Diploma and Done becomes Life-long Learning. To remain competitive, companies need to provide opportunities for continuous learning for employees at all levels of the organization. Classes on things like digital transformation, the possibilities of blockchain, and coding are important, teaching mental adaptability and flexibility, creativity, simultaneous processing, and, of course Regenerative Resilience™️ are much more important.

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 Elatia Abate.

Elatia Abate is an entrepreneur, futurist, and educator who founded the Future of Now to help humans and companies thrive in the face of inevitable disruption and prepare for the ever-changing future ahead. She has consulted for and advised organizations like PricewaterhouseCoopers, UniGroup, Verizon, University of Arizona and University of Cincinnati.

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.

I like experiments, and I like using my own life and time as opportunities to learn and connect. So, I’ll share two big ones here.

First, in January of 2017, I embarked on a journey in which I put everything I owned into storage except what fits into a carry-on suitcase, in search of answers to the question, “How might we empower success in the face of great uncertainty and disruption?” The hypothesis was that if I could research the technologies that are impacting work and our working world, understand the economics of industrial revolutions and exponential change, and learn from those who are masters at managing change, perhaps I would learn something useful. Something that I could share with others as we face the big shifts of this exponential age. About a year on the road and starting about halfway through, I had the opportunity to begin sharing my conclusions with others on the TEDx stage. I suppose that officially began my career as a futurist.

Then, in September of 2020, I had community and connection top of mind. I was wondering what the impact of the pandemic was going to be in terms of how we related to each other as humans. Were the marches for Black Lives Matter and social justice finally going to be the turning points that catalyzed the crumble of systemic racism and injustice? Were we going to be able to come together as a country or planet, after so much divisiveness and separation (physical and ideological)? How was the world going to evolve? So, I decided to get into conversation with others.

I sent an invitation to everyone I was connected to on LinkedIn at the time (4,700), and invited them into a 20-minute conversation. In this conversation I would ask them five questions:

  1. How are we connected?
  2. What are you up to now?
  3. What do you see as the biggest opportunity?
  4. What do you see as the biggest challenge?
  5. From your perspective, as you look out over the next 18–24 months, what piece of advice would you offer to a fellow human being who is looking out over those same 18–24 months?

I had no idea what was going to happen. The response was life-changing. I had 161 conversations, over 80 hours of dialogue with people in 24 different countries. There was a mayoral candidate for the City of New York, executives of publicly traded companies, academics, entrepreneurs, and interns.

While a lot came out of those conversations, the most impactful to me was that 85% of them centered partially or wholly on mental health and resilience. This experiment was the catalyst for the Regenerative Resilience™️ program that I offer today.

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?

In 10–15 years, I believe that what will remain the same is the need for companies to have a strong culture with clearly defined, communicated, and lived values. They need to offer a compelling reason for people to want to work there that goes beyond the basics of a paycheck.

As for change, the definition of what work, job and employment is, will have completely morphed. For most people, the working relationship will become something like consensual non-monogamy. There will be a principal, main employer or client, and one or multiple additional gigs or jobs. If the past of work was mostly salaried, the future of work will be largely entrepreneurial.

Additionally, more and more of us will have robots as colleagues. There is a company out of Germany, Robotise, that designs and sells service robots that are already in use at hotels and healthcare settings. These robots work right alongside traditional housekeeping staff, doctors, and nurses.

Ultimately, we can look to asynchronous work becoming the norm for most cutting-edge organizations. While there will be key moments for people to meet up in person, more and more companies will ditch the hybrid model (which is pretty inefficient) and adopt asynchronous. In fact, the creator of wordpress, Automattic Inc. was born as an asynchronous organization –This is a great example of what other companies should look to as they navigate these changes.

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

First, I would suggest that they shift their mindset from future-proofing to future-preparing. Future-proof suggests that we’re going to fight as hard as we can to keep things exactly the same as they are right now. But that is impossible. So, it is much more interesting strategically to think about future-preparing organizations and the people who lead them.

So, how do you prepare for the future?

The most critical thing is a mindset shift from wondering how to go back to the way things were, to powerfully constructing a new future. A great guiding question for this is, “Given that we’re here (as a team, organization, etc.) what do we want to create?”

