Analytics: Using data to make better decisions. Companies need to leverage human capital data analytics more. Our technology continues to grow and we can use data and analytics as a key resource to make decisions, whether it be for hiring/employee-related or business decision making in general.

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 Karen Reinhardt.

Karen is the U.S. Head of Human Resources at ASML, a multi-billion dollar, high-tech public company that makes big machines that help make small silicon chips. With a combined background in Information Technology and Human Resources, she provides strategy and vision to address business challenges with innovative solutions. This enables her to create data-driven approaches that accelerate organizations to optimize their talent. In the HR discipline, Karen specializes in the areas of Talent Management, Organization Effectiveness, Learning & Capability Development, as well as HR Technology and Analytics. Karen believes ASML’s people are its key differentiator, and she focuses on improving business performance by maximizing employee engagement and potential.

Prior to ASML, Karen held roles as Vice President of Human Resources for North America at GHD, as well as Director of Global HRIS/Analytics and Talent & Organizational Capability for Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Karen holds an Executive MBA from the Smith School of Business at University of Maryland, and a bachelor’s degree in Economics & Business with a minor in Computer Science from Lafayette College. Karen is based in the San Diego, California office. She is married with two adult children, a son-in-law, and a grandson. As an advocate of animal rescue, Karen has three Jack Russell Terriers who keep her very active.

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.

Finding my leadership style: I started my career in information technology as a systems engineer and progressed through IT as a leader and director. I learned early on that engaging and empowering employees means getting the best out of your people — and that keeping employees happy and motivated is key. When people feel included and valued by a company they’re more willing to go above and beyond, providing discretionary effort with excellent results.

Moving into HR: 15 years into my career, I had an opportunity to transition to Human Resources after one of my teams was implementing PeopleSoft and I was able to further understand the HR discipline. As an IT Leader, I focused on leadership, employee engagement and empowerment to achieve high performance and success from teams; this made the transition to HR very easy. Initially, I thought that I’d eventually transition back to technology work, but I really connected with the people side and enjoyed HR so much that I have now been leading the discipline for more than 20 years, at technology-focused companies.

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 reason “why” employees want to come to work will stay the same, so it will continue to be important to focus on the employee experience. Managers must understand what motivates and engages their employees to not only stay, but also perform at their highest levels. Employees leave managers, they don’t leave companies. Today and into the future, it remains critical to have (and train) adept and capable leaders who can manage people effectively.

The pandemic has also been a catalyst to change the way we work. Companies adapted and enabled employees to work from home more frequently. And now, two years later, employees expect flexibility. Historically there was the premise, “if I don’t see you, you’re not working” or “how do I know you’re getting the work done?” With this new chapter, there’s a shift in the workforce to measure results, not the number of hours in the office.

Moving forward, I think the workforce will continue to demand more openness, flexibility and trust, and increasingly companies will recognize this can lead to greater productivity. However, I do think it’s also important for some face time in the office to build and keep the relationships, as well as enhance collaboration. A hybrid of remote/office work will be the way of the future.

I also observe everyone’s attention span is shorter, yet they expect more, leading to bite-sized e-learning augmenting in-person training. There’s so much multi-tasking that occurs in one’s day, as well as a number of different ways to accomplish work. It will be key for companies to emphasize learning agility. Given the war for talent and evolving work, I also think we will hire more for potential and train on the skills. This will continue to be different with the ever-evolving use of technology in the workplace.

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

It’s all about the employee experience. Are employees happy and motivated? This is often dictated by whether they like and feel respected by their leaders, have a purpose, a line of sight to understand how their work relates to company goals and feel like they are making a difference. That’s the key to retaining employees. And during this “great resignation,” it’s a war for talent and companies are going to extremes to attract talent. But, if an employee is happy, loves coming to work every day, has a great work environment, work life balance, and support of leadership, it will take more than just money to leave.

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 have choices and always want more. Candidates may have something in mind — whether it’s 100% remote, or 50/50 or somewhere between — yet candidates don’t always know the best match for the job and/or company. So, from a shared vantage point, what is the appropriate number of remote work days? I believe it will be critical for companies to manage expectations, but still be open to try new things and get feedback. Take a pulse from the employees on what’s working, what’s not, and adapt and change accordingly.

To address potential gaps — I also love empowering employees to come up with solutions. I ask them to: Tell me what you think will work and how it can work; put your best business case forward. We think through the pros and cons together and how can we mitigate them. If it’s really important, I tell them ‘let’s evaluate how we can make that work’. If we can make an accommodation or change, it can work wonderfully for both employee and employer. Flexibility and active listening are key.

Ultimately, employers will need to focus on their Employee Value Proposition, and its competitiveness, to not only attract new talent, but also retain them.

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

While the pandemic accelerated the implementation of various technologies to enable greater work from home flexibility, I think it may shift back a little. I don’t think we’ll ever go 100% working remotely or 100% back in the office. We are missing that element of face-to-face collaboration, connections and opportunities to build rapport. The importance of office time will always be there, but I think hybrid is really the best of both worlds. There are some roles that might be more conducive to working from home than others, but in order for employees to feel engagement and loyalty to a company you still need some level of face-to-face interactions. This will certainly, and is already, shifting the office footprint with more hoteling options and less square footage requirements.

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’ll continue to see flexibility in the workplace and encouragement for employees to seek a healthy work/life integration. I choose the word integration, instead of balance, because I think work and life have become blended. There are more grey areas and we figure out how to live in both, simultaneously.

We’ve also seen employees have more say in where they work, and want to work at a place where they feel appreciated and can grow within the company. For this reason, we will see a higher focus placed on career paths, succession planning, skill development, and what the employee needs to be successful and stay engaged. As a society, we need to embrace and appreciate the focus on talent development and mobility within a company.

