Employee wellness analytics driving company OKRs: Today, the majority of employee feedback is qualitative and ad hoc. With the rise of tools that can capture more employee metrics, like Allspring for career development or Peakon for employee voice surveys, organizations have more access to quantitative data to inform company goals and OKRs (objectives and key results). This can help companies further embed wellness into an organization’s strategy and goals.

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 Erin Rowe.

Erin Rowe (she, her) is the founder and CEO of Allspring, a platform that curates personalized career coach guidance and just-in-time learning. Erin started her career in management consulting and has led Employee Development at Pinterest. She committed to making career advice more accessible, imagining a world where everyone has access to an “older sibling” they trust.

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.

As mentioned, I started my career in management consulting. I’m in my early 20s, a few years into the role, and felt stuck. On one hand, I had the flashy job where I traveled to places like Beijing and San Francisco, stayed in gorgeous hotels, and was paid really well. On the other hand, every day was a fire drill, I was waking up in the middle of the night with glaring migraines, and I don’t know if I dreaded anything more than the 6 am Monday flights. Also, looking around at my leadership team, it was people (mostly men) in their 40s & 50s forgetting to call their partners to let them know they wouldn’t make it home for dinner, for the third time that week. It was disheartening to dislike my current job and what future roles looked like.

I was frustrated and confused because I thought I did everything right — good grades in high school, attending a good college, and then securing a coveted job. But then, that job and everything felt wrong.

It all came to a head when my younger sister started looking for her first job. We talked about what different jobs were like, who enjoyed those types of jobs, and so on. Through that experience, I realized how valuable that level of guidance is — not just about roles, but we were able to talk about navigating those roles as a black woman with similar backgrounds and varying interests, unlike advice from most of my mentors that was very white-washed and linear.

That’s where the nascent ideas for Allspring started.

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?

We’re already starting to see the trend now that workers are no longer staying in the same job for 30+ years, in the way our parents or grandparents may have. Based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average tenure at a company is ~5 years, however for the younger generations, Gen Z and millennials, the average tenure is less than 3 years. I foresee this trend continuing as younger generations have access to explore more options and the opportunity cost of finding a new job decreases, e.g., the time it takes to find a new job, or changes in total compensation. Additionally, with the rise of the influencer industry, it’s become easier for individuals to generate multiple revenue streams at the same time.

I predict in the future; we’ll see more career breaks within someone’s career path. Millennials are normalizing sabbaticals, and the rest of the employee population is considering them, with three-fourths of workers in the US wanting an extended break from work according to a survey from eDreams. Sabbaticals are effective for exploring personal interests, broadening perspectives, and combating burnout culture. Additionally, according to organizational psychologist, David Burkus, they help stress-rest organizational charts and provide space for aspiring employees. However, today only a few employers offer and encourage paid sabbatical leave or are comfortable with career gaps on a resume.

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

My three pieces of advice for employers are:

Lead the internal mobility conversation: At Allspring, our goal is to help individuals move from being career-reactive to career-proactive, which requires sharing their goals, values, and skills regularly with those they work with and for. However, that can feel incredibly uncomfortable and terrifying for some, particularly those early in their career or from a marginalized population. Those who don’t feel comfortable having these career conversations, often leave without notice, resulting in a lot of strong and diverse talent going to other organizations. Instead, organizations and managers have the opportunity to discuss internal movement and opportunities openly and regularly — in team meetings, 1:1s, company All Hands, etc., embedding internal mobility and role change in the culture of the organization and removing the onus on the individual to (sometimes uncomfortably) drive the conversations.

Be transparent and cut the BS: Just like in long-distance relationships, a decentralized work environment requires clear and transparent communication to be successful. Employees today are expecting organizations to be clear about their values and employee expectations. No longer can ping pong tables and good coffee mask half-baked policies and insincere gestures. And, for Gen Z and millennials, values like transparency, ethics, and diversity and inclusion are top priorities. When they don’t see it reflected in their company’s values, culture, and policies, they are more comfortable leaving compared to older generations.

Provide space dedicated for learning and development: Today, 49% of employees believe they don’t have time to learn, even though 95% of employees believe that it will positively impact their career development, according to LinkedIn Learning’s Workplace Learning Report. While many tech companies have a “5% rule,” 5% of your week is spent on passion projects, rarely do employees have to take advantage of that benefit. Additionally, studies show groups from historically disadvantaged communities often fear sharing their excitement toward professional development opportunities outside of the current scope of their career ladder because they don’t want to indicate they are planning to leave. Instead, dedicated company or team-wide time for learning signals that employee learning is a company-wide goal.

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?

Instead of reevaluating their culture, values, and ways of working, employers are more likely to make statements about future company culture with few tactics to support it. For example, they may change the language of a value to include feedback but not establish systems that cultivate a feedback culture.

Instead of baseless statements, I would recommend identifying one or two specific behaviors a company would like to see change and pilot a few small tactics that address those behaviors. Based on the feedback example, a behavior change could be managers sharing one positive and one developmental piece of feedback to an employee per quarter. The tactic could be setting a reminder on every people manager’s calendar to deliver that feedback and attest that they have completed the task. Additionally, when possible, connecting any desired behavior change to a “why” can increase engagement.

