George Brasher: “Flexible technology”

Flexible technology: Organizations will be expected to deliver on a “not one-size-fits-all” approach that allows employees to get work done, wherever they are. And this goes beyond how many days are spent at home or in the office. With the rise in digital fatigue, companies will have to provide opportunities for hybrid workers to consume […]

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Flexible technology: Organizations will be expected to deliver on a “not one-size-fits-all” approach that allows employees to get work done, wherever they are. And this goes beyond how many days are spent at home or in the office. With the rise in digital fatigue, companies will have to provide opportunities for hybrid workers to consume and create through both online and physical modes to have a more balanced work style.

There have been major disruptions in recent years that promise to change the very nature of work. From the ongoing shifts caused by the COVID19 pandemic, the impacts caused by automation, and other possible disruptions to the status quo, many wonder what the future holds in terms of employment. For example, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute that estimated automation will eliminate 73 million jobs by 2030.

To address this open question, we reached out to successful leaders in business, government, and labor, as well as thought leaders about the future of work to glean their insights and predictions on the future of work and the workplace.

As a part of this interview series called “Preparing For The Future Of Work”, we had the pleasure to interview George Brasher

George Brasher is the General Manager & Global Head of HP’s Print Services & Solutions responsible for the company’s office contractual business. George joined HP over 30 years ago as a financial analyst and has held a variety of leadership roles within HP ever since, spanning across multiple regions and functions. George holds a Bachelor’s degree in business from Baylor University and a Master’s degree in business administration from Pennsylvania State University.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?

I grew up in Texas, went to Baylor University and Penn State, and started my career at HP right after attending business school more than 30 years ago. I began as a financial analyst and then had opportunities to grow and develop my career across many different roles at HP, whether as a sales manager or a category lead responsible for profit and loss (P&L), go-to-market strategy, and more.

Something that has shaped my worldview was the chance to live and work in several countries. I’ve spent a quarter of my career outside the U.S. and was most recently based in London managing HP’s business across the UK and Ireland. I took up my current role in May 2021 as HP’s General Manager and Global Head of Print Services & Solutions and recently transferred back to the U.S. Having experienced the diversity of different cultures and markets impacts my decision-making daily.

Outside of my career, being a father to my two sons has also greatly shaped who I am. I credit them for helping me keep a pulse check on what’s changing in the world and important for emerging generations.

What do you expect to be the major disruptions for employers in the next 10–15 years? How should employers pivot to adapt to these disruptions?

There are a few major areas of disruption that will be top-of-mind for companies in the coming years.

First, it’s clear that the future of work is hybrid. Companies that prioritize and invest in hybrid work models will be able to adapt to changing business needs and employee expectations quickly and seamlessly.

In addition, security continues to be a key disruptor for business today and in the future. With more people using home networks and personal devices, cybercriminals will continue to use this as an opportunity to strike. A recent study HP conducted found that 90 percent of IT decision-makers think the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of strong endpoint security in defending increasingly perimeter-less organizations. Businesses must implement the right technologies, policies, and procedures to ensure hybrid workers aren’t inadvertently introducing security threats to their organizations.

And finally, the stakes to combat climate change, environmental degradation, and consumer waste will undoubtedly disrupt businesses. We will all be challenged to act with urgency every single day. Companies must make actionable commitments and put plans in place now to follow through on those commitments. At HP, we’ve made bold sustainability pledges, including the goal to eliminate 75% of single-use plastic packaging usage by 2025, as well as create an entirely new supply chain to source the right materials to make HP Original Ink Cartridges with ocean-bound plastics. We’ve made immense progress in achieving these goals but making our planet a safe and viable place for everyone will never be over. And we all have a role to play.

The choice as to whether or not a young person should pursue a college degree was once a “no-brainer”. But with the existence of many high-profile millionaires (and billionaires) who did not earn degrees, as well as the fact that many graduates are saddled with crushing student loan debt and unable to find jobs it has become a much more complex question. What advice would you give to young adults considering whether or not to go to college?

I am a big believer that achieving satisfaction in one’s career requires finding a job that combines one’s strengths with what one enjoys doing on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes this can be the same thing. While I do think college degrees, especially ones in STEM, provide value in terms of skills, there are lots of great roles out there that don’t necessarily require college degrees. Young adults should prioritize figuring out their interests and understanding what the path looks like to get there, including whether or not the desired position requires a college degree.

To do this, I recommend networking with professionals who currently hold the types of positions they are interested in. Don’t be afraid to connect with them on LinkedIn, schedule a time to receive their advice, and get their take on whether or not they think their role requires a college degree. You might be surprised by their answer.

Despite the doom and gloom predictions, there are, and likely still will be, jobs available. How do you see job seekers having to change their approaches to finding not only employment but employment that fits their talents and interests?

As an executive in the technology industry, I think it is an incredibly exciting time to be in this field. Whether you hold a position in products, services, or solutions, there is so much change happening across segments that it is creating immense opportunities. In particular, the impact of COVID-19 in spurring hybrid work will generate significant opportunities for jobs.

We’re seeing how the increased flexibility companies are offering to work from anywhere is expanding the parameters of where one can work. Teams are going to be more distributed moving forward. I would encourage people to look beyond their current city or region and explore companies based elsewhere that are hiring flexible positions. This allows them to expand their horizons and look for roles that better meet their interests versus limiting themselves to roles based on where they reside.

The statistics of artificial intelligence and automation eliminating millions of jobs, appear frightening to some. For example, Walmart aims to eliminate cashiers altogether and Dominos is instituting pizza delivery via driverless vehicles. How should people plan their careers such that they can hedge their bets against being replaced by automation or robots?

