Deep Work Over Shallow Work. I think there will be a trend for more efficiency experts coming into organizations to remove redundancy and low-level, unproductive work. The people who only answer e-mail twice a day at specific times and have fewer, more productive meetings will do better overall than those who do not. Time is our greatest asset and biggest commodity and we have heard about ROI and ROAS, but it will be all about ROE, return on effort now. Get rid of all the time wasters and energy vampires in your life and work.
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 Cliff Beach.
Cliff Beach is the VP of Digital for Beautytap, a leading destination for beauty brands and beauty professionals through the lens of beauty expert reviews. Previously the head of E-commerce & Digital for NYX Cosmetics/ L’Oreal, with an 8-year tenure, Cliff has worked on projects with Apple, Docebo, Samsung, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and other Fortune 500 firms as a leader in change management, process management, and operations within the digital landscape. Aside from this Cliff is also an award-winning musician, with a podcast (Deeper Grooves), a radio show (Deeper Grooves on 88.5 FM KCSN/KSBR LA), and is currently the house band for “Josh Gates Tonight” on Discovery Channel. Cliff is also the author of the upcoming self-help book, “Side Hustle & Flow” coming out on Black Spring Press in early 2022.
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?
Over the last 10+ years after gaining my MBA at Pepperdine University, I have worked in Digital Beauty, cutting my teeth at NYX Cosmetics/L’Oreal both pre-and post-acquisition heading dynamic change management, process management, helping with a team amass over 14 million followers on Instagram, supporting over 60+ stores domestically for all their digital content, and running customer service and e-commerce. I was fortunate enough to work my way up from the ground up in a very entrepreneurial environment. I am originally from Washington DC and come from very humble beginnings but have worked hard at every opportunity that has come my way. As far as my career goes, the life experience that shaped me most and allowed me to have an upward trajectory at NYX was asking my CEO, Scott out to lunch. From that simple invitation, it created a course of events that allowed me to ask my boss for what I wanted and to build and grow a department from 1 to 15. As the landscape changed, I was able to keep pace, adapt and constantly say “yes” to new challenges — even if I did not know exactly how to do something. I knew I could figure it out by asking questions. I have carried that ability to “ask” forward into all aspects of my life.
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?
The upcoming generation of workers is very different from all the previous generations. This current generation does not accept the status quo and has grown up 100% with Digital technology. I have seen young babies walk up to the TV trying to swipe it like an iPad, and why not? Why is my TV not touch screen? This generation is constantly questioning why things are done, and how things are done, and employers will have to keep pace, or die out. Legacy companies become dinosaurs. We saw it in Entertainment and we see it in Beauty and Retail now, things like COVID cause us to have very quick and sometimes difficult paradigm shifts and pivots. Many businesses and industries 10–15 years ago did not exist, like Uber, Lyft, and Postmates and there are more that will exist that we do not even know about 10–15 years from now, but we do know one important thing about them — all businesses, apps, ideas are meant to help solve a fundamental “felt-need.” This will never change. If you can solve problems, you will continue to stay in business, especially if you can do it faster, better, more cost-effectively, and even better. The main thing for any business to always keep top of mind is never to say “that’s not the way we have done it” but instead to say, “how can we overdeliver on what we promise, and do it even better”. People don’t want to be sold to, but they do want to be helped, heard, and seen.
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 think there are several questions to unpack here. The main thing is first deciding no matter your age, what do you want to do, what do you want to accomplish and what will it take to get you there. I have seen many people who were successful with degrees and many who took alternative paths and were equally and even more successful. A degree is a starting point, and it can be very expensive and often quickly becoming obsolete. The only thing school taught me is how to ask questions and solve problems, but most experience happens in the real world and not often as you would expect — it’s different from theoretical teaching. School also does not often teach you how to be creative. After gaining my MBA I think everything I learned was useful, but three main things I did not fully learn were personal finance, goal setting, and how to be more creative. The people who tend to do the best and adapt the fastest are creative problem solvers. I think you must understand the why of something then you can figure out the how and the what. If you do decide to go to college, price it out, see if you can balance working and going to school, and apply for every scholarship you can. If you are not going to college, try to apprentice, and go on informational interviews to learn from the masters. Start a business and get a mentor. Success leaves clues, and you can save yourself a lot of time, money, and heartache by making a solid plan, and getting the best advice. You can learn anything from a webinar, online class, or an app these days; use it to your advantage to gain insight and access.
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?
Anyone can find a job, but not everyone will find fulfillment. Job seekers today have a plethora of websites for seekers and with the gig economy, they have access to jobs that are autonomous, that are alternatives to the regular 9 to 5, and that gives more flexibility and freedom than at any other time. Job seekers must remember that employers are looking for people who can solve their problems, and work with little supervision. Most jobs provide very little training. As a job seeker, you must do the inner work to figure out your “Ikigai”: what you are good at, what you can make money from, what you enjoy doing, and what society needs from you. You may be good at something but that might not excite you to wake up and do it each day. You may find one job, or many that you need to fulfill you or find that fulfillment outside of work, but in the end, it’s all the same, you must seek to find, and in a competitive landscape, you must continue to educate yourself. Some of the best-continued education I received was from Toastmasters, learning how to be a better speaker and communicator. It helped me with a TEDx presentation, and as Warren Buffett said, public speaking is the only skill that carries you all the way throughout life in any industry. I didn’t wait for a job or an employer to do it, I invested in myself.
