Flexible scheduling — To stay competitive in hiring, more companies will need to offer their workers the right to set their own schedules. This increased flexibility will give their employees greater work life balance and will increase retention.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Johan Romero Luna.

Johan Romero Luna is the Vice President of Workers Way and Branch Administration for Workers Credit Union. In 2019, Johan brought his life experience and financial expertise to the Workers Credit Union and became one of the visionaries behind the Workers Way, a personalized one-on-one financial coaching program that helps WCU members achieve their goals. Johan was certified as a financial coach by the National Financial Educators Council and partnered with the organization to train Workers Credit Union staff.

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?

Migrating to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic changed my life dramatically. I moved here in 2010, just a few years after the mortgage crisis. You could still feel the effects in the economy. I initially struggled to secure job interviews and financially provide for my wife and young daughter — despite having a business degree, which I earned in the Dominican Republic by taking classes at night and working in an Army hospital and later by working in pharmaceutical sales by day.

The second major experience that had a big impact on my life was deciding to switch from a medical career to business management in my mid-twenties while living in the Dominican Republic. The decision dictated not only what I wanted to do, but how I wanted to spend my time, and ultimately my life.

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?

The biggest change will be the growing impact of technology on what we do and how we do it. Technology and data will allow us to simplify different tasks and processes, allowing for increased productivity, creativity, and tailored solutions for each individual. What will stay the same will be the need for companies to demonstrate impact through results. Also, there will always be a need for people to pursue careers that meet their financial needs, have continued opportunities for growth, and that make them feel valued.

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

Have a clear mission, one that will live on regardless of financial circumstances, and make that vision for your company clear to everyone in the organization. Future jobseekers will assess employers not only on pay and benefits but based on mission and shared values. Financial success is not only the way to measure success.

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?

I think the biggest gap will be identifying what’s important to your workforce. We all carry our own goals in life and the pandemic has highlighted the specific issues that employees consider when they take a job. For example, employees are really thinking about their work-life balance, potential for growth, and their potential company’s future investment in them as a person. As such, businesses need to go beyond the traditional benefit offerings and focus on the overall well-being of their workforce.

For example, addressing physical, mental and financial health together can increase employee engagement and productivity. Moreover, providing a benefit that other companies don’t, such as free financial coaching, attracts prospective employees and encourages existing talent retention. Initiatives like these show employees that the company they work for also cares about them as a person, including their financial well-being, and is invested in their success.

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

We’re never going back to the way we worked before the pandemic. The flexibility to work from home permanently or at least some of the time, with a hybrid model, is at the top of employees’ list right now. Adaptability will be the word for businesses moving forward, as they seek to create a structure that works for both the employees and their customers.

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?

More companies will be scaling the use of robots and AI in a way that has the potential to displace people in the workforce. Employers will need to adapt by creating new growth and training opportunities that provide workers with valuable skills that promote career growth. For example, Workers Credit Union trained all our member-facing employees to be certified financial coaches. This investment in our staff has increased job satisfaction, while safeguarding them from the threat of automation.

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

Flexibility. Employers are now prioritizing results, over the limitations of a traditional 9–5 day in a traditional in person office setting. This has empowered workers to customize their own schedules to fits their needs without sacrificing the objectives of their organization.

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?

I foresee organizations implementing a financial wellness approach for their employees. Employees are more productive and more fully present at work if their minds are not distracted by financial concerns. Employers should establish a solution that addresses causes instead of consequences and should seek holistic approaches that target each employee’s financial, physical, and mental health.

For example, at Workers Credit Union, we have a program that allows companies to offer financial coaching as a company benefit at no extra cost. It’s part of a strategy that puts the focus on the employee as an individual, not as a group, and identifies solutions. In the end, it’s about people supporting people through their journey.

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?

Both your staff and those you serve are people, not numbers. As a leader, you need to be there to offer support and guidance and bring empathy and understanding into your workplace. Ask employees about their dreams, their goals, their passions. This is imperative, because not everything is about processes and strategy. Human connection is more important than anything else.

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

Rise of Automation — Consulting firm McKinsey, which predicted before the pandemic that 37 million U.S. workers would be displaced by automation by 2030, increased its projection to 45 million. Rather than reducing its workforce, companies should see this as an opportunity to create enhanced positions for workers that allow them to contribute in new ways while building their skills.

Flexible scheduling — To stay competitive in hiring, more companies will need to offer their workers the right to set their own schedules. This increased flexibility will give their employees greater work life balance and will increase retention.

Creation of specialized work — Companies are creating new ways to utilize their workers that are more personal and lead to better job satisfaction. For example, at my company, Workers Credit Union redefined what a bank teller is by using Video Teller ATMs to give members video access to tellers, who could be working anywhere. This gave our tellers greater work-life balance and new skills because we trained all front-facing workers, including our tellers, to be financial coaches, who can offer a greater level of service to members.

The use of more data and analytics –Businesses are going to be more proactive instead of reactive — by analyzing data to better serve their clients.

Increased access to information — There is a wealth of information available through digital channels. People can build their job skills and acquire knowledge and training online that used to only be available through educational institutions.

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?

One of my favorite quotes comes from Winston Churchill during World War II. He said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it’s the courage to continue that counts.”

I like this quote because it’s a reminder that achieving a major goal doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Set new goals and continue to improve. When you have setbacks, learn from them, and try again.

Consistency is key to progress. Some days will be easy, some won’t, but know that our biggest mistakes offer the greatest life lessons. One of the most courageous things you can do is to get up each day and keep moving forward.

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 would like to speak to Ray Dalio co-chief investment officer and chairman of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund. I would like to talk about his book Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail, his take on the future of employment, manufacturing and the industry in general in the United States and developing nations in Western Hemisphere such as Brazil, Mexico, and Panama.

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?

Connect with me on Twitter @johanromeroluna. You can also visit our website https://www.wcu.com/

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