Digital experiences will be the top priority for employers and employees.

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 Ramesh Ramani.

Ramesh Ramani is the CEO and president of ExpertusONE, a leading cloud-based learning management system (LMS). With more than two decades of experience in the learning and development industry, Ramani brings expert thought leadership to the digital training world. As CEO, he determines the overall strategic direction for ExpertusONE and sets the tone for learning technology leaders across the globe.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. 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?

Digital transformation sped up the shifts and changes we’ve experienced in the working world. With rapid access to information, more voices contributing to dialogues about work, and new workplace technologies, we have more variety in our work options than ever before. This, ultimately, has been good for both employers and employees. Rapid transformation and the digitalization of the working world have resulted in greater focus for organizations and greater flexibility for workers.

In 10 to 15 years, I believe we will have some of the same values at work. For example, flexibility and personalization are two newer values (spurred on by digitalization and pandemic-era work requirements) that will stick with us. Employees have come to expect flexibility and personalization at work, which will only increase in value with time. Web3 and the metaverse will further enable these values. Technology has become an integral part of the work experience, and there is no going back. We will always be tech-dependent in the working world, though I believe we will be more strategic with technology in the coming years.

As for what will be different, I imagine that both employers and employees will be more strategic about work. In the last decade, many companies have cobbled together digital technology to function in the digital working world. While this was logical in the beginning — rapid digitalization meant most corporate leaders were learning about digital workplace technology simultaneously — it resulted in many disjointed digital strategies and systems. Companies now have too many tech systems that do not function well or add to the employee experience (often, they detract). In the next 10 to 15 years, we will see companies implementing more strategic processes at work, and tech will be the support system that enables success. Similarly, employees become more choosy about the companies they work for and the work that they do. Employees already have more options than ever before, and this will only increase in the next decade.

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

If employers want to future-proof their organizations, they must focus on the employee experience. This means engineering a positive employee experience into every element of the work environment, from the onboarding experience to HR-led initiatives, to the everyday functions of a role. The employee experience must be central to the company’s strategy. We’ve already seen the impact of a competitive talent market — employees (even now) have endless job opportunities, and each offer is more competitive than the last. This is good for employees and challenging for employers. Leaders must invest in the employee experience if they want to future-proof their organizations. This is an increasingly digital initiative because employees now rely on technology to achieve everyday tasks. Even further, with more companies adopting remote and hybrid work styles, digital experiences are critical to the success of organizations.

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?

Digital experiences may be the most significant gap between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect. Despite our increased reliance on tech to function at work, it can still be challenging to get executive-level leadership to sign on for new technologies or approve the implementation of new systems and processes. These are essential, company-defining decisions, but they must go up the chain of command before they can be approved. Even further, there’s a disconnect between the tech offerings that employees want and the ones that employers tend to offer. (PwC’s research highlights this.)

The best way to bridge this gap is to go back to the basics. This can be more complex than it sounds. Even though most companies have fully equipped tech stacks and a library of tech resources to support a digital experience, many companies do not have synergy between systems. In the future of work, leaders must pare back systems and determine the essentials. I predict that companies will use fewer types of software, but their choices will be more comprehensive: they’ll look for all-inclusive digital technology that can serve multiple user types, functions, and work styles.

Going back to the basics — in order to refine the tech stack — will mean that leaders must identify the most business-critical functions and prioritize the technology that supports them. Training will always be part of this equation. It’s a consistent thread throughout the employee experience, from onboarding to continuing education. Training is both a strategic function for companies and a value addition for employees.

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

Remote and hybrid workstyles have already transformed how we think about work. There is no going back. We are already living in the “future of work” because so many companies have adopted these new workstyles.

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?

Many of the cultural and societal changes we’ve seen in the last handful of years — like the preference for work flexibility or purpose-driven careers — will impact the future of work. As we grow into an even more digital working world, we need to build trust into the employment equation. In many contexts, employers and employees are at odds. There is a very clear push and pull between what employees expect and what employers are willing to offer. Most modern employees have long lists of requirements to be happy in their jobs (and to stay loyal to their companies). Many employees are watching global leaders push back on these expectations, like forcing people to return to the office or cutting back on staff and have become concerned about their standing at their own companies. Right now, employees have less trust in their employers. On the flip side, employers don’t trust their remote employees, and some companies are even implementing monitoring software to keep tabs on workers.

This trust equation must balance out if we (leaders, companies, employees, etc.) are to thrive in the next era of work. We must build trust between employees and employers, especially in the digital world. This practice must start now so we can get ahead of the challenges that will come with implementing web3 and the metaverse.

