Flexible workforces that shrink and expand as needed with scalable technology in the SaaS space. We’ve all read stories about seasonal businesses that see large spikes in demand during certain times of the year and then low valleys where nothing is happening. They need to staff up for the rush and then downsize when business is slow.
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 Lavie Popack.
Lavie Popack is the founder and CEO of Overpass, the nation’s first vertical talent marketplace for hiring managers and freelance salespeople. He also founded MPower Energy, a renewable energy company spanning 11 offices in 9 states across 35 utilities.
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
When I was 19 years old, I went to work for my father in his real estate management company. Instead of giving me special treatment as his son, he expected even more from me than other employees. Every day, without fail, I would rise at the crack of dawn and do heavy manual labor. Then, I would go to school in the evening to earn my master’s degree. I did this for seven years. That experience ingrained a relentless work ethic that I’ve carried with me throughout my career.
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 core of any organization is people. When business leaders can access the entire worlds’ talent with a couple of clicks of a mouse, the possibilities are endless. Working without physical boundaries is one of the most significant transformational forces in our economy. Hiring managers now have access to an unlimited global talent pool. For example, I recently hired a phenomenal salesperson out of another market. If I didn’t have a global talent platform at my disposal, I wouldn’t even have been aware she was out there or thought about reaching out that far beyond the walls of my office.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
The thesis here is that humans are the core of any great company. There are three parts of future-proofing with humans.
1. Structure: Setting up a proper org structure. There shouldn’t be too much overlap or layers of red tape.
2. Sourcing: Creating a recruitment culture within the organization and accessing talent globally.
3. Development: Establish a defined promotional structure across all departments and empower growth and development across the organization.
Every company needs to be in the people development business. You know that saying about if you love her, set her free, if she loves you, she’ll come back to you? If she doesn’t, she wasn’t yours in the first place? That’s how you need to think about your people. If you are so afraid of losing them that you don’t train them to be more marketable and command higher compensation, you’re going to lose them to a competitor that does anyway. When you let someone waste away in a dead-end position with no future for potential growth, you may think you’re saving money, but the culture you’re building will never stand the test of time. The best way to future-proof your organization is to focus on the futures of your people.
What do you predict will be the most significant gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you suggest about how to reconcile those gaps?
The most significant gap between employers and talent is that workers want a better work-life balance, and the bosses writing the checks want their people in the office to monitor them. If that weren’t the case, the use of monitoring technology wouldn’t have grown by 50 percent since the health crisis began. Employees and freelance talent expect to live the life they want. Employers are going to have to get on board with that reality. But the good news is that with today’s technology, people can work from home, and managers can still have accountability. The technology that supports this working method, such as collaboration and communication tools, improved internet connectivity, talent marketplaces, and time tracking software, makes it entirely feasible. We collectively can have our cake and eat it too.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Never in the history of technology has there been mass adoption of new communication platforms on a global scale at this breakneck pace. Virtually overnight, companies like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Slack, Monday, and DocuSign became mandatory tools to engage in the new world of work. The infrastructure for digital transformation is already in place. It wasn’t an experiment. It was a sudden, radical transformation that shot all of us out of a canon into an entirely new world of work. Managing remotely demands tech-savvy leaders who can adapt their skills to motivate, train and develop a distributed workforce effectively. The future of work is here. It will separate those who embrace and extend this new reality from those who swim upstream against the tide. Real-time feedback, coaching, and inspirational messages about the importance of your people’s work will become a kind of art form, establishing new best practices in remote management. Many managers and executives who came up through the traditional in-office model will be hard-pressed to adapt. Some will become marginalized as a new generation of Gen Zers who spent a big chunk of their young lives in the remote world step up to fill the gap.
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 massive shift to remote work is only the beginning of the change management process. Moving people to their homes is one thing. But a fundamental change in mindset needs to accompany the physical one. Managers and executives must adjust to managing employees who aren’t in the office. They will need to set up processes and technologies that enable transparency, open communication, collaboration, and accountability. What will make all of this work is maintaining the core culture of shared trust beyond the four walls of a centralized office.
When people talk about their careers, they will no longer ask each other, “What do you do?” They will ask, “What do you learn?”
