More of a need to keep conversations going between employer and employee continuously growing.
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 Sharath Jeevan.
Sharath Jeevan OBE is a world-leading expert on Intrinsic Leadership & Motivation, and the Founder & Executive Chairman of Intrinsic Labs. Supporting organisations and leaders all around the world to solve deep motivational challenges, Sharath has worked with governments, leading universities and high-profile corporations, from L’Oreal to the London School of Economics. He is the author of ground-breaking book “Intrinsic” and was awarded an OBE in the 2022 Queen’s New Year’s Honours for founding and leading STiR Education, arguably the world’s largest intrinsic motivation initiative.
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.
Thank you for having me!
I think growing up in India and spending my summers there was a hugely significant factor in shaping who I am today. Seeing people my own age not realising their potential influenced my fascination in later life around how we can create environments where everyone has the opportunity to realise their own potential. This has been central to my career.
Another formative experience was running STiR education from 2012, an international NGO that supports education systems in India and Uganda to reignite intrinsic motivation in teachers. My experiences grappling with questions of what motivates people while working with 200,000 teachers made me realise money was not a motivator in itself. It was not enough. This triggered my interest in intrinsic motivation and how to ignite this through Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery.
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?
I think that hybrid work is here to stay. People want to keep this flexibility and so a mix of in person and virtual will be a permanent feature of work.
I think we will be seeking a deeper connection to work as a result of this. Hybrid conditions have made work more transactional. Similarly to online dating, the shift towards virtual creates transactional relationships that often lack meaning and interpersonal connections. I think we will begin to see how this is affecting people, and see employees longing for more connection.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Be conscious of culture. It is so important that we are there for customers and clients. We need to try and ground staff by reminding everyone that the people we are serving are also going through a hard time, and we are all together in this. These reminders are helpful in terms of purpose and motivation and will help build long term direction.
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?
Obviously there will be significant limits on financials in the coming months. In the past it was easier for leaders to throw money around to try to increase motivation and satisfaction at work, which can create unhealthy and unsustainable dynamics.
The ability for employers to meet employee expectations when it comes to hygiene factors (e.g swanky office spaces, big bonuses or expensive coffee machines) may be compromised in the financial climate, however there can be positive outcomes to this in terms of company culture and motivation.
There should be a lot more creativity unleashed in terms of the non-financial side of the equation and how we will motivate our workforces. Employers will have to consider how we can give employees more autonomy or chances to upskill in order to create motivational purpose. There is a lot companies can do that requires very little money but a lot of intentional leadership.
Conversations between employers and employees will continue to change to be more collaborative. This relationship should be seen like a marriage rather than a one way street. Both company purpose and employee purpose need to be fulfilled, and help each other do so. Employers must bring that together to ensure both sets of purposes are being satisfied.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
We should be really proud of our adaptability throughout the pandemic and the unprecedented situation.
I think before this adaptability was shown through our survival mode, but we will see it transform into creativity in the new world of work. In the coming months, we need to really think about which elements of work need to be done alone and what should be done synchronously in the new world of work.
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?
A lot of it will be around geography — our taxation systems are not always ready for remote working or moving between countries, which is becoming more common in this remote world. I think we will see a more fluid relationship with work with less friction in the labor market.
I think our education systems will need to prepare people for the independence and self motivation that working from home requires. It is also crucial we think about how we can bring those not working back into the workforce? This is a very important economic lever.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
I think the workforce now is very efficient; we are able to do so much in short spaces of time and we are seeing amazing collaboration, with both employers and employees benefitting and growing together. This makes me hopeful for the future of work.
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 previous years we have focused a lot on work-life balance. While this is important, in my research I found a strong trend that how we work is most important. Purpose and motivation in our working hours and feeling we are making a tangible difference is what truly creates satisfaction in our work. Employers need to reframe how those within their organizations see work in order to enhance wellbeing and job satisfaction.
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?
Leaders need to move away from cultures where a small number of employees are truly engaged and strive towards having deep engagement for everyone. Leaders must ask themselves: how do we ensure everyone is engaged and fulfilling their true potential?
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
These are the top 5 trends I see:
1. I’d love to get to a place where the intrinsic (non-financial) “package” is as important as the financial one and we coach bonuses and increments not just in purely financial terms but in terms of factors that deepen our connection and belonging at work.
2. More personalisation of work to individual employee needs.
3. Leaders thinking beyond financial.
4. More hybrid working opportunities.
5. More of a need to keep conversations going between employer and employee continuously growing.
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 began my book “Intrinsic” with a wonderful quote from Elizabeth Kubler Ross: “People are like stained glass windows, they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, there true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within”.
I like this quote because both Leadership & Motivation have to come from within.
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.
Federer made a real impact in his sport, and I must have spent hundreds of hours watching him.
He isn’t considered the greatest in his sport in terms of titles and medals, but the way he played reinvented tennis and increased its popularity. It wasn’t what he did but how he did it that is significant — I think this can be applied to businesses too.
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?
My book Intrinsic explores many of these ideas further and is available on amazon.
You can also follow me on Linkedin and Twitter @sharathjeevan_
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.