The Great Reckoning: The reality is there is now a major shift in power, from the employer to the employee, and this will redefine the future of work. Employees now enjoy more flexibility, more say in their work, spend more time with their families than before and more. With employees in the driver’s seat, we may never see the old power dynamic and its consequences again.

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 Pat Petitti.

Pat Petitti is the co-founder and CEO of Catalant Technologies, a technology company that connects enterprises who have critical business problems with the experts who can solve them quickly. Petitti is also co-author of a book titled, Reimagining Work: Strategies to Disrupt Talent, Lead Change, and Win with a Flexible Workforce, which lays out a vision and path for a new relationship between global companies and talent. Prior to founding Catalant, Petitti was a consultant at negotiation and conflict management consulting firm Vantage partners, and before that at Booz Allen Hamilton. Petitti received his BS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and MBA from the Harvard Business School. He is a Bostonian born and raised.

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.

My experience working in consulting had a major impact on my path. After graduating from college, I worked at a large consulting firm and saw firsthand the major inefficiencies in the industry. While there are certainly cases where large consulting firms are a great solution, in many cases they are not. I would be staffed to projects, along with other consultants, where the team didn’t have any expertise on the problem being solved. We were billed out at 6 times our salaries, and typically were learning on the job and leveraging deliverables that had been given to other customers. I then spent two years at a boutique firm that was genuinely the very best at what they did. Still, they would often bid on projects and lose to large, brand name firms who didn’t have nearly the expertise and experience and were in fact more expensive. It was clear to me that this was an industry in massive need of disruption, and it’s been my personal mission to drive that change since as CEO of Catalant.

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?

We’re already seeing that many of the best, most skilled workers are choosing to take more control over how they work. Many are joining the freelance economy, where they can choose what they work on, who they work with, and how much they work, and others are advocating for themselves within the workplace. This is happening across industries and skill levels. While some leaders are afraid of this changing dynamic, many see it as an opportunity to embrace a more flexible workforce. Those that do see it as a chance to think differently about how they get work done will gain a competitive advantage. That said, companies will always need a core workforce. While there won’t be companies with a CEO and only freelancers, companies will redefine what it means to be an ‘employee’ and no longer will they only consider those who are full-time as a part of their workforce.

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

To future-proof an organization, leaders need to think in a more open and flexible way about work and how work gets done. For example, in this current labor environment the typical approach of consulting and full-time hiring simply doesn’t make sense. The hiring market is tighter than ever, and the reality is the types of skills large organizations need are those that are most in-demand. The best people to solve that work are incredibly unlikely to join a large organization full-time. Similarly, traditional consulting isn’t designed to move quickly and provide the type of flexibility companies need today. There’s a large and growing world of high-quality independent consultants with the capability to solve complex problems and availability to be staffed to a project swiftly, in some cases just a few hours. In order to future-proof their organizations, leaders need to build a capability around engaging independent consultants, the same way they’ve built capabilities around full-time hiring and consulting procurement.

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 now expect a level of flexibility from their employers, and rightfully so. If the past two years have proven anything, it’s that you don’t need to be in an office to be productive, and there are tools that enable ways of working beyond the traditional 9–5 in-office approach. Employees no longer want to be told what work to do and how to do it — they want more control in what they work on, who they work with, and from where they do the work.

Companies need to redefine what it means to be an employee. Gone are the days of employees simply being a badge that walks through the door five days a week, takes the elevator to their desk, etc. The reality is that the world is different and the solutions to companies’ problems can be more flexible. Companies will look at their workforce and realize that it isn’t just made up of 40 hour a week workers; just as important are independent consultants, alumni or retirees of the company who still provide support, consulting firms big and small. The reality is people want more flexibility, and they’re going to get it — whether your company wants to provide it to them or not. The best companies won’t see this as a gap or a problem; they’ll look at the problems to be done and consider how the new workforce of today — made up of workers of all types — can help them best solve them.

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

This major change in work has completely shifted power dynamics in the workplace. Employers don’t have the power they previously had because large numbers of people have realized they have more flexibility and optionality than they ever realized –and they’re seeing firsthand examples of it. Employees everywhere are seeing friends secure new jobs they’re more excited about, and almost everyone knows someone who has made the jump to work as an independent consultant. Life is too short to have a job that isn’t exciting or work with people who don’t help you develop, and with increased flexibility and confidence in having more options, people are recognizing that and doing something about it.

Companies have traditionally dictated so many important aspects of their employees’ lives. Think about it — you accept a job with a company, and that company tells you where you’ll live, where you’ll go each day, who you’ll work with, what you’ll work on, what types of development opportunities you have. The reality is in the old model people had little control and companies dictated so much of how a person lived his or her life. That’s no longer the case. In a technology-enabled, networked world where the benefits of being an full-time employee have decreased, individuals have greater power to dictate what their work/life experience looks like, and the better the individual is, the more power he or she has to take control, whether as a more flexibility full-time employee or as an independent consultant.

