The future of work will no longer involve arriving at an office and knowing exactly what the task is and how to do it. Coming to work will mean identifying what the problem is and creating a solution for it that may not already exist. The employees of the future need to constantly be thinking ahead about what they’re doing, how they could make it easier, and how the task is evolving. Job roles and job descriptions will be fluid, and our mentality needs to adjust.

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 Sue Sedrel.

As Vice President of Human Resources, Susan (Sue) Sedrel is a champion for developing and enhancing the Involta culture. Her efforts have been integral to Involta’s local and national recognition as a leading cloud and IT services company. Sue has been instrumental in developing the Involta culture since the company’s inception in 2007. She has a passion for cultivating “People Who Deliver” through organizational effectiveness and education initiatives, including mentorship, advanced certifications and interpersonal training. Sue continues to expand and nurture Involta’s world-class team through talent acquisition, recognition and development. She also works to develop the next generation of female IT leaders by volunteering with Girls, Inc. of Pinellas County, FL.

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.

Looking back at my career, one of the biggest turning points was earning my college degree. I worked in the financial sector for several years and had a successful career. Still, I eventually realized I wouldn’t be able to advance much further in the organization without a bachelor’s degree. The impetus for going back to school was simply to open more doors for me professionally, but it turned into so much more than that — my whole life changed. Not only did my entire career trajectory take on a new direction, but I met my husband. I grew as a person in so many amazing ways, and my outlook on life transformed through the process.

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?

In 10 to 15 years I predict the types of jobs available will be different. Automation, Big Data, and the Internet of Things are going to eliminate many of the more straightforward tasks people are doing right now. But that doesn’t mean the workplace, and the challenges of the workplace, will be fundamentally different because the workplace will always involve people trying to solve problems. Regardless of the tools you’re using or the jobs you’re doing, managing people will always be a challenging part of any organization trying to reach a goal. People will always have ambitions and emotions, and they’ll always need to be analyzing information to generate new ideas. Even in an evolving work landscape, those elements of an organization aren’t going away.

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

Strong workplace culture is the best support channel to tackle future changes or challenges an organization may face. Regardless of the problem, it will be more challenging to solve without trust and accountability within your teams. Organizations are wise to pay close attention to cultivating that kind of healthy, responsible workplace culture ahead of time to support the company for the future.

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 of the most critical gaps to address between employers and employees is who in the organization is empowered to come forward with their ideas. As I’ve mentioned before, straightforward tasks are going away, which means workforces will be more engaged with multifaceted problem-solving. As workplace problems become more complex, organizations need all employees to think creatively and strategically about the best ways for the company to reach their goals — not just those in executive leadership positions. Leaders need to be comfortable listening to frontline members, creating diverse project teams, and encouraging fresh solutions to emerge from all parts of the company. If a communication gap arises between employers and employees, the organization will suffer.

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

When people talk about remote work, most of the attention is paid to where people are working. However, I believe the changes that come with remote work have just as much to do with when people are working. Working from home often means working different hours. Maybe the daycare isn’t open yet, so you start an hour later, or the buses aren’t running, so you need to stop an hour early. The future of work means more scheduling flexibility. I think we’re going to see a job market where flexibility is the most important thing employees are looking for, even ranked higher than salary. Employees are experiencing an adjustment phase in their work-life balance, and employers need to be prepared to adapt to that.

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?

Continuing from my last response, I think we’ll start to see other institutions provide more flexibility in the same way that the workplace does. People’s lives are changing in general — in the workplace, sure, but it also extends to their family life, in their recreational time, all over — so the flexibility needs to extend beyond the workplace. I gave the previous example of a parent needing a flexible workplace to accommodate different childcare logistics. Building on that notion, childcare should and hopefully will also become more flexible with pick-up and drop-off times, extended hours, and more options overall. Parents are now experiencing more variance in the work part of their work-life balance, so I think the life part of their work-life balance is also in flux to respond to those changes.

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

I think the future will bring far more personal developmental opportunities for the average employee. I believe people get the best out of their day when they can apply their brainpower to the fullest and have their voices heard. People in the workplace are better off when they get to be creative and use that creativity to solve problems. When we apply ourselves in a more meaningful way, we are happier and more fulfilled. People want to use their strengths, use their skills, and feel challenged at work. Because of automation, tedious, repetitive tasks and some entry-level jobs are going away — that means there will be more jobs where people have the opportunity to gain new skills, think of new ways to accomplish goals and come home at the end of the day feeling more valuable as a contributor.

