Leadership, management, organizations, and culture are changing substantially as work, workforces and workplaces are changing.
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 models 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 Schwartz, VP of Insights and Impact at Gloat.
Jeff Schwartz is the VP of Insights and Impact at Gloat, the world’s leading pioneer in talent marketplaces and workforce intelligence; he is an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School and the author of “Work Disrupted” (Wiley 2021) and the forthcoming “Workforce Ecosystems” (MIT Press, April 2023). Prior to joining Gloat, Schwartz was a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP for 20 years, most recently as the U.S. Leader for the future of work and as a senior partner in the firm’s Global Human Capital executive since 2003.
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.
When I was 22 years old, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal. I spent two years teaching math and science in a remote, rural village in the foothills of the Himalayas. This was in 1981, before mobile phones and the internet, and it was a unique experience to get a sense of how broad and diverse the world was. Teaching in Nepalese was pretty intense. They trained us to speak the language in 10½ weeks. Overall, immersing myself in another country’s culture broadened my horizons and worldview.
Moving forward in life, I joined Deloitte as a partner in 2001. In 2011, I moved with my family to Delhi, India, where I stayed for 5½ years, helping build Deloitte’s India and global practices. Living in Delhi and then Mumbai during those years was incredibly eye-opening. My life has been a series of immersive experiences, which has shaped who I am today.
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?
This is a great question. We need to zoom out and zoom in when considering what the future will look like. We’re discussing this in 2022, so a way to answer this question is to think about what work was like in 2007.
Let’s paint a picture of 2007. We had no smartphones (the iPhone was introduced that year and the Android the following year). The cloud existed, but it certainly was not pervasive. We worked in the office, and we went to school. We still largely shopped at stores. Looking ahead to 2037, 15 years from now, it will not only be as different as 2007 is to now, but it will be twice as different — this is the trend of technology doubling every couple of years (I’m referring, of course, to Moore’s Law).
Through the lens of the workplace, we’re getting accustomed to the idea that we’ll do more remote and hybrid work. Will half of the world’s work be done remotely by 2037? Undoubtedly. Half of it was being done remotely in the middle of the pandemic a couple of years ago.
Moreover, as lifespans and career timelines increase, education and training will evolve. What does this mean for the worker? Worker skills and aspirations will be much more relevant. To summarize it, we are at an inflection point right now. We are in a moment of transition, where we have one foot in the past and one foot in the future.
Work is changing as we work with and next to smart machines and robots. Workforces are changing as we live longer, multi-chapter lives and the workforce continues to expand from employees to workforce ecosystems. And the workplace is changing as we continue to de-couple work from place. The future of work will be about purpose, the opportunity for growth and flexibility.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Future-proofing is an interesting introduction to how management can change and how the relationships between managers and employees will also change. The challenge for leaders is having an evolving mindset about how technology is changing business and how human expectations and concerns are changing.
It’s also about how leadership and management change from 20th-century to 21st-century mindsets. It’s about moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. It’s less about supervision and more about coaching, less about control and more about redesigning. To future-proof an organization we all need to be designers. We must design future experiences as much as we need to manage the workforce and processes. We need to be cultural anthropologists to understand evolving cultures.
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?
Employees may be more rooted in the future than many businesses and leaders. So, business leaders need to play a little bit of catch-up. Our employees are telling us the same thing our customers are telling us: they want flexibility and choice. Moreover, employees want better opportunities for growth and development inside their organization.
Reconciling these gaps requires creating a marketplace dynamic in HR, not a static and standardized workflow that maps out every move employees make. Implementing the idea that we’re in a talent market and a workforce ecosystem is critical to closing this gap between employees and employers. Moving to this approach embraces growth, choice, purpose, and flexibility, as I’ve mentioned above.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Working from home has taught us that we need to shift our center of gravity from being anchored in the past to thinking about these new opportunities. While people are pushing for a return to normal, return is probably the wrong framework. We can’t return to the past. The future of work is managing a flexible, hybrid workforce that allows employees to grow in their careers beyond a linear path to a multi-directional set of options inside and beyond our organizations — integrating our work and lives in a more holistic sense.
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?