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

Ways of working is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The “Work From Home” experiment brought more awareness to that fact. Yes, remote work is here to stay, with 90% of workers wanting to maintain remote work to some degree, but in-person interactions are still highly valued. Instead, employees are looking for flexibility. Instead of personal schedules being dependent on work, many want work schedules to be established around their personal lives and work preferences. With the individualization of preferred work arrangements, organizations will be tasked to create policies that enable flexibility and also support caretakers and others who may need additional work adjustments to balance remote work and caretaking needs.

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?

As a society, we’ve continued to rely on women and primary caretakers to “do it all” — homemaking, childcare, elderly care, and everything in between. As working remotely becomes more prevalent and boundaries between work and life become more intertwined, we need more infrastructure to support caretakers that goes way beyond maternity/paternity leave. For example, offering benefits like Care.com, childcare stipend, education stipends, financial literacy courses, and caretaker-specific mental health communities and support groups.

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

As seen through the Great Resignation, individuals are more empowered than ever to take steps to own their career path, and organizations are noticing. I’m optimistic that individuals are seeking guidance, identifying burnout and toxic company cultures, and making changes, rather than suffering in silence. Additionally, I’m optimistic that leaders are engaging in the Future of Work conversation and recognizing that their talent strategy is a key pillar to company success. Some companies are launching stay interviews and employee voice surveys to keep a pulse on the state of their workforce and proactively adjust their talent strategy.

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 most prevalent and innovative strategies I’ve seen are when companies couple tactical mental health support with space for employees to take advantage of those benefits. While many companies are paying for online therapy and coaching support, offering wellbeing tools like Calm and Headspace, and promoting recognition and reward programs for employees to celebrate one another, most benefits go unused. Employees lack time to invest in them. That’s where dedicated mental health days and weeks have been valuable for encouraging employees to disconnect from work, take advantage of company benefits, and focus on their wellbeing.

Additionally, some companies have started infusing wellness into their talent practices by sharing how regular feedback, work acknowledgment and recognition, and performance processes can improve employee wellbeing overall.

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 hear that employees have options outside of their organization — from other roles to starting their own business, to making six-plus figures as an influencer. These options mean that organizations must evaluate their culture against the values of today’s workforce and determine if they deserve employee loyalty. If they feel that they do, organizations should consider “re-recruiting” their employees by sharing why they are valuable to the organization and their growth opportunities.

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

  1. Saying “bye-bye” to 40-hour work weeks: In July 2021, Iceland announced the resounding success of trialing a 4-day work week from 2015 to 2019. Trial participants reported being less stressed, having more work-life balance, and more time for extracurricular activities. While 4-day work weeks may not be the new norm, finding alternatives to the typical 9–5, 40-hour workweek setup is happening. We’re seeing leading tech companies and government organizations implementing no meeting Fridays and compressed work schedules.
  2. More “ships” (e.g., apprenticeships, returnships) and project-based work: Companies are finding new ways to attract and vet employees, especially those with non-traditional backgrounds or for niche roles. In that last year, there has been a 60% increase in apprenticeship enrollments and 34% of Fortune 500 companies now have an in-house returnship program. Additionally, individuals are opting for project-based work to vet a company’s culture and the role before joining full-time. Project-based work also usually allows for more schedule flexibility. Companies are seeing these programs as ways to diversify their workforce and elevate their talent pool with employees whose backgrounds are typically overlooked.
  3. More ERGs with influence: Employee resource groups (ERGs) have been around in one form or another since the 1970s when Xerox launched the National Black Employees Caucus. Since then, ERGs have been a safe space for employees to engage with others that share similar identities or experiences. Over time, ERGs have become more sophisticated and influential throughout organizations. While today, most ERGs are composed of individual contributors, the next generation of workers is very focused on increasing diversity and inclusion practices and taking on leadership roles within ERGs. Going forward, we see a trend of ERGs becoming critical in how organizations increase employee engagement and understand the nuanced needs of their workforce.
  4. Just-in-time learning: According to LinkedIn Learning 79% of employees crave receiving the right type of education at the right time and 83% of learning happens during the workday. Additionally, many CEOs and Learning and Development professionals are primarily focused on upskilling their current workforce to meet future needs. With improvements in AI, focus on internal mobility, and a decentralized workforce, providing employees with real-time learning support will be critical in engaging employees with learning opportunities and helping them grow.
  5. Employee wellness analytics driving company OKRs: Today, the majority of employee feedback is qualitative and ad hoc. With the rise of tools that can capture more employee metrics, like Allspring for career development or Peakon for employee voice surveys, organizations have more access to quantitative data to inform company goals and OKRs (objectives and key results). This can help companies further embed wellness into an organization’s strategy and goals.

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?

“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations — Mae C. Jemison

From leaving consulting to being an entrepreneur, I’ve made choices that felt right for me based on my values, goals, and skills. However, along the way, mentors and friends advised me to go against my plan — highlighting the various things that could go wrong. This quote from Mae C. Jemison, the first black woman to travel into space, reminds me to be confident in dreams and push forward when others are doubtful.

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.

I attended UNC, Chapel Hill with Harrison Barnes, who plays for the Sacramento Kings. Since he joined the NBA, he’s built an amazing basketball career, while also reinvesting into his local community. I’d love to connect with Harrison on how to help those college athletes, who may not have career development support, navigate balancing their career and personal priorities.

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?

Erin’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/erinrowe5/

Erin’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/erinalyserowe/

Allspring’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/allspring.co/

Allspring’s Website: www.tryallspring.com

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