The flexibility of when, where, and how we work will be crucial for employee satisfaction.

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 Leslie Snavely.

As President of CHG Healthcare, Leslie oversees overall leadership and brings a focus on leveraging creative thinking and strategy to grow the business and develop her teams. She made Utah Business Magazine’s “40 Under 40” in 2014 and was named CXO of the Year in 2021. She is passionate about elevating the status of women’s leadership and previously served as the vice chair of the Women’s Leadership Institute of Utah.

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.

I grew up in a small, rural town in Ohio. Everyone seemed to know what was going on with everyone. One thing I learned growing up in this kind of environment was the power of relationships. People genuinely supported one another, and community was important, acting as a positive force. Learning this at an early age has helped shape so much in my life. I truly believe that by building relationships, we can make a lot of good happen together.

This philosophy also ties back to the work we do at my company, CHG Healthcare. I appreciate that CHG is a relationship-driven organization. When physicians are looking for a new career opportunity or a hospital is in a difficult place with their staffing, they come to us because of the relationship we’ve built with them, which is based on trust and experience.

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?

Thinking 10–15 years in the future, many things will change. First and foremost, those who are coming out of college today will influence work in a big way. Our recent college graduates are innovative, digitally native, and curious. They are growing up in the world of ChatGPT and think differently about problems than Gen Xers like me do. Most workplaces will focus on how to do things simply, with technology enabling ease, and workers will be able to do more than we can dream imaginable today.

That said, it is also true that many things will remain the same. Relationships in service industries like mine will be even more important. Building connections, trusting relationships, and excellent delivery will be paramount in business success even more so than today because customer expectations of personalized, accurate, streamlined experiences will be high. For example, in healthcare you will see medical professionals continue to be more supported by technology, expanding their reach in how they care for patients. However, ultimately that personal relationship with patients can’t be replaced.

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

Invest in people — their ability to grow, innovate, deliver results, stretch their skills, and apply technology. This starts with listening to your employees and building customer-centric organizations and passion within your teams. Even before the pandemic, I’ve seen healthcare employers often fall behind on this advice and not truly understand the importance of the investment in their staff, leading to burnout and workforce issues. Thankfully, we are starting to see this change, but there is more work to do.

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?

The speed of innovation required to meet employees where they are as consumers of technology will be challenging. So often, process, history, structure, and success get in the way of change — particularly for large organizations, and we all need to learn to move and change at a speed that meets our customers’ and employees’ needs. One of the harder things as an employer is keeping the balance between this speed/change/innovation and discipline/structure. Companies require this balance, and it is our job as leaders to help people both drive the change but also appreciate the structure and discipline of results today.

My biggest suggestion for employers is to enroll employees in the solutions. A recent study by Press Gainey showed that for physicians, nurses, and caregivers, “pride in their work and loyalty to their colleagues are the strongest correlates of their readiness to stay with their organization and continue showing up for work.” The healthcare workforce is telling us they want to be engaged in building sustainable, healthy cultures in their organizations. It’s time to build trust with teams, prove that their point of view matters, and listen to their perspective to help solve the business problems at hand.

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

The future of work is flexible. Our “work from home” experiment during the pandemic forced us to learn quickly how to build remote teams, coach people remotely, and drive connections via a video call. We now know how effective this can be. But we also know that in-person collaboration and connection matters and that some problems can only be solved with a face-to-face interaction with a whiteboard and sticky notes. We also appreciate that people need connection and relationships to thrive and enjoy our work. I see the future as a world of BOTH — a world where companies and leaders flex to the business problems at hand and are empowered to live and work flexibly.

Flexibility is particularly important in healthcare. CHG, for example, is expanding into virtual staffing. Temporary healthcare workers can be incredibly valuable to help hospitals during peak times such as flu season. Virtual providers can also help fill the gaps in staffing at hospitals in rural areas. CHG is at the forefront of helping to deliver this more flexible care based on what we learned during the pandemic. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all for the future, but companies will benefit from learning to adapt to both the employee’s needs and the work that needs to be done.

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?

A flexible workforce requires a level of trust from employees that may not be our norm today. As we work up to this being the standard, we will need to learn how to create mutual trust from employee to employer. We will need to shift our focus and learn to manage and lead based on outcomes and results, rather than on inputs and time spent at a desk. This means adjusting our idea of what it means to “work around the clock.” If each person is setting their schedule — where and how they work — a “standard” work day will vary from person to person; setting, communicating, and maintaining boundaries will be important. This will take new and deliberate skills from employees and employers. We practice this assessment method when considering additional flexibility, like variable hours: It must work for the business, the team, and the individual.

