Embedding Purpose in Business: With younger generations caring more about their jobs and companies having a positive impact in society, organizations will need to continue to revisit their mission and related business strategy (authentically) to attract and retain this talent. But more than this — they will need to help all stakeholders (including employees) of the organization understand how they contribute to this end in a meaningful way.
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 Tosca DiMatteo.
Tosca DiMatteo is a Corporate Whisperer and Transformational Coach who founded TOSCA Coaching and Consulting after a proven career in marketing at world class organizations including Unilever, Kimberly Clark, Pernod Ricard and Univision. Her mission is to fuel a corporate culture revolution by serving organizations and individuals who dare to take courageous action to change their trajectory. Tosca knows how difficult it is to change beliefs, behaviors and direction — not just from her corporate experience, but from a deeply personal journey of healing and transformation. Tosca empowers others to drive impact from whatever seat they have.
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 inviting me to have this conversation, this is a topic near and dear to my heart and am thrilled to contribute!
Let’s see — how can you get to know me better? Well, two of my greatest superpowers are my compassion for others and my tenacity and I think that it’s been my life experiences that have shaped why that is. I was born with a cleft-lip-and-palate, which is a visible birth defect and led to two big phenomena; the first is that I had to have over a dozen surgeries before I was 21 and the second is that my appearance made me an easy target for jokes and harassment as a kid. My tenaciousness comes from having to do hard things without truly realizing they were hard things because it was just my life. My compassion has to do with experiencing these hard things, but also has to do with how I chose to deal with feeling ‘othered’ and ‘less than’ as a result of being picked on. I chose to see bullies not as mean-spirited, but as kids who had their own insecurities. I believed (and still do) that people are inherently good and so I chose to see them for who I thought they truly were, rather than judge them by what they said and did.
Somewhat tangential to this was my experience of growing up in the inner city of Rochester, NY. I was blessed to be exposed to a great deal of cultural diversity and found that it was often the people who experienced adversity and feeling less-than, who made me feel welcome in their circles. This really instilled in me a deep appreciation of our common humanity and created an acute awareness of and sensitivity to how people are treated — especially those who are intentionally ignored.
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?
Perhaps some may see my views as utopian — but I do believe that the tides are turning. The pure demographic reality is that the workforce will be younger and more diverse and generally speaking, they will have less capitalistic values than today’s leaders. What will be different in the workplace is that there will be far less tolerance for the kind of toxic leadership behaviors that have been perpetuated for years. Relatedly, there will be more accountability for harmful behaviors and as a result the ‘how’ of getting work done will start to have more focus. Workplaces will be more fluid and flexible, moving from a very rigid view of ‘how things should be’ to a deeper understanding of what’s truly important for workplaces to enable a company and its people to thrive! In simple terms, the workforce will expect more from their workplaces because they are done playing by old rules and systems.
As far as the work is concerned, it will become more focused on the human factor. Yes, this is the messy part of work, which often gets avoided at all costs. Think about it the last time you were in serious conflict with someone, be it at work or in your private life. Did you address it head on, or did you skirt around it or avoid it all together and hope that it would disappear? Imaging what environment this can create when multiplied by all of the lines of communication in a team (let alone organization). Even as it relates to technology, the humans that are creating those inputs will be recognized for the significant impact they have on the output and related results. Not just from a bias perspective, but also in terms of the complexity that comes from multidisciplinary inputs to solve problems that are becoming increasingly complex due to the rate of innovation. Think of it this way — when people from different functions, ways of thinking and motivations need to collaborate, clarity in communication and understanding become the most important factors to success. To put it in a different context, imagine your in-laws, neighbors and friends from high school having to come together to plan a birthday party for you!
What won’t change is that difficult conversations will still be difficult conversations, and that the messiness of what it means to be human won’t be solved through technology.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Well, I do have to pause first on this phrase “future-proof”, because I think it sends a false message in and of itself. The irrefutable truth is that no one can predict the future, because there are infinite possibilities for what’s to come. In today’s world, consider who gets to claim their predictions are the ‘right’ ones to then problem solve around? That’s usually the folks in power, and what are they predominantly motivated by? Keeping themselves in power and feeling a sense of control.