We’re also seeing a shift in the desirability of consulting life. Independent work is becoming more mainstream as workers realize their power in the workplace. Independent consulting is similar to online dating in that when it first started it seemed unusual and a bit strange, but now it’s mainstream. We’re now seeing that same shift, and fast, in the world of independent consulting.

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?

If people are going to work in a different way, beyond the typical full-time model, there needs to be better infrastructure to support them. Technology has provided the workforce with a lot of benefits, but there’s still a long way to go; access to necessities like healthcare benefits can be difficult for independent workers. Solutions to these needs won’t come from the government, though. Expect to see new emerging technologies and start-ups that will help fill these gaps to push work culture into its next phase.

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

My greatest source of optimism is the strides we’ve already made to make work better for people. Today people can live the life they want and fit work in — whether for them that means working 20 hours a week or 60, or working on one specific type of project or operating as a generalist, or traveling the world while they do it. It’s about living the life you want and having more choices on how to fit work in.

The pandemic accelerated this realization. Before the pandemic, many people were spending more time with their coworkers than with their families. That will never happen again.

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?

In this new world of working, it’s a lot harder to take time off and actually disconnect. People are so used to pinging/Slacking each other at all hours that even if you’re off, whereas before if someone couldn’t find you in the office they wouldn’t bother you, online people might still message you. The inability to fully log off can weigh heavily on employees, leading to burnout or exacerbated mental health and wellness issues. Companies may use a variety of strategies to alleviate this. At Catalant, we’ve created company wellness days where we shut the entire company down. This is in addition to the typical holidays. The company-wide wellness days allow employees to mentally log off because all of their colleagues are also taking a day and work isn’t stacking up while one individual is out. We try to target these days off around existing holidays so we can turn a 3 day weekend into 4 consecutive days off, which really gives people a chance to unplug and recharge.

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?

The Great Reckoning may be a better term — employees have always wanted and deserved more flexibility, and now they finally have the power to get more control over what their work life is really like. This is a huge benefit for employees, especially those who previously felt stuck in a job that wasn’t fulfilling. The best companies know that people are the most important part of the business — you can have the best strategy or position in the market, but the reality is that if you don’t have the right people, nothing else matters. As leaders see these headlines and think about how they apply to their businesses, it’s critical to have an open-mind to what it really should mean to be an employee at their company today and evaluate how they can adjust their approach to what the best employees want.

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

On-demand talent: Current labor shortages are highlighting shortcomings in companies’ talent structures. To compete for talent moving forward, companies need to be creative on where they source talent and embrace the on-demand model. In some cases, a full-time employee does not make the most sense from a business perspective, but a highly-skilled consultant focusing on one project might. Independent consultants are fast becoming a critically important part of every company’s workforce. While this isn’t completely new (contractors at the largest technology companies have typically represented around 50% of their workforces) it’s going to become commonplace, especially as it relates to strategic workstreams and agile consulting talent.

Rise of freelance economy: In a technology-enabled world where the benefits of being a full-time employee have decreased, individuals now have the power. The best people can choose which companies they want to work with and whether they want to be employees or freelancers. If they choose to be a freelancer (which many of the most talented people are now choosing), they can decide who they work with, what they work on, where they work from, and how much and how often they work. It used to be that the most choice an employee had was which company he or she worked for. Now there’s another option — going independent — and that option has never been more attractive.

The Great Reckoning: The reality is there is now a major shift in power, from the employer to the employee, and this will redefine the future of work. Employees now enjoy more flexibility, more say in their work, spend more time with their families than before and more. With employees in the driver’s seat, we may never see the old power dynamic and its consequences again.

Hybrid work: We have now proven we no longer need every employee in their seat at office headquarters. The physical future of work is everywhere and employees have a say in where their work gets done. We have consultants who work 60 hours a week half the year, and take the second half of the year off. We also have a team of working parents and so providing that level of flexibility is all the more important.

Agile business solving capabilities: Business agility, which encompasses business management and execution, is now a critical dynamic capability that enterprises must have to see success. More specifically, in a new world where changes outpace traditional planning and execution cycles, new, agile capabilities for strategic operational management must be established to enable executives to identify, assess, and concretely respond to significant internal and external opportunities and threats as they happen.

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 keep a poem, If — by Rudyard Kipling, on my desk. It’s a reminder to never be overly impacted by your successes or your failures, and instead to stay humble, be trusting, work hard, and, above all else, stay true to your moral compass and personal values. While life has ups and downs, if you can follow that direction things will always work out.

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?

Catalant LinkedIn

Pat’s LinkedIn

Catalant Twitter

Pat’s Twitter

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