…Evolving data regulations — As I mentioned earlier, the future will bring more control to consumers over their data. There will be increasingly more transparency in how data is used and how AI is used to make decisions. I think it’s a really exciting shift that will foster trust and accountability and drive more ethical applications of AI.
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 Kjersten Moody.
Kjersten Moody is Chief Data Officer at Prudential Financial and has been recognized as one of the top data professionals in the U.S. and UK. She has over twenty years of experience working with business teams and leaders to effectively use technology, data, and analytics to improve or transform their operations. Along the way, she has held a variety of leadership roles at State Farm, Unilever based in London, UK, Thomson Reuters, and FICO.
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.
My dad was the first person in his family to graduate high school. He was a mathematician and went on to receive his Ph.D.. He was my role model for having a strong sense of curiosity, and he guided and encouraged me to be a lifelong learner. This has led to my fundamental, unshakeable belief that education and continuous learning are key to achieving goals. It influenced how I think about my leadership accountability to my teams and how to foster an atmosphere where people are encouraged to take risks and learn new things.
I’d add that I’ve taken many lessons from the different jobs I’ve held, but an earlier role — my first at a global company — immediately changed my perspective and shaped my understanding of leadership. Before taking the role, I had worked almost exclusively in U.S. business environments. My horizons expanded and working with a global team required me to rapidly mature as a leader. I was able to see my strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities in a whole new light. It was a transformative professional experience, and I encourage people to work in a global role if the opportunity is available to them.
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 you predict will be different?
I think work experiences will be much more integrated between humans and AI solutions. Human-in-the-loop AI design will be the winning formula. A recent study from the World Economic Forum predicts that the time spent on tasks at work by humans and machines will be equal as soon as 2025.
I also think how we regulate data in a business environment will be significantly different. Consumers will have more say in how their data is used. In 10–15 years, there will be a significant evolution in data regulations giving more transparency and authority to individuals.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Expand where and how you nurture talent. I think corporate engagement should start as early as high school to encourage and cultivate early talent. It means more strategic targeting of the communities companies operate in, and greater investment in the design and support of STEM programs and organizations, like Girls Who Code, that are already doing great work in communities and inspiring a new generation of innovators.
Fostering an environment of continuous learning, smart risk-taking, upskilling, and reskilling will remain essential. At Prudential, our HR team built a Talent Marketplace that offers open access to internal job opportunities, learning, and career resources to help our people proactively navigate their futures. We also keep a pulse on our team’s current skills and anticipated needs, preparing the organization with the agility and capabilities that will help us succeed.
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?
We see that not all employees want the same things. For example, we learned through the pandemic that some segments of the workforce love remote work while others are craving an in-person experience. Prudential’s most recent Pulse of the American Worker Survey found that 41% of workers said they wouldn’t want to work for a company that is entirely remote. One size will not fit all. No corporate policy will make everyone happy, except a commitment to open communication. If they want to embrace a more diverse workforce, employers must enable employees to ask for what they need and be ready to respond with flexibility. It’s also important to take a more holistic view of employees and their wants/needs both inside and outside of work. That’s where broader benefits like mental wellbeing become increasingly important.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Up until March 2020 and outside of a few professions, “working from home” was an idea companies were exploring. The past two years have provided a case study and we see it can be done on an enterprise scale with the assistance of technology. Looking to the future, we’re embarking on another experiment with hybrid work. Companies will need to work with teams to bring forward elements of virtual work that proved beneficial and combine that with elements of in-office work. It’s an entirely new way of working.
I joined Prudential during a time when the company was almost entirely virtual. Within our department, we worked quickly to establish a culture of open communication, trust and accountability so we could execute effectively. We learned that more frequent, informal check ins helped us identify challenges quicker. We realized that weekly syncs with the entire department helped our staff feel connected to the broader goals of the team. We leaned in on our culture and these attributes of connection and communication will be critical factors for a successful hybrid work model.
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?
