Remote / Hybrid Work is Here to Stay — The old way of working — waking up early, commuting into an office, staying for 8–9-plus hours, and commuting home — is over. Remote and virtual work is not going away any time soon for a large portion of businesses.
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 Emmett McGrath, president of Yoh, a Day & Zimmermann Company.
As president, McGrath is responsible for the strategic and operational success of Yoh’s two main offerings; Specialty Practices, providing highly skilled, professional, STEM talent; and Enterprise Solutions, Yoh’s integrated, managed workforce solutions, including the recently launched DZConneX, Total Talent Solutions brand. McGrath has been president of Yoh since April of 2017, rejoining Yoh after previously working for the company for many years, getting his start with Yoh in 1985.
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?
The most profound life experience I have had is being a parent, raising two children with my wonderful wife. Parenting, being a father, is an awesome responsibility and incredibly rewarding.
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?
If the pandemic has taught us anything about work, it’s that we can never truly predict what the future will look like. The rate of progress, both in technology and from a talent perspective, is too fast to make any definitive predictions. That said, I feel what will remain the same about the workforce in a decade is a continuation of what we’ve seen at Yoh over the past two years. Workers will demand their employers not only offer strong salary, benefits and flexibility, but that companies also place a priority on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) programs. They want their employers to be good stewards of the environment and give back to the communities in which they’re based. The demand for high-performing, specialized talent will remain at record highs in the next 10–15 years. Keeping up with your competitors will require all companies make talent acquisition and management a key part of their strategic plans.
Now, what will be different, remains to be seen. I feel we’ll see the evolution of the remote / hybrid work model continue. Driven by advancements in tech, we’ll see the need for even more specialization in skills, experience and responsibilities. We’ll see more outsourcing of talent acquisition as the demand for these specialized skills far outpaces the level at which internal teams can keep up.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Well, the first thing I’d say is that “future-proofing” doesn’t mean trying to prevent change from happening or even putting processes in place based on what you think might happen in the future. Any attempt at that is destined to end poorly. “Future proofing” does mean monitoring employment trends closely, being agile and having a willingness to embrace change, no matter how significant that change may appear at first. Too often it’s the large organizations who are rigid in their methods and have “our own way of doing things” that fall behind first in the battle for talent. Our industry is a fluid system that ebbs and flows based on the economy, worker confidence, technological changes, (and global pandemics). Having a willingness to change is a key step in preparing for whatever the future holds.
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?
Right now, we’re still seeing gaps in what employers are offering in terms of remote / hybrid work models and what employees are expecting. I feel that the momentum for remote is too strong for employers to ignore, and they’ll simply have no choice but to meet workers’ demands. After all, a remote model allows for employers to expand their candidate search well beyond geographic areas, so I feel the benefits of the move will far outweigh any costs.
Enhanced political activism is also putting more and more companies under the microscope, and the public is more willing than ever to call out companies who fail to meet societal expectations. Soon, businesses will be no longer able to put out a good product or service and consider themselves a “good” company. Charitable giving, volunteering, enhanced benefits for parents, education reimbursement, DE&I, ESG, and more are becoming must-haves for more employees, and significant gaps still exist between company offerings and worker expectations there.
Certainly, adopting every one of a workforce’s demands isn’t possible right away. Self-evaluations via employee surveys and candidate feedback is a great place to start. Benchmarking where the company stands today and assessing where employees feel it needs to be can help leaders set tangible goals and make evaluating progress much clearer.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Certainly, the idea of remote work isn’t going away. Well before the pandemic, there was a small shift towards offering more flexibility, but the pandemic certainly accelerated that much faster than anyone could’ve anticipated. Obviously, there are some drawbacks to a remote workforce in terms of collaboration, culture, skill development, leadership development, and more. But there are plenty of benefits, too — greater worker satisfaction, expanded candidate pools, commuter cost savings for workers and overhead cost reduction for employers, among others.
As with anything, practice and experience makes us better, so I feel that the same will hold true for remote work. As we move forward, we’ll figure out how to address many of the things we consider drawbacks today. We simply need to experiment and see what works best for each organization, team and industry.
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?
We’ve reached a bit of a crossroads when it comes to work. Employers can no longer force employees to fit within their employment structure. Today, the inverse is true. Businesses must adapt their employment offerings and models to fit today’s worker. As a recruitment company, we’re already seeing it at Yoh. We need benefits and work flexibility that works for moms, dads, and those with special requirements. We need HR policies that are not written by and for a single demographic, but for the diverse workforce of today. Adopting a DE&I program that goes beyond empty words but includes actual actions is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a necessity.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
In my eyes, there is no question — we have more talent and more highly skilled talent in our workforce than ever before. Technology is allowing us to work from anywhere, and that means we can hire a software engineer who lives in Miami to work at our Philadelphia office. We can now find someone with a super specialized skill to work on a project, get the job done perfectly, and then allow them to move on to other roles to keep their work life more exciting. The possibilities are endless, and I feel we’ve only just touched the surface of what the future of work will hold.
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?
