Education, Coaching and Growth: With change all around us, continued education and coaching will take center stage in development plans. The “great resignation” has resulted in the loss of many experienced managers and contributors. Replacing them will remain a challenge for many organizations. For those employees who are interested, I expect companies to give them plenty of opportunities and assistance to hone their skills. Even with a recession on the horizon, showing initiative and commitment to personal growth will continue to open doors.

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 Kevin Dominik Korte.

Kevin Dominik Korte dedicates himself to inspiring people to take control of their time, data, & dreams in IT, Business, & Life. As President of Univention North America and startup investor, enabling individuals and companies to follow their visions and missions without building dependencies. He is a trusted voice for both technical questions and the C-Suite.

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.

One year into my career as IT Project Manager at Univention, I got the opportunity to move to the US. After a lot of planning and business development efforts in Germany, I convinced Univention’s CEO, Peter Ganten, to create a branch office on the other side of the Atlantic. We went through multiple business plans and refined my expectations until we reached an agreement. Since then, I have been growing the company and shown U.S. businesses the advantages of using Open-Source Software to keep control of their I.T. systems and data. The whole process has taught me that in many cases, the act of planning and accepting feedback are considerably more important than the final plan. As is the ability to ask the right questions. In a world where we are presented with countless options every waking minute, being able to ask the right question and listen to the answer has been an invaluable lesson.

As for the second experience, like all millennials, I lived through the rise of Facebook and the emerging notion that your private data has become a currency. I understood that you do not pay just with the data, but that you also give companies a powerful tool to influence your own decision making. Yet, it is impossible to change the world with the snap of your fingers. Accepting that I can only control my own actions and then talk about the results has since then been one of the drivers behind my decision making.

It helped me develop a keen focus on the things that I can influence. We do have agency. Just because things happen doesn’t mean they have to play out in a certain way. Consequently, I care deeply about helping others take control of their world, whether as a Board Member for my alumni association, Toastmaster, or assisting people in maintaining control over their organizations’ I.T. This desire has led me to join Univention, a company dedicated to “be open” in all its endeavors and promote open-source and digital control, personally and professionally.

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?

Have you recently chatted with a bot on a mobile app or website? By now, some have sophisticated enough algorithms that it becomes hard to tell whether you are talking to a human being or a bot. The best indicator seems to be that algorithms take much less time to respond.

Automation of these and other menial tasks will continue to define the next phase of digital transformation of our workplaces. Humans are both too expensive and too easily bored to answer the same question repeatedly or enter the same data in multiple systems. Without integration and automation, workplaces will continue to see high turnover of top talent. No matter whether we are talking call center agents or highly paid IT employees, duplicate data entry is expensive, frustrating, and superficial. Which means all these tasks will shrink, either through integrating systems or by automating them away completely.

On the flip side, we might get more tiered service approaches. Everyone who is willing to pay more for services and a human touch will be able to do so, while more frugal people will have to go through the experience of dealing with algorithms first. On the employee side, we will see continued demand for services to implement and maintain these systems. Likewise, extra training for agents to service higher paying customers will become the norm, coupled with the analytics and metrics that go with it. As a result, I expect to see even more fragmented roles and different levels of pay, depending on what customers are being served.

A third aspect is a different approach to cybersecurity. Until now, cybersecurity has been mostly reactive. Tightening the requirements in the face of growing threats has been the common answer. Seldom have we seen proactive risk management and forward-looking approaches, even from the big players. It’s telling that most employees go through compliance training that looks at last year’s threat environment but not at potential risks in the future. While on the product side, companies like DefenseArk are switching to real-time analytics, training will have to improve to avoid a flood of cybersecurity incidents in the future. The good news is that two factor authentication (TFA) and Single Sign-On will replace outdated passwords. Employees should be ready to adopt new technologies like these and embrace a more holistic approach to their IT usage.