There are many, but as a parent of a school-aged child, one of the most crucial in my opinion is creating flexibility to better suit the needs of working caregivers. The pandemic exacerbated a crisis for people who juggle work with caring for young children and/or elderly and disabled relatives, and the majority of those caregivers are women. In November 2021, the Department of Labor reported 2.6 million fewer women in the workforce than there were prior to the pandemic. Drilling into the numbers, it is clear that women of color and women with primary caregiving responsibilities have been impacted the most. This loss will have ripple effects not only in the workplace but in household incomes and the future financial wellness of children and families.
I think we should recognize that the balance of power between talent and employers has evened out. Skilled workers are in the driver’s seat and are seeking employers that offer not just the benefits, but the culture they want. The employers that train executives and employees in cultural competency and create an environment that allows employees of all ages, genders, race, and abilities to thrive will have the most success attracting highly-skilled talent.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
I’m very optimistic about the hybrid work model. I think it creates a new dynamic and allows companies to be more inclusive and more flexible, which will lead to more diverse teams. Diversity at all organizational levels will lead to better, inclusive solutions.
Because we experienced the pandemic collectively, I believe there is now greater empathy from employers to the personal challenges and struggles of employees and a commitment to providing resources to help. Having a compassionate, supportive culture builds trust and transparency and better culture leads to better business results, so I’m optimistic that we’ll see more and more of this.
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 hope mental health and wellbeing aren’t considered collateral as we ponder our futures — that would be untenable in the long term and it’s not a workplace I would want to be a leader in. But first, I think that just having a willingness to talk about mental health more openly means greater engagement with our workforce, which leads us to more innovative strategies and increased wellbeing.
Some of Prudential’s senior leaders have spoken candidly about their mental health struggles during the pandemic, and I think this reinforces that the issue is a priority for the company. Prudential provides employees with easy access to free, confidential mental health counseling and encourages us all to take time off and prioritize our mental health equally to our physical health. The company is also launching a training program in 2022 to provide employees with information and techniques to help build a supportive and stigma-free culture around mental health.
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?
Many of the headlines focus on employees leaving, but I think we need to focus on what they’re drawn to. It’s all about purpose. People want to see a direct correlation between their work and a company’s purpose, vision and strategy. Company cultures that fully embrace their purpose will be top targets for talent.
Leaders need to ask themselves, “What is it about my company and my leadership style that will make talent run toward us?” They need to consider how they can they offer purpose-driven work and enable employees to succeed with competitive compensation, the right development opportunities, and clarity in the company vision.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- Embracing AI and automation — One cool thing I’m seeing is the broader use of AI in employee experience. At Prudential, we see AI as another tool available to us to help upskill, reskill and connect employees to opportunities within the organization.
- Evolving data regulations — As I mentioned earlier, the future will bring more control to consumers over their data. There will be increasingly more transparency in how data is used and how AI is used to make decisions. I think it’s a really exciting shift that will foster trust and accountability and drive more ethical applications of AI.
- Agile in a hybrid environment — The adoption of Agile techniques was moving at an exciting pace pre-pandemic. Although it’s traditionally rooted in teams being physically together, technology and — continuing my drumbeat — AI will allow teams to achieve that same physical seamlessness in order to get robust outcomes.
- Better outcomes through DEI — Increasingly, diversity, equity, and inclusion will be natural attributes of everything companies do. In the way that ethics is woven into all aspects of an organization’s operations, I think we can predict the same for DEI.
- Upskilling and reskilling — In this case, I don’t mean the skilling of a company’s employees, but the community outside its doors. Whether we’re using resources to partner with schools and organizations to equip students with skills for future jobs or tech training for young adults who have or are at risk of dropping out, the talent supply/demand imbalance will push these programs to be more commonplace. I’m hopeful they will help us solve some of the workforce challenges we’ll continue to face and will help more stories like my father’s be written.
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?
The first is, “Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings” from Samuel Johnson.
Second, I am always inspired by the phrase, “The best opportunities are found in the deep end.”
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 U.S., 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.
Theo Epstein. I’m a huge Chicago Cubs fan. We made certain that my son’s first baseball game was at Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs vs. Cardinals. Mr. Epstein was the GM of the 2015 World Series winning Chicago Cubs team. I would love to listen and learn about how he approaches building champion teams and just generally talk baseball, the evolution of the game, and the right balance of analytics with players’ skill.
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?
People can connect with me on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/kjerstenmoody
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.