Re- and up-skilling: Even with a recession looming, the talent wars have made it so that no one can take their employees for granted, so organizations are making greater and smarter investments to develop and train their existing workforce to meet their needs instead of spending months looking for the perfect external hire.

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 Nick Goldberg.

Nick Goldberg has spent 15 years at the forefront of the professional learning space, supporting the majority of Fortune 250 companies to develop their people and as UK CEO of Lee Hecht Harrison. In 2018 Nick founded EZRA, a fast-growing digital coaching platform, with the ambition of bringing consumer-grade learning solutions to the enterprise market. Since then, EZRA has grown exponentially into one of the most exciting enterprise technology businesses in the world.

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.

At 23, fresh out of university, I began a career in sales but lacked the confidence needed to excel in my job. I constantly wanted to quit. Just as I was getting ready to throw in the towel, I got a new boss who completely changed my perspective on sales. The difference between her and my former manager was, she truly coached me. She taught me how to be my most authentic self and harness my naturally inquisitive nature. At the same time, I learned the tangible benefits of having someone in your corner guiding your career path. Fast forward to today — she’s now working for EZRA.

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?

Hybrid work is here to stay. The pandemic’s effects on the workplace will be long lasting. Employees have shifted their priorities and are now seeking greater flexibility at work. If they notice their current employers aren’t providing flexible work solutions, they will continue to leave for ones that do. And given the current state of the labor market, they’re in a strong position to do this. Employees have this sense of autonomy which they believe will stay with them for years to come.

I also believe the idea of work-life balance will continue to grow and develop in the future. As more employers acknowledge the impact of happy employees on productivity, they will invest in more benefits that allow employee’s mindsets to shift to view work as a happy place rather than a place they yearn to escape.

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

You don’t need to be a start-up to be agile, and you have more control over the winds of change than you think. EZRA was born out of a recognition from our parent company, LHH, that the professional coaching industry was undergoing major change. By building EZRA from within their walls, even though they knew we’d be competing in the same sector — they ensured they wouldn’t be left behind when indeed, demand for virtual professional coaching skyrocketed.

To truly future-proof your organization, you need to find opportunities to steer change rather than get swept up in it. We know, for example, many are struggling to retain talent. Instead of being reactive, the organizations winning the talent wars are innovating to attract the right people for their teams.

Again, even though start-ups get most of the oxygen when it comes to conversations on innovation, they don’t have it cornered. Any company has the opportunity to be flexible and innovative — which will be necessary as we all face a new future of work.

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?

Employees expect their employers to show they value their well-being and provide opportunities for learning and growth. However, many companies miss the mark and invest in inadequate learning development training solutions. Professional coaching is bridging this gap. When you democratize coaching, disseminating it to all levels of the organization, all employees receive equal opportunities to hone skills that matter to them and address the top-of-mind issues of today like mental health.

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

As a result of working from home and pandemic isolation, employees are craving social connectivity. Because remote and hybrid work isn’t going anywhere, we need to get creative in how we’re fostering that sense of connection.

Demand for coaching exploded since the pandemic, in large part because it created space for authentic connection where employees could ask for feedback, a sounding board to bounce ideas, or just a place to vent about what they were struggling with. What’s great is all the while they’re still working toward a goal that’s going to move their careers and their organizations forward.

Employees aren’t connecting in the same ways they used to. People aren’t necessarily grabbing drinks after work or popping into their boss’ office for a quick chat. Without these contact points, companies need a way to create them in new creative ways.

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?

The way people think about work has been completely upended. We’ve learned that grinding our lives away isn’t sustainable, and also represents a real priority misalignment. People want to have time for their passions, their families, their health, and the workplace is going to have to adapt to that. Importantly, this needs to be carried out in a way that’s fair and equitable. This means making real investments in the ongoing work to ensure these changes are equally enjoyed.

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

Employees have realized they have this sense of power and know exactly what they want from an employer. This will only make employers step up and provide their employees with the benefits and incentives they need to succeed.

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?

We’re hearing from more and more companies who are dedicated to using professional coaching to make the workplace more equitable and provide their employees with a sounding board to talk through the issues most relevant to them. Individualized tailored coaching programs like EZRA help employees build resilience by providing tailored one-on-one sessions to prioritize their well-being.

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 of organizations need to realize the role they play in shaping the workforce and work experience for employees. Leading with compassion and empathy will allow employers to see areas for improvement, which previously may have been blind spots. Employees and their priorities will continue to evolve, and employers must evolve with them. An effective leader listens and acts on these needs and in result, actively works to retain and attract employees.

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

Humanizing the workplace: People want to feel connected to the work they do and the people they do it with and will no longer accept work that’s not engaging or allows them to spend time with people who inspire them. This will challenge us all to re-engineer what it means to have a job — it’s not just showing up from 9–5 anymore. And it’s not about collecting a paycheck. Workers are demanding meaningful opportunities to drive impact and to be treated as people first, employees second.

Flexibility: This one’s obvious but no less true. Remote and hybrid work is here to stay.

Re- and up-skilling: Even with a recession looming, the talent wars have made it so that no one can take their employees for granted, so organizations are making greater and smarter investments to develop and train their existing workforce to meet their needs instead of spending months looking for the perfect external hire.

Prioritizing mental health: We have younger generations to thank for demanding more when it comes to honoring mental health in the workplace. Apart from being more open and transparent about mental health, it’s exciting to see workplaces investing in protecting the wellbeing of their people. It’s a change long overdue.

New forms of leadership: Executives are quickly learning that the key to successfully leading and retaining teams is by taking a more compassionate, people-first approach. Old stereotypes of what make a great leader are thankfully being put to bed, and we’re seeing the power of being vulnerable, radically transparent, and relentlessly collaborative with people of all levels at work, all as being real drivers of positive business outcomes.

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?

I recently saw a colleague share the quote, “If you don’t love people, don’t lead.” And I think that’s exactly right. If you’ve had a manager or boss who wasn’t invested in their team as individuals, you know what a difference it makes when you finally get to work for someone who does. Leading people is about helping them grow and meaningful development comes from caring. We see this all the time with coaching — people blossom when they have access to someone who cares.

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.

Josh Bersin. I just read a piece he wrote on workplace mental health, in which he was quite open about his own experiences and encouraged leaders to take ownership of their employees’ wellbeing. I’m eager to see how companies will become more innovative to address workplace mental health in the coming years, as it’s something we at EZRA take quite seriously.

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?

Find me here on LinkedIn and Twitter @nickg_lhh, and if you’re interested in the work to democratize coaching follow EZRA on LinkedIn and Twitter @EzraCoaching.

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