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

Check who owns your metadata. Companies amassed a lot of what I like to call “technical debt” during the pandemic. Many cloud services give themselves the permission to keep metadata such as click paths and usage patterns and use it for their own business purposes. The advances in Big Data and data analytics have made it possible to build profiles out of these data sets to identify high performing individuals. Analyzing whether this data collection is in the interest of your organization should be an important focus point when deciding which application to keep. There is a real risk that a cloud service provider might sell such performance data to your competitor. On the upside, you might be able to acquire it yourself to target your own employees and better train them.

Second, employers should embrace digital transformation and put humans at the center of their processes. Many business processes are built in a certain way because, in the past, we lacked the broad and deep understanding of how humans think and act. With the advent of the digital age, these processes were often only changed into a digital form but not redesigned. Changing your processes to one integrated system that captures employees and customers from first contact through their full engagement with the company changes the perception. You’re no longer seen as a cog in the system but you’re being valued as an individual. While a wholesale transformation of a business takes time, you can always start with smaller projects that free up time and energy in the long run, such as integrating IT systems to get rid of multiple passwords or interface HR with IT, for instance to reduce spelling mistakes in data entry.

A third aspect is to invest in your internal talent pipeline. Over the last year we have seen a dramatic shift in employees’ views on their career. This has led to a shift in the workplace and an outcry from multiple companies about a lack of mid-career talent. Investing in your talent pipeline, through coaching services for your employees and by giving them growth opportunities, ensures that you will have the talent you need when the time comes to grow your headcount or replace staff.

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 gaps will come from a mismatch of expectations and offerings. Expecting development and lifelong learning opportunities vs. offering none. Personal downtime vs. always-on vs. “0-hour contract” will be another battlefield. In short, it’s unnecessary, unfulfilling and pointless work clashing with the hope for exciting challenges.

All of these go hand in hand. They are normally the result of employers not seeing their employees as individuals but just as an ROI item or a cost factor. In many companies, getting there will require fundamentally changing the culture of the workplace.

Personally, when working with clients, I often get to see the IT department and talk to techs on the front line. In many instances, the junior employees have bright ideas about how to improve efficiency and make their own work more fulfilling. Sometimes, however, I encounter strange and artificial barriers. Junior System Administrators are not supposed to have bright ideas. They are there to learn about the department until they are Senior System Administrators. What a great way to stifle innovation! It clearly shows a dysfunctional culture and the need for change in management and not just in technology.

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

Many knowledge workers have experienced the changes during the pandemic first-hand. They were part of the struggle of companies to adapt and they are still in the midst of the ongoing discussion on how the office should evolve. In the end, we will have three cases of employers. Those who offer work from home, those who forbid it, and the ones with some hybrid arrangement. At least for the employees that have an option to choose, this decision will be a major part when considering a job.

Furthermore, we will see this experience shape IT design and risk assessments for years to come. On the IT side, employees will have to continue learning about tools that might make work from home possible on short notice. IT staff, for their part, will have to continue building a knowledge base of how to scale and maintain these systems. At the same time, employees that are routinely remote, such as outside sales and service jobs, will get much better tech support.

In the end, all these factors will influence the culture in the workplace and the abilities of companies to adapt to a new situation much more than the technology we use.

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?

The pandemic has brought us a new host of corporate surveillance tools. From employees monitoring teams’ status to custom productivity and activity software, there is no shortage of ways and means to spy on and grade employees. However, we can see employees fighting back. Mouse jigglers have gone from a novelty toy to a common sight on desks, and the number of employees using social media on work-related devices has plummeted. As a consequence, we have seen a rise in government intervention to define and regulate what is permissible and where the limits are.

Closely related to remote work is the re-evaluation of the value of a college education compared to lifelong learning. With colleges going remote, jokes like Harvard being the most expensive streaming service have shined a spotlight on the question of what learning and education mean in our changing world.

At least in IT, the resulting hiring spree has shown us the value of real-life experience. Many new employees have made valuable contributions in their short time on the job, regardless of a fancy degree. The hiring spree and growth in certain companies, though, has also made coaching and mentoring much more prevalent. I have personally seen how new managers in IT companies and startups have grown, thanks to experienced mentors.