From there, have your leadership trained on the three abilities that will help everyone thrive in the face of the unknown:

  • Regenerative Resilience (How to thrive in uncertainty)
  • Simultaneous Processing (How to think and plan strategically in ways that produce results today and incorporate future trends)
  • Empathetic Curiosity (How to seek out solutions instead of solving problems)

Lastly, study exponential and quantum dynamics like it was my job — and if you’re leading a company that will thrive in the future, it is!

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?

The biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect are likely degrees of flexibility in working schedules and balancing in-office and remote work. As the scales tip from majority of the organization being employed pre-pandemic to majority hired post, employees will want continued flexibility and employers will want everyone closer to home to be able to inculcate the company culture.

Unilever provides an excellent example of how to reconcile this gap, as they took an overarching look at the big trends that are impacting the Future of Work, and redefined the employee relationship. They have hiring systems that allow for full-time employees, project / part-time work / contract work, and all variations thereof to exist productively together.

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 accelerated a series of trends that were already on the horizon. We are now moving more quickly to asynchronous working strategies…The talent pool has expanded to be truly global in nature since anyone can work from anywhere and people, en masse, are reevaluating the role of work in their lives.

Working from home broke the assumptions that everyone needed to be in the same physical space in order for work, collaboration, and innovation to occur. So, do we even need an office space, or certainly, do we need anything close to the size we’ve been investing in? These are the questions that come front and center.

Finally, in working from home, the content of daily work was stripped down to the bare bones of the work itself — No more excess of socialization in the office, running to client meetings, commuting, and to-ing and fro-ing that in-office work demands. Not only did many people discover that their jobs didn’t take that long to do so, Wall Street Journal published an article that profiled some of these individuals. This resulted in them taking on multiple full-time roles. Ethics of these choices aside, this was and is an invitation for companies to evaluate what productivity is and means, and if they really need people to be in a place or if they can start to manage based on outcomes and objectives. It provided the opportunity for many people to evaluate if their current job, field or company was truly aligned with the things that they value. Hence, the great reshuffle/resignation.

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?

One of the driving forces that inspired me to begin this work as a futurist was the lived experience of growing up in Detroit and watching the cascading effects of not thinking preemptively about the impact of technology in work and our working world combined with the forces of globalization. When you look at the macro data of industrial revolutions, over time, productivity and peoples’ access to wealth generally increase, but according to Carl Frey in his book The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation, that can take up to three generations. THREE GENERATIONS! That is a long time, and what are people going to do in the meantime?

First, the window for upskilling and reskilling is happening now. There is data available that tells us which jobs and industries are likely to lose jobs and which ones are being and going to be created. Now is the time to help people make that transition, not after technology has already taken the job.

Second, teach the skills of entrepreneurship starting in elementary school. One of the great opportunities of the technological disruption we are experiencing is the democratization of access to opportunities to access the global marketplace. Some social media influencers are making more than Fortune 500 CEOs. If we begin to share the entrepreneurial skills and spirit with kids, then they will be prepared to capture the infinite opportunities that will be available to them.

Third, offer some combination of tax credits and universal basic services that move beyond education and health to things like transportation and ubiquitous connectivity to help those impacted by job loss have access to the opportunities that are available.

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

My greatest source of optimism about the future of work are my fellow human beings. When I did that conversation experiment back in 2020, every person I talked to, regardless of how much their life had melted down or been completely overturned by the pandemic, was using their life and time to help others in big and small ways. This multiplicative generosity helped me see that we really are all going to be ok.

And, of course, the technologies themselves. The exponential dynamics of disruption can work to create positive outcomes, too. Not everything is Black Mirror. We can leapfrog creating access to education and entrepreneurial opportunities. We don’t need to move incrementally anymore. New technologies are creating solutions to health challenges, clean water challenges, and housing challenges. We can really use this moment to create a better, more inclusive world for everyone.

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?

The best thing that companies can do for people and their mental health is do a better job of resource planning. There needs to be a cultural shift away from “force finish” and do whatever it takes to win, at whatever cost, regardless of the impact on our people to a strategy that I call “Let it Breathe”. This means incorporating preemptive planning to ensure that there is time for people to rest and that projects are sourced and resourced with enough people so that no one burns out.

