Traditional 9 to 5, Monday to Friday work hours and weeks will continue to peel away. This is a major change for so many people in the New York area who stood on that train platform in terrible weather day in and day out. I know so many people whose lives have been drastically improved just based on this concept alone.
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 Jeff Herzog.
Jeff Herzog is the President of FPC National, a nationwide network of over 60 franchised executive search firms. Jeff brings over 20 years of experience in the recruitment business from a variety of companies including Update Legal Staffing, CareerBuilder.com and Tribune Corporation. He is the author of ‘Your Job Search is a Bare Knuckle Fight’. His book gives job seekers hard hitting advice through the eyes of experienced recruiters. He joined FPC National after five successful years running the FPC of New York City franchise. Prior to FPC, Jeff was the director of recruitment and real estate advertising for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing Company. There, he managed a budget of over 80 million dollars and oversaw a staff of over 70 employees. He was voted Manager of the Year and was one of the youngest employees to be selected to join the exclusive Tribune Leadership Development Program.
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.
Thanks so much for letting me share my thoughts about the future of work.
First off, two experiences that have helped to shape who I am today both professionally and personally stand out. Professionally speaking, my first job in recruiting in 1997 I worked for a crazy, but incredibly smart boss, who taught me what hard work really is. As outrageous as he was, he taught me how to be tenacious, maximize my productivity and strive for success every day. We were at the company picnic playing basketball one year and I happened to be playing really well. After I stole the ball and drove all the way down the court to score an easy layup, he grabbed me by the shirt, pulled me off the court and stopped the game, screaming in my face “Why the ‘F’ can’t you do that in the office?” Ever since then, I treat every day as an opportunity to hustle and break a sweat. It isn’t easy to put the same mental toughness and energy into a project at work as it is to put physical effort on the field or in the gym, but that experience definitely drove home the importance of doing so.
On the personal side, I have a bit of a chilling story, — something that has truly helped to shape who I am today and make me appreciate life…it was actually running through the streets of downtown Manhattan with my wife, Denise, who was seven months pregnant on 9/11. We both worked downtown and somehow, some way, we found each other during that disastrous day. I called her on the way to go see what happened after I heard the news that a plane hit one of the towers and she said “Don’t go down there.” Of course, I didn’t listen, I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed to Liberty Street to see what was going on. I was watching the smoke come out of the first tower when the second plane hit and everyone realized this wasn’t just a bad accident. Not having any cell service, I sprinted back to my office, up eight flights of steps, to call her. As soon as I walked into my office the phone rang and it was her…she said “They hit the Pentagon!” I told her to stay where she was and that I was coming to her. She worked at the American Stock Exchange at the time which was right near the World Trade Center. When I got there, everyone was evacuating so I asked the doorman, who barely spoke English, if he saw a pregnant woman leave the building. He nodded and pointed downtown. I ran to Battery Park City, at the bottom tip of the city, but couldn’t find her. I sprinted back to the Amex and someone told me that there were people in the basement. As soon as I stepped in the door, the first building collapsed and the world shook. I ran to the basement and remarkably, there she was! The room was filling with dust so I ripped off my undershirt to cover her face. We were then instructed to move to the trading floor where we were, strangely enough, able to watch what was happening right outside the door. The Chairman of the exchange screamed to everyone and said that we needed to leave because the Amex might be a target. At that point everyone started to rush towards the door and I had to protect Denise so she didn’t get trampled. After everyone calmed down we were told to line up in an orderly fashion and walk out the back door on to Trinity Place. We lined up with me on one side of Denise and her boss on the other and we walked out the door. When we got outside you could barely see with all of the debris in the air. We didn’t take more than 30 steps when the second building collapsed right behind us and we heard the most blood-curdling sound (that I will never un-hear) and we had to run. I remember cops and emergency personnel screaming for us to get out of the way of the cloud that was coming right towards us. We ran up Rector Street and down Broadway and ducked into the NASD building just before the cloud engulfed us. We spent the next few hours there to make sure Denise didn’t breathe in any more of that horrible air. When the dust finally settled, we went outside into that incredibly crisp, clear September day. We didn’t really know what to do, but we knew we wanted to get off the