Employers in the future of work will need to ask tougher questions and give people a chance to learn how to seek out professional fulfillment. Asking more direct questions will yield more direct answers and help people make connections and build the skill set they need to succeed for themselves.

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 Dr. Inna Post.

As a coach and trusted advisor to executives, entrepreneurs, teams, and organizations, Dr. Inna Post brings over 20 years of diverse business and psychology experience to her executive coaching practice to guide her clients through challenges and opportunities with good humor and level-headed discipline. Her expertise in Stress Management, Burnout Prevention, Leadership and Innovation, and Change Management has made her a frequent contributor to panels and conferences at Columbia Business School, New York University, The New School, Berkeley College, RTVI TV channel, and Columbia Teachers College. Inna holds a Ph.D. in Psychology, Columbia University’s Executive and Leadership Coaching Certification, and is an ACC Coach with the International Coaching Federation.

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.

Growing up in the Soviet Union, we only had three television channels, and our favorite show was a weekly program called “Travelers’ Club.” The host traveled the world to show the rest of the country what life was like on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

My mom was adamant about raising me in a free country, and the last nail in the coffin was when she saw a segment about Disney World. The contrast between “the most magical place on Earth” and our gray life in the Soviet Union felt unbearable for her. So we spent years trying to immigrate.

Right before the Moscow Olympics of 1980, the Soviet regime lifted the Iron Curtain to show that the Soviet Union was a “free democratic country.” My parents thought we finally had our chance to get out. Unfortunately, we were not permitted to immigrate before the curtain slammed shut. My father was labeled a “traitor of his motherland,” and his job as a space communications engineer disappeared overnight.

From that day on, our relatively comfortable life in the center of Kyiv, Ukraine, was forever changed. My parents had no choice but to look for jobs in remote parts of the Soviet Union that were well below their professional qualifications. I changed seven schools in nine years and lived in places like Astrakhan and the deserts of Turkmenistan, where my parents worked in a chemical plant, and my classmates were the children of Soviet officers serving in Afghanistan.

Suffice it to say that I developed an appreciation for freedom and the fragility of life very early on. And that these experiences shaped my views about work and professional fulfillment.

The story does have a happy ending, though! When Gorbachev came to power in the late 1980s, the Iron Curtain started to lift again. After several hunger strikes and intense lobbying by American journalists, we were allowed to immigrate, and my mother was finally able to take me to Disney World — six months before I got married!

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?

Good question! The need for talent and creativity will be the same, and we’ll still need physical places where people will come to interact in person. What will change is the frequency with which people will meet at those places.

Two and a half years of COVID proved that productivity is as good — if not better — when people work remotely. But both creativity and team bonding benefit greatly from regular face-to-face interactions, so we can’t do away with them altogether.

Going forward, we’ll have a different balance of in-office and remote work, but I strongly believe that shift will enhance both productivity and happiness. You hear a lot of people disparaging in-person work these days, but the truth is that different things work for different people. We have to maintain flexibility and allow people the freedom to do what works for them and their organizations.

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

In my coaching practice, I see over and over again that when leaders invest in coaching their people, the “Great Resignation” doesn’t apply to their teams. So I would tell anyone trying to “future-proof” their organization to invest in their workforce as they would in their own children.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to teach our children to fish, not just to feed them fish when they’re hungry. Today’s workforce sees it as the employer’s responsibility to support their people by actively developing their skills, not just by giving them financial bonuses. There’s no dollar amount that can buy fulfillment. Going forward, employers will need to make sure that their employees can truly see themselves thriving and have real growth opportunities to offer them.

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?

That’s a great question. I foresee a lot of anxiety on the part of managers about the reliability metrics of remote worker productivity. It’s easier to measure productivity in routine jobs that primarily happen in person. But those metrics are much harder to grasp in jobs that require a certain amount of innovation and creativity, and those jobs will increasingly move towards hybrid setups. As a result, employers that want to retain top talent will have to become more creative and find new metrics for success.

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

It’s already influencing us. We’re living in the future of work. And the future of work shows that people are responsible, independent, and dedicated to organizations that genuinely have their best interests in mind.

