The importance of addressing the whole person: People are bringing their whole selves to work, and companies need to recognize that and not misuse it. Employers need to meet their employees where they are as 360-degree person. This holistic view must play out in terms of benefits, scheduling, goal setting and collaboration.
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 Mike Gaburo.
As the CEO of Igloo Software, Mike is responsible for all facets of the business. With over 25 years of executive leadership experience, 15 of which are leading software businesses, Mike has a proven track record of delivering great results for customers, employees, and investors. Before joining Igloo, Mike was the CEO at payments fintech Brightwell where he led the transformation of the company’s product and a rejuvenation of its go-to-market efforts, resulting in a 4x growth in the company’s user base and revenue. Prior to that as COO of Paycor, Mike helped the provider of HCM SaaS grow revenue 5x to over 100 million dollars.
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?
Two things about my life that have influenced both what I do and how I do it are, first, I grew up in a close family. Second, I have always been part of a group. These two factors led me to want to serve in general management to lead teams and help groups thrive and prosper as they go through their journey. Whether it was in my family life, on a sports team, working in a variety of hourly jobs and throughout my career, I found the most satisfaction in being part of a group that was trying to achieve something. Whether it was as simple as serving and clearing a section in a restaurant or hitting a goal number as part of a business team, it is gratifying to see the group wanting to all do well collectively.
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?
In 10 years, I think we will increasingly recognize the importance of relationships, shared experiences and achieving collective goals. We are still operating in a system where resources are pooled, and there is an attempt to gain a return on those resources, which depends on people achieving something as a group. No matter what, relationships, cooperation and collaboration will remain critical.
In the future, I believe there will also be an increasing level of personalization. Organizations will have to meet people where they are even more so than today. As a society, we prioritize the ability to express ourselves and to tailor what we consume, buy and do. There is a bias to the personal and individual, which will change the workplace. As a result, things will be more differentiated based on who people are and what makes them tick.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
As a person who runs a software business that is founded on the agile principles of development, I believe the idea of futureproofing is going to be very iterative. Product development needs to be prototype oriented where teams try something, see how it goes, get feedback and refine it. It is critical to have an agile mentality because things change rapidly. I believe the flexible work environment is here to stay, and it will be crucial to listen to employees and gather signals about what is important to the team.
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?
I am not sure there is any company that has fully come to grips with the idea that personalization will reach its logical conclusion of asynchronous, self-directed work. We have yet to completely get out of the factory mindset and transition to a full understanding of individual contributors even as a member of a company and a team. The largest gap between what employees expect and what a company is willing to offer exists when there is a failure to appreciate what individual workgroups and people need and how it differs across an organization.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Remote work has been a boon for companies but a mixed blessing for some people. I think people are working more and are often overworked. With work from home, the boundaries between working and not working are even more blurred than before. Still, even if we fast forward to a world with no public health concerns, people do not want to come back into an office five days a week, so it is critical to balance both the good and the bad aspects of the remote workplace.
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?
Our current leave and support programs are inadequate for the workforce. The stresses people feel in their personal lives need to be met more fully socially and by companies. Things like parental leave, personal leave and sabbaticals are missing right now. As the CEO of a Canada-based company, I have experienced a system that has beneficial rules around leave and time away that are different, and the U.S. needs to move more towards this kind of model.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
People who are entering the workforce are more talented, capable and productive than ever before. There is a demographic shift occurring in the workforce, and there is a net benefit because the employees coming in are often more productive than those who are leaving.
The dynamic pace of technology also gives me optimism. The ability of technology to make things easier, better, smoother and faster is promising.
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?
Some things can be done structurally to prioritize mental health and wellbeing. For example, at Igloo Software, we took Fridays off in the summer as a way to create guilt-free time to disconnect from work. Offering employee assistance for mental health is tangible and structural. Companies also need to make it okay to talk about mental health. We recently had a lively discussion and one of our most influential tech leaders talked about his struggles with depression. It is critical to foster an attitude of acceptance and support alongside structural initiatives such as forgiving schedules and employee assistance.
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?
That theme of personalization and individualism is playing itself out. For a variety of reasons, people are redirecting their journeys, which is leading people to choose different career paths. There is a bias to control our destiny, and the technology is in place for people to take control, which is creating more velocity for employee turnover. People do not always leave because they dislike their workplace. Increasingly, we see that people are just seeking a new chapter.
While we have had great people leave it has never been easier to hire talented employees. While it is disappointing when a great team member wants to try something else, it is also gratifying for someone else to come in and contribute. At the end of the day, we wish everyone well. It is a world of alumni and relationships, and we want our former employees to do well and remember Igloo fondly because we are all connected. Companies must continue to focus on being the best workplace possible, which will work for the majority of employees.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- The power of flexibility: COVID-19 forced the work environment to become much more flexible, which has been a positive outcome of the pandemic. We have realized it is okay for people to work outside of the office. However, people will often lean in and work more, so flexibility can be a double-edged sword.
- The significance of personalization: People in today’s workplace today want something that is personalized to them. Companies need to become more people-friendly and move away from the mass-produced environment of the past.
- The importance of addressing the whole person: People are bringing their whole selves to work, and companies need to recognize that and not misuse it. Employers need to meet their employees where they are as 360-degree person. This holistic view must play out in terms of benefits, scheduling, goal setting and collaboration.
- The growth of do-it-yourself: Companies and organizations have sought to add productivity and take away friction by putting more tasks onto individual people. Whether it is submitting vacation requests, expenses or travel, an increasing volume of duties that were once done by a service provider or group are now performed by the employee.
- The need for speed: It is probably cliché but the expectation for fast results is continuously increasing and the gap between expectation and reality is getting smaller and smaller. The prioritization of speed leads to an iterative, agile approach. Companies are not going to put out a product and wait six months to make changes. Instead, organizations will wait six days for example, see how it goes and experiment and assess results.
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?
There is a baseline level of talent that most of us possess, and I firmly believe that “persistence is more important than talent.” With new or hard work, there will be failures and setbacks, and persistence and mental resilience will carry the day. If I were in front of a class, I would stress the preeminence of persistence and getting back up and continuing to try over and above technical knowledge and competence as drivers of success.
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.
Abraham Lincoln. While I do not consider myself a great Lincoln scholar, I feel that he brought admirable humility to his life and work amid the pressures of leadership, the difficulties of managing competing priorities and the stakes of his decisions. The stress and scale of what he accomplished at a time when he was needed cannot be understated. As an optimist, I believe there are other Lincolns out there who will be there when society needs them too.
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?
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of you’r time and wish you continued success and good health.