A move towards flexible working arrangements. As the workforce becomes more diverse, there is a growing demand for flexible working arrangements that accommodate different schedules and lifestyles. This trend is being driven by millennials who value work-life balance and want to maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of work.
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 H. Goldberg.
Following an accomplished career in health care where he was the Executive Director (Hospital President) of New York’s second largest hospital, Michael created and founded Walkalongside Leader. Michael utilized innovative methods and tools while managing his team of thousands every day including when it mattered most; during the COVID-19 crisis. Michael is passionate about the need for leaders to adapt their model to better connect with their employees.
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.
The plan in my family for as long as I could remember was to be the 4th generation leader of a business that my great grandfather started in East New York, Brooklyn. Going to work with my father on Saturday’s, school breaks, and summers was something I looked forward to while in school. Beginning as far back as I can remember, maybe as early as 7 or 8 years old that’s how I spent my weekends and school breaks.
Driving to and from work with my father each day was at least an hour commute in each direction and some of my favorite parts of going to work with him. This time was precious, some of the most uninterrupted, value time that we had to talk about the business, the history of it, and the plans for how we’d work together until I could take it over from him. The lessons he taught me were so valuable in fact that I told my parents my intent to skip college to jump right into the family business after high school. They wisely made college a pre-requisite for my involvement in taking over the business.
In my final semester, just before graduation, my father called me with troubling news, the business had been shut down. During that time in the late 1990s, there were many stories of the big box retailers succeeding at the detriment of the local mom & pop neighborhood stores, and ours was one of them.
Lost and uncertain of my path I learned quickly about the importance of embracing change and being flexibile. This became a notable event in my life that has shaped who I am and how I approach opportunities and plans in life.
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?
Disruption over the past two years has abruptly changed how employers interact with their workforce, and at the same time prompted a large movement of introspection for society to decide what’s most important in their lives.
Culture change takes 7 years on average for a large company to successfully roll out when it’s between strategically designed and planned. Throughout this rapidly changing time many company’s updated policies with the best of intentions. However, it’s challenging to maintain trust, change policies, and roll out new practices quickly while maintaining a workforce free of skepticism for the intentions. It’s a critical reason why I saw varying degrees in productivity of people who worked in hospitals during the pandemic. At the most critical time in history, the organizations with strong leadership who over the years cultivated trust saw the best results.
Over the next decade I see well intentioned companies adjusting from the knee-jerk reactions they had to implement due to external forces focused on repairing their relationships with their teams by designing and implementing a strategic set of steps to rebuild their culture to support newly articulated expectations of the future workforce.
A significant part of this strategy for companies will be to listen as their employees have spoken loudly about their need for the support that they expect their companies to provide. Too often companies have had programs where they did surveys or had listening session, but how many of the companies truly changed policies. There’s no longer a time for employee suggestions to be placated and ignored. The world has shrunk and with remote work capabilities, options are greater for potential employees to job search then ever before. Many of the new expectations of requested include items such as work\life balance, remote flexibility, standard pay practices, time off, good leadership, and mental health support.
I don’t see too many of the future “Best Companies to Work For” being the ones who maintain their pre-covid work culture. Change will be continuous and we will evolve as a society in the United States to better support our population’s wellness like other nations.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Charles Darwin said, “The most important in survival is neither intelligence nor strength but adaptability.” In order to best be prepared to future proof your organization you should be prepared to change with changing times. Too often companies rely on the pride of the history and what’s worked for them in the past. To best prepare for long-term success companies will have to have to reset the expectation of their leaders to be what I call Walkalongside Leader™️. These are leaders who can lead from 30,000 feet, make the big strategic decision, but also connect with their workforce to see the organization from the perspective where the work happens. It’s accomplished by prioritizing the experience of the team and can be observed by getting out of the office, into the field through shadowing their team and facilitating real settings for 2-way communication to take place. One strategy I used is to be open, transparent, and available for my team on social media. Every week for 15 months I hosted a virtual town hall on Instagram. It because so well sought after that members of the team’s family, the community, media, and celebrities were tuning in.
There’s a vastly different culture that exists between the front line and C-Suite and too many executives are disconnected from the true perspective of their organization. Those that build trust, Walkalongside their team and are open to communication can lead change faster than their competition that doesn’t.
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?
If there’s one thing that I’ve observed over the past 2 years is that we don’t offer enough Mental health support to our team members. And when we do, it’s offered in places like employee assistance programs that they employees don’t trust and won’t utilize. Sure, companies can give you statistics on the number of employees that do utilize it, but they don’t know the true number in need until it’s too late.
It’s a major reason why I joined the board of Counslr, a text based mental health app that connects users with licensed mental health workers 24/7. Coming from health care I saw first-hand the inadequacy of the health care system to handle the demand, and it will take a generation to catch up. Counslr is innovatively offering a secure option that employees can trust as separate from their company. Available 24/7 employers can offer it as an option to their team that’s discrete and affordable. Great employers would include the offering for their employees dependents as well.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Leading a hospital during the pandemic, I wasn’t part of the work from home experiment personally as I was in the hospital 7 days a week for months, however I oversaw a large team who we did transition to work from home. Interestingly however, a year before the pandemic started, I was an early adopter and embraced working from home for my CFO. We were both working for a NY based health care organization, and a family situation required her to be in another state. With good relationships, a strong work ethic and clear operating goals we trialed a remote work situation at an executive level and it worked exceedingly well.
