Be no stranger to the “shop floor”. Be visible, know your employees by name and show appreciation on a regular basis.

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 Rachel Shackleton.

Rachel Shackleton, founder of Green Key Personal Development and Green Key Health is a business trainer and corporate health specialist. Originally educated in the hospitality industry, she has over 30 years training experience providing solutions in leadership, communication, customer excellence, and wellbeing in the workplace. Her clients include JTI, Sperasoft-Keywords and Intermedia.

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.

From very early on in my life when making a career in the hotel industry, I had opportunities to travel with my work and live in different countries, including three countries in the Caribbean, Russia, France and South Africa. When you live in a country other than your own, you see sides of the culture that you would not normally experience when holidaying. There is the personal and private side of your life for example learning to live in another environment, in a climate different from your own, eating different food and doing different things, and there is the professional aspect of how you experience another culture, such as logic and how it might differ from your own logic, leadership and the challenges that brings when crossing cultures. These opportunities have very much shaped who I am today, working with other cultures I have become more tolerant and accepting and before jumping to a conclusion about a situation, I first question if there are cultural differences in the situation that are possibly causing the reaction of the other person or my own reaction. Tolerance and acceptance are great values and an asset to any leadership toolbox. Both have stood me in good stead for many years.

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?

Answering this question is like looking into a crystal ball! Who could predict the pandemic, the economic crash in 2008 and other similar global happenings that greatly impacted our lives forcing some kind of change. Of course, there are some individuals somewhere who see these things coming, but never-the-less both events, and several others came “out of the blue.” In 10–15 years time, I think its clear that those of working age will still be working in one way or another. Organisations will still need human resources to organize, conduct and execute tasks and projects, despite the ever-encroaching technical replacement of people. How the workplace and structure of work will be organised in the future, I believe, will look very different to the graphic of today. There will be greater balance with organisations appreciating quality of life of their employees more readily by sharing an expectation and educating individuals and teams on what health is, how lack of vitality can impact personal performance and employees will be encouraged to practice techniques that can be applied and practiced during the regular working day to improve mental focus, physical stamina and flexibility of both mind and body. In addition, working hours, in industries that can accommodate it, will be more flexible. When I say accommodate it, I am thinking of industries that do not have the requirement to provide services during specific hours, as for example, the restaurant and hotel business, banking, airports and so on.

I believe, leadership will become what it is truly meant to be — “the ability to inspire others to want to do the job,” as organisations are forced to shift the focus from bottom line profitability as the first priority to people as the first priority leading to greater loyalty, increased productivity and profitability and above all a fun place to work.

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

Be people-centric and truly take care of your human resources. If you take care of your people, they will take care of you. It is that simple! Absenteeism and sickness will decrease, mental ill-health will be minimal and human resources will be valued as a true asset. An asset to be nurtured, cherished and loved. This will create a shift away from HR function of today that is consumed with the legalities of employment to ensure that every eventuality is planned for and covered by legal text and lenghty contracts, to one of trust, openness and integrity.

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?

Expectations of employees, in my opinion have not changed. It is just that the pandemic has highlighted what we have all been thinking, thus giving individuals a long look at themselves and their lives and a voice that is now being heard, resulting in asking the question “Do I live to work, or work to live?” Being caught up in the endless cycle, of waiting for a salary to pay the bills, only to start over again for the next month! The constant feeling of chasing something, trying to balance things that at any moment feel like they are going to collapse, is not living, it is existing. Moving forward employees will be focusing on quality of life for themselves and their families, rather than chasing a good position in a company with larger salary that requires hours of travel every week, inhospitable hours and a wheelbarrow full of stress simply to pay for the necessities of life. Organisations that practice and offer the following will be organisations of the future:

  • Flexibility in working hours and location
  • Honest and inspiring leadership
  • Develop and practice intuitive leadership
  • Care for, cherish and nurture employees
  • Provide opportunities to learn and grow taking on new roles, should the individual be interested
  • Sustainability not only in raw ingredients used and products made, but in how they are made ensuring care for the environment, the people and the communities in which organisations make their money.

Overall I see that initially the boot will be on the other foot, and it will be employees that call the shots, with organisations meeting demands to ensure they attract and secure their personnel. The pendulum having swung from one extreme to the other will slowly gravitate back to the centre as trust builds and both strive to become united in achieving success through feeling empowered and inspired to participate in a fun, sustainable organisation that has the interests of the employees at heart, while also playing a key role in the local community.

