Meaningful collaboration — Organizations must reimagine company culture so that in-person interactions are meaningful and remote workers still feel like they’re a part of a community. From providing opportunities to participate in a quarterly team offsite to creating optional meetings for remote team members to participate in team-building volunteer events or chat about topics other than work, the future of work requires a reimagined corporate culture.
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 Michael Erisman.
As Reputation’s first Chief People Officer, Michael Erisman is a strategic HR and talent acquisition expert with over 25 years of experience working in HR functions at a variety of companies across the globe during periods of high growth, including DocuSign, Microsoft, and Parallels. He has a deep knowledge of people strategy and talent acquisition to optimize the people experience function.
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 ran a catering company for concerts and films very early in my career. I was really young and often in over my head, but I learned how to engage with very demanding customers in high-stress environments. And yes, everything you hear about rock stars is true! I came away from those experiences understanding that regardless of the fame or status of a person, they are just people. This experience allowed me to engage with senior executives quite easily and early on in my HR career. After all, if you once had a role ensuring Madonna or Motley Crue was happy, CEOs are pretty straightforward.
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 believe we will have fully embraced the hybrid work model and let people choose to come into an office or work remotely. We will also see a continued emphasis on gender parity and diversity and inclusion, as there is always work to do to ensure that everyone feels that they belong. Now, more than ever, companies will need to connect the work they are doing with a higher purpose than just selling products or services and engaging their people on how their work is making a difference in our communities and the world.
Building on the flexible work model, we may see more companies allowing employees global mobility, especially those with a worldwide presence. Some organizations are laying the groundwork for this today. Managers will require more purposeful engagement, as a remote workforce can often miss out on the cultures created in in-person workplaces. Creating a sense of relationship and belonging can easily be done across remote employees, but it requires a different mindset and managing the outcomes, not activity.
The workforce and the workplace will need to become more supportive of working parents and caregivers. A flexible work model is just the start; we can do more in this space so everyone in the workforce can embrace work/life balance. Companies that understand this will have an advantage.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Listen to your employees and act on their feedback. Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce right now, and Gen Z will be catching up to them soon. Both generations are known for disrupting the status quo and look at work differently than their predecessors — they both value experience, as a customer and an employee, and are used to sharing their opinions to evoke change. Businesses need to lay the framework for more employee feedback programs that cater to those needs. At Reputation, we aim to collect feedback globally, but act locally based on conditions and circumstances. Often we see that the key areas of the greatest impact are locally within departments and leaders of organizations, and we experience our company through our manager.
No longer will an annual employee survey suffice; organizations need to solicit feedback throughout the year in a more agile manner. Businesses that do this — analyze feedback, and use it to take action — will be the ones that remain relevant in the future. This goes well beyond just asking employees for feedback directly. It will require using technology like Reputation to capture indirect feedback from social media sources and having the insights at your fingertips to proactively inform how you communicate and build strategies with employees at the center.
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?
There will continue to be some friction between employers and employees on return to office plans. Employers need to understand the importance of offering employees choice and flexibility with where they work. Management should trust employees to get their work done promptly no matter where they are.
There will always be some sort of tension or gap between employees and employers on compensation, but I think employers can work to offer meaningful benefits to their employees. A modern branded office with games and snacks might be great for some employees but not for others. Organizations need to think about the talent they’d like to attract, look at what their competitors offer, and put together a total compensation package that will be enticing to top talent.
Lastly, there may be a gap between what they expect as fulfilling work and what their employer offers for some employees. Some employees are more fit to join a rapidly growing startup, like Reputation, while others may be happier at a more established organization. There are wonderful companies of all sizes out there, but in the recruiting process, employees and employers need to be open and honest about what they find fulfilling in the recruiting process.
Collecting and analyzing feedback is critical for recognizing all of these gaps, and others that are out there. Employers need to be open to receiving all sorts of feedback from their employees, as that is the only way to evolve and improve. Those that choose to ignore pain points within their employee experience are more likely to struggle to attract and retain talent.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Working from home has changed the way we work forever because it demonstrated that businesses could be successful with people working wherever they were. Businesses around the world, across industries, saw an increase in productivity with their employees at home, and many employees were able to create more flexible schedules, leading to an improvement in work/life balance. While this may not be the case for everyone, working from home has brought the discussion of work/life balance and mental health for all employees to the forefront of conversations about work.
The prevailing wisdom prior to COVID policies was that employees who were remote would not work as much, but the outcome was actually opposite to that prevailing wisdom. Employees worked more, longer hours, and struggled with how to manage their time. Long commutes were really terrible, but did serve as an artificial boundary between work and home. In the future, leaders will need to pay much closer attention to working hours and help their employees set expectations about balance. For the most part, managers have never been trained on how to do this, so this is a big shift we need to make.
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 need to widely embrace some of the topics being discussed today, such as remote/flexible work, mental health, and benefits, as well as diversity, inclusion, and belonging.
While some organizations might be slower to make changes, those that want to be an employer of choice in the future will, and I think that will lead to a greater societal shift. Many roles will continue to be in person, and the benefits of being in person for collaboration and community are critical, so companies can help this shift, and help the environment by lowering carbon footprints and commuting, with creative options to have hybrid environments. Smaller companies have a real advantage here, as they can be more creative and agile in meeting these needs.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
I have two sources of optimism — the first is the younger generation — there are so many talented, forward-thinking millennial and Gen Z professionals in my industry that really want to make the workplace a better place for everyone. I truly enjoy collaborating with them and look forward to seeing how they shape the future of work.