My favorite interview question is, what did you learn from your experience with other employers? When I ask that, I’m not interested in listening to the candidate rattle off a laundry list of job functions. I want to hear about their new skills if they learned anything about themselves and the industry, especially its customers and competition. My follow-up question is, “How will you apply what you learned to this position?” I’m looking for skills that are relevant to my needs. I want to know if there was a silver lining in failures or setbacks and how these experiences will inform their decisions at Overpass.
What is your most significant source of optimism about the future of work?
When you work without physical boundaries, hiring managers can arbitrage labor costs in smaller markets with a lower cost of living. I agree with the consensus from top economists that technology investments will accelerate productivity growth. This spike in productivity will ultimately result in higher wages. As the lines between employees and freelancers continue to blur, freelance marketplaces will continue to thrive. In a booming economy, workers will have the bargaining power to negotiate the best deals for themselves. There is a massive misconception that technology is the enemy and will make all of us obsolete. The opposite is true. Automation can create more demand for products and services, doing jobs that are difficult to automate even more lucrative. One exciting trend that my clients have noticed is that when they unshackle themselves from a centralized office via a distributed technology infrastructure, they become more efficient, immediately freeing them from the bottlenecks that are bogging them down.
Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we believe the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?
That’s an easy one. Give all your people a free membership to a gym. I’m not a psychiatrist, but from my experience, we can address 90 percent of psychological issues with regular exercise and plenty of sleep. Adding community to the mix contributes to a cycle of increasing returns for mental and emotional wellbeing. Create multimedia “channels” to connect your people working by themselves at home to coworkers who are grappling with the same challenges of isolation. Whether it’s a virtual world in the metaverse or the real one, human beings need other human beings to brainstorm, commiserate, calm nerves, solve problems, and bond emotionally.
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 critical messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?
How about the Great Oversaturation of Made-Up Words? These headlines are basically all saying the same thing in different ways. It’s all the above. People are quitting their jobs in record numbers. Everything is being reconfigured. All of which leads us to reevaluate everything about our business. I just read an article about how most executives believe their current business models will be unrecognizable in five years. Tried and true practices that worked for the past 100 years are no longer relevant. It’s painful and confusing to wake up and realize strategies and tactics that we relied on in the past no longer apply in this new world of remote work. It’s not just a physical change from the corporate office to the home office. Actual adoption requires an entirely different mindset. Everyone from top executives and managers to salespeople and virtual receptionists needs to look at the world differently.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
1. Globalization. Savvy businesses are building and leveraging a geographically distributed workforce to enter new markets with virtually no entry barriers. I have a client in the EdTech space who had reached the saturation point in her small niche in the US, and the only way to grow was to expand into foreign markets. Within less than a week, she was up and running in 3 new markets with ten salespeople.
2. Gen Z, Millennials, and Baby Boomers all work together now. Now not only are we not all in the same place physically, but we’re also in different places in life. My workforce is like that. My software developers are in their early twenties, my salespeople are in their fifties, and my social media gurus are teenagers.
3. Flexible workforces that shrink and expand as needed with scalable technology in the SaaS space. We’ve all read stories about seasonal businesses that see large spikes in demand during certain times of the year and then low valleys where nothing is happening. They need to staff up for the rush and then downsize when business is slow.
4. Employers will monitor employee happiness and engagement as a leading performance indicator. One company surveys its employees via text and chat to report their feelings. They use the data from the surveys to create a happiness index for the whole company. Those metrics are then tied to productivity metrics to correlate their connection. The practice is based on the belief that happy employees make happy customers.
5. Commercial real estate is transforming into mixed-use live-work spaces. As we reimagine the work-life balance, commercial builders, developers, and owners are scrambling to repurpose their brick and mortar. Look at Austin, Kansas City, Nashville, Portland, New York City. They are all transforming commercial workspaces into residences. I read about a study from Rent Café that said roughly 25 percent of apartment conversions in 2022 will happen in former office buildings.
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 you are working on something exciting that you care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” STEVE JOBS
We are very blessed that some of the biggest businesses, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment, read this column. Is there a person in the world, or 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.
Roy Mann. And Eran Zinman. Monday’s two Co-Founders & Co-CEOs. I would love to get an insider’s perspective into how they help teams and organizations increase operational efficiencies by tracking projects, workflows, visualizing data, and team collaboration. These are the tools of the trade to support remote teams.
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?
Just InMail me on LinkedIn.
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.