Patients now operate as consumers. They no longer play a passive role in their healthcare and that’s a good thing. They are economically incentivized to find the care that makes the most sense for them. More options are available for convenience and patients today are quick to unbundle their care in a way that works for them.

As part of my series about the “The Great Resignation & The Future of Work”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Josh Weiner.

Josh is the CEO of Solutionreach. He joined Solutionreach from Summit Partners, a leading global growth equity firm. Through his work with Summit Partners, Josh served three years on the Solutionreach board of directors. Prior to Summit Partners, he was a consultant with McKinsey & Company. Josh is a graduate of Stanford University and resides in Salt Lake City with his wife, daughter, son, and golden retriever Oyster. Josh and his family spend as much time as possible exploring the natural wonders of Utah’s mountains and deserts. Connect with him on LinkedIn @joshfweiner.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. 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?

Work and the workplace are constantly evolving. In previous generations, many people stayed in the same company and profession for their entire career while today, most work in numerous organizations and capacities throughout their working lives.

The pandemic forced us to accept that there is an alternative to the lengthy commutes and business travel that consumed so many of us just two years ago. Not surprisingly, how many of us work today would have been unimaginable to most people 15 years ago. And it’s likely that we too will be surprised by the changes that will shape work in the next 15 years.

Some predictions though are easier to make. Software, artificial intelligence and robotics will continue to automate repetitive tasks. With this, I think we will see a much greater focus on the impact and results of our work.

I think there will also be a profound shift in the personalization of services, because data will empower us to recognize individuals and their preferences, not just for services, but also products. The automotive industry is an interesting example. During the pandemic, supply chain disruptions prompted many manufacturers to encourage consumers to order their vehicles in advance. Now we’re seeing that emphasis shift to the ordering of cars that directly reflect the buyer’s preferences. Building a car to order was once a privilege reserved for those willing to wait and pay a premium. What we are seeing now is personalization at scale.

Perhaps most importantly, I think in ten or 15 years we will be in a much more fluid place. The pandemic forced us to abandon many of the most rigid business norms and to adapt with a fluid approach that I believe will characterize the workplaces of the future in parts of the world where technology and competition are encouraged.

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

“The best way for leaders to future-proof their organizations is to listen. Your best data is going to come from your team today. When you deeply understand why people join your organization, why they thrive in it, and alternatively why some don’t work out or choose to leave, then you will have the intelligence needed to proactively shape it for the future.

The key is to build on the positive attributes of your current workplace and not go against the grain. You also don’t want to miss the opportunity to identify and address areas where you need to change. You want to create a high performance culture that the team is proud of, and that will drive operating results and shareholder returns.”

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?

“Short term, I think the wage increases we are seeing now across many industries are going to create a lot of choppiness in the workforce. Across society we’re seeing people leave their jobs for more money. This movement is being driven by supply and demand. Employees are understandably taking advantage of an arbitrage that may not exist for very much longer. Right now, companies must absorb these costs, and the biggest gap isn’t even about benefits, the employee experience, growth opportunities, flexibility or location. Those considerations are of course incredibly important, but the biggest gap is really about economics and compensation.

Some industries are dramatically understaffed and are now willing to pay for talent that previously they would not have invested in. In some cases, these outlays are not sustainable, as costs will invariably be passed onto consumers.

I think we’re going to see some tumultuous union negotiations for large employers, including the government. In other cases we will see more companies that tried to enter markets but paid above market value for talent shut down because their bets didn’t work out. All of us will need to be patient as this plays out. There will likely be starts and stops, and perhaps layoffs, among some of the largest organizations over the next couple of years.”

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?

“I think it really goes back again to listening. We’ve got to make sure everybody has a seat at the table, but I also think it is important to remember that the pandemic continues to reshape the workforce. The process is not yet complete and the workforce will continue to be reshaped for a number of years to come. Again, I think we are going to experience a volatile, choppy period for some time followed by the return to a new normal.

