Employer Investment in the employee experience will explode.
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 Tom Wilde.
Tom Wilde is CEO at Indico Data, the unstructured data company. Tom is leading his team in developing automation technologies using machine teaching approaches, explainable AI, and natural language processing. He has more than 20 years of experience in the content technology space, working closely with both the engineering and commercial teams. Tom is an entrepreneur, having previously founded video content management provider Ramp, acquired by Cxense 2015. Tom has also served on the IAB Search Engine Committee and holds an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
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. 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?
What will be unchanged in 10–15 years is the vital need for employees to feel engaged and connected to a shared mission. Companies will have to accelerate investments in distributed communications and transparency to ensure all employees understand the core mission, vision and values of an organization. What will be different is that employees will be hired wherever they are found, and they will work wherever they are. Continued innovations in communications capabilities will further erode the advantages of in-person work. The hybrid organization will become unavoidable, and companies will have to develop far more complex compensation formulas to reflect the geographic differences of the workforce.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
There are two huge changes happening in the workforce as a result of the pandemic. The first is rising wages, and the second is a decrease in employee tolerance for poor work environments. This means that employers have to focus on ensuring their employees have all possible tools at their disposal to make them efficient and effective, as rising wages means that employees are an even more expensive resource. And by extension, employers who don’t focus on reinventing key processes and eliminating tedious menial work will risk continued high turnover. One of the solutions is a bit counterintuitive. While the conventional wisdom is that investments in automation will displace workers, the reality is that investments in automation creates higher value work and makes employees far more efficient, resulting in a higher quality, more engaged workforce.
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 will want to work wherever they are, and employers will struggle to create consistent engagement across the organization. Work from home will create disparities, as not all employees will have the necessary space or set up at home for effective remote work, and companies will have to fundamentally reconsider the notion of office space. Employees will also have a much lower tolerance for dysfunctional or tedious work environments. I was speaking with one of my customers last week, a F500 company with thousands of employees, and I asked the CFO what his top three goals are for 2022. I was surprised to hear that number one on his list is to focus on employee satisfaction and to make sufficient investments in employee experience to drive retention and job satisfaction. He views this as the biggest competitive advantage they can drive across their industry.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Work from home is here to stay. It’s hard to find any examples of companies who have experienced productivity drops directly resulting from this transition, especially in the technology industry. However, employers are still behind in creating policies that can support successful work from home in the form of stipends for equipment and communications, etc. The traditional means of monitoring employee performance and engagement which have typically been measured by in office “face time” will shift towards more passive engagement monitoring. We are already seeing tools like this being released by Slack and Microsoft allowing managers to see and monitor online engagement metrics. This will create tensions between employers and employees as to both the accuracy of such measurements in assessing engagement as well as privacy concerns.
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?
Very few people had previously organized their home layout to support one or two full time remote work environments, and at the lower end of the pay scale employees aren’t likely to have the physical space required. Assuming the pandemic recedes, we are likely to see a reinvention of the office concept. In place of the centralized headquarters, we are likely to see neighborhood level shared workspaces where small groups of geographically grouped employees can spend some number of days per week with meeting facilities, remote work technologies, and private office spaces. In many ways, WeWork was on the right track, and if they can survive the pandemic, this model is likely to be quite relevant in the future.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
What the great shift to work from home has shown us is that when employees are given a much higher degree of autonomy over how and when they work, instead of people taking advantage of their employers they instead become significantly more productive and engaged. This sense of control frees people to do their best 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?
I don’t think that 8–10 hrs of videoconferencing per day is sustainable. We aren’t designed to interact this way as humans, and we will need to bring human interaction back into the equation once we have brought the pandemic under control.
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?
The shared sense of mission is now more important than ever. The future of work will likely divide into two broad categories- 1) The Gig economy, where the relationship between employer and employee is purely transactional. This is not a bad thing, as many jobs are well suited for this and it provides both parties with a desired level of compensation and flexibility; and 2) The Shared Mission, where employees are working for something greater than the transactional nature of compensation, where creating “meaning” from work becomes a key component of the value proposition for the employer and employee. This requires a much higher level of engagement, transparency, investment and communication from both sides, and this investment will be continuously measured and employers who can effectively create this level of engagement will operate at a serious advantage to the competition.
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
Trend #1: Employers will hire people where they can find them.
Trend #2: Hybrid work is a reality for most business.
Trend #3: Employers that successfully drive engagement will be winners.
Trend #4: Employer Investment in the employee experience will explode.
Trend #5: Compensation models will have to become much more sophisticated to address remote work, geography, etc.
What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?
“It’s not the what, it’s the who.” I am unsure who said this first, but I always think about this now when embarking on a new initiative. It’s very seldom that getting the “what” right is the critical element of success. More often it’s finding the person or team and getting the right level of shared mission that determines the difference between a major success or failure.
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.
Andy Jassy at Amazon. I have been impressed over the years with the speed at which AWS identifies opportunities for innovation and then executes on them successfully. They have built a monster business with no sign of letting up.
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 LinkedIn is the best place to find me: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomwilde/
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.