Internal Mobility — particularly in large or complex organizations employees will actually have more opportunity and there is a greater ability for retention because of this. The challenge is embracing this and having systems and tools which enable employees to identify new opportunities (which may be aligned to their skills) and enable some learning as part of transition or learning in preparation for transition.
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 Thomas Wythe, CIO of Go1.
Thomas has an engineering and consulting background that spans over two decades. As the CIO of corporate learning platform Go1, he executes IT initiatives and strategy, and focuses on building product and technical rapport with partners. Prior to assuming the CIO position he served as the VP of Transformation and SVP of Solutions.
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?
The most impactful experience was probably my first diagnosis of Autism. The realization that I had a different way of thinking about problems, managing people, developing connections. It is something I then went on to embrace and did my best to turn into a super power. This manifests itself in my reluctance to leave a problem alone and work at it until there is a solution or to look at a goal and immediately be able to literally visualize a process and physical steps to get there — like links in a chain or data flowing through a pipeline.
A common trait I get to see in so many amazing people I have worked with is when they genuinely and deeply understand their strengths and weaknesses and have been able to self-identify situations they know they will struggle in and ask for help or build the team or environment which best supports them and the goals of their business.
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?
The hybrid/remote work environment the world has adjusted to is something I see continuing well beyond the next 10 to 15 years. A significant portion of the workforce has adjusted to working in their own spaces and cutting out their office commute from their daily routine. Now that employees have proven they can be just as productive from their own homes, employers can’t expect them to return to the office daily without good reason; especially with all the accommodations that have been made to adapt to a remote work environment like in home offices, relocations, and childcare. But workplaces will have to continue to adapt to digital transformation as technology evolves. This will eventually affect the way workplaces train their employees and how they provide resources for learning & development (L&D). Apps such as TikTok and features like Instagram Reels have shown the appetite for microlearning. There’s a real demand for content that efficiently teaches new skills: that approach can change the current landscape of L&D. L&D programs will experiment with shorter form, ‘just-in-time’ content, in order to improve the accessibility and relevance of workplace learning. This will encourage employees to upskill and to explore new L&D topics that are important to them, such as interpersonal skills and horizontal topics of interest.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
It’s okay to engage with challenges that make you uncomfortable. In fact, you should be taking these challenges head on!. There will always be concerns amongst your peers when faced with these challenges. But if there is anything that “The Great Resignation” is teaching us, it’s that not moving with a changing world can feel the same as going backwards. Running your organization the same way you did in 2019 will feel three decades out of date, not three years. . Continue to raise the bar within your organization by implementing new culture programs, deploying new technologies, creating new roles etc.
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?
Employees have found comfort in working from home, so much so, it has become a non-negotiable for many. In fact, 52% of men and 60% of women are adamant about leaving their jobs if their companies don’t provide this perk. A key strategy to filling this gap is to stop thinking of remote work as a perk and more as a reality. Knowing that the workforce has been working remotely for the past 2 years, employers should trust that their employees will perform at the same rate as they did when they were in the office.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Even before the pandemic, remote work saw a 159% growth over the last 12 years. With that has come a lot of digital transformation: from how individuals apply for jobs to how companies operate day-to-day functions. Automation will continue to be a key driver in evolving many of the ways companies utilize their products and personalization will become key in many aspects of the workday. This can be as simple as email management, where employees are notified of the different time zones the person they’re communicating with is in. Remote work has brought personalization to the forefront, and businesses will soon be investing in different systems from unified communications to learning & development, that provide customizable experiences that allow employees to work in the best way possible that works for them individually.
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?
Companies have lost a record number of employees since the start of the pandemic powered by “The Great Resignation.” According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the trend picked up momentum again in November 2021, and a record 4.53 million Americans quit their jobs. While the go to solution for many employers may be recruitment, this is where change needs to be ignited. Employers need to have a paradigm shift of how they hire, and invest more in training for the employees they already have. Upskilling and reskilling will play a pivotal role in how “The Great Resignation” will come to an end. The workforce tends to focus heavily on the blue and white-collar workers, often forgetting the gray-collar worker which lives at the interaction of physical and technical skill. SMBs to Enterprises have a myriad of these employees, and with the right direction and tools, can fill roles that these companies have been having trouble filling. Whether it be training workshops, mentoring programs, or external speaker series, using these learning & development tools to fuel a culture of ongoing learning can help anchor the change needed to combat ongoing hurdles sparked from the pandemic.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
Our capacity for resilience. The way we work is probably changing forever but seeing how individuals, communities and businesses have adapted gives me immense optimism for the future not just in terms of how we work but what we can achieve — namely with balance and space to think which this new World and way of interaction can give us.
Q: 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?
