… Hybrid working. We aren’t going back to 9 to 5:30 in the office every day. The trend to track is how businesses implement a balanced approach towards this, whether it is one or two days in the office and the rest working from home or vice versa.

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 Harriet Durnford-Smith.

Harriet Durnford-Smith is the Chief Marketing Officer at Adverity. She is responsible for global marketing strategy and execution, lives and loves the cutting edge of growth marketing whilst keeping customer needs front of mind. Under her leadership, she has scaled a high-performing global marketing function that helped the company secure 150 million dollars in Series C and D funding in consecutive years.

Before joining Adverity, Harriet gained in-depth experience in growth-stage SMEs, as well as international professional services and boutique marketing agencies. She is passionate about team development, coaching and mentoring, and is an active member of the International Coaching Federation as a qualified Business and Personal Coach.

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. 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?

There is no doubt that over the last couple of years the balance of power between employers and employees has shifted. The conversation of “why should we hire you?” has been flipped on its head to “why should I work for you?”

We are already seeing that employees are voting with their feet and that they are not willing to accept environments that are not fulfilling, and don’t provide a healthy work-life balance.

I believe that this shift is here to stay. Employees are looking at everything that a company offers such as PTO, benefits, workplace culture, backgrounds of the leadership team as well as the trajectory of the company. Employee feedback platforms such as Glassdoor have become the first port of call for any prospective employee.

From a marketing perspective, I expect to see a fundamental shift in how teams work with data, and this is going to impact the wider business too. The definition of “marketing data” keeps getting broader. The opportunity to overlay different data points to be able to spot different trends or connect data that wasn’t previously available means that marketing teams are better equipped to make better decisions. This means that as organizations become more data mature, there will be a paradigm shift that sees marketing teams thinking more creatively when it comes to identifying data for marketing, not just their traditional marketing channels.

This will impact the wider workforce, as employers will be looking for a level of data skills/literacy in all their hires rather than just those that are explicitly working with data. The knock-on effect will be that we see far more collaboration across departments, removing silos and some of the ‘them against us’ workplace cultures.

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

Get better at using data to drive decision making.

Over the last decade, the amount of data that businesses now interact with has grown exponentially and is set to continue to rise. According to research firm IDC, the amount of data is set to more than double between 2022 and 2025.

Every single team and department is working with data, however, some parts of the business are more data-savvy than others. There is a competency gap between collecting data and using it within a business to drive decision making. To affect change, businesses need to foster an insights-driven culture within their organization that is led from the top-down.

For example, marketing teams have been relying on “digital” for a long time to drive decision making but some still display some of the legacy side effects such as manually wrangling data from spreadsheets, or not centralizing their data.

As the amount of data teams work with continues to grow, it is essential that businesses improve the way they are working with their data.

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?

I don’t think there is a one size fits all answer to this question. There are a number of things that come into consideration. It may depend on the location of the company and the business culture, the sector that the business operates in, or even the size of the business.

But certainly, employee expectations of their employers have changed. The benefit of being able to work remotely or from anywhere is a huge benefit that not all organizations can provide. However, businesses that could technically provide this but choose not to could expect hiring to become more competitive against competitors that are willing to do so.

In terms of how businesses reconcile these gaps, again it will vary on a case by case basis, but the most important things are clear communication, highlighting benefits and company culture, and demonstrating clear progression paths for employees.

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

Personally, I believe that some elements of working from home are here to stay. I am a firm believer in offering flexibility to my teams. However, with that flexibility, there are also expectations. For many, working from home is an opportunity to get their head down and work on tasks that may be more difficult in a loud office environment. However, for others that are working on collaborative projects there is a need to be together. So I believe that a balanced approach will be the way forward.

One of the difficulties of working from home is that you lose an element of informality. Having to always arrange a set time and date for a conversation that could happen in the office while someone pours a coffee can be tricky. Especially for younger members of staff that may have a quick question or looking for some brief support on how to do something, having to then arrange a video call can feel very formal.