In some ways it may end up being similar to what we saw after the attacks on September 11. One of the many developments from that horrific event was the growth of the suburban office complex as we know it today.”

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

“I’m personally excited that we figured out how to accomplish so much in a hybrid and virtualized environment. Many of us found ourselves being more productive than we’ve ever been and we accomplished this without needing to spend our time traveling for business or spending time in lengthy commutes for limited face-to-face interactions. Those are developments that allow us to focus our time where it really matters. That makes me optimistic that more of my kids’ lives will be focused on meaningful activities.”

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?

“If we step back and look at the big picture, I think the greatest single risk and threat to our collective mental health and wellbeing is that we are socializing less as a society. Even in places where we have reengaged, social interaction has been reduced.

For example, when I drop my kids off at school, I take them to the front door, but I can’t walk into my three-year-old’s classroom. I can’t smile or exchange as much with her teacher or her schoolmates’ parents. Those kinds of interactions don’t happen as organically as they did before the pandemic. That’s happening everywhere, and it leads to more insulated and isolated lives that in turn can exacerbate mental health issues.

We need to combat this as a society in a big way because in addition to creating a real mental health crisis it also threatens to polarize our society as we retreat to our bubbles and have fewer opportunities to seek out new perspectives and experiences. The single most important thing that employers can do is to vocalize and normalize these issues. We need to discuss them with candor and make sure that no one is stigmatized or feels alone when their mental and emotional health is threatened.”

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

“At Solutionreach we’re keenly focused on providing healthcare practices across disciplines with the technology solutions they need to strengthen patient engagement. What we are doing is transforming healthcare through communication, whether it’s helping overworked staff members use our solutions to streamline the scheduling of appointments, provide an effective consultation via telemedicine or provide patients with the information they need afterwards to effectively take charge of their own health.

The top five trends to track in the future of work that I see are ones that directly impact those who work in the healthcare industry either as administrators or clinicians. These trends are ones that most people can relate to, or have witnessed as patients.

1 . The first is that patients now operate as consumers. They no longer play a passive role in their healthcare and that’s a good thing. They are economically incentivized to find the care that makes the most sense for them. More options are available for convenience and patients today are quick to unbundle their care in a way that works for them.

That’s why there is increasingly no longer a ‘one-stop shop’ for healthcare. As a result, it is now more important that healthcare providers deliver a patient experience that is not only engaging, but better than the competition.

2. The second trend is that data availability and interoperability will continue to lag in healthcare. It’s admittedly a complex problem, but addressing this trend is essential not only to free employees in healthcare settings from redundant and overwhelming administrative tasks, but also to ensure that data is effectively exchanged so that patients immediately get the care they need as opposed to being treated as a new patient every time they show up. Legislation like the CARES Act helps, but interoperability woes continue to subject healthcare professionals to tasks that should not be required and are a cause of frustration.

3. The third is that there is a demand among healthcare workers and patients that we accomplish more in a virtualized setting. My wife and I celebrated the birth of our son during the pandemic. We only had only one in-person prenatal visit the whole time and the rest were virtual. That took a lot of cost out of the system, and our doctors were fully prepared to switch those appointments to in-person visits if needed.

But having those appointments virtually was far better for us. As a working mom, it was much more convenient for my wife to attend appointments online. I was able to participate as well, which was wonderful.

They ended up being special times for both of us and if we were to have a third child, there’s no question that we would opt for virtual appointments again, to the extent medically appropriate. That’s happening with patients throughout our healthcare system and more virtual care is thankfully being offered in the behavioral health sphere as well. Offering effective, meaningful virtual experiences and telehealth is no longer an option. Patients now demand it.

4. The fourth trend is that healthcare costs continue to spiral out of control. This all too often keeps patients from fully engaging in their care or getting the treatments they need, when they need them. A recent poll by West Health and Gallup reported that nearly one-third of Americans did not seek treatment for a health problem due to its cost. We all pay the price for that, but for healthcare professionals who are called on to serve patients who are suffering and needlessly sick, the impact is profound.

