All eyes are on social responsibility. A new social contract is emerging, and there’s increased scrutiny on how companies treat their workers and how they positively impact society more broadly.

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 Jâlie Cohen.

Jâlie Cohen is a seasoned human resources executive with extensive global experience leading teams in matrixed environments. Jâlie is the Group SVP of HR, Americas at the Adecco Group, and she specializes in executive coaching, strategic planning, change management, conflict resolution, inclusive talent programs, and business transformations. Jâlie believes that Human Resources is both an employee advocate and business partner and leads under the premise that the two can successfully coexist while fostering a productive, innovative, and engaged workforce.

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 wish I could narrow my life down to one, two or ten experiences, but my life continues to evolve and it is constantly reshaping who I am as a person. My experiences growing up as a woman of color in the Southeast, paired with the cultures and people I’ve been exposed to as an adult through my travels and work, have shaped my perspectives and provided me a unique lens in which to view the world. My experiences have influenced how I move through life, and I have chosen a path to embrace the moment, experience, and most importantly, the lesson. This continues to shape me on a daily basis.

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?

Regardless of where the work takes place, what will not change is that people need to feel as if they are adding some type of value. This can range from delivering groceries to protecting the community to working in a hospital to serving in the armed forces. The connectedness and the impact of the work will still be important.

In 10–15 years, I think workplace policies will be even more inclusive and the workforce will require more of a focus on outcomes versus visibility. Wellbeing will be a part of the organizational culture and expectations on employees will have evolved to match the demands of up-and-coming generations. I also think as much as people are enjoying working from home, there will be a resurgence of human connection. This connection could be through a variety of in-person or technology led mediums, but the desire to connect will be present.

How we define diversity and inclusion will be different because it will have evolved with new generations entering the workforce. Today’s issues will be present but not as prevalent.

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

The transition we’ve seen in the job market during the pandemic — and how we emerge from it — appears to be here to stay. We’re learning that the pre-pandemic notion of “normal” did not work for everyone. To be successful, business leaders need to understand what matters most to employees and create policies that support a new way of working focused on how employees like to work and what they value.

Hybrid and flexible work are no longer considered an employee benefit but a new normal for workers. Workers do not want to give up the flexibility they’ve experienced over the last year and a half; companies need to acknowledge this shift and integrate more flexibility into their policies to stay competitive. Employers also need to consider their working methods, schedules, and physical space to create inclusive environments.

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?

A movement has begun. Employees are feeling more empowered than ever to take control of their lives, and they are starting to reassess what is truly important to them at work. Today’s workers are looking at how they want to spend their time and how they can impact society — and they have high expectations for employers to create a better working world coming out of the pandemic. In fact, according to our research, over 80% of U.S. workers trust employers the most to deliver a better working world post-pandemic. Globally, companies and their leaders must use this moment to meet these heightened expectations and find new ways to connect and engage with their workforce.

One example of how companies are having to navigate workplace policies due to changing employee expectations is through the concept of productivity. Companies must also consider how they are measuring productivity so they can meet their employees where they are at as we continue to embrace working from home and hybrid working. The 9 to 5 traditional working model is becoming outdated, and workers are wanting to be measured by outcomes, rather than by hours spent working. Our “new normal” is still constantly changing, and businesses need to keep an open mind, continue adapting, and build a culture of trust so that workers can maintain flexibility and autonomy over their own work and lives.

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

From where I sit, it’s been most interesting to see the virtual office take shape and ultimately change the world of work forever. The virtual office contributed to rapid digital upskilling across organizations and played a significant role in keeping economies moving throughout the pandemic. In many ways, technology and the virtual environment created more authentic relationships and showed people’s human side as the lines blurred between home and work life. It also started a new level of accessibility, collaboration, and faster problem solving, as people opted for video meetings versus travel for in-person visits.

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?

