Deluge of Data — The wave of ‘big data’ is only going to continue gaining tsunami-like momentum. The data that workplaces generate and can harvest from both their employees and clients grows exponentially by the day. This will have tremendous impacts on everything from increased tailored customer interactions to more targeted recruitment and hiring processes, to real-time data-informed decision making where algorithms may replace employees in some strategic planning.
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. Lindsey Godwin.
Lindsey Godwin, Ph.D. is a sought-after international speaker, consultant, and facilitator, who has taught & facilitated over 10,000 people around the world. She holds a Master of Science in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution George Mason University, and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, where she studied with the founding thought leaders in Appreciative Inquiry. She currently holds the Robert P. Stiller Endowed Chair of Management in the Stiller School of Business at Champlain College (Vermont, USA), where she also serves as the Academic Director of the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and the lead faculty for the MS in Leadership and MS in Organization Development & Human Relations programs.
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.
One of my most formative professional experiences was as a Ph.D. student in the world-renowned organization behavior program at Case Western Reserve University. The opportunity to learn alongside global thought leaders like David Cooperrider, a founder of Appreciative Inquiry, David Kolb, a leader in experiential learning and learning styles, Richard Boyatzis, a leading scholar of emotional intelligence and others, sparked new ideas and curiosities that have informed my entire career since. My education was not simply academic, but hands-on, as I found myself co-leading summits at the United Nations, facilitating work with intentional NGOs and designing global gatherings for business leaders on pressing issues of the time. Today, my work continues building on these foundational experiences I had nearly 20 years ago.
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?
Over the next 10–15 years, we will continue seeing workforces expect their workplace to value their wellbeing and to demonstrate an increased social consciousness in how it operates. Further digitization and technological evolutions will cause workplaces to continually pivot their operational strategies, resulting in perpetual upskilling happening both within and beyond the workplace.
A noticeable difference in the future will be in the form and function of leadership. As the workplace becomes more virtually distributed and the challenges we face become what I call “perpetually unprecedented,” the concept of leadership will shift. Successful workplaces will no longer be reliant on individual leaders who are able to apply strategies from the past, but rather collective leadership, where everyone is bringing their best thinking to the challenges at hand and co-creating solutions together in the moment. We will see less traditional hierarchies where decision-making is not concentrated within specific roles but distributed across the organization, with increased autonomy for individuals and teams to make decisions on the ground in response to continually shifting contexts.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
The key to future-proofing is not in creating new structures, policies, or procedures but in creating new organizational cultures. Successful organizations in the future will be those who are able to continually adapt and evolve as the world spins around us.
As such, organizations that want to flourish in the future need to be creating cultures today that embrace continual conversation and co-creation with all stakeholders, both internal and external. Company cultures should not be about finding the ‘right’ model for an organization and calcifying it but creating a culture of change: a culture that continually evolves together with both employees and customers. Future-proofing is about creating cultures of continual evolution, where change is not only expected, but also embraced as a creative opportunity to meet new needs.
Organizations can create a culture of change today to future-proof themselves by embracing a growth mindset and providing employee support for professional development, education and organization development training. Partnering with a higher education institution can provide employees with access to certifications, workshops and advanced degrees in organizational development and leadership. At Champlain College Online, I often work with current professionals and executives in our Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry to develop their leadership skills and brainstorm what the future of work will look like.
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?
As the workforce moves into an increasingly permanent hybrid and remote environment, employees will expect employers to offset the ‘home infrastructure’ expenses that are necessary to support remote work. From perpetual hardware updates such as computers, monitors and video equipment to software and other computing support and even perhaps the cost of creating home office spaces, employees will expect individual support on these items that were historically more communal in the workplace. Employers may be less willing to reimburse individuals for remote work expenses and assume the value employees gain from the flexibility of working remotely counterbalances some of that. To avoid confusion, employers should create clear policies around what types of remote-support costs are covered — or not covered — that set expectations and transparency right from the recruitment and onboarding process.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
This grand experiment will continue to evolve into its next stage, which will be “working from anywhere.” The past few years have shown that employees can be successful — and sometimes even more generative — when they are not coming into an office every day. This not only creates the opportunity for employees to work from anywhere, but also for employers to hire from anywhere. Geography and employees’ willingness to relocate is no longer a limiting parameter for employment, making the job pool much bigger for both sides.
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?
The pandemic has shown that global disasters can happen at any time and workplaces must be ready to adapt to support their workforce. As climate change continues to upend society in new and unexpected ways, workplaces will need to be ready to support employees and customers impacted by severe weather events. Climate change and its effects will continue to disrupt daily life for many, from displacing individuals to impacting the global supply chain, leading to increased prices for basic goods and changing workforce availability. To support a future of work that benefits all, employers will need to become more intentional and committed to taking responsibility for mitigating their environmental impacts and contributing positively to reversing existing climate change trends.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
My greatest optimism is that we are realizing that the future of work can look however we want it to. We are no longer beholden to traditional models, and while it may be messy while we figure out what the next model looks like, society is realizing that we can imagine new models. There is a great liberation in remembering that we created the current organizational systems and ways of working, and we can dare to re-create them in new ways that better serve us in the future.