AI and automation will create tremendous opportunities for new, exciting jobs. But with that comes the need for retraining and education. What’s important is that we continue to invest in the education of our current and future workforces to ensure they are receiving the right training, and therefore the right skills, to adapt to what the future holds.

Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?

Without a doubt, hybrid ways of working are here to stay. Of course, companies should prioritize what’s safe for their employees when evaluating return-to-office plans in the coming weeks and months, but I truly believe that hybrid work is the way forward for the vast majority of companies.

In the wake of the pandemic, employees want flexibility; they want work-life balance; they want the freedom to define their lives. Hybrid work enables that. HP recently fielded a Future of Work study, which found that 77 percent of employees want to continue to work from home, at least on a part-time basis. This data speaks for itself, and I think that in order for companies to attract and retain talent, offering flexibility in where and how people work will be crucial.

What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?

As we transition to hybrid ways of working, we need to continue to ensure we’re creating inclusive work environments that attract and retain diverse talent. We need to ensure policies are designed to ensure equality and opportunity for everyone, no matter where they work.

What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employers to accept? What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employees to accept?

In this new era of work, I think something that is both a challenge and an opportunity to embrace is the convergence of all aspects of life when blending work environments. Employees are increasingly allowed to get work done wherever they are, whether it’s in an office, on an airplane, at home, or somewhere else. And this is a universal shift that is affecting both employers and employees in unique ways.

For instance, the blending of work environments and blurring the lines between work and personal life will require everyone to be more empathic towards their peers. But empathy is hard to foster if you don’t have an existing workplace culture, which many organizations find challenging to build and maintain in a virtual setting. Additionally, many employees are facing digital fatigue in hybrid work settings and have trouble finding a work-life balance. Employers and employees need to come together to establish best practices for building and maintaining culture when they are not in an office, as well as figure out ways to set boundaries to avoid employee burnout.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped highlight the inadequate social safety net that many workers at all pay levels have. Is this something that you think should be addressed? In your opinion how should this be addressed?

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed companies to the disruption that they were not prepared for, and the ripple effects that this had across every industry meant that some groups were inevitably left behind or disproportionately affected. What gives me hope is that companies were forced to learn quickly, and many are now more prepared for disruption than they were a year and a half ago. But it will be an ongoing issue organizations will need to solve, requiring a collaborative effort between private companies, government entities, and more.

Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

My greatest source of optimism goes back to my point about empathy. In this future of work that is forming before our eyes, enterprises are making conscious efforts to humanize work in a way not seen before. It’s creating a new mindset for how we work together and how business gets done. The way forward for companies is to constantly focus on outcome-based solutions for hybrid workers that stem from a human-centric approach and allow them to be mobile.

Additionally, I’m encouraged by the renewed sense of importance placed on sustainability. As companies start to plan out their hybrid work futures, they are also considering what sustainability practices they need to implement with new work models. We’re seeing how companies are increasingly using their own data for reporting & analytics to evolve into a more sustainable future for this new world of work.

Historically, major disruptions to the status quo in employment, particularly disruptions that result in fewer jobs, are temporary with new jobs replacing the jobs lost. Unfortunately, there has often been a gap between job losses and the growth of new jobs. What do you think we can do to reduce the length of this gap?

Within the technology industry, I think there are growing opportunities for jobs and there will continue to be. However, something we need to prioritize as an industry is making sure we are creating opportunities for underrepresented groups to enter our talent pipelines. For instance, women were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cited that almost three million women left the U.S. workforce during the pandemic. Companies need to make investments in education, healthcare, childcare, and more to address the widening gender gap and make sure we grow job opportunities so that women can enter back into the workforce.

Okay, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Watch In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Flexible technology: Organizations will be expected to deliver on a “not one-size-fits-all” approach that allows employees to get work done, wherever they are. And this goes beyond how many days are spent at home or in the office. With the rise in digital fatigue, companies will have to provide opportunities for hybrid workers to consume and create through both online and physical modes to have a more balanced work style.
  2. Holistic sustainability: One surprising benefit coming into this new world of hybrid work is the elevated importance of implementing sustainable practices within new work strategies and implementations. Sustainability is increasingly being used as a lever for business transformation, and it should be ingrained throughout everything a company does. With distributed workforces, we’re seeing new trends such as c-suite leaders asking how they can both digitize work practices and do it more sustainability.
  3. Infrastructure innovations: The shift to hybrid work is accelerating existing business transformation technology trends around cloud, as-a-service, and mobility. The shift to remote work and operations has made companies rethink their cloud and digitization strategies as companies are tasked with making technology experiences at home as easy as they are in the office. Therefore, we’re seeing many companies accelerate the move to the cloud, digitize their processes, and automate them where possible to increase mobility.
  4. Subscription-based solutions: The demand for subscription and contractual services will continue to skyrocket. People want the flexibility to scale based on changing needs while also bundling software with services, enabling high margins and long-term growth. HP looked at trends surrounding our active users during the shift to remote work, and we found that our NPS scores increased by 15 points for customers who used our subscription services.
  5. Secure by design: Security will remain top-of-mind as distributed workforces increase the risk of cyberattacks. Businesses will need to expand the security perimeter outside the office and invest in scalable and flexible solutions to keep their devices and data safe from cybercriminals.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?

I had a business ethics professor who defined integrity as “the congruence and alignment of your actions to your words, and congruence of your private statements and your public statements.” That has always stayed with me since integrity is the key foundation of all relationships in life, including business relationships.

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 or she might just see this if we tag them.

Tell Thomas Tuchel, the Head Coach of Premier League club Chelsea, that I’m free for breakfast anytime!

Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?

I often share my views in articles on LinkedIn surrounding everything from hybrid work and sustainability to technology trends like augmented retail shopping. I would say that’s probably where I’m the most active and the best way to follow me.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.

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