I believe employees want to be seen for who they are both within and apart from their work. A professional environment that acknowledges employees are simultaneously building their career and building their life has the opportunity to align benefits and incentives to the things that really matter to their employees — while leveraging these high value incentives around what is best for the organization.

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 Tara Clever.

Tara is the Senior Vice President Marketing & Partnerships at MarginEdge. She has a diverse background in sales, operations, and marketing with a history of architecting catalytic growth. Prior to joining MarginEdge, she spent the majority of her career across the health and wellness vertical with a heavy emphasis on digital acquisition, experiential marketing, and brand development.

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 went to graduate school to play Uno. Well I went to graduate school to help children cope with being in the hospital using principles of behavioral psychology and a fundamental belief in the power of play as a therapeutic modality — which meant that the first five years of my career did in fact include a lot of Uno.

Like any bright-eyed recent grad, I believed that my rigor in graduate school, dual certifications and nine months interning at North Carolina Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill would result in a life-long career as a Child Life Specialist. Why spend that kind of money and time on education and training if it wasn’t forever?

Said almost every college graduate ever.

I loved my work and spent every day humbled to have an opportunity to serve children and families as they navigated an extremely stressful path. But as life has a way of tweaking the best laid plans of twenty-somethings and as my mom took over care of my grandfather as he approached the end of his life, I knew I needed to get home.

Home meant taking any job I could get which was the first of many turns on what has become a very winding career path.

That first fork in the road led to the land of sales and sales management, which then branched to operations and those two paths came back together to form a career in growth. I absolutely believe I could not do what I do today if I had not walked the sales and operation roads before arriving in the land of marketing and growth — and none of it would be possible without the powerful perspective that the years I spent bedside with my Uno deck and Barbies made on my life and worldview.

When I hire I look for winding roads — for folks who found their path led by their talents and were willing to step through unexpected doors that opened for them. It is a fundamental and foundational piece of who I am as a person — and as a professional — and has proven to be a powerful pattern matching in my career.

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 believe that people want to connect meaning to their work and I don’t believe any advancement in technology or career landscape will change that. I think the best organizations are the ones that commit to this principle as a central strategy.

I do believe the way we work will change. I believe technology will commoditize things that are skilled work today and that the hybrid workforce is here to stay.

I also believe that these changes will put a higher value on the personal/purpose connection to work.

As we move faster I think the slow will matter more.

As more things are automated I think the human will matter more.

As more things become typed, messaged and Zoomed that eye to eye contact and handshakes will matter more.

Technology will radically transform how we work over the next 10–15 years but not who we are, and I think the best workplaces will find ways to build the things that celebrate and maximize connection and purpose while balancing the benefits of speed and efficiency that technology will bring.

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

I believe curiosity and humility are the key ingredients to future proofing your product, your team and your organization. In any upward movement career trajectory there is a higher and higher expectation to “know” everything. You are hired because presumably you’ve seen and done what your new team needs before. They are hiring your playbook. They are hiring your promise of instant impact.

I think this is an inherently risky view.

The world is changing so rapidly that any playbook is outdated by the time you’ve written it. If there is a “you’ve done this before” expectation, it places outsized weight on selection and confirmation bias.

I think the best leaders hire people who make them feel at least a little embarrassed about their own abilities (this is actually a requirement for me on my team — I always want to feel out-skilled by the people around me). I think senior leaders should be the most comfortable being uncomfortable and emphasize the importance of trying new tools, strategies and approaches. It can be counterintuitive for the most experienced to be first in line to start from scratch, to try, to experiment — but I think it models the right behavior and makes a culture of curiosity innate within the team.

I look for people with curiosity over those with literal experience — if you can prove you’ve worked and built in an uncertain environment before then I’d emphasize that previous experience well ahead of replicating your previous work.

Permission to be open to what you don’t know and space to explore is a potent and powerful ingredient to longevity.

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?

I believe employees want to be seen for who they are both within and apart from their work. A professional environment that acknowledges employees are simultaneously building their career and building their life has the opportunity to align benefits and incentives to the things that really matter to their employees — while leveraging these high value incentives around what is best for the organization.

I do not think there is, or ever will be, a one size fits all benefits package or some set of universal incentives that work for every person or organization. What I do believe is that the best organizations will prioritize a constant calibration of their benefits to align with employee (and prospective employee) feedback, and ensure these benefits are connected to the central goals of the organization.