Companies like Bolt and The Financial Diet that are adopting four-day work weeks — and truly stick to that strategy — are doing wonders for peoples’ mental health. Companies that are offering coaching services to all of their employees, regardless of seniority level, are also taking real action to support their workers. BetterUp has great programming to help organizations do this. While subscriptions to meditation apps and subsidies for gym memberships are also helpful, these more robust practices help address the underlying challenges.

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?

The global numbers around engagement at work, according to Gallup, have been horrendous for years. Somewhere around 80% of the planet is disengaged or actively disengaged at work. If a CEO only hits 20% of his or her target, the shareholders give them the boot. If students only get 20% of the answers right on a test, they fail. Why do these numbers continue to be so low?

I hope that the Great Resignation, et. al., is finally the moment when we start to turn this tide.

First, leaders need to be clear that what they are selling in the market with their employer branding and that the working experience aligns with what actually happens in house. For example, are you really helping your employees live the possibility of solving global health’s biggest challenges, or are you having your team work on maximizing the spread of harmful, addictive opioids that are destroying lives and communities?

Second, leaders need to shift away from hierarchical, command and control, “because I said so” cultures to a more flexible model of leadership. Leaders should be determined by who is best equipped to lead the achievement of the goals of projects, regardless of title.

Third, most people want to feel like they are growing, learning, and contributing to something when they go to work. Are you truly fostering an environment that allows for that possibility?

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Brain & Mental Health is Priority #1. If your employees are melting down, your business will not thrive. Full stop. Visier released a study last year that reports that 70% of U.S. workers would leave their current employer for another one that would help them better manage their burnout! Not a better salary. Not a better role. But, help with their mental health. Solutions from this will need to go beyond a basic subscription to a meditation app, and will need to include better organizational resource planning, coaching geared at mastering and thriving in change at all levels of the organization, and senior leadership to lead these initiatives by example.
  2. Diversity is a non-negotiable. All levels of every organization, from the board to the interns, need to be composed of individuals who reflect the diverse makeup of the world we live in. Full stop. It is good for business. McKinsey’s latest report on diversity in the workplace, “Diversity Wins” shows the likelihood of financial outperformance of organizations that are more diverse by gender and ethnicity in their executive teams is higher than organizations that lack diversity. And, when building diversity strategies, companies want to make sure that they broaden the definition of diversity beyond ethnicity and gender, encompassing people with disabilities, neurodiverse individuals, and people often discriminated against because of their age, for example.
  3. Asynchronous will replace hybrid work dynamics. As organizations and teams become more adept at working in hybrid models, improving results and communication will transition hybrid to fully asynchronous.
  4. Diploma and Done becomes Life-long Learning. To remain competitive, companies need to provide opportunities for continuous learning for employees at all levels of the organization. Classes on things like digital transformation, the possibilities of blockchain, and coding are important, teaching mental adaptability and flexibility, creativity, simultaneous processing, and, of course Regenerative Resilience™️ are much more important.
  5. The planet is your talent pool. Exciting evolutions in asynchronous work, and the fact that 7.7 billion people are expected to have access to smartphones by 2027 means that your next best hire can literally be in any corner of the world. The possibilities for both hiring organizations and the people who now have access to global opportunities are amazing.

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 was introduced to Joseph Campbell’s work in 2013, and have been greatly inspired by his provocation, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

It speaks so much to what this moment in time is inviting us to do — let go of what was that no longer serves, and turn to the unbridled potential of what can be.

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.

There are so many! Today, I would like to sit down with Dwayne Johnson. There are three reasons for this. First, as an outside observer, he has done a phenomenal job of evolving through a series of careers because of his willingness to be open to what is on the horizon and an ability to see potential in making pivots — either by choice or by force/fate. Second, he has grown multiple businesses, in multiple sectors to great success. He’s even mirrored this in the way he has diversified his acting career. Third, it seems like he has a lot of fun a lot of the time. Business mentorship and good vibes? Yes, please.

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?

The two best ways to connect with me are by following me on LinkedIn and joining my mailing list, which you can access at www.elatiaabate.com

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