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

My greatest source of optimism about the future of work is that we already have brilliant innovators building digital systems to support us. In the last few years, we witnessed strategic thinkers rise to the occasion to build tools that serve organizational needs and employee needs at the same time.

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?

A lack of organization can cause frustration in the workplace, and disconnection between employees and leadership can increase stress. Companies must demonstrate to their teams that the company is working to support employees in their workflows through active changes to organization and processes.

Streamlining workflows, integrating technology, and making the digital workspace a positive experience all come together to support employees’ mental health and well-being. The strategy driving the success of these initiatives is personalization. We have already seen this at play and will continue to see personalization as a theme throughout positive employee experiences. Companies must be adaptable and flexible to support employees’ mental health and well-being. Employees must be able to have personalized experiences at work, from flexibility around hours to the resources (like access to training) they are provided with. Even further, employees are looking for a purpose in their work. They want to be connected to a mission. It is the responsibility of corporate leaders to demonstrate the organization’s value system and the mission driving the work.

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 most important lesson leaders need to hear from these headlines is that a change has already occurred. We are not anticipating changes to employee expectations. Employee expectations have changed. Companies must adapt, and they must adapt quickly. Employees hold the power in the modern work landscape, but this is good news for companies. With more power in the hands of employees, companies can build trust with their teams, provide flexibility, and transform their work functions to create better experiences and drive company success.

Employee centricity is not a bad thing. On the contrary, employee-centricity benefits companies by allowing leaders to reevaluate processes, adapt based on employee needs, and create better work environments. Yes, this is a forced prioritization in some ways (companies must respond to employees’ new priorities), but it has caused a positive change.

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

  1. Companies will be held to higher standards.

Companies are already held to a higher standard now than they were a decade ago. Corporate social responsibility is expected everywhere; even further, employees want to work for value-driven companies. We have seen the beginnings of this trend, but I believe it’s one to watch because we will see more companies develop their missions and value statements or more companies built on impactful missions. It will be an exciting time to be an employee because value-driven companies will bring employees into the decision-making process and seek out employees who share the company culture and mission.

2. Digital experiences will be the top priority for employers and employees.

The prioritization of the digital experience will be constant over the next few years because it is something we have lacked in the last decade. Digital experiences will serve both employers and employees, though I imagine they will articulate it differently. For employers, prioritizing the digital experience will be driven by improving business outcomes, streamlining processes, retaining employees, and creating better customer relationships. The investment in digital experiences will, for companies and leaders, be an important part of any growth. For employees, digital experiences will be the whole of their work — not creating them (unless, perhaps, employees work in tech), but the digital experience will be their work. Whether employees operate remotely or in an office, their use of digital technology will connect them to their work. Because of this, employees will choose to work at companies that offer connected digital experiences. They will be loyal to companies that prioritize the employee digital experience. They will be more engaged in their work because of the digital experience.

3. Personalization will be ubiquitous.

Everything will be personalized, and we (consumers, workers, leaders, etc.) will expect it everywhere. We’ve already seen how consumers in the digital space expect a degree of personalization in their shopping experiences (Accenture studied this a few years ago). The same will be true for the future of work. Employees will require personalized experiences, companies will work to create personalized experiences, and it will be a key component of the global workplace culture we participate in. Personalization will keep employees engaged and team members aligned. It sounds counterintuitive, but personalized experiences will actually unite workers and companies.

4. Employees will hold the power because they know how much value they bring to their companies.

This is the crux of the issue we are discussing today: employees are becoming more powerful. Our concept of power and influence in the working world has changed. Freelance and gig work are on the rise, and, as a result, employees aren’t limited in options. This gives employees power and autonomy, even if they are currently working for larger companies. Employees have demonstrated incredible power and influence on the state of work in the last three years. Can you count the number of employee experience headlines you’ve read? Employees will continue to carry more power in the future of work.

5. Companies with ineffective digital strategies will lose out on top talent.

Employees want to work for the best of the best in their industries. Companies that do not prioritize digital innovation or do not maintain updated digital strategies will lose out on top talent as others push forward. Innovation will be a competitive advantage and a critical component of talent recruiting.

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?

“You can manifest anything” is a quote that has inspired me throughout my life. It has reminded me that I have power to make changes as things happen and to be an adaptable person. As an entrepreneur and business leader, this is an incredibly important mindset — things rarely go according to plan when you’re building a company. You have to be adaptable.

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.

I’d like to meet with Elon Musk to ask him about his thoughts on the future of work and employee experiences. He has vocalized some unique perspectives about this, and I’d like to hear more of his reasoning.

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?

Read my column for Forbes or connect with me via LinkedIn.

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