The biggest issue from our small business clients about remote work is — How do I know if they are actually working? How do I track their productivity, are they maintaining our standards, what are they doing?

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 Matt Becker.

Matt Becker is a small business owner who owns two franchised PrideStaff offices in the Tampa Bay area. Matt has a background in public policy, he served in the Administration of George W. Bush as the Deputy Chief of Staff and White House Liaison at the U.S. Small Business Administration. Matt loves supporting the small business community and providing the staff they need to grow their businesses.

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.

When I was working at the SBA, we were constantly in contact with small business owners across the United States. I was always impressed with their drive, passion, and creativity. More than anything else, it was working at the SBA that drove me to get into business for myself.

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?

What I don’t expect to change over the next 10–15 years is the drive for growth. Meaning, employees will be constantly looking for ways to build their careers and businesses will be looking for the best way to grow their business. That won’t ever change. What will change is the technology we use to do the work. We are in a time period where we simply won’t have enough people to fill all of our roles, I expect to see even more technology being developed and implemented to try and make up for the employee shortfall.

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

If there is one thing we hear from candidates daily is that they want to feel like they matter. They want to know they are making a difference in the business. Too often we see owners/managers/leaders who don’t take an interest in their employees or don’t make them feel valued. This is a big miss if you are trying to build a stable workforce.

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?

This is the million-dollar question. Right now, the biggest gap is wages. While I have seen the business community move their wages tremendously over the last two years, due to inflation, employees are saying it isn’t enough because their buying power has decreased. Right now, my recommendations to my business clients are two-fold. For employee retention, be transparent. Let the employee in on the reality of your business. Inside of my own business I show the team an overview of our earnings vs expenses. Generally speaking, it gives them peace of mind that as a business owner you aren’t sitting on a mountain of money, but they realize you are in the trenches fighting with them. For a new hire however, it’s different. The business owner really doesn’t have a choice, they either need to pay the prevailing wage for the position or figure out an alternative. They really don’t have any other way to reconcile those gaps. Too many businesses want to sell their “culture.” While culture is important, it doesn’t pay the bills for your employees right now. Employees know they have lost buying power, they are feeling a pinch themselves. Wages drive everything today.

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

As technology evolves, I believe remote roles in some industries/positions will continue to grow. But there are a variety of industries where it simply won’t have an impact. Take manufacturing for example, at least in the near term, I don’t see a person on the manufacturing floor or working in a trade industry having any opportunity to work from home. It’s just not feasible. Overall, I don’t see working from home having a major impact on the future of work as a whole, however in specific industries it may have a significant impact as technology evolves.

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?

Flexibility is going to be key. Both businesses and employees need to become more understanding of what we are all going through. Post pandemic, we are seeing a process that is very ME specific. It’s what I want, what I need, what I expect. There isn’t enough understanding, flexibility, or reason today from both employers and employees.

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

I will always lay my money on the drive of small business owners. They are the ones who drive industrial change in America. How America works in the future will evolve as small businesses take risks and innovate. Large businesses will drive wages and benefits, while small businesses will drive industry change, and that includes how we will work in the future.

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?

It would be easy to say that businesses should create better work life balance, or more time off. But before we even get to those details, I still believe letting employees know they matter is the most important first step business should take. More often than not, when we interview a candidate for one of our clients, when we ask why they left a role, the complaint isn’t that they worked too much or that too much pressure was put on them. It was that the management never made them feel appreciated or valued. In my experience, people will go an extra mile for you, if they know you value it. Business leaders need to start there.

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?

Again, it goes back to knowing your individual employee and making them feel valued, in a way they appreciate. There isn’t a one size fits all approach. You are in competition for your own employees every day. You cannot take them for granted. It doesn’t matter if it’s the employee re-evaluating their career or a recruiter calling. In today’s market, you must stay engaged with your employee to figure out what matters most to them. Employees have options right now and will continue to have them in the future. A smart business finds ways to connect and engage their employees in a way that is meaningful to that employee.

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

  1. Lack of talent, our work force participation rate remains depressed.
  • In February of 2020 the workforce participation rate was at 63.4% even with over 10 million open jobs, our workforce participation rate today is at 62.2%. We will need to watch how businesses react to having fewer people to potentially employ.

2. Hybrid work.

  • I had a candidate reach out to me yesterday with “I am trying desperately to find a job. Do you have any work from home roles? That is all I will take.” This type of request is not unusual, it is very common. Who gives in first, the employee or the employer?

3. Job Hopping

  • It used to be that employers wanted to see people stay in a role 2–3 years before leaving, Covid has changed that. With so few candidates we are seeing people get recruited out of roles for promotions and pay raises after 6 months.

4. Accountability

  • The biggest issue from our small business clients about remote work is — How do I know if they are actually working? How do I track their productivity, are they maintaining our standards, what are they doing?

5. Privacy

  • As more people work from home, what will the impact be for privacy for the employee? What protections will be in place to shield the employer from personal information? While there is protections in place, as this trend continues new cases/situations are bound to be found.

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?

My favorite life lesson quote came from my father when I was in high school. His words were simple: “You have to learn to let go of the things you can’t control, only worry about what you can control.” At the time I was struggling with things completely out of my control and that brought stress. I can’t tell you how many times I have remembered that line in my career to back me off my own ledge of worry.

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 would love to meet Magic Johnson. He has been able to transition himself from an NBA icon to a business leader in his own right. He has navigated some significant ups and downs across his lifetime and I just think he is a fascinating individual who would be interesting to discuss both his personal and business philosophies. It also helps that we are both Michigan State Spartans where we could look at our football and basketball 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?

They can always email me at [email protected] or follow me on twitter at @mattbecker8

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