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

I believe in the power of people to adapt. We learned during the COVID-19 pandemic how adaptable all of us are. If we push ourselves, we can create real change.

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?

Mental health and well-being in the workforce may be the most challenging issues we face for the next decade. Each person has a life to live — and work is just a part of that. Historically as employers, many of us haven’t seen this as a part of our role. This doesn’t work today and won’t work in the future. People bring their whole self to work — the good, the bad, and the ugly. This makes it a mandate for us as leaders and employers to recognize the impact we have on helping this set of challenges.

At CHG, we have seen success in offering innovative programs such as mental health telehealth services to all of our employees and offering mental health days. We recognize how important training is for leaders to learn to spot the symptoms of burnout, or manage with compassion when someone is going through grief or a major life change. And we also do this with the physicians we help staff. Our services in locum tenens — temporary physician staffing — are designed to help workers craft the work that they want to do to support the life they want. Our consultants treat the physicians as a person first, get to know them, and help craft employment solutions that benefit their life and work. Employers need to treat their employees in the same 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?

The most important thing for us as executive leaders is to never let up. Regardless of the headline, it is our job to build companies that people want to work for, stay with, and deliver for. To do this, we have to innovate, solve problems, and create programs and solutions for everyone. This means designing companies that support the diversity of our workforce.

Companies are hard to lead, but if you think of company culture as the sum of the behaviors of the people that work there, our job is to set the north star, to create the guardrails of our values, and to inspire employees to make an impact with their unique skills. This may be an evolution for many companies, but I am proud that this is the foundation upon which CHG is built.

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

  1. Building trust will matter more than ever for our people, our customers, and our investors.

At CHG, I have learned as a leader how much establishing trust with our employees leads to loyalty, retention, and employee engagement. During COVID, our clients canceled almost 90% of job assignments we had staffed within a few weeks. We stuck by our employees, worked hard to keep everyone we could employed, reallocated their talents to where the work was needed, and protected their commissions. In return, they trusted us and cared for our customers.

This enabled us to rebook our volume, rebuild our revenue, and continue to take care of our customers. In the end, the company we have built today has a better culture because of the trust we gave and received, and that trust helps us build more value for our customers and more return for our investors.

2. Innovation and constant evolution will be necessary in all aspects of work and culture.

CHG created the locum tenens industry with the spirit of innovation in mind for temporary physician staffing. There was a problem to be solved — not enough physicians were available in rural America to cover patient care. The temporary coverage model was built to solve this problem. I love this story because it underscores that innovation solves problems. For the future of work, this will continue to be paramount for success.

3. The flexibility of when, where, and how we work will be crucial for employee satisfaction.

Many of us transitioned to a work-from-home structure during the pandemic. At CHG we have learned that providing this flexibility in a continued way allows our people to have agency. They run their work day, and we are asking them to be owners of their results and thus trust them to be owners of their schedules. I believe this will continue to be an important trend for the future.

4. As employers, we are responsible for respecting workers as individual people and not just what they produce for the 40+ hours they give.

In CHG’s leadership development programs, we have embraced Stuart Friedman’s Total Leadership concept. Each of us is a whole person — with personal needs, family needs, professional needs, and community/social needs. I can speak personally about this. I am an executive with two kids and a husband whom I love, an extended circle of family and friends that I enjoy being with, and a need to exercise and read books to learn. By knowing this, I can both build the right boundaries for myself as a worker and help my teams create boundaries for themselves, too.

5. Technology will enable less friction in almost everything that we do.

When I started at CHG, the iPhone had just been launched. I have watched our recruiting workforce adapt and change their workflow to be effective in this rapidly changing technology environment. Thinking long-term, this technology helps streamline workflows and helps our people and me be more productive. But it doesn’t just happen. As leaders we have to embrace the idea of “making our work easier” and finding the ways to do so both through technology and process innovation. While technology naturally replaces some elements of manual, human-powered work, we view it as a way to help humans work better and smarter and enable customers to have smoother experiences — not as a cost strategy to replace workers outright.

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?

I am a strong believer in “assuming positive intent.” I spent time at a number of Fortune 100 companies prior to my time at CHG, and there’s a key lesson that I learned from my time with Pepsi. Indra Nooyi, the CEO, was famous for this quote: “Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different.” As a leader, I know that everyone doesn’t always have positive intent. That said, by starting from a place of openness, I remain open to a more productive resolution to the work at hand.

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 am inspired by Barack Obama. I don’t always agree with him, but I love his passion, commitment, and resilience to achieve what he did for our country. One of the things that I respect the most about him is his constant desire to learn and commitment to change.

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?

The best way to find me is LinkedIn, here.

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