“Digital transformation” will continue to accelerate — Our rapid adoption of technology will continue to energize digital transformation efforts. Technology will serve as an enhancement to human productivity and help fill gaps in labor shortages, while also empowering a seamless hybrid work experience.

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 Joe Galvin.

As Chief Research Officer for Vistage Worldwide, Joe Galvin is responsible for creating the most current, compelling and actionable thought-leadership on the strategic issues faced by small and mid-sized businesses. This research is focused on best practices from the Vistage community of more than 26,000 CEOs, senior executives and business owners in 26 countries. Vistage is the CEO’s most trusted resource for research, data and expert perspectives.

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.

Before entering the business world, I played professional basketball in Europe. In addition to the lessons about hard work, commitment, teams, winning and losing I learned as an athlete, I received an immediate education in the world beyond Central Illinois where I grew up and went to college. Spain in 1980 was still emerging from the Franco era. My teammates and their wives or girlfriends had all grown up in a very different environment and offered very different perspectives on the world and the US.

I played my last game in front of 10,000 people in “la Final de la Copa del Reye” against FC Barcelona in the spring of 1983. Six months later, I was selling copiers door-to-door in lower Manhattan. Going from basketball star to bottom of the rung salesman was an adjustment that challenged and shaped me in many important ways.

I joined Vistage as Chief Research Officer (CRO) in 2016. Prior to Vistage, I was the chief research officer and executive vice president at CSO Insights, where I led the company’s merger with the Miller Heiman Research Institute and directed the sales research firm’s analysis focus. I earlier held senior positions with SiriusDecisions and Gartner, where I was vice president of worldwide sales operations. I started my three-decade career in Sales at Xerox.

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?

There is no question Covid-19 accelerated profound and permanent change to how and where we work. Leaders have spent the last two years making decisions for the future of their organizations while navigating uncharted territory. Now, more so than any other year, a fog of uncertainty clouds everyone’s crystal ball and ability to predict and forecast the future. In the absence of precedent, leaders must become comfortable being uncomfortable. Nothing is certain about what comes next, except for more change. In the next decade, we can expect continued digital disruption and increased emphasis on employee experience, from flexibility to investments in physical work environments to reimagining hiring and retention strategies to employee development. We will settle into a sweet spot between the remote-only workplace that resulted from the pandemic and the traditional in-person environment of yesterday.

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

Our research at Vistage has highlighted how important people are to the resilience of an organization. Creating a superior employee experience ensures a steady pipeline of top talent and increases retention rates, allowing companies to work together through crises. Leaders can look at the three major components to experience, all within their control: workplace, culture and leadership development.

  1. Workplace — Workplace is made up of the physical environment, the flexibility offered, the training given and the tech/tools provided. In a hybrid world, this could include offering stipends for work from home offices, providing easy-to-use centralized technology solutions and making physical offices more tailored to group collaboration and video calls.
  2. Leadership Development — There is a saying that people don’t quit companies, they quit managers. CEOs need to ensure that leadership development is not just a privilege reserved for upper levels of management, but an opportunity that is extended across all levels of leadership, as the greatest risk to retention is the frontline managers.
  3. Culture — Culture can make or break an organization when it comes to navigating these uncharted waters. Companies with strong cultures can attract and retain better talent, build superior brands and improve business performance. The CEO is tasked with defining, modeling and reinforcing the company’s culture at the executive level, as well as ensuring the culture carries down the organization to the front-line manager and across the organization to the worker level.

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?

Vistage’s Q4 2021 research showed more businesses are planning to increase their headcount in the next 12 months than ever before, in the 19 years we’ve surveyed small business CEOs. We are amid an unprecedented time of more job openings than applicants. Employees are finding themselves in the driver’s seat when it comes to how and where they want to work. It’s important to refine recruitment strategies to boost their position in the talent wars and help to reconcile gaps between what employers are willing to offer and employees’ expectations. It’s equally important to reimagine retention, as you can’t truly “win” in the talent wars if you can’t keep staff onboard. Take the time to truly hear and understand what existing employees need, from flexible work arrangements and hours, to expanded PTO and increased salary to improved ‘hybrid’ infrastructure. A powerful tool is the “stay interview,” a two-way proactive conversation that solicits solutions and actionable feedback.