If I had to sum it up in a word, I would say the future of work will be more human as a result of the “Working From Home” experiment. We know now that different things work for different people. Now some of us are excited to return to the office, whether it’s to escape the monotony of home or be around our colleagues again. Some of us want more flexibility to be with our family or might prefer working in solitude at home.

Two and a half years into this pandemic, with the economy booming and productivity actually up, it’s obvious we need to find new ways to appreciate the real productivity that’s possible when people are allowed to choose what works for themselves.

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?

Let’s start by saying that there’s nothing in this world that works for everyone! My job as a coach is to help my clients think through solutions that would work for their people. As a society, we have to talk more about compassion, more about understanding that people are not just little wheels in a big machine but individuals with goals, aspirations, and preferences. To be truly successful in the future of work, employers will need to show that their values are congruent with those of their workforce and have a deeper understanding that the quality of work isn’t going to be sacrificed just because people live.

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

As difficult and isolating as this pandemic has been, a good number of my clients actually had the first opportunity in many years to have some semblance of a social life. A few of them actually started dating, something that was practically looked down upon in the financial industry in 2019!

And I think these shifting views are partly a result of the pandemic and partly the mindset of younger generations. Millennials are already becoming a major force in the world of employment. And, as we talked about earlier, they care more about the values of the organizations that they align themselves with than previous generations. They care about their individual income and also about how they contribute to society and the world in general. So I’m very optimistic that they will ultimately succeed in making the world a better place.

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?

We’re seeing more and more of the view that mental health is not just something that needs to be fixed when it’s broken or something that needs to be stigmatized, even in larger organizations. Now it’s seen as something that deserves a continuous investment from each of us as individuals and from our employers.

And this is one way that I see coaching being a huge force in the future of work. It used to be that coaching was either the privilege of the C-suite or the last bone thrown to a mid-level manager to try to remedy issues with his or her work style before an eventual firing. More and more often, coaching is used appropriately as a tool for developing skills at all levels of an organization.

We’re also seeing more successful organizations embrace the idea of “leader as coach” and training all employees in the art and science of coaching and mentoring. As a result, we’ll see the next generation of workers and leaders having more emotional intelligence, recognizing the early signs of stress and burnout, and being equipped with the tools to combat problems before they exacerbate.

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?

Well, first, I just want to say that it’s great to see so many headlines begin with the word “great!” And I have great hope for the future of our great American work culture.

But it’s true that leaders need to evolve. The top-down command and control style of leadership is pretty much dead. Companies at the top of the Dow Jones Industrial average are the ones actively promoting collaboration and innovation. The future of any company’s culture is in optimizing collaborative, supportive processing and encouraging healthy dialogue in and out of the office.

It’s especially important for people to learn techniques for having a constructive argument. New ideas tend to be born out of heated discussions. My job as a coach is to make sure that employees have the tools to make those discussions productive and non-offensive.

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

  1. The definition of “promotion” will shift.

In my view, the biggest problem with the way American companies work is that they take very talented individual contributors and put them into positions where the only option for them to grow is to become managers. This hierarchical system is outdated. There’s often a big disconnect between professional strengths and career outcomes.

Think about it: the skills required to be a successful biologist or literary scholar aren’t necessarily the same skills you need to be a successful leader. The greatest rocket scientist in the world could be the worst manager in the world! And their talents would be wasted if they spent all their time resolving administrative issues instead of building a better spaceship.

Regardless of the field, you need to find good managers to promote to leadership positions. Now let’s be clear, the technical skills of individual contributors are absolutely vital too. You can’t have one without the other.

In the future of work, successful companies will need to realize that they should capitalize on people’s strengths, rethink the “norm,” and pivot to more sensible management structures so their employees can thrive.

2. Professional development will include employer-funded higher education.

In recent years, we’ve seen a shift in how people think about professional development. It’s not uncommon for mid-year and annual performance reviews to include sections dedicated to tracking growth and setting professional development goals.