The second is how companies that are rooted in data and analytics, like Reputation, adapt and evolve to improve the employee experience. We’re seeing many organizations adopt similar processes for employee experience as they have for customer experience, and I am so excited about the innovation that is to come.
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?
As I’ve mentioned before, flexible work is critical to improving the overall employee experience, and I think it also plays a role in improving employee mental health. Organizations that offer this are leading with empathy. We don’t know everything that is happening in an employee’s personal life, but allowing them to choose where to work and how to get their work done ensures that they are at their best when delivering for the business.
At Reputation, we are doubling down on diversity, belonging, and inclusion this year, which includes a focus on the mental health and well-being of our employees so they feel supported and included at work. As individuals, we are all willing to put more into our jobs when we feel we can bring our authentic selves to work. This includes a renewed effort into the creation of employee resource groups (ERGs). Currently, we have a small steering committee in place that drives and encourages participation in D&I initiatives, discussions, and training. An innovative way we’ve found to foster our ERG growth is to ensure it is employee-led versus HR-driven and to focus on quick, easy participation that can be done virtually.
Additionally, organizations need to be giving employees ample time to recharge and disconnect from work will help combat burnout. Businesses should be evaluating their time off and holiday policies, and encourage their people to take time off for their mental health.
Lastly, overall wellness must be incorporated into an organization’s benefits program. Since the start of the pandemic, many companies have started to offer employees access to mental health professionals — for example, Reputation offers employees membership to Headspace. Given that physical health also plays a role in mental health, companies should look at incorporating fitness and wellness offerings that are impactful to employees at all stages of life into their benefits package.
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?
Leaders need to see these headlines and understand that changes need to be made in the workplace. Changes are critical to your business’ survival especially if you’re seeing employees consistently leave.
Most people taking part in The Great Resignation are not exiting the workforce entirely (although some are), many are leaving for a better opportunity. “Better” looks different for everyone: it can mean more pay, better benefits, or a more fulfilling scope of work.
Company cultures need to evolve to accommodate all employees. Whether they’re working remotely or from an office, regardless of their family situation or background, everyone deserves a safe, fulfilling work environment and a culture that makes them feel like they belong to a larger community. Simple things can make a big difference, especially when it comes to building relationships, and creating a purposeful work environment that gets the best from our people, and allows them to do their best work and bring their unique approaches to innovation, and execution.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- Flexible work arrangements — The pandemic has shown us that most work can be done remotely and outside of the 9 am to 5 pm timeframe. In fact, those who worked on global teams long before the COVID-19 crisis managed to collaborate virtually and worked outside of ‘normal’ working hours to accommodate colleagues across time zones. Businesses looking to remain relevant must offer some type of flexibility to their workforce. At Reputation, we have offices in markets around the world, but many of our employees do not live near an office. Our that live near an office have the option to go in, but it is entirely up to the employee.
- A focus on mental health — Supporting employees’ mental wellbeing is critical — mentally healthy employees are more productive and will likely remain with your organization long-term, so it makes sense to invest in the mental well-being of your people through innovative benefits, flexible work, and open dialogue about topics such as mental health, burnout and the importance of taking time off. On top of benefits, flexible schedules and time off, diversity, equity, and inclusion is critical to mental health — create a meaningful program led by employees that ensures everyone feels included and supported at work.
- Meaningful collaboration — Organizations must reimagine company culture so that in-person interactions are meaningful and remote workers still feel like they’re a part of a community. From providing opportunities to participate in a quarterly team offsite to creating optional meetings for remote team members to participate in team-building volunteer events or chat about topics other than work, the future of work requires a reimagined corporate culture.
- Innovative benefits — The most sought-after employers offer benefits beyond insurance and retirement options. Mental and physical wellness stipends, flexible PTO policies, home office setups, and continuing education will become the status quo for organizations. At Reputation, our wellness program includes company memberships to Aaptiv, Carrot Fertility, Headspace, and Physera. We also offer home office stipends, equity and 401K management training, and annual tuition reimbursement.
- Clear opportunities for growth — In an effort to combat proximity bias, many organizations are reimagining performance reviews. At Reputation, we recently overhauled our annual review process and continue working on guidance for managers and formal career path options for employees across the organization. Change always equals opportunity! Most growth comes from application opportunities, so engaging our people in important work, where they get real time feedback is critical to how we learn and grow. Match up opportunities with your people, encourage and coach them, and you will see growth.
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?
One of the quotes that changed my perspective is: “Success is not the size of the problems you have, but whether they are the same problems you had last year.” A while ago, I realized that I held some very unrealistic expectations about what success looked like. I have learned to balance the drive for continuous improvement with gratitude and contentment to know I did my best with what I knew at the time and to keep learning and growing.
The other quote was, “Michael, you worry a lot about what other people think of you, but the reality is that we just don’t think about you that much.” That quote was not what I wanted to hear, but it was life-changing! Don’t take yourself so seriously.
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.
Many talented people are out there, and my three daughters would give me a long list! I would enjoy lunch with Denzel Washington, whose work and character I really admire. Elon Musk would be fun to meet with as well, as his innovation and free-thinking would make for some engaging dialog.
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?
You can connect with me on LinkedIn or visit reputation.com.
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.