island of Manhattan. Instead of walking towards what came to be known as “ground zero” we headed downtown to Water Street. We lived in Great Neck, Long Island at the time and figured if we could walk over the Brooklyn Bridge we could figure it out from there. Once we got to the bridge there were clearly a lot of people who thought the same thing. After just getting onto the bridge someone screamed “There’s a bomb on the bridge!” so we ran right back down. Our next idea was to walk all the way up to Denise’s sister’s apartment on 88th street and York Avenue which is almost six miles away. On the way, we stopped into a Dallas BBQ to wash up and go to the bathroom where the scene was surreal…people were going about their business, eating wings when thousands of people were dying a few miles away. We even got into someone’s car on Third Avenue, but we didn’t go a block in 30 minutes. We finally got up to her sister’s place where we were finally able to rest for a bit. Surprisingly we were able to catch a cab out to Long Island later that night, home safe, reflect on just how lucky we were. We didn’t find out until a couple of days after that we lost one our best friends that day. Taimour Khan worked on the 92nd floor of one of the towers and didn’t make it out. I can’t really describe the feelings I have about that day, but what I will say is that it sure made me appreciate just how fragile life can be and will always make me feel lucky to be alive and have my family.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
One thing that will always be the same is that hard work and determination will still be the difference makers in 10–15 years. Technology will continue to develop and help us innovate, but hiring and retaining motivated, talented, hard-working people will always be the main driver of success and dominance. Also, the competition for that talent will only get more fierce as baby boomers retire and our economy continues to expand. There will still also be a pervasive skills gap in STEM related roles in the coming decades. Not only are we having fewer children as a society, we are not graduating enough engineers, scientists and technologists.)Lastly, recruiting will still be a human function. AI and automation will help us to be more efficient with our searches, but I believe that you will always need a human to make it happen.
As for what will be different, I think the idea of “hybrid work” will be a permanent fixture. It doesn’t thrill me, because I prefer to be face to face with people, but it’s a reality. People want more out of life than the daily routine. Leading and motivating people will also be different in 10 to 15 years. Helping people to do their best work will take creativity, flexibility and constant focus. Technology, such as the Internet of Things will help us to make smarter, more informed decisions because of how much historical data we will be able to leverage. Organizations will inherently be more diverse and inclusive. The recent push towards DE&I is finally starting to take hold. It should’ve happened a long time ago, but thankfully it is now.
That’s a great question…to truly “future-proof” your company it is first critical to develop a set of core values and make sure they are constantly being adhered to. One of my best clients does a great job of this. Their core values are Put Others First, Have Courage To Take Action, Take Personal Responsibility and Have Fun. Keep them short, poignant and realistic. This is a great starting point when looking to create or change corporate culture.
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 are in the most “employee driven” job market in the history of work. Employers are pulling out all of the stops to keep their employees…and everyone knows it. We will eventually see things balance out and employers will gain back some of their leverage. We have about 150 recruiters in my company right now and 2021 was the best year since 2008…mainly because of the labor shortage and companies’ willingness to hire. We’ve seen incredible increases in compensation for certain types of employees over the past year…at some point that will have to slow down. Many companies have so far done a good job generating profit despite these increases, but eventually they’ll come to a point that they can’t continue to raise wages and still make money. It’s critical that these employers find ways to compensate people with equity, profit sharing and non-monetary benefits such as flexibility and career management opportunities.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
I have always been old-school…someone who got to the office early and left late, and never, ever thought about working from home. This experience has taught me that not only is it possible, it can make for a much more enjoyable week. I still believe that collaboration and teamwork is much better when people are face-to-face, but it is nice on a Friday when I can bring my one of my sons’ math packet to school because he forgot it, go out to lunch with my older son for his birthday, pick my third son up from track practice and still be productive…btw, that was my actual Friday from last week. The world of work will be different…people who work from home or even a hybrid model will work harder to keep what they have. If companies aren’t careful though, the lack of camaraderie and human connection from being in an office will take a toll on culture and productivity.