With the labor market experiencing talent shortages and heightened expectations for companies to engage in social issues, there has never been a more critical time for employers to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Nearly 3 million women left the workforce in the U.S. in 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic, including increased family responsibilities, lack of childcare, a lack of flexibility, and low wages. Other vulnerable populations such as the BIPOC community, people with disabilities, and military veterans and spouses also experienced disproportionate unemployment during the pandemic. It will be critical for companies to develop near-term strategies to attract these populations back into the workplace and establish longer-term approaches to retaining them. Deploying these populations’ full potential is not only essential to our economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s also critical for building a more equitable and just world for all.

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

I am optimistic that organizations are looking to innovate, build inclusive cultures, improve productivity, and transform in ways that previously we would not have dared to imagine. Companies are becoming more purpose driven, prioritizing DEI in their organizations, and thinking about their employees more holistically. The pandemic has amplified nearly every workforce trend you can think of, and we are working to help businesses around the world respond and positively impact individual careers. Overall, I am encouraged that companies are on a journey to put their people first.

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?

According to our research, mental health is a global issue spanning all ages and gender. Burnout is a significant concern, especially among younger employees. Employees are working more hours than before the pandemic. We are also seeing that some leaders are not equipped to support employee wellbeing — some managers are finding it hard to identify when staff may be struggling with mental health issues or burnout.

Companies need to take the time to understand the current needs of their employees. This pandemic has provided both employer and employee the opportunity to take a fresh look and reevaluate the type of environment they want to be part of or build. Employers can listen and evaluate how they can better support employees and provide them with significant wellbeing resources. They must also provide resources, leadership development, and coaching to ensure that managers respond in constructive ways to mental health issues. Building pro-wellness environments, cultures, and skillsets are vital in reducing burnout and attracting and retaining talent in our current environment.

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?

One of the most popular headlines that has emerged from the pandemic is “the Great Resignation” — a nod to the widespread trend of workers quitting their jobs in record numbers. I believe however, the more appropriate term for this moment is a “Re-Evaluation”. Because of the pandemic, our values have changed, and our workforce is leaning into the hybrid workplace, prioritizing work-life balance, and flexibility. This crisis has changed every aspect of life, and as a result, employees are rethinking career options, and are aligning with companies where they feel more valued as a whole person.

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. The need to upskill and reskill talent is becoming mainstream. We see a trend where companies are hiring for skills and not exact job titles or years of experience — some employers are even foregoing traditional job requirements. Hiring managers should look beyond conventional candidates and talent pools and consider applicants with transferable skills from other industries or job requirements. Technology will transform more than 1 billion jobs in the next decade, with 43% of businesses set to cut their workforce due to tech integration. Experts agree that skills are the currency of the future of work, and thus, it is crucial that companies invest in their people by embracing lifelong learning.
  2. All eyes are on social responsibility. A new social contract is emerging, and there’s increased scrutiny on how companies treat their workers and how they positively impact society more broadly.
  3. “Alternate talent pools” are entering the supply chain. Employers are focusing on bringing populations back into the workforce that were perhaps overlooked before the pandemic. By offering flexible schedules and job sharing, there is an opportunity to create career paths for all populations in supply chain roles.
  4. Companies will need to have a renewed focus on retention in 2022. Retention is a much larger question around long-term sustainability in the labor market, and employers will have to be creative on how to keep talent once they get candidates to sign. We are seeing an emphasis on improving the employee experience, from good onboarding techniques to reworking company culture to training leaders in the supervisory levels, so they are invested in employee success. We are even seeing companies be more proactive in surveys and listening exercises to have a better sense of communication with employees.
  5. Bottom line: Companies have more to learn. Whether it’s wage increases, flexibility, an emphasis on DEI, or a commitment to wellness and mental health, there is more to learn and more to be done to feel safe, secure, and successful in their jobs. This is the time where you’ll see new ideas, technology, and innovation like never before, and we look forward to seeing all the opportunities and advances that this moment will bring.

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?

Like my view on experiences, there are several quotes that have inspired me over the years. The one I have on my desk at the moment is from Nelson Mandela- “I never lose. I either win or learn.”

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 actually do not have one person that is a big name that sticks out to me. I have found that my greatest lessons come from people that may not be the biggest name and from small informal, causal moments.

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?

Please find me on LinkedIn to see what I’m following in the world of work.

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