Consider how a conversation around uncertainty and curiosity could lead to an expansive versus definitive discussion around readiness for the future? As someone with a marketing mind, I believe words matter. Look at it this way, we tend to predict the future based on the past — but this keeps us so limited around actually creating a different future. If I applied for 50 jobs and didn’t get any of them, then sure I could predict that the next job I apply to I won’t get either. But how does this prediction actually serve me? It doesn’t. To create a future that I want to become reality I need to shift my mindset, stay open to all possibilities and plan for success.
And I do firmly believe that it makes sense to plan for long-term, sustainable success. One of the biggest opportunities I see for doing this is tying a single thread through a company’s values, strategy, internal and external marketing efforts and the employee behaviors that weave it all together. To accomplish this, I believe that a revolutionary approach is needed for how marketing functions are organized, and I believe that marketing is best positioned to take the lead and responsibility for corporate culture. I envision consumer, customer and employer marketing as well as corporate communications / PR all reporting to the same head of marketing. When you tie a single thread through all of these things, the result is a truly authentic organization, that employees want to be ambassadors for.
By marketing taking the lead on company culture work, you are putting the responsibility in the hands of true business owners who are living in the culture and know the most about behavior change. Marketers understand cultural context, delivering on promises (otherwise they won’t see repeat purchases) and what it takes to get a consumer to make a different choice — whether that’s to switch a purchase behavior or create a new one altogether. I’m just scratching the surface here for why they are well equipped. Conversely, the HR function, which often takes the lead on culture, doesn’t have this connection to being accountable to driving a business and building brands — which I think are critical for credibility, influencing behavior change and linking investment in people to business results.
Here’s an example to bring this to life a bit more; consider that a basketball coach is struggling to win more games. There are a variety of reasons for this — some include lack of motivation by the players, the game plan doesn’t seem to be effective with their competitive teams and some players have a negative attitude about being able to turn things around. To address these issues — the coach doesn’t go to the chief of staff for the basketball organization. The coach takes a step back, looks at what their goals are for the year, what they value as a team (and bigger organization) and assesses what strategic shifts and tactical plans need adjustment. Then the coach takes the initiative to rally the team by communicating this bigger picture and identifying what needs to be done differently. A good coach then actually coaches each player based on what they see needs to change and how to get the most out of that player. But it starts with business strategy and it ends with a deep understanding of how to lead others in an aligned way. I think this basketball coach has an incredible skill set to help other departments within the organization address their challenges.
But here’s actually the most important part of it all, in my mind. In addition to the structural piece for the marketing departments, you have to couple this with providing employees with the tools, resources and benefits that allow them to grow and thrive as humans. I’m talking about everything from up leveling skillsets, to managing mental health to healing from years of toxic workplace environments. When employees are healthy in mind, body and spirit THEN I think your organization will be absolutely prepared for an unpredictable future. Having a resilient, emotionally intelligent workforce that puts people-first will set you up for more success than any predictive models with the related solutions. Coming back to the basketball coach example — the preparation for the game isn’t just about strategy and execution. The team needs physical, mental and emotional training and tools to handle the pressure on game day. No one ever questions that these elements need to be a part of achieving the team’s full potential. Imagine if we started thinking this way in our workplaces…
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 biggest gaps in what employers will want and what employees need is in relation to their mental, physical and spiritual health. This ranges from paid vacation time to mental health to paid family leave and caregiver benefits. And this has to go beyond the traditional modalities like therapy or gym memberships, to be more inclusive of what is available and effective. And oh my gosh, I know I used the word ‘spiritual’ in relation to employee needs. But let me tell you, when people don’t feel connected to themselves or to something bigger — there is a whole wealth of untapped energy and potential. The whole workplace ecosystem may not want to name this or label it, but it is there as a deep, deep need — which I see in each and every one of my clients.