If flexibility matters most to your workforce and efficiency matters most to the organization, tie the two together. They do not have to be opposing viewpoints. Hire with time management as a central skillset, design incentives around efficiency goals, celebrate moments when both exist.

The benefits your key employees are going to vary by industry, by stage in their career, by where they live and how they design their life — and the strategic goals of your organization are going to be just as varied. Close the gap by being open and flexible around the benefits that matter most, and ensure your goals are tied directly to them.

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

I’d argue that the pandemic and working from home took the baton from the gig economy in the race for a redefined workforce. I think AI and Gen Z are positioned to take the next leg of the race from here.

The evolution and transformation of work — and technology’s role as catalyst — is not new. The pandemic wasn’t a technology advancement but it certainly was a forcing function for technology innovation and adoption.

I think there are near-term implications current trends will bring to the workforce — a continued refinement of a hybrid work environment, a premium placed on flexibility and balance, acquiescence to the demands of a younger workforce who expects fundamentally different relationship with their work, the impact of AI in how we structure our work, roles and organizations and many others.

I think the broader story is workplaces that listen to their team, respond to shifts in the macro and micro environment and are willing to hold plans loosely because inevitably change is coming will be better positioned to respond to and capitalize on trends.

We know talent is the most scarce resource — the more leaders can protect and build their talent pool, even if it means setting aside their preferences and biases, will be the ones that win.

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?

My background is in health and wellness so I admit I am biased when it comes to the importance of wellbeing in the workplace, but I believe that it is one of the most powerful tools we have access to. For a world obsessed with profit and efficiency, it boggles my mind longevity of employees is not a more serious consideration.

In my world every member of my team has a creative element to their role. If they are in 8 hours of meetings or if they are so under water in their work, they absolutely will not be able to think beyond what is in front of them.

It’s almost like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs — Workplace Edition. In order to get the top performance from your team, their basic workplace needs must be met.

In my view things like movement, sleep, stress level and balance are fundamental components of the bottom of that pyramid. Prioritizing those basic workplace needs will look different for every person and every organization, but an acknowledgement that sometimes more is not more, and space/balance can create higher performance, is essential.

I also believe that modeling this behavior is a powerful tool leaders have in their toolbox.

I work best in the early mornings, so I start my day a couple of hours before everyone is online. Every member of my team — including our Executive team — knows that I sign off around 4:30 p.m. to go exercise. I am a better employee when I prioritize movement and a schedule that works best for my brain and body.

My hope is that it empowers those around me to set the same boundaries in whatever version creates the healthiest work environment for them. I truly (truly) believe that this inspires higher quality work and a higher quality work experience.

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 work with an Executive Coach (could absolutely not recommend this more — especially for leaders in high growth environments) and I was sharing something I had been struggling with over the course of a few sessions. He’d already patiently listened, reflected back and offered some perspective on potential paths forward. In our most recent conversation he said this somewhat offhandedly but as soon as he said it I knew it would be something I kept with me for the rest of my career.

He said, “Stuck is not a leadership move. You have agency.”

I say this to myself multiple times a day, whenever I feel bogged down or external forces have me feeling a little stuck — as a leader I have agency, I have control, and staying passive/stuck/stationary is a choice. It is really empowering and has helped me reframe situations to identify what I can do to impact change and what I do have control over.

If I consider myself a leader (and I do) then I have the ability and responsibility to recognize and lean into my agency, even if it isn’t the easy choice and especially when the next step feels unclear.

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 an avid follower of Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway and it would be an incredible experience to take them from my consistent commuting partners in my headphones to a conversation over lunch.

I also find Casey Newton’s writing/reporting (Platformer) to be some of the best out there. I’d love it if we could invite him to lunch too (I think he knows Kara and Scott so hopefully an easy RSVP!).

And if the table is big enough let’s include Reid Hoffman — a friend to all of the above and also a consistent voice in my commuting headphones. His Masters of Scale podcast shaped the way I think about my work and was extremely formative in the early stages of my time in startups. Now I’m just a fan and seek out almost anything he contributes to, especially his takes on AI.

I think between these four there would be a lot of laughter and more thoughtful, forward thinking commentary on pretty much any subject that made it sway to the lunch table.

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?

Tara Clever

[email protected]


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