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

50% of Americans have jobs that allow for remote work to some degree. For those individuals, we have seen the benefits of remote work, such as flexibility and productivity and even cost-savings (reduced office space overhead for employers, less money spent commuting for employees.) But we also know in-person work enables unmatched innovation and collaboration. In this new model, the office is structured for interaction and socialization. It has to be worth an individual’s energy to commute in. Home is better suited for individual work. This may ebb and flow based on each week’s activities or needs, but it is a far cry from the days when employees commuted to an office Monday-Friday on a 9–5 schedule. This shift is happening in real-time; we haven’t yet settled into a new ‘normal,’ but we’re collectively learning about best practices for work from home and hybrid work.

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?

Culture remains paramount to talent management strategy, but in an evolving workplace, CEOs need to continually adapt their culture to fit new norms. For example, the realization that hybrid and remote work are now permanent has left many employers struggling with how to keep employees connected with one another in a new workforce model. Going forward, employee connectivity will become a key consideration for employers. Additionally, leaders will need to determine boundaries and expectations for working from home, and find ways to foster employee connectivity, while balancing and understanding employees’ preferred work styles and work types.

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

We are in a time where leaders can recreate and shape the future of work — we are literally writing the new playbook to work in real time. Those who listen to their workforce and take action to implement a people-first strategy stand to jump ahead and create future-proof organizations. The innovation and progress that comes from struggle and change is second-to-none.

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?

It’s time to embrace the revolution. The main lesson to take away from the Great Resignation is that it all comes down to people. In Vistage’s December 2021 small and midsize business CEO survey, roughly two-thirds of respondents said their most significant challenge is people-related — hiring, retention, development, leadership and culture. People are the fossil fuel for growth.

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

  1. WFH is here to stay — The genie is out of the bottle. While there are tremendous benefits to having your workforce engaged at home, it can be difficult to maintain a strong culture when everyone is completely remote. Many CEOs will adopt a hybrid model, meeting employees’ needs and desires to work from home, while balancing the benefits of in-person collaboration and connectivity. Office days will serve as innovation and socialization days, while work from home days will lend themselves to working days.
  2. The changing office — The work-from-home reality plus tele-everything will have organizations reconfiguring their workplace to create a sense of physical safety that workers now require. Offices of the future will also be tailored to the changing ways in which we view in-person work, such as providing space for collaboration and socialization and ensuring technology is seamlessly integrated into conference rooms.
  3. “Digital transformation” will continue to accelerate — Our rapid adoption of technology will continue to energize digital transformation efforts. Technology will serve as an enhancement to human productivity and help fill gaps in labor shortages, while also empowering a seamless hybrid work experience.
  4. Culture is no longer a buzzword — We will see an uptick in C-suite roles designated to enforcing culture and talent (Chief People Officer, Chief Culture Officer, Chief Talent Officer.) They will focus on ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion are embedded in every aspect of the organization and will be tasked with creating a culture that transcends hybrid/decentralized work.
  5. Employee development will remain king — We can expect to see an increased focus on developing the next line of leadership, ensuring management is carrying forward the mission, vision and values of the company and creating an environment that inspires and connects workers. Continued education, professional development and leadership management will be pivotal to retention.

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?

“You are only as good as you are today.” Top performers know this to be true. Yesterday doesn’t matter and tomorrow doesn’t count. You have to ‘bring it’ every day or lose ground to those who do.

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.

Phill Jackson, former head coach of the Bulls, Lakers and NY Knicks. I’m fascinated by his leadership style and approach to managing and motivating ultra-high-performance athletes to become team players in order to win multiple championships.

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?

Readers can stay current on Vistage’s impactful business research through our Vistage Research Center: https://www.vistage.com/research-center/author/joe-galvin/. They can also follow me on Twitter, @joegalvin or connect with me on LinkedIn, where I post content specific to the issue topics and decisions most important to SMB leaders.

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