Leadership Training. As the workforce continues to evolve, the leadership has to continue to evolve just as rapidly, if not more rapid. Leaders are the 1st line of defense in the organization and must keep abreast of current trends and movements that impact the organization and its staff.

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. Kim Dunlap.

Dr. Kim (Kimberly) Dunlap is a speaker, leadership development strategist, international best-selling author, trainer, consultant, and professional life coach. She has a passion for teaching and leading people. This passion, coupled with years of research and theoretical application ignited a desire to help organizations develop leadership with the focus being employee engagement and job satisfaction. Additionally, Dr. Kim provides 1-on-1 leadership coaching for individuals just going into a leadership role or those who just want to sharpen their skills for maximum performance.

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.

After losing my eyesight for more than 11 hours due to a diabetic coma, my life changed. My daughter had just turned 1 year old and all I could do was pray that I got to “see” her graduate high school. At the time I could not imagine not being able to see her precious little face. This was the moment when I realized that life is truly worth cherishing and should never be taken for granted. Well, four years later I would give birth to a handsome baby boy, whom I wanted to see graduate and start into his adult life.

When both of my children started into their adult lives , I realized that I needed to find the person I truly was underneath it all. One year later, I finished my doctoral degree and thus the journey began.

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?

10–15 years from now, the workforce will still be work. There will still be organizations that provide services, people (employees) to carry out the task of providing said services, and a group of individuals(stockholders) that have an interest in the outcome, either directly or indirectly. Likewise, the differences look like the number of employees of actually organizations. I predict that entrepreneurship will increase. Having that said, the same caliber of person will be completing the services, but as independent contractors, consultants, and gig workers.

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

Engagement! Talk to your employees to find out what they want and need. Ask questions to see how to best implement these changes. Make changes for the good of the EMPLOYEES not for the bottom line or results. And lastly, create a culture within your organization that fosters a level of loyalty to the mission and the organization goals.

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?

Two of the biggest gaps as we move forward will be pay and flexibility. Employers being able to actively increase pay to the ranges that employees would like or expect will be difficult to achieve. This is for obvious reasons such as cost of doing business, inflation, cost of goods and services(dependent on the industry). Employers should review and determine things that add value for the employees. This may be in the form of profit sharing, and better benefits. Employers can even add things such as employee discount programs. Things such as free onsite daycare, or an employer-sponsored daycare facility.

Flexibility is the gap that may be easily overlooked. Flexibility looks like giving employees a level of conveniences that add value to the employees’ lives. This could look like allowing employees to work in the office on days that are convenient for them and their work/family/life balance. This could also look like allowing employees to company-sponsored volunteer days. Again, learning what provides value to the employees’ lives that the organization has the ability to grant without a huge disruption in business that may not exactly be according to the handbook.

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

Working from home is no longer an experiment. It is the reality which is called the forward-thinking work environment. Employees have now seen that they are able to perform their job responsibilities, and it no longer requires them to sit in a cubicle. Working from home allows employees to work and live and do it by their terms. The statistics show that employees have reported being more productive while working from home than in the office setting. And these findings are not surprising to me based on my own experience.

Because this practice has been implemented and implemented with success, employers are going to have to have a pretty convincing argument in order to get employees back into the office. No one needs to fight traffic, pay for dry cleaning, parking, and even gasoline(with gas prices thru the roof) to do what they are capable of doing, and doing it better from home.

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?

Society, especially some organizations, will continue to evolve to support more gig jobs and contracting work. Organizations will continue to move into a space where they evaluate new and innovative ways to improve their quality of service, lower operating costs, and provide flexibility all while getting the results they need. There are truly some great benefits for both the gig worker and the organization, thus leading to organizations being able to fill some gaps in the staffing model left by the great resignation.

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

I am optimistic that with the right leadership models, enhancing employee engagement, and more flexibility, organizations have the ability to move into a win-win dynamic with the employees. Expanding these types of relationships will continue to move the future work force into a new era.

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?

Organizations that employ strategies that normalize self-care, mental competency, and healthy, realistic home/work/life balances are going to run circles around organizations that do not place an emphasis on mental health. But it is more than just normalizing these practices, it’s about making them a mandatory requirement similar to taking a lunch or meal break after stated number of hours worked. Adapting this into the culture of the company and showing an honest concern with the outcome of these types of campaigns for mental health. Equally, organizations have to be advocates and champions for employee’s well-being.

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 understand that the change, like it or not, will continue to come. Attitudes and thoughts around the workforce should be different and continue to be very fluid amid these changing times. Additionally, the workforce of yester years will not return. Which makes it all the more important for organizations, especially through its leadership, to continue to evolve with the changing times. And just as embracing the changes require a high level of fluidness, speed is just as important. Organizations and its leadership must move from research to implementation just as quickly as the trends change in order to attract and retain great talent.

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

  1. Leadership Training. As the workforce continues to evolve, the leadership has to continue to evolve just as rapidly, if not more rapid. Leaders are the 1st line of defense in the organization and must keep abreast of current trends and movements that impact the organization and its staff.
  2. Focus on Diversity and Inclusion. This is no longer a movement or the latest hot button issue. This is a requirement in any and all successful organizations. This should be woven into the very fibers of a company. Having a culture that places a high level of importance on this will help ripen your job openings for filling and makes them more attract to the right people.
  3. Remote and Hybrid scheduling goes to the very essence of being able to not only attract talent but being able to engage and retain good employees. These are now becoming non-negotiables for many individuals, so organizations have to make this a priority when operating in the current market.
  4. Mental health and work/life/home balance. As stated earlier, this has to be mandatory within organizations. For so long this has not been the norm, but with the current environment that has called mental illness to the forefront, it is needed. Making this as mandatory as giving employees vacation time and providing other resources such as EAP (Employee Assistance Programs) is a way to insert this into the fibers of the organization.
  5. Cross-Training and blending skillsets. With the pool of willing and able talent dwindling, utilization of all the available skillsets within your current staffing model is a must. As an organization, taking time to explore skillsets that may be interchanging with others should be explored. This helps to blend the skills within a team and allow them to operate as a more cohesive group.

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?

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”

  • Charles R. Swindoll

This is my life mantra. So many things have happened in my life that should have stopped my pursuit, halted my dreams, and killed my vision. But in all things, play the hand you are dealt. No more no less. Make what ever hand you are dealt the winning hands with your skills not the details.

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.

Issa Rae. If I could have breakfast or lunch or a nice brunch with anyone in business, she is IT. SHE IS A WHOLE VIBE! I admire her beginnings and her drive now. She is the epitome of a Black Boss Woman and I love it!

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 follow me on all social media outlets @ Dr Kim Dunlap or my website, DrKimDunlap.com

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