If there’s one positive to come from this pandemic it’s that I hope we now know we cannot expect workers to perform at a high level, all the time, no matter what may be going on in society or in their personal lives. Employees are not robots, and we all need to be more understanding that for a majority of us, work isn’t life — work is work.
Some of the ways we’re seeing companies be more conscious of mental health needs and employee well being include enhanced PTO offerings, workplace flexibility, designated “mental health days,” flexible work schedules, “cut off times” where no emails or calls can be sent during a specific timeframe, daycare options for parents, and much more. The thinking that “this is the way it was for me, so it should be the same for you” is outdated and wrong. We should be trying to make work-life better for those that follow us, and those employers that embrace that will be miles ahead of the rest. For example, during the summer last year, I tried to schedule no meetings, particularly Zoom meetings, on Fridays, and without much effort it caught on with my leadership team. The result was, I was able to get more done on Fridays or take time off without worrying about missing meetings or being online. It didn’t worth all the time, but it was an example of how we can be creative and flexible if we try.
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 most important takeaway is this — the status quo is no longer working. There has been a tremendous shift in the way people think about their work and what they expect from their employers. Even those businesses that offer flexibility, great benefits and a strong culture already have been forced to, as the headline says, “reevaluate” their offerings.
Almost always, the solution starts with listening. What are current employees looking for? What do they like about the company offering, culture and their career in general? What don’t they like? What improvements can be made? What is the perception of leadership? How has job satisfaction changed pre- and post-pandemic?
Culture evolution can’t happen overnight. It requires a deliberate approach and process. It demands an acknowledgement from leadership that things aren’t perfect, and changes need to be made — something often harder said than done. Start by listening to what the workforce has to say, take their criticisms to heart (but not personally), and identify 3–5 key areas where changes can be made, and develop a process for implementing them thoughtfully.
The other important part of this is communication. With even a partially remote workforce, it has been more difficult to reach people. This idea of listening needs to also involve feedback and communication in a constant cycle. It’s important to get listen to all levels of the organization and make sure communication reaches all levels.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- Remote / Hybrid Work is Here to Stay — The old way of working — waking up early, commuting into an office, staying for 8–9-plus hours, and commuting home — is over. Remote and virtual work is not going away any time soon for a large portion of businesses.
- Workers’ Demand for DE&I and ESG — The concept of fairness and equity in employment is nothing new. But for better or worse, the fact that companies are now embracing it is new. For far too long, women, people of color, people with disabilities, people of different genders, sexualities, other marginalized groups have not gotten an equal seat at the table. Finally, albeit slowly, that is changing. Today, companies are installing Diversity and Inclusion departments and specialized executives whose entire function is to ensure an equitable workplace. Other factors such as Environmental, Social, and Governance or ESG, are increasingly becoming a consideration in individuals’ employment decisions, too. Beyond missing out on talent, companies who don’t make DE&I and ESG a part of their employment brand can also miss out on potential clients, vendors and partners too.
- High-Tech Skills Still in Demand — What we are seeing today with highly-skilled professionals, particularly STEM and technology workers, demanding higher salaries and having many options for work will continue. Those with defined technical skills are in the driver’s seat and will be for the foreseeable future. Employers need to understand their critical core skill needs and plan for how they are going to get those skills into their organization. Will it be direct employees, contract workers, consultants or through other types of engagements? They need to consider all avenues to get this talent into their organizations and what the outlook is for those types of skills. Will they have to build them or can they buy them? HR, and specifically talent acquisition within HR, and procurement need to work with hiring managers, project managers, and leadership to forecast the organization’s talent needs to be successful.
- Wellness as a Metric — Many consider wellness as concept health related only. But the future of work will require businesses to expand their definition of wellness and provide benefits that hit on all three areas of workplace wellness — financial wellness, physical wellness and mental wellness. Measuring these factors via surveys, check-ins and formal evaluations is a better way to predict employee performance and retention than focusing solely on “job satisfaction.”
- Empathy Employment — Let’s face it, the past two years have been a struggle for everyone. Each day presents new challenges to overcome, new mandates to meet and new processes to adapt to. It hasn’t been easy. Improving a workforce’s mental wellness begins with being more empathetic leaders and developing a culture of empathy across an organization. It may sound simple, but treating employees like humans rather than an output producer can go a long way in helping manage an individual’s stress and build company trust in what’s been a very difficult few years.
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?
A quote that has served as a powerful guide for me comes from Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.” This applies to the War for Talent and the Future of Work — we are in the midst of a major paradigm shift. It’s critical for business leaders to embrace change and do all we can to attract, retain and ensure our employees thrive.
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.
The author and inspirational speaker, Simon Sinek would be great to meet. I think his business survival strategy centered on The Infinite Game mindset is spot on. The five guidelines he provides from having a Just Cause to Demonstrating the courage to lead for example, are critical for companies to survive in today’s ever-increasing competitive landscape for talent.
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 best way to connect with me would be via LinkedIn and Yoh’s website, www.Yoh.com. We have a regular blog where we share frequent insights, articles, perspectives, ebooks, and more about the talent industry and how companies can manage their workforce in 2022 and beyond.
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.