The most important strategy is for employers to listen, which means having live conversations with their employees about their changing needs — to dig below what static surveys can provide. Part of this deep listening is accepting what needs to change and engaging with the right resources to support you. Building trust in this process is absolutely critical to getting real answers AND to leverage this unique opportunity to show your employees you are willing to take steps towards change.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
I’m so pumped about the doors that are opening as a result of the working from home phenomenon. I think this massive experiment will embolden and enable more conversations that question the status quo. There have been conversations around flexible work environments for YEARS, which was met with a lot of resistance to doing things differently. Now that organizations are experimenting, they are starting to see what’s possible. People will be more willing to state what they need and if employers want to retain the best talent, they will need to continue to be willing to experiment with new and innovative ways of working.
The future of work will be influenced by the desire for employees to take their life back on a number of fronts. Employees are feeling more empowered to honor their needs — because they saw for the first time the magnitude of what they were sacrificing or giving away for a company that didn’t honor their humanity.
The net of all this is that the employee stakeholder will need to be put back into the equation of what it takes to run a successful business.
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?
Ok, so I’m going to say something here that might feel like blasphemy, but just hang in there with me for a second. Our society needs to dramatically reduce the emphasis we place on getting value and validation from our work. The pressure that this creates has been a huge contributor to people not filling up their cup outside of their vocation. This break from our work life is critical for our mental and physical health, our ability to tap into our creativity and of course steering clear of burnout. One way that we can put this into action is by not letting the first question we ask people to be something along the lines of ‘what do you do’? Instead, we can shift this to inquire about something else entirely, such as ‘what makes you feel joyful’?
The next most critical change is to take human-first approach in our work environments. There is a reason why we are seeing a swell of interest in B-Corps — because it matters and makes a difference when we put people over profits. This means we must take the dominant culture ways-of-working off the pedestal to allow more divergent ways of thinking rise, to find a better way forward. And this new playbook needs to be more accommodating for today’s world and the beautiful diversity within it — in all senses of that word.
A big component of this people-first approach is continuing to develop our empathy muscles. When we collectively shared a challenging experience in the past few years — we started to see how empathy showed up in all kinds of places and spaces. We took the time to ask about how people were doing and started our conversations this way. As time has gone on however, many have moved away from making time for this. Continuing to build this skill is critical as empathy is a huge component of trust building — and trust is the bedrock of any relationship — be it with yourself, another individual or an organization.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
What brings me great hope is seeing how employees are questioning the status quo and taking their power back. They are speaking truth to power and honoring what’s not working for them anymore. Just one example of this can be seen in the experience of one of my clients who stood up for herself when she realized she was in a destructive, harmful environment. She left that job and took action to hold that company accountable. The corporate culture revolution is going to take hold as more and more employees start to stand in their own power and question harmful behaviors. Much like the #metoo movement, I think employees are finding the courage take a stand and companies are receiving public pressure to make changes that are way overdue.
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?
Employers attempt at addressing wellbeing has primarily focused on the area of where work gets done — which is the whole hybrid conversation. Certainly, because this is new for many companies, we can say there is innovation in that pursuit. However, just as you anchored this conversation in the first place, I think the opportunity is to dig deeper than the question of where work gets done. Breakthrough innovation will happen when organizations dig deeper into their current culture and intentionally make plans and investments to evolve and further link it to their business strategy. The reality is that it’s the human connection that people feel within the organization which will contribute to employee mental health and wellbeing above all else. We have to be willing to dig deeper into the needs that we, as humans have, which are grossly missing from the work environment, to truly support mental health. This takes courage and commitment. The employers that create environments where people can be courageous will be the ones that thrive in the future of work.
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 hear that they have an incredible opportunity to make changes at every level of their organization. They have an opportunity to truly reset, build trust and mark a new era for their team and business. People are primed for change and behaviors are changing on so many fronts. The data on brand — switching during this time has been incredible. More importantly, people are more willing to forgive because of the collective awakening — but this window is already starting to close.