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

This seems to be clear already. Many people want the opportunity to continue to work from home. Others want the flexibility of “hybrid” working to combine some home working with some office time and others would prefer to go back to working in an office full time. This is something that is going to have to be monitored month by month to assess changing employee circumstances and to adjust accordingly to accommodate these changes. The emphasis is going to shift from the employer and being employer-driven to the employee and becoming employee-driven. Forcing organisations to increase the value of their greatest asset and to cherish the human element of that asset as individuals and not part of an inventory.

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?

Over the last 40–50 years, societies and communities have become less caring, more isolated and self-centric which never used to the case when I was a child growing up. Kids all played together on the village green, we were never stuck for a friend to go cycling or fishing with. Kids visited each other’s houses. Adults and parents alike knew all the kids in the village. Not only that, parents looked out for all kids, not only their own. This was simply normal and natural. The church was the community hub with Bring and Buy sales, Cake sales, Thanksgiving ceremonies, help for community members who were sick, bereaved and elderly. During the pandemic, we needed to be reminded to call on and check in on elderly members of the community. If we had a community in the first place, the requirement to do this would never be necessary as it would be happening anyway.

A short way of answering this question, is to encourage community activities, community thinking to enable greater work flexibility and to create a sustainable mind and approach to everything we do. A good example of this is the drive to lower carbon emissions. One of the contributing factors is to drive electric cars instead of fuel driven cars. Has research been thoroughly conducted to compare the cost of battery production to the environment and then to calculate the impact of de-commissioning the same batteries at the end of their life, in comparison with driving a petrol engine car? Or are we simply leaping from the frying pan into the fire as electric cars look like a really credible solution., but that is as far as it goes?

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

As we move into the House of Aquarius, I expect a massive shift away from goal driven societies and workplaces with masculine traits of individualism, power, strength and money at all cost, to feminine traits creating workplaces that foster a sense of cooperation, consultation, community, teamwork, care and nurturing through the process of achieving the goals. This shift will immediately start to decrease chronic illness making work a positive therapeutic experience as well as a place where profitability is shared amongst those who helped generate it, and not just given to the few in top positions position with the balance then shared out amongst the shareholders. In other words, everyone becomes a shareholder.

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?

At the moment, most organisations are doing something to address the issue of growing employee mental ill health and poor wellbeing through actions such as a healthy food choices in the canteen, yoga at lunch time, shoulder massage at the desk and so on. These activities are wonderful, but from my perspective they do not address the main issue of building wellbeing into the company culture through top-down leadership. Ensuring that the organisation culture breathes wellbeing and vitality addressing this massive issue from the root cause, not through the symptoms. We all know that if you want to solve a problem, addressing the root cause is the only way. Otherwise, you are simply putting a sticking plaster on it which will produce no more than a temporary fix.

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?

This is a time for challenging current, well known, traditional systems and models related to the ways of working that have become so engrained and are therefore beyond question and are assumed to be correct. Enter the pandemic which challenges these approaches and systems and starts to put the ownership on organisations to respect personal time and a healthy work-life integration as opposed to overwhelming focus on bottom line profitability. It will be those organisations that consider employee mental, physical and emotional wellbeing in addition to profitability who illustrate there can be harmony and balance in employee welfare and still achieve good levels of productivity and profitability, thus paving the way for others to follow.

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

  1. Why are employees resigning?

It was only on the news this week, that I heard that flights are delayed in taking off due to staff shortages. My initial reaction was — “How is this possible after practically two years with very few or no flights? How can there be staff shortages? Was this downtime not long enough to sort things out for when things get back on track?” It appears not! In fact, it is not about staff shortages, it is about “Why?” The why of these staff shortages, as we also see in the hospitality and restaurant industry is not that there aren’t any staff, it is there aren’t enough staff who are willing to accept the previous working conditions of long inhospitable hours, shift work, low pay, often paid on hourly contracts that minimise any perks such as sick pay, holiday pay, overtime, meals on duty etc. Have these workers who were laid off seen the light and decided working under such conditions is not worth it and have therefore changed industry, or stopped working altogether?

2. What are future employees searching for?

Times have gone when someone will work just for the sake of having employment. Future employees are weighing up the personal cost of doing shift work, carrying out a job with varied hours and no compensation for having a high degree of flexibility. The pressure within a normal day’s work, for example constantly dealing with complaining customers, working under deadline pressure all the time, such as in the airline industry, late nights and early mornings which are typical of airline, hospitality, restaurant and medical sectors, with little or no fresh air. Let’s face it working in an airport all day without fresh air for eight hours is extremely difficult. Future employees are looking for work that takes into consideration the working conditions and those conditions will be reflected in the employee’s salary and benefits.