We need a long-term sustainable health care system. That requires reigning in cost increases and in this inflationary environment there’s going to be an increased microscope on that. It’s something we all need to work on together. You’re going to see this push and pull of needing to control costs, while also fighting for talent and staff. It’s going to be very complicated to sort out.

5. The fifth trend I believe is crucial to track for the future of work in healthcare is the need to automate repetitive tasks. Healthcare is experiencing an employee retention crisis that is three times worse than that being experienced in other industries.

No one stays at a company because of the technology used, but technology — particularly that which eliminates stressful, needless tasks while making patients happier — can dramatically improve the workday experience for healthcare professionals. No one wants to work in a chaotic environment where you know you will not succeed most days, but that’s what we subject healthcare workers to when we ask them to complete redundant tasks like scheduling and appointment reminders on top of everything else they are charged with.

Expectations for technology are also changing. Healthcare professionals are consumers like everyone else. You can’t expect anyone who enjoys a refined user experience when streaming a movie or banking online to settle for a less than ideal application when running their practice. The expectations among healthcare employees are rightfully high and must be met.

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?

“My favorite life lesson is rooted in statistics: “N=1.” Statistics and trends are great for mapping the moves of large populations, but they are much less relevant when it comes to you, your team, your company, and your life. You aren’t a statistic, you are a sample of one in this grand experiment we call life. This simple equation reminds me that we are all capable of becoming outliers for the better. It’s up to us to do just that, while simultaneously recognizing the real mathematical patterns that shape the world.”

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?

“I keep coming back to listening as the first and perhaps most important thing that leaders need to do, or alternatively be reminded to hear when they take in the headlines. Compensation is unquestionably important to employees, but the Great Resignation isn’t just about making more money. This is particularly true in healthcare, where most were first called to serve by something far greater — a true and genuine desire to help others.

The reasons that so many healthcare professionals are leaving the field are many and varied. For some it is the chaotic, never-ending barrage of repetitive tasks they face. For others it is the unrelenting weight of the pandemic. And for some, painfully and regrettably, it is the reality that patients can be cruel during these trying times.

All of us have seen the signs that are now commonplace at many businesses, including healthcare facilities, reminding patrons that they are short-staffed and to ‘be kind.’

We can all help take down those signs. The first step is to listen to what these employees — these employees we should be so thankful for — are telling us. Then we need to ask them how we can help.”

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

“You have to remember that a lot of people, including those in healthcare, didn’t work from home.

When we think of the future of work, we need to acknowledge that in-person work will always matter. We need to virtualize work where it makes sense. The last couple of years saw a rapid and reactive shift to new ways of working, but we will switch to something that is much more intentional and planned.

We will be thoughtful about what is best done in person, and what is best done virtually. And we must do things right with technology that delivers on the promise of virtual work. Going virtual in and of itself is not enough. It must be done right.

This gets us back to the first question about what work, the workforce and the workplace will look like ten to 15 years from now. I don’t think it’s going to look like what it does today. Does that mean we are going to get better at simulating a real-life environment with augmented reality headsets that make us feel like we are meeting in-person? Perhaps, but I think it’s probably going to be more like a menu where we have more efficient meetings because we use the right tool for the job and years of data to inform our decisions.

For example, we might decide to simply talk on the phone because we find it’s exhausting to stare at a tile onscreen for more than three hours each day. Regardless, it’s going to be a much more intentional experience.”

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’m a big fan of Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway’s podcast Pivot. They bring energy and humor to important issues of the day, particularly ones facing the business community. They do a great job taking on both ethical and strategic themes. Scott is always joking about other people turning down his invitations, so I’d like to turn the tables on him: Scott, you’re welcome to join me for dinner or for a ski day or hike in Utah (where I live) anytime!

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