Leaders need to hear that what matters most is not what happened in the past, but what you are willing to do in THIS moment. It makes me think about how so many of my clients have neglected their network after being in one company for many years — which is understandable because it’s wasn’t mission critical for them. What happens though, is that when they are in need of those connections, they feel like they can’t reach out to them, because they ‘dropped the ball’ over the past several years. But the truth is that all you can do is take an action now and accept the response — and if it’s a relationship that is meaningful to you, you keep showing them who you are now and that you care. If you keep blaming and shaming yourself and stay in the fear of how people will react or if you’re going to make a mistake, you completely lose out on incredible opportunities for something new to bloom.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- The Corporate Culture Revolution: While we have seen organizations take an evolutionary approach to business, this rate of change will continue to accelerate. More leaders will recognize the need to truly rip up old play books and rethink what it means to operate a business in today’s world, in order to remain competitive. Organizations will move into an era of walking their talk because all the stakeholders are taking a closer look at empty promises and the impact that has both internally and externally. One only has to look at the example of the NFL to see how the backlash will continue to grow when organizations refuse to take big leaps forward with regard to creating healthier and more equitable workplaces.
- Employees Speaking Truth to Power: The phenomenon of the great resignation is all the evidence you need to see how employees are taking their power back. Employees have shown that they are willing to take more risks in making decisions based on their values. Looking at the number of new small businesses is another proof point of this trend. Employees will continue to question conventional thinking and show how honoring people over profits will in fact lead to greater financial success. The data on employee activism is just scratching the surface on what’s to come! According to a research study by Untapped AI, there has been a 38% increase in employee-led activism. Workplaces must be equipped with how to walk a three-legged race in this regard because it’s not going away.
- Authenticity in Leadership: As more leaders recognize the toll it is taking on them to fit some antiquated mold of what leadership looks like, and as they see the magic that transpires when they honor that their uniqueness is their superpower, we will start to see new models and examples of what it looks like to be a leader. As media platforms become more and more democratized, we will see more faces of what leadership looks like. One example of this is on my IG Live Talk About It Tuesday platform where I talk to leaders who don’t necessarily have big titles or sexy company names associated with them. Their authenticity is so inspiring, and more people are seeing what’s possible in terms of owning their truth. People are starting to see is that empowering leadership styles are successful, and leadership can look different than what dominates the C-suite at the present moment. People are more willing to be courageous and break the ‘rules’ in service of creating more authentic interactions — because the awareness of the mental and physical toll it takes to operate outside of your values, is just starting to come to a head.
- Embedding Purpose in Business: With younger generations caring more about their jobs and companies having a positive impact in society, organizations will need to continue to revisit their mission and related business strategy (authentically) to attract and retain this talent. But more than this — they will need to help all stakeholders (including employees) of the organization understand how they contribute to this end in a meaningful way.
- Marketing Taking Ownership of Culture: As we move more squarely into a service-based economy, employees will represent the brands they work for at a greater scale. This will propel organizations to want marketers to have more of a hand in the organizational culture, and rethink who does this work and how it’s approached. Those who are at the forefront of this trend will look for ways for all marketing functions to be aligned and in lockstep to create sound plans and culture, such that the authenticity of the organization rises to the surface.
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?
The one that comes up for me is something I learned playing sports in high school, which is “Practice like you play”. This is shaped my perspective in that I put my best foot forward in whatever it is I’m doing. This also speaks to having to figure things out on my own in life and in my career. I took every opportunity I could to open doors, meet people and add value. This same ethos is part of how I serve my clients today. I believe in making the most of every interaction and conversation — to serve them in the best way I know how in all that I do.
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.
Hands down, I want to meet Brené Brown, because I would love to engage in a dialog on my view on why Marketing is the department to lead the charge for the corporate culture revolution. I think the work she is doing is so incredible and would love to see what could be possible in accelerating the rate of change that is so desperately needed by putting her research based approach, and my practical experience together in the sauce pot!
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?
Thank you so much for this, here are my top platforms for staying in touch:
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.