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

Having a technology background, I am energized by the amount of digitization that is happening in our society. There are so many new tools and ways of working powered by technology advancements, as well as automation for operational efficiencies, artificial intelligence, and robotics. There are so many exciting developments driven by technology that are changing the jobs across the US. I think even as automation may replace some roles, new roles are created as a result. For instance, as we just upgraded to Workday at ASML. While some tasks are now automated and managers are doing more for themselves, it also frees up time for the HR team to be more specialized and strategic with higher-level work and additional opportunities.

I also believe the use of analytics and data to tell a story and influence outcomes will continue to grow. These insights are really pivotal to understanding and identifying opportunities, evaluating performance and exploring how we can do things differently. We’ve discovered in the pandemic there are certain jobs that we said couldn’t be done remotely; yet, we figured out how to do them remotely, supported by technology. It’s understanding what the possibilities are and capitalizing on them.

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?

This is a huge challenge. As employees have been cooped up in their homes during the pandemic, we’ve seen a lot more stress and frustration. Employees tend to work more because they don’t have a good ‘off’ switch and they can’t walk away. In the office, you could shut down your computer, drive home, and call it a day. The boundaries have really merged and it’s more important than ever that employees and employers focus on well-being. We have multiple initiatives at ASML focused on well-being — we host employee challenges focused on staying healthy, getting in steps each day, focusing on good nutrition, mindfulness, and more.

We encourage employees to be cognizant of the need to create an integration that works for them, rather than seeking this ephemeral balance that none of us have any longer. We constantly ask ourselves at ASML: How do you integrate work/life? How can we support and encourage all the techniques to maintain our mental health and well-being?

We also believe it’s critically important for companies to talk about mental health and wellbeing with employees — ask employees how they’re doing and encourage time off. A lot of employees don’t take vacation any more, they’re afraid to go out and flights are often risky or cancelled. Sometimes it’s good to take vacation and do nothing, just turn off the computer. Employers need to focus on how we can encourage employees to take time for themselves to recharge. We also find virtual ways to connect, like happy hours or coffees where work is not discussed, can go a long way.

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?

Nowadays, it’s not a given that employees are going to stay with a company for 30 years, they have more choices. The pandemic gave a lot of people the time to really think about what was important to them, and we’re now seeing people acting on that perspective. There is also much less supply in the way of employees and more demand in open jobs, so there’s options. If an employee is not happy with their manager or quality of work, they’re going to look for something else and chances are they can get more money elsewhere. Employers need to turn inward and focus on their cultures that enable engagement and retention of current employees.

Companies need to think: are we doing enough career development, and succession planning, so employees know they have a path and don’t feel stagnate? Do we have good engagement and retention strategies in place for our existing workforce? They also need to examine their flexible work policies — like it or not, some amount of work from home is here to stay.

Speaking from my personal experience, I really believe the culture at ASML is one of the key reasons we have high employee engagement scores and relatively low attrition rates. The values of challenge, collaborate, and care are very important and shape everything we do. It’s our focus to ensure our employees are happy, healthy, and enjoy a high-quality of work/life.

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.)

  1. Analytics: Using data to make better decisions.

Companies need to leverage human capital data analytics more. Our technology continues to grow and we can use data and analytics as a key resource to make decisions, whether it be for hiring/employee-related or business decision making in general.

2. Offer flexibility at work.

The pandemic has taught us that we don’t need to work full time in the office — even for some jobs where we previously thought remote work was impossible. We have the resources for hybrid (remote and office) and we should take advantage of those.

3. Capitalizing on new opportunities / Learning Agility.

People tend to focus on the challenges we’ve had in the past few years — which have been tremendous — but there was also a lot gained: compassion for our colleagues, new ways of working, embracing new technologies and more. We need to make sure we see these as opportunities and capitalize on their ability to help us drive work forward. Our ability to learn and evolve, or Learning Agility, will be a differentiator.

4. Hiring/Retention Strategies / Employee Value Proposition.

With talent in short supply, we need an effective employee value proposition to attract candidates, as well as engage and support employees with the tools they need in order to be successful. This can include competitive Total Rewards, challenging work, resources and clear career paths, providing them the flexibility they need to optimize their way of working, and motivate/engage them.

5. Focusing on strategic workforce planning.

With The Great Resignation, companies must be on top of forecasting the future critical skill demand, understanding current supply, and identifying the gaps in order to best plan to strategically fill the gaps through training, reskilling, hiring the right candidates, or outsourcing.

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?

“If I had a problem to solve and I had an hour to do it, I would spend the first 55 minutes asking questions and the last five minutes to solve it.” — Albert Einstein

In HR, it’s critical to understand what the challenge or business problem is, and to not jump into solution mode. As an HR leader, I personally aim to consult, ask the right questions to get to the root cause of the problem, collaborate to understand all perspectives, and gather as much information to learn all the facts fundamental to solve a problem. I believe this is the kind of learning agility we need to transform organizations — be continuous learners and evolve, change and adapt to advance.

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.

If Jim Parker, prior CEO of Southwest Airlines, were still alive today, I would love to chat with him. His mantra for success was based on putting employees first.

In the early 2000’s when other airlines were laying people off, he kept his employees and proved when you care for your employees and put them first, your customers and stakeholders will benefit. He eventually wrote a book called “Do The Right Thing” that is based on the idea that if you put all of your efforts and focus into your employees and hold them as number one, then your customers and stakeholders will benefit. Employees will put in extra effort and outperform, and that effort will come back to you in spades.

I like to think that my leadership style is similar, as his philosophy really resonates with me. I am also an advocate of Gallop’s Strength Finder principles; focus on what employees are good at, not so much their development areas, and put them in positions where they can be successful.

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?

LinkedIn: Karen Reinhardt

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