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?
Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured gets managed.” Leaning into this insight, employers may become more innovative in measuring employee mental health and wellbeing. Rather than putting biometric bracelets on everyone, I foresee that innovative organizations will do a better job of incorporating indicators of mental health and wellbeing into their organizational accountability metrics. Imagine performance reviews in the future that not only ask employees to reflect on their productivity, but also on how they are incorporating self-care into their daily practices. Imagine workplaces where it is normalized to talk about self-care and to hold each other and ourselves accountable in tending to our mental health in addition to the company’s financial health. If organizations want to improve wellbeing, they need to increasingly normalize not just talking about it, but value and enacting these types of practices to measure it.
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?
It is critical that leaders recognize that employees are not cogs, and it is not productive to treat them as such. The recent myriad of “closed due to staffing shortages” messages should remind leaders that organizations simply cannot operate without their employees. Company cultures need to evolve in ways that bring not only value to customers, but also ensure that employees themselves feel valued.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
1. Deluge of Data — The wave of ‘big data’ is only going to continue gaining tsunami-like momentum. The data that workplaces generate and can harvest from both their employees and clients grows exponentially by the day. This will have tremendous impacts on everything from increased tailored customer interactions to more targeted recruitment and hiring processes, to real-time data-informed decision making where algorithms may replace employees in some strategic planning.
2. Advancing Workforce Equity — The pandemic exacerbated the historic, racial and gender inequalities that are structurally embedded within our organizations. For example, gender pay gaps and illusive access to affordable childcare impact women, especially BIPOC women, more so than their male counterparts — leading to a disproportionate number of women leaving the workforce in the recent wave of ‘The Great Resignation.’ (I have had female friends leave their job because they get paid less than what it would cost for them to put their two children in quality childcare.) Addressing systemic racism and sexism that has pervaded the workplace is needed if we want sustained economic recovery and vibrant workplaces with diverse talent in the room in the future.
3. Designing for Responsiveness and Flexibility — While workplaces have historically created systems and processes meant to endure over time, we will increasingly see a shift toward systems that enable real-time pivots. From websites and databases to entire supply chains, every system will need to be embedded with flexibility. Workplaces will need to be able to adapt when they are faced with social, environmental and political disruptions that impact their ability to meet the ever-shifting needs of their customers and employees.
4. Shifting from Silos to Cross-Functional Teams — In the past, workplaces have been designed around departments and divisions where workstreams lived in clear lanes with specific roles assigned to do the work. The stagnation of knowledge and process that silos perpetuate no longer serves the dynamic needs of the workplace. Increasingly, we will see the disintegration of silos and the rise of cross-functional, project-based teams that are convened to focus on addressing a particular organizational need. Employees will increasingly find themselves working with different colleagues on a multitude of projects, where success is measured on their ability to collaborate with others to create real-time solutions to challenges.
5. In-Person Optional — The traditional physical office space has quickly become a relic in the hybrid world because of the pandemic. As such, communal office spaces will become a tool to be used only when truly needed and appropriate. Some of my colleagues have begun to say that “on sites” have become the new “off sites,” where gathering in person is done only for specific strategic reasons and with a clear, focused agenda. Even when in-person meetings are necessary, we will see virtual options for participation, thus ensuring almost every meeting is by default hybrid in some form. This trend of in-person optional will only increase as workplaces move to not just “allowing” employees to work remotely, but toward actually hiring a remote workforce that was never in the same location to begin with.
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 of my favorite quotes is from the poet and artist, Brian Andreas, who said, “Anyone can slay a dragon … but try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That’s what takes a real hero.” I love the reminder embedded in this wonderfully provocative statement that showing up in the world in true, authentic, loving ways is hard work. Working to see the possibilities and promise in our colleagues and in the world around us is an intentional choice we can make each day. While it may be increasingly challenging in our deficit-focused world to do so, choosing to look for what exists to be celebrated and built upon is a critical skill if we are to create a better tomorrow.
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.
My dream would be to sit down with Dolly Parton! Beyond her musical genius, she has continually shown the world what it looks like to be a philanthropic, savvy businesswoman who forges her own path in the world. She exudes shrewdness with a smile that has long left her critics in the dust. From her contributions to literacy efforts and vaccine research to her ever-relevant lyrics in her new songs like “When Life is Good Again,” she is a force for good who invites us all to show up as our better selves in a broken world. She is the authority on professional authenticity. I would love to ask her how she has remained true to herself while navigating the myriad of demands that come from a life in the public eye.
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?
A great place to connect with me is on Linked-In (https://www.linkedin.com/in/drlindseygodwin/) and through the Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College (https://www.champlain.edu/appreciativeinquiry) where I serve as the Academic Director.
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.