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

One of my greatest joys is to witness how companies and organizations are starting to take control of their own IT. After the unrestricted growth in cloud services before and during the pandemic, they now pay more attention to controlling their moat and to data protection. This new focus means that there is a shift away from the biggest corporate offerings to the best offering. As a result, many great software products are gaining traction now, giving employees tools that are often better suited for their industry. Often, this also leads to more inclusive workplaces as software becomes available in more languages and with a better focus on accessibility.

Hand in hand with that goes the push-back against corporate surveillance. Initiatives like the Sovereign Cloud Stack in Germany are primarily driven by privacy concerns. For the first time, these privacy concerns are about the individual employee and not solely focused on protecting the intellectual property of the employer or protecting consumers. We see similar pushes in France, Sweden, and other European countries, and one could hope that even the US will come to realize that privacy is not in conflict with generating revenue.

Third, the pandemic has begun changing how we approach lifelong learning. In IT, we are often faced with new technologies and concepts that require trial and error and where we are the guinea pigs. While most companies tapped into the collective knowledge of all office workers to bring everyone up to an acceptable level, remote work has made that more difficult. Now, I can see a lot more formal continuing education programs. Additionally, many existing ones got a makeover from simply being a benefit to cross off the list to providing actual value to both front-line employees and managers. Even formerly expensive education options reserved for high-level employees, such as 1-on-1 mentoring and coaching, have become more accessible. Offerings such as a)plan coaching have made an impact in these areas and democratized building skills on all levels.

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?

“You’ve got mail!” When AOL came out with that advertisement, e-mails were still something to get excited about. Today, if every possible notification on my mobile phone was allowed to make a sound, it would be a reliable way to count seconds. Before the pandemic hit, no corporate customer had ever requested a feature to lock people out of their work computers. Now, we see the first companies that have implemented it as a must-have feature in their access management. In France, forcing people off-line after work has become a law and yet it hasn’t led to any productivity loss. On the contrary, the amount of burnout and fatigue has significantly decreased. It’s strange to me that not more places have adopted similar strategies.

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?

Employees want to perform meaningful tasks and feel valued. If one of the two is absent, employers will need to correct their course. While it’s easy to address the monetary aspect, the cultural part is more difficult. From my experience, having employees describe what they are doing and how they think they are contributing is a great way to identify whether there is a mismatch between expectations and reality. In the optimal case, the expectations of the employee, the company and reality overlap. In the worst case, all three of them mismatch. In most cases, there will be tasks where all three align, and other routines that don’t add value, are superficial and unfulfilling. Encouraging everyone to identify these and optimize them away is a great step toward giving people space to grow.

My favorite example in IT is always the administrator who must create five accounts for a new user, and the new user then has to remember five passwords. Neither of them enjoys the task. Remembering passwords is hard, they will either be simple or get written down, making the company more vulnerable, plus the likelihood that one will be forgotten or entered incorrectly increases. That means we have a task no one enjoys, which doesn’t improve cybersecurity, and which can easily be automated away.

Every department has chores like these. From accounting, where double-entry bookkeeping requires two entries which are then manually matched, to customer records in CRM and ERP systems, to the janitor who needs many keys because the entry system is a mess. All of these employees would rather do something else with their time. Giving them the option to optimize their jobs not only increases their satisfaction, but it also gives them pride for having contributed something.

