Technology’s Impact on The Human Experience. According to the TrustRadius 2022 HR Trends Report, 83% of HR pros indicated they are either investing to upgrade current tech or launching new tech stacks in order to have what they need at their fingertips to strategize and keep their organizations competitive. Implementing or upgrading HR tech is only step #1 of the process. Getting people to engage with the new tech, data analysis, and decisions on what to do as a result of the new tech is what makes the difference. The fact that businesses are investing in this area is highly encouraging to me as a People Leader promoting The Human Experience. Let’s see where the data takes us.

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 Jamy Conrad, Sr. Director of People at TrustRadius.

Jamy Conrad has worked in Human Resources for over 13 years. She has won multiple awards across multiple organizations and now leads the People strategy and HR functions for the TrustRadius team who are changing the game in the B2B tech buyer space. She grew up with entrepreneurial influences, humanitarianism as a way of life and passion to leave the world better than she found it. Jamy is a long-time member of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), an active member in the local SHRM chapter mentorship program, and a member of the SHRM Advocacy Team focused on providing input and guidance on federal and state issues that impact the workplace. She emphasizes that her career in HR has been about trying to fill her insatiable curiosity about human nature, the power of choice and human potential, realizing along the way that the more she learns, the less she knows.

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 survived a rough childhood. When you see and experience so much at such a young age, you make a choice about how those experiences define you. You either adopt grit, resilience, and tenacity, or you don’t. I chose the former, and I will continue to look for every silver lining in every situation.

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?

I think many areas will remain the same. We will still have traditional employer/employee relationships in terms of contracts and various tax structures. We will still have a war for talent as well as requirements and laws around working conditions. What will be different is the demand from the workforce on what is acceptable to them and what is not from their employer. The ways that employees negotiate healthy power balances, their environment and their contributions to the business will evolve.

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

Invest in emerging technologies. This includes everything from AI to VR to machine learning. Watch it all. Keep your business vision in mind. Invest early. In the HR profession, the demand for data skyrocketed during the pandemic. Technology to track and deliver on those data demands are increasingly becoming a core business need rather than a nice-to-have.

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?

One of the biggest gaps I see is how employers will navigate the complexities of laws and regulations around a remote, “work-from-anywhere” demand from employees. There are employers out there that want to meet this growing demand to expand their employee base, but our local, state, federal and especially global legal differences make it a minefield of fines and unintended consequences. To reconcile those gaps, businesses will need to set aside their competition for talent and market share and band together as one voice to approach lawmakers and representatives. Employees will need to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill. If we don’t start thinking differently about work now, we will quickly begin to lose ground.

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

The option to work from home is now going to be expected as a “must-have” from employees in most industries. Not all employees want to work from home, but a majority of them want the flexibility available to them. Employees have proven they can be trusted to produce outcomes and thrive when working from home. As indicated in the TrustRadius 2022 HR Trends Report, the majority of HR professionals indicate they think working from home either increases or maintains productivity. In addition, employers have learned that they reduce office space costs, and their hiring pool is larger when they expand outside of local networks to find top talent.

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?

A couple of things come to mind quickly. The first is bridging digital divides between socioeconomic classes. There are still so many people globally without access to the Internet or a computer at home, limiting their ability to develop some of the skills businesses need for their future work. I grew up in poverty and know firsthand how much more difficult it is to succeed when you struggle to get access to what so many take for granted. Another thing that comes to mind is on the opposite end of the spectrum: the right to disconnect. At the beginning of the pandemic when so many workers went remote, the lines between work and home blurred. It will do our mental health some good and mitigate burnout epidemics if we take a look at our expectations and communicate clear guidelines to employees, not just about work/life balance, but also that it is okay to disconnect.

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

Two things: First is the increased awareness and visibility of the need for psychological safety in the workplace. This is starting to take hold in multiple areas and in multiple ways, and it is long overdue. Encouraging people to have a voice and speak up opens doors into discussions around diversity, equity, creative business solutions, technology opportunities, mental health, etc. Secondly, I feel optimistic with organizations like Code2College thriving, a local company with a mission to dramatically increase the number of minority and low-income high school students who enter and excel in STEM undergraduate programs. Leaders who are making a difference by ensuring opportunities are available to all people also keep me optimistic.

Our collective mental health and well-being 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 well-being?