3. Challenging the status quo

Doing what you have always done means that you will get what you always got. It took a pandemic for most organizations to review, question and challenge working practices. Accepting the ever-increasing legislation around employment as governments try to fix the problem without dealing with the real issues and the root cause. A typical example of this was the blanket approach taken by the British government to legislate the need for all health care workers to be double vaccinated by 01 April 2022 or lose their job. Not surprisingly, this fell flat on its face when the same government realized that 1.) In a democratic country individuals have freedom of choice around what they put into their body. 2.) Over 200,000 highly qualified individuals were prepared to walk away from their jobs to follow their own freedom of choice and be true to themselves. 3.) What next is our employer going to mandate as a requirement of its employees? The latter clearly illustrating a massive issue around trust.

It is easy to debate over several pages whether the government was correct, or whether employees are correct, but the point is that when you test and even break down the trust of your employees, as an employer you might get a surprise that you had no idea was there.

When was the last time your organisation looked at employee benefits and I am not referring to the benefits in their contracts, I am referring to asking employees what they need, what would be the highest priority for them to make their lives easier? There is no one size fits all here. Asking the question, even though you might not be able to deliver on everything, at least shows you are interested and are willing to listen.

4. A healthy work-life integration.

Adopting flexible systems and focusing on output rather than the process. Somehow over time leadership has fallen into the Theory X and Theory Y approach. Theory X all employees need controlling, you can’t trust them to do a good day’s work, they are unmotivated and so on. The more control you put in place to manage employees, the more you have to put in place. When there is no trust in the leadership you have a complete disconnect and therefore have to use more of a dictatorial approach rather than consultative or delegative approach. With more home working, there is very little you can do to control what your employees are doing, therefore moving away from controlling the process to tracking and monitoring goal achievement will build trust and in most cases productivity. Empowered employees, naturally produce more.

Does it matter if a team member takes an hour in the day to go for a run, to pick up the children from school, or to visit an elderly relative, working after office hours to compensate? So long as the work gets done in time and on time to the agreed standard, there is no issue. Taking an hour in the day at the employee’s discretion provides a degree of flexibility, the job still gets done and all involved benefit.

5. Appropriate leadership.

“Do as I say and not as I do” is coming to the end of its shelf life. Leading with emotional intelligence, vulnerability, humility, honesty and kindness to build an environment of trust and openness is crucial to organizational success.

It is all too often these days that the salary and benefits of the top leadership are increased when those doing the work, fronting the customers and generating the revenue are forgotten. This is simply appalling that anyone who refers to him or herself as a “leader” can pay him or herself handsomely first at the expense of those “bringing home the bacon.” It is no wonder that today’s employees have no interest to work for organisations that have no soul and top management who do not put the value of his or her own workers before themself.

Leaders who want to earn the honour and trust of their employees need to:

  • Inspire others by living the company values and instilling an inspirational and dynamic company culture.
  • Know and understand the impact they are having on other people.
  • Build relationships in place of the relentless pursuit of goals and let goal achievement occur as a result of those relationships.
  • Manage themselves and their emotions with a high degree of emotional intelligence.
  • Treat others with kindness.
  • Be no stranger to the “shop floor”. Be visible, know your employees by name and show appreciation on a regular basis.

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 are lots of good things in the world, but I’m not sure that comradeship is not the best of them all — to know that you can do something big for another chap.” Sir Ernest Shackleton

Shackleton’s leadership legacy lives on today, despite having lived 100 years ago. Shackleton not only understood the value of comradeship in the team, living it through his own approach and through his expectations of each and every one of his crew. We need to come back to the simplicity of treating humans as humans and serving each other and back to the future where leaders put their followers health, wellbeing and livelihoods before that of their own.

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.

Dr Rashid A. Buttar is the person I would choose to have breakfast or lunch with. He is one of the medical doctors who has embraced the integrative approach to healthcare. As a medical doctor who specialized in emergency care and surgery, he understands the power of the body and mind to heal itself and rather than using a sticking plaster approach he looks at the whole person and facilitates healing through alternative and complimentary approaches with important lifestyle changes that restore inner harmony and balance between mind, body and soul.

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?

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