Overlapping Skills: Employers are seeking people who can wear many hats and take on various tasks should they need to shift responsibilities within the company.

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 Sean Macari.

Sean Macari founded Valiant Search last year in part to fill a gap in the market. He said it’s the only firm north of New York City that specializes in recruiting for the legal industry, and law firms upstate may need some help with a post-pandemic hiring wave.

As the pandemic begins to subside, Macari said he foresees a lot of activity in the job market as firms start hiring again and people feel more comfortable changing jobs.

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?

When it comes to things that will probably remain the same, I would say the integration of hybrid work. Having the flexibility of in-office collaboration along with the ability to work on individual projects at home or in remote locations is simply too convenient to fully write off in the post-COVID workplace.

As far as differences are concerned, I think that there will be less of a need for paralegals and legal assistants. The use of law bots and AI to process paperwork, draft documents, and file electronically with the courts is rapidly growing. Support departments that have 10 employees now could have closer to 2–3 in the future.

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

My only piece of advice for employers would be to really try and be flexible — more specifically — allow your employees to assert their needs individually. Employers must break out of trying to fit their employees into a specific mold and let them create a workplace experience that fosters creativity and growth without sacrificing productivity. By fostering this kind of creative and nurturing work environment, you can easily adapt and work with your employees for whatever the future holds.

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?

One trend I’ve recently begun to notice, and think will continue to widen the gap in the future between law firms and employees, is the reluctance of some to change and adapt to new technologies in the workplace. They think, “Why fix what’s working for us?” Younger employees may be deterred by a firm’s inability to adapt.

On the same note, when it comes to reconciling those gaps, I’d recommend that employers consider technology updates and advancements as routine maintenance to optimize the wellbeing of their employees. Staying competitive with tech resources is an underrated strategic move for firms and legal departments.

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

Working from home may be the future, but the employee experience is becoming more important than the paycheck. Collaboration and personal connection are two factors that are extremely important to employees seeking to improve their workplace culture, and they can be difficult to achieve virtually.

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?

Similar to the future-proofing question, I think the need for flexibility from employers when it comes to their employees’ working preferences and habits is paramount for creating the kind of future you are asking about. I think many firms/employers have woken up to this idea, those that have not would need to become more accepting of an individual’s working preference and overcome these traditional workplace stigmas in order to create a future that works for everyone.

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

A lot of companies and firms seem to realize the need to adapt to the rising expectations of candidates, and we have seen employers and candidates come to a middle ground when negotiating. Considering that both parties are willing to come together and make their expectations known, it leads me to believe that the future of work in the U.S. is bright.

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?

Issues surrounding mental health and wellbeing are relatively new when it comes to the workplace. I’d say it’s hard to pinpoint one exact trick or secret to help optimize employees’ well-being. That being said, I’d say that virtual teambuilding might be the new way companies and firms try to bring their offices together and relieve stress. For those who have returned to work, consider holding some lighter in-person events, such as bringing in a massage therapist or doing something small to get people talking and connecting.

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?

Easy, the most important takeaway for leaders is that employees have a voice/choice and are using it to improve their work situation. I think that in order to adapt to this movement, companies will need to put in a bit more effort when it comes to attracting and maintaining top talent.

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

  1. Benefits: The US is one of the very few developed countries that does not have universal healthcare, and the pandemic exacerbated this issue. Candidates are extremely hesitant to accept positions with poor benefits these days, and that trend will only continue.
  2. Flexible Hours: Despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, the pandemic showed us that flexibility can exist in the workplace. We have noticed that candidates with children are extremely hesitant to accept positions that do not offer some practical flexibility.
  3. Professional development/Learning Opportunities: Many people are pursuing different careers or making a change in their field following the pandemic, and access to professional development and other learning opportunities will become a great attractor in “the future of work.” Speaking from what I’ve seen, no one likes to be in an industry that they know nothing about. By increasing your employee’s expertise through these opportunities, they will not only become more versatile but also have more confidence in their work as well.
  4. Overlapping Skills: Employers are seeking people who can wear many hats and take on various tasks should they need to shift responsibilities within the company.
  5. Value of Higher Education: Many people believe that bachelor’s degrees are depreciating in value, but for different reasons. In one camp, you have those who feel bachelor’s degrees are worthless due to the need for a master’s (or higher), and then you have the thriving technology sector that values demonstrable skills over a degree (many large tech companies dropped their GPA minimum, for example). As recruiters, we generally place a greater focus on skills and experience. It will be interesting to see which side this favors 5–10 years down the road, particularly in more traditionalist employment sectors.

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?

While not something that has necessarily changed my perspective on life, one quote that I always keep close at hand is from Michigan’s head football coach, Jim Harbaugh, “Attack each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!” I think this quote speaks for itself. It’s a strong motivator for me and my team; a great way to jump start the workday!

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.

Jim Harbaugh. If not for the quote, because I’m a huge Michigan football fan. Go Wolverines!

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?

Our company is always looking to spark conversations about hiring trends and the future of work on our social media channels, particularly on LinkedIn. Our staff is constantly writing blog posts on our website about hiring trends, updates on work-life balance for both associate and executive level employees, and general tips and tricks for getting hired in this extremely competitive job market. We always encourage people to reach out via email to discuss our hiring opportunities as well!

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