We don’t have to peer into a crystal ball to see our future. The writing is already on the wall. We’ve all changed. Our culture, attention span, expectations, preferences, and our current behavior patterns point us in the trajectory of where we are headed—and shaping our work in the future. At the hub of our global culture shift is technology. Technology is shaping our tomorrow. The introduction of new capabilities, faster processing speeds, lower latency, disruptions in organizational structure, and paradigm shifts in how, when and where we work are shaking things up. In an era of human-machine partnerships, collectively as a global economy, we are changing how we do business.
In an era of human-machine partnerships, collectively as a global economy, we are changing how we do business.
As the CEO of Thulium, a global social media marketing agency, I’m living these changes. Our employee base is built upon a remote workforce. Our employees are geographically distributed to service our global clientele, that cover more than 20 time zones in 180 countries. Running an organization built entirely around a remote workforce has its rewards and challenges. With the growing gig economy, (the gig economy defined by an economic sector consisting of freelance, part-time, and temporary jobs), I envision the challenges and opportunities our organization faces with a remote workforce will not be too dissimilar to the challenges, and opportunities faced by organizations in the future.
Make self-actualization a key motivator
In 2018, Forbes reported that 57 million U.S. workers were part of the new gig economy. Why are gigs so attractive for the emerging workforce? According to Forbes, 42% of gig workers reported needing increased flexibility in their schedules. This makes contract work more appealing than the rigid schedule of traditional employment.
Motivated by more than a paycheck
In a 2019 study conducted by Dell Technologies, Realizing 2030: The Future of Work, Dell reports our future workers will be “…motivated by more than a paycheck. For some, it might be self-actualization, or the ability to employ their knowledge in a meaningful way. To keep pace with the diversity in motivations, organizations will need to pursue a portfolio of compensation resources that spans beyond monetary.”
In an interview with Danielle Guzman, Global Head of Social Media & Distributed Content at management consulting agency, Mercer, she offered her insight, “We live experientially. Whether it’s a vacation, a special meal or a gathering with friends and family. We immerse ourselves into these activities, we care so deeply, and we bring our whole selves to each opportunity. So why is work different? It shouldn’t be. Imagine a future where that same sense of purpose, and passion are at the core of all that we do”.
Imagine a future where that same sense of purpose, and passion are at the core of all that we do.
Create experiences for your internal customers
We want more, and expect more, don’t we? Those of us focused on business growth objectives are keenly aware of the “Experience Economy”. This is where our customers and their loyalty are dependent upon their perceived experience with our entire organization...not simply the product or service. Think of all the experiences you encounter with a brand beyond the product or service—think of all the interactions prior to and after a transaction—customer service, sales, marketing and all communications including response times to queries and comments on platforms, like social media.
We live experientially. Whether it’s a vacation, a special meal or a gathering with friends and family. So why is work different? Imagine a future where that same sense of purpose, and passion are at the core of all that we do.
Yes, we are looking for exceptional experiences, but there’s even more to the story. It’s not only our external customers who are seeking meaningful experiences. Our internal customers are also demanding meaningful experiences and growth within their professional roles. Part of the expanding experience economy is an increase in workers seeking more flexibility in their work schedules to craft a life they enjoy.
According to Guzman, “Organizations must look forward today, and while we are still in the infancy of new work force models, companies must equally pivot and apply the art and science of customer experience to their employees. This means a deep understanding of who works for your organization. The future is for those organizations that position employee engagement as a strategic priority".
...companies must equally pivot and apply the art and science of customer experience to their employees. This means a deep understanding of who works for your organization.