Informality and a flat structure are hugely important to our business. There needs to be a balanced approach between working from home and connecting with everyone in one place.

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?

I see this in a slightly different way, I believe that societal changes are a result of the evolving way in which people work rather than the other way around. From little things such as colleagues seeing inside your home — which they may never have done in ten years of working in an office — to how and when people are traveling. Public transport may be running alternative timetables, restaurants and shops may alter opening hours. Societal changes like these are being driven by changes to how we work. Rightly or wrongly, it is here to stay and I expect that there will be more changes to come over the next few years.

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

Simply, the level of flexibility that is now offered to employees. In some businesses, even 5 years ago, working from home or a hybrid approach was reserved for the most senior members of staff.

Employees not having to take paid time off if they need to be at home on a workday is massive. The new level of flexibility can have a huge impact on someone’s standard of life. Even things that may seem minor, like starting later and working later so you can do the school run. But it’s a two-way street between employee and employer.

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?

As a business, this is something that we care massively about at Adverity. Over the past 18 months, we have introduced a mental health coach that offers one on one sessions for all our employees, as well as conducting a monthly business-wide Lunch and Learn session where external speakers will come in to do coaching sessions. Recently we’ve been learning more about breathwork.

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 ensure they’re offering jobs that are fulfilling, and that offer room for growth. In marketing, we are constantly seeing organizations that are hiring highly skilled data analysts who are then being given the primary responsibility of manually wrangling the business’ marketing data using spreadsheets. In fact, our recent research shows that this was the biggest challenge that data analysts face at the moment.

This is by no means fulfilling, so it’s no surprise that employees are voting with their feet. If leaders make an effort to understand why people are resigning, we’ll continue this cycle of hiring, onboarding, and then repeating 18 months later. This isn’t sustainable for anyone, it puts huge pressures on the employees within the organization, costs money and time, and undermines a business’s reputation.

Listen to the feedback of employees, conduct regular pulse surveys and create an open dialogue. You’ll be in a far better position to spot whether resignations are a one-off, or if there is an underlying trend of job dissatisfaction.

What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

  1. Hybrid working. We aren’t going back to 9 to 5:30 in the office every day. The trend to track is how businesses implement a balanced approach towards this, whether it is one or two days in the office and the rest working from home or vice versa.
  2. Employees hold the power. We are seeing this in a number of different aspects, from the hiring process and factoring in what employees want from a company much more, to the great resignation debate, or even just the requests that employees are making to their existing employers.
  3. Generating central sources of truth. As businesses become more data-savvy it is essential that they are using the right tools to generate business-critical insights as quickly as possible and information that can be accessed by multiple people at any given time. Businesses can no longer rely on one individual to be in control of all of the data/insights.
  4. Freeing people to do the jobs they are employed to do rather than wasting time and budgets on unnecessary tasks. A recent Forrester report we commissioned found that one of our clients was able to save 75% of their teams on marketing analytics activities by automating their reporting.
  5. Employers and employees will become even more aware of their Green credentials and do more to ensure that they are not only offsetting their carbon footprint but actively doing things that go beyond this. In fact, at Adverty, we have offset all our CO2 emissions since 2019. Not only do we offset all of our travel emissions, but we also have offset all of our hosting emissions retrospectively.

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?

“Perfection is the enemy of done”. It reminds me of the importance of progress, moving forwards and improving as you go. It is something that I often reiterate to my team, that we would all love to refine and tune every single detail. But if we work this way, fewer projects get completed, we won’t get any data to inform future iterations and no lessons will be learned.

Nothing is ever going to be absolutely perfect (what is perfect anyway?), and we need to remember that and 99% of the time that’s okay.

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.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She overcame so many obstacles, and I would have loved to have a private chat with her about her views on how the world has changed both society and politics. The way she carried herself in every aspect of her life is truly inspirational. Also, she must have some amazing stories that never reached the public!

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