Having lived through the pandemic we’re all futurists now — we all experienced elements of the future coming upon us very fast! As I mentioned, we are at an inflection point. There’s a wonderful expression that Lynda Gratton from the London Business School and others use, which is that we are in a liminal moment. We are in a moment of transition. We are in a moment where we have one foot in the past and one foot in the future.
We need to be social and political sherpas. We don’t necessarily need to shape the social environment, but we need to help our organizations, customers, shareholders, suppliers and employees navigate the social and political worlds.
To support a future of work that works for everyone, we need to be cultural anthropologists. That’s what user designers do. They understand culture and how technology, work and consumers operate in different cultures. Gillian Tett, an editor with the Financial Times, talks about viewing the world as an anthropologist and understanding culture. An anthropologist helps a fish see the water that the fish is swimming in. We need to see the water and the environment we are operating in to be effective managers. We need to be behavioral economists, which is a whole new concept. We need to understand human behavior and how to nudge it along. We need to be choice architects. I think these concepts will help us future proof the world and our work.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
Future-proofing organizations will be an exciting growth process to watch. Business context is changing. Technology is changing business, and human expectations and concerns are changing what employees and workers want and what managers need to do. Management and leadership will need to change. Most significantly, what makes me optimistic is what my colleague and friend Josh Bersin calls the power of the human spirit. What we saw in the pandemic, and what we need to unleash, is the potential of our people as they integrate their skills, interests, and lives. Management is about unleashing human potential. That’s what makes me optimistic.
One of the things I write about in my book “Work Disrupted” is we need to go from being a manager with a clipboard, visor and watch to one that’s a coach that can help employees improve their performance and their contribution to the team and the organization’s outcomes.
Future-proofing is an interesting introduction to how management can change and how the relationships between managers and employees will change in the future with the spirit and potential of humans at the forefront.
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?
In addition to basic healthcare coverage, many employers offer wellness benefits such as monthly or yearly stipends for gym memberships, meditation apps and other mental well-being resources. However, as employees continue to emphasize the importance of flexible work and wellness benefits, current offerings will not be enough.
Organizations will likely attempt to increase their mental health benefits and resources. The challenge for business leaders is to follow the lead of employees and workers interested in a more connected and holistic view of their work, their lives and their health — in every aspect: physical health and safety, financial well-being and mental wellness.
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?
The headlines are changing, but there is an underlying and persistent story: we are going through the great re-assessment. From an employee perspective, it’s fundamentally about growth and opportunity, as we’ve discussed and seen in our research on the great resignation and beyond the great resignation. It’s about growth, purpose and flexibility.
We must recognize that we are moving from a predictable, stable world to a dynamic, multi-directional one. According to research from Gloat, at the end of 2021 and in the middle of 2022, between 66% and 72% of employees we surveyed revealed that they thought they had better opportunities for growth and development outside their organization than inside their organization. That means that the organization, the enterprise, is not working properly. We always want to create more opportunities inside the organization than outside. That’s the purpose of having an organization — to outperform the external market.
This is one of the big gaps that we’re seeing. It’s a significant shift because it goes from a traditional hierarchical and transactional view of HR to much more of a marketplace — a talent marketplace, a career marketplace, a workforce ecosystem model.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- All work will involve combinations of people and technology working together to create value and meaning.
The future of work is about how we will focus on innovation and impact and not just efficiency and productivity. For too long, the narrow focus of business leaders has been on increasing output per worker and seeking to substitute human labor with technology (this is the substitution effect of automation).
Real value — for our employees, customers, and societies — comes from combining people and machines for new value and better experiences (for the workers and the customers). It’s not just substitution, but augmentation. Examples are all around: when spreadsheets were introduced in the 1970s, it allowed financial analysts to spend less time calculating cash flows and more time analyzing different financial products and customers’ needs. When ATMs were introduced, we didn’t see retail banking go away; in fact, we saw a significant increase in the number of branches because fewer employers per branch (but more retail banking employees overall) were needed. The jobs of people working in the branches became more varied and interesting (they weren’t just handing out and taking in cash).
This trend is creating new combinations of human and machine teams, what we called super jobs and super teams when I was at Deloitte Consulting. This is work that combines what machines can do well and extends and highlights what humans do well, which is problem solving, social and emotional interactions, communications, learning in social environments, understanding contexts — physical and social — and asking questions.