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 have seen wholesale changes in family roles and responsibilities during a typical work week. My wife is a teacher and she leaves the house every morning at 6:30, while I make breakfast and get my kids off to school. Obviously not everyone has a full support system with two active parents. Understanding that people have responsibilities and may have to take their kids to a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day even though they couldn’t have done that if they were in the office full-time is very important. Think about it this way, historically, if someone had a commitment in the middle of the day they might ask for the whole day off…in today’s world, you can get a full day of work and still allow them to take two hours for an appointment.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
Human ingenuity! I can’t say enough about how incredible it is that scientists were able to develop safe, effective COVID vaccines in under a year. I do a lot of work in the pharmaceutical industry and I am astounded by how smart people can be. This will continue to do wonders for us personally, professionally and economically. The US has always been the most innovative country, but it has never been more apparent than right now.
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?
There is no question that a healthy/happy employee is a more productive employee. We need to look to other countries and take a page out of their book as it relates to time off, sabbaticals and family leave. It also is so important that leaders set boundaries for when they contact their employees. Working from home can often leak into all hours of the day and can cause frustration. Also, companies need to be cognizant of the fact that people are overworked. The labor shortage is putting pressure on existing employees which just isn’t right.
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?
Company leaders must evolve and accept the fact that they need to be more understanding and create a compatible work structure to attract and retain top talent. As I mentioned earlier, it hasn’t been easy for me to accept the fact that I pay over 10K dollars per month in rent for an office that only really gets used a couple of times per week. One of the key components of successful leadership is humility… In order to support this new world of work, leaders must be more humble and understanding while still fostering an environment of progress and success. It will be a very delicate balance for sure.
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.)
- As COVID continues make people reevaluate their lives and careers, self-employment has become a much more attractive option. Statistics show that a record 4.4 million new businesses were started in 2020. This trend will only continue into the future even after we are past the pandemic.
- Even though I touched on it earlier, I believe that it’s important enough to reiterate…talent acquisition will only get more and more challenging. Macro-economic trends such as baby-boomers retiring en masse (amazingly, over 400,000 people turn 65 every month in our country) and fewer kids graduating with STEM degrees are going to put an enormous strain on the labor force and our economy.
- Traditional 9 to 5, Monday to Friday work hours and weeks will continue to peel away. This is a major change for so many people in the New York area who stood on that train platform in terrible weather day in and day out. I know so many people whose lives have been drastically improved just based on this concept alone.
- We will absolutely see a more concerted effort to be as environmentally conscious as possible in all aspects of our life and work the coming years. Everyone needs to realize that we are at a critical time in our existence and every little bit helps. It doesn’t matter what business you are in, we will continue to develop new ways to end our reliance on fossil fuels and reduce our carbon footprint. We will see new businesses and industries arise out of this need over the next decade which is super exciting to me.
- As much as I believe that we are truly the most innovative country in the world, one thing we don’t do very well is expose our employees to different aspects of a company. Here in the US, if you are in finance, you stay in finance, if you are in marketing, you stay in marketing, etc. As we look to provide ways to enhance corporate culture and provide opportunity we will look to European countries to learn how they manage people’s careers and give them access to a broader professional spectrum.
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?
Hands down, my favorite quote is from Winston Churchill — “Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential.” I don’t consider myself very strong nor super intelligent, so this quote truly gives me hope that I can succeed every day, just by trying hard. The recruiting industry is a perfect example of this. My system of offices has people from all different backgrounds, but the one common denominator of all successful people is that four letter word that starts with W and ends in K!
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.
On the professional side, this actually may seem like a strange answer, but I would absolutely love to have lunch with the author Jim Collins who wrote Built to Last and Good to Great — two of the most influential business books ever. He has done exhaustive research and has developed incredible insight into human behavior and what it takes to create successful, long-lasting enterprises. Personally though, I must add, that it would be incredible to share a meal with Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead. I have been a huge fan for over 30 years now and marvel at their depth, intelligence, talent and longevity.
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?
I am always open to hearing from people and discussing trends in the world of work and recruiting. Please feel free to email me at [email protected]. It’s also a good idea to connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffherzog/. I post articles and share all sorts of content every week. Lastly, make sure to join the FPC community and visit the Insights & Resources page on our website at: https://fpcnational.com/resources/
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.