… Amplifying inclusive leadership. Every organisation needs leaders who are able to support their team members but also to lead a team with diverse backgrounds. What 2020 and 2021 has shown all of us is that a lot of leaders lack inclusive leadership skills to attract and retain team members.

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 Vivian Acquah.

As an inclusive Workplace Wellness Advocate, Vivian advise managers on how to keep their team members engaged, energized, and safe in a sustainable, long-term way.

She believes clear Workplace Wellness strategy & implementation will fix hidden cost drains and missed opportunity cost because it will improve talent retention, engagement, employer branding, and connection with diverse talent. It will prevent your company from leaving money on the table. It will also makes organizations a better place to work and be in.

Working with Vivian means working towards sustainable employability in a holistic way: all elements of wellness and wellbeing are interconnected, including physical, mental, career, social, community, and financial wellness. She also purposefully incorporates diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Vivian believes that workplace wellness & DEI needs to be accessible for everyone. Providing the the right tools at the right time to embrace inclusive changes. Encouraging people to think consciously and inspire them to get them moving.

She is a multicultural and multi-passionate human being, Vivian inspires and empowers people to be their best selves. Becoming a mother inspired her to shift from being a Finance/ IT consultant to becoming a workplace wellness & Amplify DEI advocate. She made a promise to her son Orlando (2013) to help make the world a better place by creating thriving workplaces for EVERYONE. This is a promise not only to him and his generation but also for future generations.

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.

When I was pregnant with my son Orlando I told my managers ahead of my family and friends. It was a small IT company and the managers were mostly men. There were some mixed reactions, including one who didn’t react, which is a reaction in itself. One asked me if it was planned — I knew that if I reacted to him, it would not end well for me. So I told a white lie and said it wasn’t planned. I mean, what I wanted to say was: do you want to see my sex schedule to see what I’m doing each day?

I noticed I started to be devalued, even bullied in the workplace. This caused me to stress a lot about my job and boosted my imposter syndrome. My midwife warned that I was developing high blood pressure, which can be harmful for my child’s health and mine. Consequently, I took maternity leave early. Luckily my son was healthy — and his birth inspired me to walk away from a toxic workplace and become an advocate for inclusive workplace wellness.

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 predict a shift towards companies which understand that creating an inclusive organisation is a marathon, who are activating authentic inclusion instead of treating inclusion as a kind of one-night stand. More people with diverse backgrounds are creating their own businesses or working freelance. Companies will have to compete with their benefits to win and retain talent.

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

I’d advise them to create a DEI commitment that includes transparency and DEI training which generates an impact and real commitment. Using virtual reality is a good way to unlock empathy and to have BRAVE conversations about inclusive 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?

The equity gap. Recently I noticed a post about a recruiter offering a candidate 85K for a job that had a budget of 130K. The recruiter offered this because this is what the candidate asked for. If the candidate finds out about this, they will leave the company earlier and the company has to start looking for a new candidate.

Companies need to be transparent in this, especially when the company purports to embrace DEI. They also need to check for recruiters who support this mindset. People need to be paid their worth!

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

Black women have shared that they feel safer working from home than working in the office, they are opting out of the office life to run away from workplace racism, #metoo situations. Organisations need to rethink psychological safety while working hybrid or working from home. Also companies cannot afford to lose people in the workplace at the moment, because to do so would put a brake on innovation.

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?

Organisations need to provide flexibility to allow people to select the option to work from home, work in the office or go for the hybrid option. We need to shift from the 9–5 mentality to getting the tasks done mindfully, and that includes providing psychologically safe environments wherever people are working.

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

The great resignation is challenging companies to think about strategies to attract and retain people in a different manner. For this to be successful companies need to invest in their DEI commitments. Like Peter Drucker said: “Culture eats strategy for business”: not working on the culture can be hurtful for the organisation.

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 have noticed companies like Starbucks, LinkedIn, Nike and so on providing mental health benefits such as mental health breaks for people to destress, providing tools/ resources for people to be more resilient, providing access to a mental health coach. Overall providing resources, budgets for people to take better care of themselves, is going to be a dealmaker.

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?

To be and stay competitive, companies need to rethink their DEI strategies and build an inclusive workplace that allows people to be themselves, otherwise they will lose people after the job honeymoon is over. This is a serious talent leak that is costing companies a lot of money and causing unnecessary strains to team members who are supporting clients with fewer people.

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

  1. Amplifying inclusive leadership. Every organisation needs leaders who are able to support their team members but also to lead a team with diverse backgrounds. What 2020 and 2021 has shown all of us is that a lot of leaders lack inclusive leadership skills to attract and retain team members.
  2. Transparency in equity. For the first time in seven years, the EU proposed new binding requirements in 2021 for EU member states to implement pay transparency. As a candidate for the presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen promised to close the gender wage gap.
  3. Using VR to accelerate DEI awareness. Harvard Business Review shared that traditional unconscious bias training is not working. We need to combine this with technology to unlock empathy from within. Virtual reality can accelerate DEI awareness in an impactful manner.
  4. Inclusive communication. There has been an increase in the number of businesses seeking to educate and train managers and staff on how to effectively connect with customers, both internally and internationally. Developing the ability to be inclusive is a critical part of incorporating DEI.
  5. Authentic Allyship. Over 40% of millennials polled claimed they would be more loyal to a job if the CEO took a stance on a social issue, while 5% of employees resigned when a CEO imposed a ban on social debates at work in favour of an “apolitical” environment.
    Allyship, or standing up for those who are on the outside looking in, is what this is all about. I expect companies will be investing in more allyship training.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

“When you know better you do better” as Maya Angelou said. This quote has changed my life and my perspective on people in general. Especially with the training I have been providing, people are inspired to do better because I provide bite sized tips for them to amplify their DEI journey.

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 would like to have a conversation with Alexis Ohanian. He acted to create space for diversity because he wanted to be able to answer his daughter when she asked ‘what did you do to make the workplace more inclusive?’. He is also an inspiring advocate when it comes to parental leave, so I would be honoured just to talk to him for even 15 minutes. Our intrinsic motivation is similar; I am driven by my son to support companies to create inclusive workplaces.

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?

The best way to connect with me is via LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/vivianacquah/ or Twitter @vivalavivenl https://twitter.com/VivalaViveNL

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