Machine learning capabilities are another area that has not yet come to market with its full capabilities.
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 Sander Barens, Chief Product Officer at Expereo.
Sander’s career in Telecom started in 1997. Having worked in different managerial positions in AT&T and BT Global Services, Sander joined Expereo in 2007 in Singapore. Sander became CCO in 2018 and CPO in 2022.
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.
I started out my career not in a corporate setting but in the Dutch navy. This was a very strict and structured environment, but a large part of my training as an officer was actually around how to work with people and motivate them to work as a team. This was a large part of my day-to-day operations as an officer, and that training was beneficial during my time in the navy and afterward.
Another experience that has had an influence on me, was once I started my career with Expereo establishing a new team in Singapore in 2007. Here, I was coming into a completely different culture than the one I grew up in. While working to understand that culture, I had to build a team that had a global background and work to find common ground among our team members.
These experiences impacted who I am today as a person and a leader because they taught me how to effectively build a team and motivate that team to reach a common goal. In the military and since starting my time at Expereo, I have learned that if you cannot get people excited about the task, they will not feel motivated and equipped to reach that goal. And the key that I learned was how to motivate those employees in an authentic manner and a way that is truly impactful for them.
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?
Looking at the future of work, and the workplace, it depends largely on the industry. For example, in retail, the human connection of asking for opinions and interacting with salespeople is an aspect of that industry that many consumers have missed throughout the pandemic. The pandemic showed us how important human connection is to the workplace, but also how flexible working can improve productivity for some people. But just as some employees do not want to work exclusively in an office, many do not want to work from home full-time. But human connection, will remain a key component of specific industries to some leve, regardless of how advanced technology becomes. However, in other industries, technology will allow employees to work remotely and globally, which will dramatically change specific workplaces.
The future workforce and workplace will have struck the right balance between in-person and remote work that will work for employees and employers alike. And this will happen across industries, regardless of how much they rely on human connection. For industries like retail that require large amounts of human interaction, the introduction of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will change how these industries function. And other industries will continue to better connect and serve their customers through these advances in technology and others.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Organizations can “future-proof” themselves by building a brand that their people are willing to and are excited to stand behind. Because in the future, what is even more important than where your people are working from is what work they’re doing. If you can motivate your team through your organization’s story and showcase their work is essential, you will have a successful team.
Especially in today’s hiring market, emphasizing your company’s brand and story means being flexible on where you hire talent from and from where they work. But what’s more important than where your employees work from is how you as an organization equip them for the work that they are doing. This means that you have the proper storyline and support internally to back up what attracted that great talent to your organization in the first place.
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?
The most significant gap that I see right now in what employees need to do their job efficiently and what employers offer is the technology required for employees to excel in the workplace. To have an efficient team, your employees need to be able to collaborate effectively, and they need technology that will allow that process to happen seamlessly. However, through good listening skills and some research, this should be an easy gap for employers to bridge.
Employers today need to invest in effective technology that will allow their employees to replicate the “whiteboard” experience, but from anywhere on the globe. There has been plenty of innovation in this space over the last few years — primarily due to the pandemic — but there is still plenty of work to be done. As a technology leader in your business, discuss capability needs across all of your teams and with suppliers and clients. By listening to what capabilities those stakeholders want, you can effectively work towards finding partners that will help you work towards those goals.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
When we embarked on our work-from-home journey, I believe a few things became apparent in the workplace. One of those things is how different generations of workers handle work. I have children who are about to head off to university, so I want very different things out of my work experience than younger talent today on how and where I will grow my career. Another difference that arose from the work-from-home environment is how different age groups handle technology. Younger staff is much more comfortable utilizing digital technology today. In the future, they will not have an excellent grasp on the infrastructure and foundation of how that technology works.
These are not problems you can solve across the board as an organization, so in the future, organizations will need to remember that not all of their employees will adapt to new technology introductions — or legacy systems — the same way.
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? (ie. the impact of the Internet on society).
To support the future of work, employers will need to offer quick and stable internet connectivity. This means that the structure of the Internet will need to be significantly improved upon — on a global scale. The idea that broadband internet works for all applications across the globe — with great performance all the time — is simply not a reality. Any location anywhere on the world currently has a unique set of connectivity options, and this is still a bridge society needs to cross.
There is no one holy grail to make everyone connected in terms of digital collaboration, and enterprises need to consider what choices they make to improve overall experiences. Here, I consider the 3 W’s of connectivity — who, what, and where — to ensure that employees have the best results with their equipment and software.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
The power of technology truly has the ability to revolutionize the future of work (more than it already has today). Technology is genuinely ever-evolving; for example, it is in a completely different place than it was when I started my career in telecommunications in 1997.
5G is an exciting new technology, but it is still very much in its early days. The power of 5G has the potential to bring connectivity to a much larger and broader audience than we currently have the capability for today.
Another thing that brings me hope about the future of work is enterprises’ growing emphasis on sustainability. Things like how much energy digital connection utilizes should and have become a focus for enterprises; enterprises today are focused on reducing their environmental impact to leave a more positive impact on the future and preserve the globe for the next generation.
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?
One strategy that employers are not utilizing that could improve their employees’ mental health is ensuring that they feel supported with proper tools and procedures in the workplace. Especially as many employees transition to remote or hybrid work, their needs in regard to software and hardware to do their jobs effectively will undoubtedly change. Leaders need to make sure that they are having open and honest conversations with their employees about what their needs are in order to feel like they have the best training and support to do their jobs effectively.
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 main message leaders today should glean from headlines about ‘The Great Resignation’ or ‘The Great Reevaluation’ is that their employees will have a variety of motivations and rationale around why they come to work and how they approach the work that they do. The best way that a company leader can evolve and learn from the narrative around today’s workforce is to learn what motivates their team. When your team feels encouraged and motivated, they will perform well — and more importantly, they will find enjoyment in their work. These encouraging actions will help create a culture of passion among your employees not only in their individual work and contributions but help them believe in the mission of the organization as a whole.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- The top trend I see that will be vital to track in the future is the evolution of the Internet itself. The internet is the backbone that supports every other major innovation that can take place in the coming years. For example, if an enterprise is trying to take its business global, it needs to ensure that employees from Canada to Africa can utilize software and tools available to them in the same way, with the same performance.
- While artificial intelligence is in the early stages of development, there are so many more capabilities that I believe will be brought to market in the coming years.
- Machine learning capabilities are another area that has not yet come to market with its full capabilities.
- A rising trend that will significantly influence the future of work is the power of data and how data capabilities impact our daily lives. While many workers today utilize and sift through data daily, many more workers will practice that in the future. As data becomes easier to filter and understand, it becomes more pivotal in everyone’s work life.
- A trend that has become more discussed but needs to be even more talked about in today’s world of work is environmental and social governance. To move forward constructively, the global family needs to align on sustainability goals that will protect the globe and leave it in a good place for future generations.
I keep quotes on my desk and scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?
“Live in the moment” is a quote that guides my life. This mantra is a daily reminder to myself not to be distracted by what I needed to accomplish the day before or need to aim for in the days ahead but to always focus on what is right in front of me.
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?
The best way to stay up to date on my work with Expereo, blog posts, and more is LinkedIn page! Feel free to connect with me there for updates!
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.