A key way in how I see companies prioritizing their employees’ mental health and wellbeing is through providing a well thought out L&D program that takes a holistic approach to employee care. L&D programs that focus on personal growth are as key to a company’s function as the ones that tackle upskilling and reskilling. A mass adoption of programming that is centered around creating healthy personal and professional lives will be at the helm of providing employees with the resources they need to have a balance on their wellbeing. L&D leads who partner with content providers who specialize in stress management, meditation, and emotional skill building will help companies achieve their wellness goals. The integration of personal development with an employee’s professional development will enable a balance of employee care that isn’t being showcased enough in the current workforce.
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?
Listen to your employees.
The pandemic helped surface a more meaningful side to company culture — beyond happy hours and free lunches. ‘The Great Resignation’ has been powered by a workforce that has failed to listen to and recognize the value of their workplace’s contributions; and employers who read these headlines should understand that listening to their employees should be at the forefront of their decision making when it comes to company culture. This starts with remote work, considering 84% of remote workers prefer working from their homes, these policies should remain. The freedom that remote work has provided employees is something that will be hard to take back. Employees have not had to think about commuting, prepping meals, or looking for sitters since this remote work model has been put in place; not only that, but working from home has opened many doors for employees with disabilities. Outside of keeping a remote work model, employers need to think of their company cultures as fair compensation and flexible perks like vacation time and adoption assistance. There is no more office to offer in office yoga, employers need to take a moment to listen to the actual needs of their employees, and a simple way to start is through surveying to determine employee priorities and how the company can meet them.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- Internal Mobility — particularly in large or complex organizations employees will actually have more opportunity and there is a greater ability for retention because of this. The challenge is embracing this and having systems and tools which enable employees to identify new opportunities (which may be aligned to their skills) and enable some learning as part of transition or learning in preparation for transition.
- Internal systems hygiene — at one time, empowering departments and functions to own and drive their own tooling (based on their needs) was considered the norm. It will now be harder for teams to collaborate (even within their own function). Getting your business systems and their purpose clear will ease this significantly. Everything from shared document storage, knowledge repositories, Intranets, messaging tools. This doesn’t mean reducing the number of or removing autonomy but it does mean ensuring clarity on what you use for what purpose when you need to collaborate between teams, functions and departments. A by-product might also be a bit of cost control as well!
- Interactive, real-time collaboration — there is a reason we are seeing spikes in use of tools like Miro, Invision, Trello and others. They enable collaboration to happen in real-time. Landing on the suite of tools your business will use to support real-time collaboration (solving problems together) will be key. The by-product of this is people need to prepare their ‘canvas’ for collaboration. In turn this actually leads to more productive outcomes. It’s amazing to see meetings and workshops which were probably a bit too freeform in the past, be made simple and well managed simply because there is now tooling which has to be used. This is something we should embrace!
- Just in time learning — supporting internal mobility is the need for skills based learning discovery. We are seeing significant interest in this topic from both the content partners and LMS’s and LXP platforms we work with. Increasingly employees are faced with new challenges — not just the environment we are now in but also the pace of change across all areas of business (how we sell, market, build and operate, how we finance a business, how we manage and maintain compliance — everything is changing). This means it will be more and more incumbent on employers to introduce tools which enable employees to develop new skills just in time — when a new technology is introduced or the employee has to undertake a task for the first time. A skills based learning ‘co-pilot’ is essential.
- Immersive experiences — as you would expect, the fundamental way we learn hasn’t really changed (humans are visceral, experience led learners — we do best when we… well… do). This is why we see a lot of excitement in how AR/VR tech is being applied and whilst practical application is still building the implications to learning are easy to see. Whilst there might be a degree of slack that the physical hardware a business uses needs to take up I’m convinced we will see more and more immersive learning content hitting the market.
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?
A mentor of mine once told me to “Always Check your Reality.”
This really struck me because it had multiple meanings at different stages of my professional career. For one, it helped me change my perspective on how I approach recurring challenges and understanding that solutions won’t always look the same. Also that, to some degree, we should actively seek discomfort — to be looking at our competitors, looking at our ecosystem, our structure, our markets and be eternally vigilant. This is not to say we should not celebrate success (far from it) but we should certainly not become comfortable that it will come naturally. I call myself a positive pessimist — A force for good.
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.
In my last decade in technology I’ve been deeply involved in many start up’s. I’ve been fortunate to work with so many passionate, visionary and sometimes just plane quirky, entrepreneurs and founders. I’ve loved every minute. When I meet VC’s (outside of the context of the business I’m a part of) it’s often deeply refreshing and energizing to hear about and see what they are investing in and I get to ‘pattern match’ some of the challenges those businesses are facing with experiences I have. I really welcome the opportunity to share my experiences. It gives me a new perspective and hopefully gives some of those VC’s and their investment some useful road signs in what to look out for or how to deal with a growing problem or opportunity. So I’d put it out there that I actually welcome any kind of discussion, informal or otherwise. I love to help.
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?
Find me on LinkedIn. And learn more about Go1 on our website, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter.
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.