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

  1. Robotics & Automation: When we think about robots, we typically think about science fiction and fantasy heroes such as Star Wars’ C3-PO or Star Trek’s Data. We are still years away from having anything close to it. Yet underneath it, robotics and automation are gaining speed, especially when handling menial tasks.
    Miso Robotics’ Flippy already assists in making burgers and fries in hundreds of fast-food restaurants, and the automotive industry has been using robots for assembly for years. Situations where human employees are augmented by robots will be more common in the near future.
    We can see the same trend to automate in call centers where bots can pre-populate forms based on your phone number, freeing up the agent from asking for contractual details. Similar IT-based improvements are slowly making their way into other departments.
  2. Data and Cybersecurity: Social engineering for password resets is one of the main threats companies face. In an age where I can find your best friend on Instagram, the city you were born on Facebook, and your first supervisor on LinkedIn, any password reset that verifies identity using these common denominators is bound to fail. They are too simple and widely shared, yet banks, business applications, and private software are happy to ask for my mother’s maiden name. We had several new clients come to us after losing valuable corporate data to attackers who obtained valid passwords on prominent cloud services that way.
    We will reach a point where companies cannot rely anymore on such services to handle passwords. Users resetting passwords for business applications has become a liability that can only be handled if organizations retain full control over the process. Employees will be required to change their behavior to adapt to the new reality.
  3. Education, Coaching and Growth: With change all around us, continued education and coaching will take center stage in development plans. The “great resignation” has resulted in the loss of many experienced managers and contributors. Replacing them will remain a challenge for many organizations. For those employees who are interested, I expect companies to give them plenty of opportunities and assistance to hone their skills. Even with a recession on the horizon, showing initiative and commitment to personal growth will continue to open doors.
  4. Data ownership, Profiling, and Data protection: With the passage of the Cloud Act in 2018 and the preceding court cases, the rest of the world has woken up to the thorny issue of trusting US companies and the US government when it comes to data ownership and access. Even US companies began to question whether they needed tighter control over their data and metadata. The role of Cambridge Analytics in the US elections just reinforced that notion and made it visible to a wider audience. Today, many terms and conditions still allow cloud companies to access and use metadata to provide and develop services — even to sell them. While many users and executives don’t see this as an issue, just imagine the following: You have one outstanding accountant on the team. The person who is faster than anyone else in reconciling data in your cloud-based accounting solution. Suddenly, the software vendor of the solution decides to sell those user performance metrics to recruitment companies. Guess who will be getting new job offers soon. That is but one example why data ownership and data protection will start to dominate debates over how we work, what services we use and where regulators draw the line. Training employees on new cloud services advantageous to the employer will be a major trend at work. Today, we can already see this change happening in Europe, for example with Germany’s Sovereign Cloud Stack. Executives and employees working in international positions might even see their companies being forced to adopt multiple solutions in order to meet local requirements.
  5. Asynchronous Communication and Video Conferencing skills: During the pandemic, we all became experts in video conferencing and working remotely. At least that is what we believed. The advent of Zoom Fatigue and numerous sad remote layoffs later, I think we are just learning how to hold teams together in a remote environment. With so many employees quitting instead of returning to the office, it becomes clear that the future has a divided workforce in store for us. We will have one group that embraces remote work and another which will try to avoid it as much as possible. Computer skills will evolve as a result, and we will soon see CVs listing Zoom conferencing and dealing with the fatigue of online meetings as two important soft skills. Employees will indeed have to learn those two skills, and employers need to provide training and guidance on how to acquire them. Benefits, especially mental health ones, might soon include training in managing the effects of remote work.

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?

There are two quotes that I have in front of me to keep me going through hard decisions. The first one is from President Theodore Roosevelt Jr. “Do What You Can, With What You Have, Where You Are.” The second quote are the last two lines of the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley which ends with “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”

Both remind me of being in control of my life and making the most of what we are given. In many situations, it’s all too easy to blame, quoting “Invictus” again, the “clutch of circumstance” for why something is not working or why it is not going according to plan. Yet, in a world dominated by chaos, we should focus on being in control of ourselves. After all, the only thing over which we have full control are our thoughts and actions. As I see it, taking action and not bowing your head to fate is the only right choice we have in life.

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.

After talking about the changes at work and what the future holds, I’d like to give a shout out to anyone who has talked face-to-face with another human being today. In a world where we sit most of our day in front of screens, anyone who takes the time to understand a fellow individual should be celebrated much more than any big-name celebrity.

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?

You can follow me on LinkedIn [] for the latest updates.

Alternatively, I enjoy a well-written, old-fashioned letter. US laws protect it much better than any online communication from both your employee and any third party trying to snoop.

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

Thank you, it has been fun to be back.