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?

Technology is creating fascinating new ways to monitor and protect employee wellbeing. For instance, at Involta, we participated in a voluntary pilot program that uses an AI-generated phone call to check in on people periodically. The technology analyzes vocal deviations to detect early signs of things like chronic conditions, hospitalization risks, and extreme distress. For non-office remote workers, various forms of wearable technology can measure vital signs and send alerts if they reach unsafe levels. These types of technologies are still in their early stages, but I think they are a sign of where things are headed.

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?

At Involta, we have changed how we think about these headlines, and we call it The Great Transformation. We are embracing the idea that we need to do things differently than we have in the past — we are going to embrace the transformation of the way we work. One of the ways that is playing out right now at our organization is reskilling workers to be able to contribute to new workplace realities.

There are certain job roles that are going away, and it’s the employer’s responsibility to be able to transition workers from declining roles into the roles of the future. We’re making it a priority to give employees the tools they need to perform new job functions once automation has been integrated and applied to older ones. For instance, maybe two employees in two different positions were doing similar tasks. We are aiming to combine those jobs into one and create a combined department for that. So, employees are getting upskilled through training, receiving a pay increase for additional responsibilities, and taking a new role in the organization.

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

1: Automation

There just aren’t enough people to fill available jobs in the market right now. We see that across the board. So automation initiatives are trying to solve for some of those gaps. This is the root of several other trends right now.

At Involta, we want to eliminate boring, routine jobs. We should be able to automate remedial functions eventually. To accomplish this, we recently created a new department focused on automation, looking at the tools we currently have today to figure out how to make them work for us instead of us working on them. Our leadership team is putting together a roadmap and a foundation for how we can tackle the transformation.

2: Data Analytics

As more things become digitized and connected, more tools will be collecting more information to be parsed apart. There is so much data being captured every day from so many different places that somebody has to take that information and interpret what the next 30, 90, 365 days will look like based on the data. Every company, sometimes every department in a company, will need a data analytics person to take the data and make something out of it. It’s an emerging role that doesn’t exist right now, but it will in the future.

3: Problem-Solving Mindset

The future of work will no longer involve arriving at an office and knowing exactly what the task is and how to do it. Coming to work will mean identifying what the problem is and creating a solution for it that may not already exist. The employees of the future need to constantly be thinking ahead about what they’re doing, how they could make it easier, and how the task is evolving. Job roles and job descriptions will be fluid, and our mentality needs to adjust.

4: Diversity and Inclusion

Hybrid and remote workforces create a new challenge for diversity and inclusion; I’m going to call it location-based diversity and inclusion. First, because not everyone is in the same location, extra effort is required to include those that may not be physically sitting beside you in the workplace. Those individuals still need to be part of meaningful conversations, which takes a different kind of effort. Secondly, since employees do not necessarily need to be based in the office’s geographical location, the hiring pool is extended to include employees from other, different areas. Although the diversity will likely prove to be a strength for the team, many organizations may need further training regarding what it means to work with employees with diverse cultural backgrounds.

5: Sustainable Business Practices

The next generation is very interested in actively pursuing climate change initiatives. If organizations are hoping to attract high-end talent in the future, they need to address and include more sustainable business practices internally. I believe this is also true of external stakeholders. Customers and investors across industries are becoming increasingly demanding when it comes to environmental considerations. We’re now in a time where building green-based strategies and initiatives into your business plan are impossible to ignore, and that will only continue to expand.

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?

My personal motto is “be smart, be safe.” This mantra can be applied to small, day-to-day decisions and major life choices. When you’re being smart, you’re giving it your all and doing the right thing. And being safe to me, means if you are in an uncomfortable situation, get out of it. I say this to my son and even, at times, to my husband!

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’m interested in meeting a successful athlete. The mindset of a full-time athlete is so fascinating to me. Training so hard and for so long, for just a brief moment of payoff, is such an intense way to live your life, and I’d love to understand more about what it’s like to work towards achieving those types of goals.

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?

I try not to spend much time on social media, but if you want to check out what kind of workplace initiatives I’m involved in, please follow Involta on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

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