JOB SHARING: The skills gap will require the learning of new skills, and those that are adaptable to learning and a new skill that will help their organization will become invaluable to employers.

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 Matthew Mitchell, Director of People & Culture at Vibrent Health.

As head of the People Team at Vibrent Health, Matthew is responsible for unlocking the full potential of Vibrent’s workforce because it takes more than the best technology to move the world forward, it takes the best people. With the world becoming increasingly digital, Matthew is preparing Vibrent’s workforce to deliver on the promise of precision medicine. By supporting a culture of continuous development and learning, all teams, no matter where they sit in the organization, are ready to accelerate Vibrent’s business strategies and build the future.

Matthew firmly believes that enhancing the employee experience is more than creating a positive work environment; it is about ensuring collaboration and innovation are rewarded, and that employees feel valued and listened to by the company and their co-workers.

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?

A few years ago, I took a solo vacation to sea kayak in the fjords of Norway, my first ever solo adventure. I learned many things about myself, including my ability to push myself further than I thought I could. I have also recently had the privilege to care for someone with a serious medical condition, which is both an extremely difficult experience and extremely rewarding experience. Everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about, and kindness remains undefeated.

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?

I think people will still be looking for purpose and meaning in their work. I do not think that will ever change — at least I hope it never does. The future may hold a flatter hierarchy. Employers are realizing that great ideas come from everyone, and as Kim Scott tells us in Radical Candor, “getting it right vs. being right” is what we should be striving for. I am more interested in the ways we will work with each other, rather than how it will be done.

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

Care about your people. The future is unknown. It could be very exciting. It could be very challenging. We presently do not know. If employers want to prepare for the future, I think they should focus on their biggest asset, their people. The highest ROI any employer has is their people, and people go above and beyond when they feel like leaders care about them as a person.

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 need to meet people where they are. Years ago, we often heard complaints that the Millennial generation was entitled, lazy, did not want to work hard, etc. Complaining does not help, we needed to adapt to the largest segment of the workforce telling us what they want. Employers want people that are adaptable, and business must be the same.
I think employees will continue to want the flexibility to do their job. Moving to an outcome-based culture will become more common, and more sought after. I think the fully remote vs. hybrid model still needs some time to settle. Some employees may expect certain additional benefits because of working fully remote, such as a stipend for a home office, and employers must determine equitable policies for all employees. With many remaining fully virtual, benefits will only become more of a determining factor for candidates when deciding to join an organization. I encourage employers to survey your employees to obtain data on your benefits, helping you determine which benefits are most important to your people. First, find out what is most important, then work towards achieving it.

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

Prior to the pandemic, it was our younger generations that began to drive the flexible working revolution. What now is common was quite uncommon only a few years ago, with many wondering what took so long. I think the future of work remains untethered to one location and anticipated technological growth will enable workers to work more efficiently wherever they are.

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?

We have talked a lot in the past few years about second chances. I always give second chances, and often third chances. People make mistakes. Who amongst us has not? We should meet candidates where they are. Many great candidates do not have a formal degree, for reasons including financial and/or geographic, and by failing to consider all candidates there is a strong likelihood we are missing out on talent.

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

I am excited about ideas! What big ideas are next? I think the past few years have allowed people the space to ask themselves ‘what is possible’? And just because an idea seems impossible to other people does not mean that is it impossible to you.

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 think we need to be doing more than Employee Assistance Programs. These are very valuable to have but are becoming the minimum expectations of employees. Providing a paid mental health day during the year has become popular, and I learned of a recent idea called “duvet days.” These are three paid days during the year on those days when you just do not have the energy to be your best, and you can take a “duvet day,” no questions asked.

Most importantly, those that have the privilege to lead others should take an interest in the well-being of their team. Talk to your people, not about work. Ask them about their lives, how are they feeling (energized, anxious, happy) and what can you do to make their day better.

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?

I think this is more of a news headline that a reflection of what is practically taking place. While resignations have increased in the past year, I believe this has been building for many, many years. People did not explore other opportunities partly out of fear, fear of, “What’s next if I do not do this?” Therefore, they stayed in a culture that was not engaging. Now, I think the future of “what’s next” is less scary, and people are no longer willing to stay somewhere where they cannot do their best work. The pandemic allowed people the space to think differently, however, their thoughts been just below the surface for some time.

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

  1. WORKING FROM ANYWHERE: Employers need to continue to provide their people the ability to work from any location. Nearly 50% of workers in the U.S. say they would take up to a 5% pay cut to continue to work remotely full time.
  2. PERFORMANCE: The trend away from one annual performance review continues to a more constant feedback structure. Remote work has increased the time managers check in with their teams, allowing the ability to provide more timely feedback on performance.
  3. TALENT ACQUISITION: The future of talent acquisition will remain challenging for many employers due to the skills gap in the workforce. Candidates will continue to have many options, and employers must continue to refine their acquisition process to maintain speed and competitiveness.
  4. JOB SHARING: The skills gap will require the learning of new skills, and those that are adaptable to learning and a new skill that will help their organization will become invaluable to employers.
  5. UNLIMITED LEAVE: Unlimited leave is an outcome-based leave model. Allowing people to take time off as needed, provided performance is acceptable, is beneficial for both employer and employees. Studies have shown most take the same or slightly less leave when provided with an unlimited option.

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?

McCovey tells us, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In one word, “Listen!” After we can understand the other person, get in their skin, understand their experience, only then should we then seek to be understood. This has allowed me to become a more compassionate and empathic person in both work and personal relationships.

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.

Gary Vaynerchuk of Vayner Media. I remember when Gary Vee connected, we me on LinkedIn and I felt like part of the cool kids club. I love his advice on positivity and optimism, on kindness being a business strength, and how his right-hand person is not his CFO or COO, but his Chief Heart Officer. Sir Richard Brandon and Simon Sinek are also two amazing people I would love to meet and learn from. And Derek Jeter or Nick Saban. One could never go wrong with either of them!

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?

I am active on LinkedIn, and you can connect with me here Matthew Mitchell SPHR, SHRM-CP | LinkedIn

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