Guzman stresses 3 key pillars that organizations must invest in when looking to increase employee engagement and satisfaction:
1. Workplace Culture
2. Physical Environment
3. Technology Platforms
Having an entirely remote workforce, I haven't the luxury of controlling physical environment. However, looking at the future of work, and even the growing gig economy, many organizations will have to place a greater emphasis on culture and the ability to harness technology to augment the lack of a shared workspace. I've made workplace culture mission critical within our organization and involve our employees in actively co-creating our company's culture, a culture of collaboration versus competition. We utilize technologies such as video conferencing to achieve cohesion within our organization. We have mandatory monthly "video on" meetings led by my Chief of Staff, Candy Wood. "Our monthly meetings aren't to discuss business per se, but rather to bring our company's culture to life through getting to know the people within our organization better. Sometimes it's sharing our favorite quotes, and other times it's sharing funny things like 'name one thing Google doesn't know about you'. Our monthly video conference meetings make us all feel more connected and less solitary and alone in this 'work-from-wherever-you-are' environment", says Candy.
Our monthly video conference meetings make us all feel more connected and less solitary and alone in this 'work-from-wherever-you-are' environment.
"If your workplace culture nourishes inquisitiveness and rewards collaboration with anyone, anywhere, anytime, it makes team members more open to sharing tips and ideas, even on short video conferencing calls", adds Thulium, Senior Social Strategist, Rachel Miller, whom spearheaded and leads a company-wide twice-weekly 15 minute video conferencing "Stand Up" call designed to facilitate employee sharing of high or low points in their week, (personal or professional). "It's a less formal way for us to brainstorm internal and external processes, and in general just a visual way for us all to connect without a formal business agenda. It's amazing how a quick video touchpoint twice a week reenergizes the entire team, generates fun campaign ideas, and at the same time reinforces our culture of servant leadership. I feel a great deal of joy and purpose during and after our team 'Stand Up' calls", says Miller.
It's amazing how a quick video touchpoint twice a week reenergizes the entire team, generates fun campaign ideas, and at the same time reinforces our culture of servant leadership.
Beyond harnessing technologies like video conferencing to build community and bolster employee engagement, digital social platforms have a huge place in creating a sense of social connection and camaraderie. “I believe social media is the Trojan horse that we’re under-utilizing today”, says Guzman who is actively using social media to transform employee engagement and employee advocacy at Mercer, “The future is all about intelligent engagement”.
...social media is the Trojan horse that we’re under-utilizing today.
Thought provoking "Trojan horse" reference made by Guzman, as often the C-suite doesn't appreciate the power social media possesses to rally the troops and create solidarity amongst members of an organization. What is social media but a means to digitally touch other human beings. Our ability to communicate is what binds us together not only today, but will still be true for us human beings in 2030. The differentiator will be what vehicles will augment our ability to communicate with other human beings. In the human-machine partnership scenario we have a bit of an edge over our machine partners, (at least at this point in time), and humor is our human superpower relieving tensions, crossing geographic, demographic, and political borders through uniting fronts with a knowing smile—a shared understanding. We can accomplish much through a light touch, a shared laugh, and pairing that with Guzman's horse, social media is the perfect delivery method for this spoonful of sugar. I believe the most potent silo-buster is humor. Within our organization, our employees independently and collectively came up with the idea of having Thulium "Monday Memos" where all employees contribute collaboratively to come up with humor they'd like posted on Mondays from our brand's social media handles.
Enable real-time collaboration from anywhere
The future is all about intelligent engagement.
According to Dell’s Realizing 2030 report, “Over the next decade, organizations that aim to foster collaboration will work to empower workers by cultivating the real-time collaboration practices already embedded in gaming, coding and distributed communities”.
I find Thulium's use of real-time collaboration platform, Slack, a critical function in creating community among our remote workforce. Community, and collaboration directly play into employee experience, engagement, satisfaction, and company culture, especially with a geographically distributed workforce. “Collaboration platforms such as Slack, Discord and Github offer clues to the social norms, cultural practices and workers’ expectations that will inform how work is completed a decade from now. For teams that are geographically distributed, these tools help facilitate constant connection and coherent, team-based actions”, reports Dell’s Realizing 2030 study.
