate and their desire to serve. The pandemic is a great example of how leaders have adapted to forward-thinking ways of working, and how we collectively think about work and life. Soon, we all will be changing the way we relate work to the communities we live in. I believe our society is on a path to becoming a more unified, more connected, more caring community, and I believe businesses will be a force for positive momentum in this movement.

Practically speaking, employees are already building networks of relationships beyond their companies by leveraging their personal networks to impact the greater good. Businesses can leverage this desire by utilizing community building networking platforms as well. I think personal platforms like Facebook and Linkedin will soon become less utilized, and more people will begin using business community platforms like Circle, which is addressing the rapidly changing work/life integration concept happening in our culture.

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?

A hybrid work environment allows employees to have more of a work/life integration, and be just as productive, if not more productive. High performing employees also want to know they are trusted. They feel like they’ve earned and deserve that trust as well. This level of mutual respect can very much solidify and even improve the employer/employee relationship. When high performers feel they are trusted, have the balance and flexibility they desire, while consistently performing and getting results, we all win.

Regarding mental health and wellbeing, leaders must have regular check-ins with their team members to ask, ‘how are you doing?’ and ‘are there are there additional ways I can support you?” Even when flexibility is offered and trust is granted, some employees will still feel stressed, or will find a hybrid schedule difficult. Customizing the level of flexibility to accommodate individual employee needs is one excellent way to optimize and prioritize the health and well-being of your employees.

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?

This is a fundamental supply and demand issue. The tightening of talent is evident just by the sheer birth and labor demographics we are facing. Couple that with the pandemic, which has encouraged people to stay at home or retire, which has dramatically accelerated the natural transition that was already occurring.

To remedy this, organizations can implement innovative practices and streamline their processes for sourcing, selecting and hiring talent. The most competitive companies are recruiting and hiring top candidates in a single day. Drawn out interviewing and vetting processes are a thing of the past. Recruits now come in at 8 am and will know if they have the job or not by 5 pm.

With baby boomers retiring and recruits choosing not to participate in long, drawn-out interview processes, companies must tighten up their hiring practices as the labor pool becomes smaller.

  • Get creative in sourcing

Leverage non-traditional talent pool sources, such as developing partnerships with technical schools and even high schools to create brand awareness and a funnel of talent prospects.

  • Cast a wider net

Consider expanding your search nationally and even internationally, offering relocation and/or remote work opportunities to top talent you may not have access to locally.

  • Expand your brand

Evaluate your company’s branding, culture and values. Refine your elevator speech to appeal to recruits, concisely conveying why your company is a desirable, supportive and excellent culture. Highlight company values that are unique and differentiated as well.

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

We’ve addressed many of the trends throughout our conversation, and I’ll summarize them for you here:

  1. Retaining high potentials

High potentials are driven to achieve, and they’re wired to figure out how to progress in their careers. They want to succeed and shine. If they don’t see a path of advancement in their current position, they will move on. It’s critical for organizations to be intentional about progressing their high potential talent, by developing new and non-traditional ways for their top talent to grow and advance.

2. Adaptive business cultures

Our American workforce has learned quickly that we can be effective working remotely from anywhere. This requires more flexibility from businesses in a variety of ways, including adaptation to virtual meetings, and shifting from making in-person to opting for and embracing virtual connections as well.

3. Creative recruiting processes 
Take a hard look at your company’s culture, values, brand and internal processes to make sure your business appeals to what your top talent is looking for, and that your hiring practices are streamlined for efficiency.

4. Work/life integration and flexibility
Prioritizing giving back and integrating community service into for-profit business missions will be key to attracting and retaining top talent as we move forward.

5. Networking beyond boundaries
Making connections beyond the boundaries of your organization is the key to the future. Fostering business and community partnerships will enable companies to stay relevant and successful for many years to come.

As we navigate through these trends together as a business community, it is crucial to remain optimistic in the face of change. Your vision for the future of your company will continue to rapidly change and evolve as our society changes. Trust your abilities to learn, grow, change, and evolve, and have confidence that you will succeed.

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 that keeps me grounded comes from Scripture. It’s 2 Corinthians 12:9: But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” For me, this is a reminder that we’re not alone. And anything we do that matters, we do in collaboration with a team. Despite our individual vulnerabilities, we can do anything with proper team, vision, support and commitment.

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.

Brené Brown. I would love to have a sit-down conversation with her. I really admire the way that she thinks and what she contributes to the world.

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?

Please feel free to connect with me personally on Linkedin, check out our website at and follow Leadership Excelleration on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter as well.

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