I believe that what we experience both as employees and as part of the workforce is critical to moving forward with new, innovative staffing models. Working from home has turned into working anywhere at the times that work for you (as long as you meet your objectives). I have friends and colleagues who have the same jobs as they did pre-pandemic, only now they moved to a new part of the world, some a new state, others a new country and still work for their original company. How companies handle this has been interesting. Some have been criticized for changing pay to match the cost of living for the state the employee moved to and others have left it alone. Some have put into place timelines that you must be able to get to the office by even if they are in an industry where nothing different would happen in the office vs what can be handled remotely.
This is an exciting time to design a work model that meets the flexibility desires of the workforce while being primarily based on output as opposed to watching an hourly clock. Depending on the jobs, it shouldn’t matter to the employer when they get their 40 hours\week as long as their workforce is achieving their goals. The more employers can think this through for remote appropriate jobs, the more I believe they will be the ones future employees seek to work for.
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?
As more and more businesses adopt remote work policies, it’s important to consider the societal changes that will need to take place in order to support this new way of working. One of the most important changes will be in the way we value work. For too long, we have equated work with physical presence in an office. But with a remote workforce, we will need to value results over physical presence. This shift will require a change in mindset for both employers and employees. Another important change will be in the way we measure employee engagement. With a remote workforce, traditional measures of engagement, such as face time and number of breaks, will no longer be valid. Instead, we will need to find new ways to assess engagement, such as through goal setting and regular check-ins. Finally, we will need to walkalongside our employees as they navigate this new way of working. The transition to a remote workforce will not be easy, but with the right support, it can be an enriching experience for all involved.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
This is probably one of the most exciting times we’ll get to live through, disruption and change breeds creativity. I’m excited about the new ways that we can design a lifestyle in the United States to better support a mindset that improves mental health, physical wellbeing, and inter-personal relationships.
Think about the young family where both parents have at least one full time job each, two children in daycare from 7AM to 7PM, years of lost personal connection with those they love. Now because of flexible work schedules as well as remote options, they might only require half that time away. Parents will be better parents, and children will learn how to better value family which I believe will make for a stronger society.
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 mentioned before providing access mental health support is critically important for employers to consider. Counslr does this in a way that can provide companies with multiple times returns on their investment. Imagine the impact if every organization provided access for their team to talk to someone with true confidentiality. Their satisfaction would increase, the sick calls would decline, the work product would improve, their longevity with the company would increase, and the overall environment of the team would improve. This all leads to better outcomes also felt by your customers. Imagine if everyone reading this article looked back at their company’s values and asked themselves (honestly) if they feel supported the same way the values were intended as written truly supported.
Without a doubt, we’ve all been changed by the experiences of the past 2 years. As a matter of fact, research shows that our children have been most impacted. The rates of depression and anxiety in children aged 12–18 has more than doubled from pre-pandemic levels. You can’t tell me that this isn’t impacting your employees performance. Could you picture what it would be like if your company recognized this and provided a tool for employees and their families to have available to them to address this?
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?
Every time I read that in my mind it translates to “you have a leadership problem in your company.” We’ve all heard it before, people don’t leave companies they leave people. Clearly, we have the added dynamics of work life balance and remote work, but if we’re honest with ourselves, there’s failure of leadership happening throughout companies at all levels causing this massive transition of the workforce.
I happen to think this is a great time to lead through and become the market leader in how to make this transition to a value based workforce. The companies with the biggest turnover should look within their structure of leadership and ensure they have the right people in the right roles and that starts at the top. Boards should be evaluating this as well and asking insightful questions to understand the dynamics.
The places that listen to their employees, give them a forum for sharing ideas and communicating openly where their leaders are available and receptive to feedback, willing to change and try new things will thrive while others might survive.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
1. A focus on value over results. In the past, businesses have been mainly focused on tangible results. However, there is a shift towards valuing employee engagement and happiness by creating walkalongside leaders. This change is driven by the realization that happy employees are more productive and more likely to achieve results that benefit both the company and its customers. It also includes a redesign of the way companies support their team’s mental health.
2. Increased use of technology. Technology is changing the way we work, from how we communicate with each other to how we access information and get our work done. Businesses that embrace new technologies will be able to reap the benefits of increased efficiency and productivity.
3. The rise of the global workforce. With more people working remotely and an increase in international business travel, the traditional 9–5 workday is becoming a thing of the past. Businesses need to be prepared to support employees who are working different hours and in different time zones.
4. A move towards flexible working arrangements. As the workforce becomes more diverse, there is a growing demand for flexible working arrangements that accommodate different schedules and lifestyles. This trend is being driven by millennials who value work-life balance and want to maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of work.
5. A focus on social responsibility. Businesses are under increasing pressure to demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility, whether it’s through reducing their environmental impact or supporting charitable causes. This trend is only going to become more prevalent in the future as consumers increasingly take into account a company’s social values when making purchasing decisions.
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?
“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
There’s infinite potential in the world for what we can achieve, all we need is an idea and the willingness to try. We may not achieve all that we strived for but think of how much life we will experience in the journey and progress we may affect. That sounds like a life that’s a much more interesting to me than doing more of the same, safe thing each day.
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.
Jay-Z without a doubt. The family business I spent so much of my youth in was in the neighborhood where he grew up. I have so many memories and impressions from spending time in Brooklyn, it left an impression on me that is irreplaceable, perhaps where I really learned to walkalongside others. I admire his achievements in life both personally and professionally. It would be great to learn from his journey, share stories, and just maybe find out that we crossed paths as children.
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’d love to connect and discuss this and more with you. I can be found on social media (instagram & tiktok @michaelhgoldberg). My website is walkalongsideleader.com and you can email me at [email protected]
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.