2. The changing expectations of the future of the multi-generational workforce.
Expectations of employees and workers are changing worldwide. It’s the nature of a multi-generational workforce, with four, five or six generations working together as we work from our 20s into our 70s and we navigate 100-year lives and careers spanning 50 years-to-60 years. It’s a more global workforce. There is also the workforce trend around expectations of longer lives, multi-chapter careers, portfolio careers, (as opposed to ladder careers) and careers built around growth and opportunity, purpose, values, and flexibility. That’s a major future workforce trend we must prepare for now. If you have workers on your team today in their early 20s, many of them will live to the year 2100! We need to be thinking today about careers in the latter half of the 21st century.
3. The evolution of talent marketplaces and workforce ecosystems.
We’ll see a shift from a compliance and transaction focus of managing HR beyond the traditional talent life cycle of attract, develop, retain, to the future of the workforce as we evolve into talent marketplaces, both inside the organization and beyond the organization. The second book I have coming out with some colleagues at MIT Press is on workforce ecosystems and extends the idea of internal talent marketplaces to the whole solar system around each company of its workforce ecosystem.
The shift from an HR administration model to a talent marketplace and a workforce ecosystem orchestration model will involve new approaches built around access, growth, and connection. Marketplace dynamics, data and AI will drive this new approach to help employees find growth opportunities and realize their potential, while enabling managers and HR to discover the rich talent, skills and aspirations across their workforce and ecosystem to get work done.
4. Hybrid, remote and virtual work will dominate workplace strategies, and return to office attempts will wither as we focus on how to manage a workforce in the office, out of the office, and in between.
During the pandemic, we uncovered an incredible source of resilience and flexibility among workers and organizations when we had to work virtually. Interestingly, more businesses than we would have expected quickly switched to virtual and remote work and produced better-than-expected financial results. In other words, when we had to do it, remote work seemed to work for employees, businesses, and customers.
The challenge for the future is how to work in hybrid and remote ways that are sustainable for individuals, families, communities and our businesses and customers. This is a more complex question than who will work three days in the office and two at home, or whether Monday or Friday can be “homeworking” days. It’s about adapting our management and talent practices to integrate with different workplace strategies and supporting when work is done onsite and when it’s done in hybrid and remote environments.
The future of the workplace will be a combination of hybrid, remote and virtual, including the metaverse and its different views. All managers are going to be leading teams that will function in this combination of workplaces. The workplace of the future will also include augmented reality, which will include things like the HoloLens, where we can see virtual reality imposed over physical reality, as well as things like the metaverse. We need to lean into this significant trend.
5. Leadership, management, organizations, and culture are changing substantially as work, workforces and workplaces are changing.
As we’ve been discussing, work (people and technology), workforces (changing expectations and the shift to talent markets and ecosystems) and workplaces (the shift to hybrid and remote work) represent significant shifts. As work, workforces and workplaces change, management, organization and culture practices need to evolve.
This is the fifth big shift: the changing nature of work requires an evolution of management and organizations. From a focus on productivity to a focus on costs, value, and meaning. From a fixed to a growth mindset. From a hierarchy and sticks and boxes to networks of teams. From supervision to coaching. These are just a few of the new management and organizational mindsets we need to prepare and take advantage of as the future of work changes in front of us.
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?
Albert Einstein said, “You can’t use an old map to explore a new world.” And yet, many managers are trying to do just that.
This quote applies to today’s world in that to change the game, you need to use game-changing moves.
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 have two answers to this question. First, the person in the world I’d choose to have a meal with if they were still alive is Leonardo da Vinci. On the other hand, if I could have a meal with anyone in the world that’s still living, I would love to have dinner with these three amazing women:
- Gillian Tett (U.S. editor of Financial Times and author of “Anthro-vision and the Silo Effect”).
- Jennifer Doudna (Winner of the Nobel prize in chemistry for gene engineering and CRISPR).
- And Carole Dweck (the renowned psychologist and framer of the Growth Mindset).
I promise to share the conversations if we ever sit down together at dinner!
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?
To stay up-to-date with what Jeff and Gloat are working on, visit https://gloat.com/, or visit Jeff’s LinkedIn.
To inquire about interviews with Jeff, you can contact [email protected] and/or [email protected].
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.