Collaboration platforms such as Slack, Discord and Github offer clues to the social norms, cultural practices and workers’ expectations that will inform how work is completed a decade from now. For teams that are geographically distributed, these tools help facilitate constant connection and coherent, team-based actions.
Change how and when you pay employees
Looking at how technologies, (i.e. smart phones, video conferencing, collaboration platforms, etc.), are completely reinventing the workplace—the gig economy is also changing the payment space. Specifically, flexibility in how and when the workforce gets paid.
“Companies running on software may make monitoring and quantifying workers’ contributions much easier, which may lead to new practices around compensation. Imagine if workers could choose how frequently they want to be paid,” according to Euros Evans, CEO of London-based start-up, ETCH. Similarly in Dell’s Realizing 2030 report, it found that “by people being paid as soon as they’ve earned it, we can reduce the need for payday loans and other such instruments to plug spending gaps, as well as improve peace of mind”.
Companies running on software may make monitoring and quantifying workers’ contributions much easier, which may lead to new practices around compensation.
Jeanniey Mullen, Chief Marketing Officer of Daily Pay, Inc. agrees. “As we continue to reimagine the future of work, the future of the employee and the future of work-life balance, we need to be excited to start with the most basic needs of our employees, access to their earned wages daily, which will create an improved culture, a happier workforce and a stronger bottom line”. She also quoted a staggering statistic, “Today, 78% of all Americans in the workforce are living paycheck to paycheck with little to no savings should an unexpected expense arise”.
As we continue to reimagine the future of work...we need to be excited to start with the most basic needs of our employees, access to their earned wages daily, which will create an improved culture, a happier workforce and a stronger bottom line.
Mullen stressed the need for organizations to reconsider how they pay their employees, and that adding flexibility in payment structure is a tangible perk for working with a particular organization over another one that doesn’t offer pay flexibility. “According to Forbes, Millennials and Gen Z will comprise more than 75% of the workforce by 2025, and they have very different needs and expectations from previous generations when it comes to how they want to be paid. They will want to choose how they get paid, based on their needs, and they will want control over their earned wages to reduce financial stress and increase financial security”. When considering the “war on talent”, differentiating perks like these might be the tipping point when a potential candidate considers multiple offers from various companies.
...Millennials and Gen Z will comprise more than 75% of the workforce by 2025, and they have very different needs and expectations from previous generations when it comes to how they want to be paid.
Mullen further defined changes in our future workforce, “The majority of today’s employees can be called “ERINs” (Employees Requiring Income Now). ERINs require their earned wages today — not tomorrow, not next week, not on payday — but now in order to support themselves, their family and take steps toward financial wellness. Almost eight out of 10 in your workforce today are ERINs. They are financially unprepared for an unexpected medical expense, and they can’t get to work if their car breaks down, or they can’t by gas. A large number of ERINs are hard-working, hourly employees in service-based industries, such as healthcare, hospitality, quick service restaurants, retail and nursing”.
The majority of today’s employees can be called “ERINs” (Employees Requiring Income Now)
If you have an adult child living in your basement, you are quite familiar with ERINs! I personally relate to the description of the ERIN, as I have two young adult children newly entering the workforce who reflect the description offered by Mullen.
Care for all generations
The next leap, says Mullen, is Gen Z in the workforce who are true digital natives. “They could text on their phones, work on their computers, and watch Netflix — all at the same time. As adults, they appreciate apps and technology that give them control and provide instant value”.
But, it’s not just Millennials and Gen Z reshaping and reinventing our work, it’s those of us in the smallest generational cohort, the forgotten “middle child” generation—the "latch key kids" who raised ourselves and remain sandwiched between the Millennials and the Boomers. Yes, I’m a Gen Xer, and slightly miffed we aren’t talked about, (and were never talked about), yet our generation is sitting in C-suites around the globe today. We've flown under the radar like Ninjas, kicking business ass and taking names—and we’ll still be in the game ten years from now.
In the words of the American rock band, R.E.M., “It’s the end of the world as we know it".
And yeah, I really do feel fine.