One area for growth here will be in providing opportunities for employees to pursue advanced degrees or certificates. It used to be that universities were some of the only workplaces where employees had opportunities for pursuing a degree through their employer. Now, there are more options for more of us. It’s not uncommon for tech companies or startups to offer their employees tuition remission for getting an advanced degree. And some larger companies are essentially creating their own mini-MBA programs for their employees.

The trend here is in shifting our societal understanding of why we invest in education and professional development. It’s no longer just about supporting the mission of the company; it’s about developing the people who make up the workforce and maximizing their skills and abilities.

3. Employees will take a more active role in their satisfaction.

Leaders need to become mentors and coaches for their people and empower them to take ownership of their professional fulfillment. As a coach, I see a lot of professional assessments being given in the passive voice. HR culture is very sterile, so evaluations include a lot of questions like “do you feel satisfied with your interpersonal interactions at work?” The way it’s framed strips employees of their agency over their level of satisfaction at work.

Employers in the future of work will need to ask tougher questions and give people a chance to learn how to seek out professional fulfillment. Asking more direct questions will yield more direct answers and help people make connections and build the skill set they need to succeed for themselves.

By creating a culture of coaching at every level of their organizations, employers can grow a new generation of leaders that can be promoted within their organization yet have the set of skills to succeed wherever they go. I can’t overemphasize the importance of teaching and mentoring in the workplace!

4. “Corporate Social Responsibility” will evolve.

Corporate social responsibility isn’t a new trend, but in the past, employers didn’t put in enough effort to build connections between employee expertise and their engagement with the community. Today’s generation of investment bankers isn’t satisfied with showing up to paint a house once a year. But have you heard of Bankers Without Borders? I expect we’ll see more and more organizations like this pop up in the future of work.

Today’s employees are actively seeking out opportunities to volunteer and work with organizations that help them use their professional skills for the greater good. And one important cause of the Great Resignation is that people are more willing than ever to leave their job if they don’t find it meaningful or fulfilling. Employers will need to be at the forefront of positive community engagement if they want to compete with this new perspective.

5. Hybrid work is here to stay — we need to get better at it.

Let’s be honest with ourselves: hybrid work is here to stay. As I mentioned, I think one of the biggest trends is going to be in developing a clearer definition of what productivity looks like, what it is, and what’s expected of every employee.

Of course, this will all depend on the agility of the organization and the organizational demand. First responders will have a different path than educational organizations. Leaders and employers will need to stay informed about the best ways to make this happen in their own workforce.

I’ve written about techniques for maximizing productivity in hybrid work in the past, and there are endless ways to try and work this into the daily routine of your employees. In most industries, employers can create “no zoom” days, where people can concentrate on actually getting work done without being interrupted. If this isn’t feasible, try limiting the number of meetings people have per day. And when you assign work, ask people flat-out, “how long do you think this will take you?” Then allow them to allot that number of hours in their calendar to get it done. To me, this seems like a very simple and obvious thing to do, but I got so many “wow” responses because it just doesn’t occur to people to do that!

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?

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s overused, but it’s something I live by!

As a coach, I teach my clients the importance of stress inoculation and building resilience. We’re all going to experience hardship in our lives in one way, shape, or form. It might look different for everyone, but nobody goes through life without stress. So we shouldn’t make it our goal to live a stress-free life. What we need is the ability to use stress to our advantage to learn and grow from it. Just as we need to damage our muscles just a little bit for them to grow, we grow mentally and emotionally from stress.

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.

Definitely Jack Dorsey. As someone who manages two businesses myself, I’m constantly thinking about how he ran Twitter and Square simultaneously and how he managed to do both so successfully. He’s a bit extreme, but whatever he does, he does well. He created products that we didn’t know we needed that now everyone is obsessed with. When it comes to finding and maximizing a work/life balance and being able to wear multiple hats in a day, I think he’d be a great person to talk to. I also admire his approach to philanthropy — give to the causes you believe in and don’t interfere.

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?

I write a blog for my website, www.innapost.com, and also publish my work on Medium (https://dr-post.medium.com/). You can also find my work on the International Coaching Federation’s blog Coaching World and follow me on LinkedIn.

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