There are several ways employers are starting to make changes to support mental health and well-being, especially in a remote environment. Among the most common are “No Video Day ‘ (where employees are not required to turn on their cameras) and “Work From Outside Day.” A step up from those ideas are offering paid telehealth benefits for mental health, highlighting specific mental health awareness days and offering Lunch & Learns about mental health and well-being. The real trailblazers are taking it up a notch by training leaders and management teams on mental health, warning signs, and how to assist an employee in need. They are training on empathy and compassion in the workplace and creating safe space for employees to be vulnerable. At TrustRadius, we offer monthly paid Self Care days where the company is closed and employees are expected to disconnect and encouraged to focus on wellness in whatever manner they choose.

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?

Employees are no longer going to tolerate being overworked, underpaid and unsupported. The pandemic has given people the opportunity to reassess life priorities and how aligned their careers are with those life priorities. In order to attract and retain workers, employers, business owners and leaders must be willing to allow those life priorities to not only be discussed in the workplace, but more importantly, celebrated and encouraged. When employees are faced with difficult life challenges, employers will need officers with high EQ’s who lead with empathy and compassion.

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

  1. The Human Experience. This is the one I am most passionate about. We are finally seeing employers recognizing that the Employee Value Proposition and Employee Experience are not enough. It is not just about what you are offering employees and their experience as an employee in an organization. It is evolving and expanding to become the Human Experience and how employers are supporting employees, not just as workers, but as human beings. I had the pleasure recently of working with an employee going through a work visa situation. Let me be clear: the pleasure was working with the employee, not the work visa situation. This employee had always done “all the right things” when it came to being in the U.S. and working legally, and yet, they still were having a terrible time getting answers and support through the renewal process. My role for this employee very quickly became less about how our business can assist her in the situation so she can continue working with us, and more about how I can support her and her family during this emotional roller coaster that our system was putting them through. It became about providing her a space where there is no pressure to “put on a brave face” and “be strong.” It became about providing her a space to be vulnerable and have another human being truly see her. Showing her that, even if I were not her HR and People leader, I would still be right there beside her as a fellow warrior and human being supporting her and her family was crucial. We are humans, not resources.
  2. Technology’s Impact on The Human Experience. According to the TrustRadius 2022 HR Trends Report, 83% of HR pros indicated they are either investing to upgrade current tech or launching new tech stacks in order to have what they need at their fingertips to strategize and keep their organizations competitive. Implementing or upgrading HR tech is only step #1 of the process. Getting people to engage with the new tech, data analysis, and decisions on what to do as a result of the new tech is what makes the difference. The fact that businesses are investing in this area is highly encouraging to me as a People Leader promoting The Human Experience. Let’s see where the data takes us.
  3. The Remote Work Environment’s Impact on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. With the transition to remote work environments, companies are being forced to rethink their DE&I efforts. In many cases, this is a good thing. Now that talent pools are no longer limited by geographical location, there is a significant opportunity to reconsider how and where you find talent, with which community outreach and education programs you want to partner, and how businesses can find and evaluate those. Social media influences attitudes and perceptions, and there’s no question that DE&I must be at its forefront, not presented as an afterthought. I am curious to watch the data trends around actual DE&I impact with the shift to more remote and hybrid work environments.
  4. Closing the Skills Gap. Mid-level managers and hiring managers agree that there is a skills gap in our labor market. Businesses are being challenged to overcome this gap in creative ways. Some are creating skills maps related to outcomes and what it will take to get them there. Others are revising their approach to hiring and re-evaluating the value of independent contractors vs. full-time employees. Investments in upskilling initiatives for current employees have shown a greater ROI because data supports that this decreases turnover costs. I think the lines of communication between our business executives and our educational programs need focused expansion in order to influence how and what skills are being included in future lesson plans and curricula.
  5. The Hybrid Work Environment’s Impact on Gender Pay Disparity. Working remotely has become commonplace, and it is likely going to stick in many situations. Some leaders are excited about returning to an office, while others plan to keep their workforce remote or offer hybrid options. As offices reopen and hybrid options have started, there is already data supporting that more male employees are returning to an in-office environment than female employees. If leaders continue to believe that in-office employees produce more and/or are more dedicated, then that could lead to in-office employees receiving higher pay increases and promotions. If the majority of in-office employees are male, we could backslide on progress made to close the gender pay gap.

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?

When I was younger, I was a Shakespeare fanatic; I still am. I adopted the quote, “This above all: to thine own self be true,” from Hamlet, early on as my motto and guiding principle. To me, it is a reminder that my integrity, morals and ethics should lead my decision-making. No matter what the business situation, or life decision is, you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror tomorrow. Never sacrifice your own integrity for the best interest of someone else.

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 many awesome leaders out there that I would love the opportunity to meet. Brene Brown, Sheryl Sandburg, and Peyton Manning all come to mind for me.

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?

LinkedIn is the best place to start. All of my contact information is shared publicly, and I love interesting conversations!

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