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?
We fear change and the uncertainty of the future. Yes, automation will get rid of a lot of low-level, minimum wage jobs, but a robot will never fully be able to replace a human; human beings are too complex and too unpredictable to be fully replaced by machines. Machines and tools are meant to serve humans and benefit our lives. The key learning is more important than succumbing to the irrational fear of what may or may not happen — it’s essential to understand how these tools will help humans to be able to be more productive in record time and to be able to self-actualize. If you gained extra time by automation and AI helping you, how would you improve yourself? Would you read more? Would you volunteer? Would you learn other skills that are not as easily replaceable? Everyone can be replaced, but the less replaceable you are the more valuable you become, and the stickier to an organization you appear. A robot will never be able to empathize or provide customer service because they will never be human or provide the human touch and emotion. My smart speaker can say hello to me, but it cannot hug me, and make me feel like it’s coming from a friend or loved one. Some things cannot be replaced, but there is a place for everything.
Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?
Yes, many workers have wanted to work from home for years. The thing that was preventing this was an old mindset, and an outdated managerial style. What we have done now has built a new use case that proves we can be productive working from home; we did not have this data to this degree before the pandemic. This is why, in some cultures, the word for crisis and opportunity is the same. Life has many teachable moments. Why is it that some thrive while others barely survive in the bleakest of times? It is because some people rise to a challenge and some fall, and some learn life’s lessons, and some pay the cost for not learning them or learning them too late. The music industry could have embraced the digital age faster, but instead, while spending energy fighting Napster, companies like Apple Music, Pandora, and Spotify invented a new business model, while companies like Tower Records died. Could Blockbuster have become Netflix first and survived? Sure, they could have. Just like Kodak made the first digital camera in the ‘70s but rejected the idea because they were in the business of film. Uber didn’t invent the taxi, it disrupted it and there will be many more like these companies in the future. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you can improve upon it.
What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?
I think other countries understand the work-life balance more than we do in America. Spain takes a siesta in the middle of the day and Brazil has 45 holidays in a calendar year. People do not realize that the current system of working 5 days a week with a weekend is a construct, and we can change it again. I believe with more efficiency we could work less than 40 hours a week and be just as or even more productive if we had more deep, less interrupted work. How many of us have too many meetings and emails in a day that take us away from the way our business makes money or what we deem as most meaningful in a day. There are so many holes in how we work such as when we are disrupted or poorly multi-tasking — we could learn to be more efficient and make every second count. I recall the story of a General who was helping strategize in a war, he was very old and due to poor health, he could only work max 4 hours, every couple of days. When he did work, he only did meaningful work. He didn’t have time to mess around and neither do we. By being more efficient we could reward ourselves with more time off to enjoy our families, hobbies, and rest.
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?
I think employers must accept they will need to provide an environment where they create situations where their employees can produce the best results, and that might be uncomfortable for them. Some bosses who are more face to face type of people might hate having to work remotely; they want their team underneath them 24/7, but people have lives and obligations outside of work too. If you’re at work thinking of home, and at home thinking of work you have ruined both experiences. I think employees need to accept whether you work for yourself or someone else, you ultimately work for yourself. It has pros and cons, but in the end, you are beholden to your boss, the marketplace, the shareholders, the customers, and you answer to everyone and yourself. The more entrepreneurial your mindset the better you will be. The days of just working at one place and maybe getting a pension after 30+ years are over. You are the captain of your own ship, and if it’s sinking it is based on what you did. You can never rest on a sailboat forever because the wind can change direction at any time. You must continuously navigate and calibrate.
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?
As a society will still do not pay frontline workers in the trenches enough money or respect. The teachers who teach our children, the nurses who help those who are ill, and people who aid the needy and the elderly do not get paid an adequate wage for the noble work they do. Society will force us to reform and continue to boost these wages. When you can’t get to the grocery store, and someone does it for you and risks their health, they should get hazard pay for braving that obstacle for you. I think we did a social injustice just by giving out money as a stimulus, it must come from somewhere and I think people should have had to file paperwork demonstrating the need. The money must come from somewhere, so essentially to solve one problem you are creating another. You are mortgaging the future, and the current generation is upset with the last one for the world they inherited. They are crying out for massive action and change and will not take no for an answer this time.
Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
I always remain optimistic and positive. I keep the perspective that the world was turning before me and will continue after me. That said, statistics show optimism can be learned and that people who are optimistic usually do better because they see setbacks as temporary and the stories they tell themselves usually allow them to believe they will get through this. I have survived many storms of life, and I am still here. I feel I have a lot more to do and to accomplish and people to help along the way and that keeps me going.
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?
I think outsourcing is a huge issue. Matter cannot be created or destroyed — it just changes, just like wealth redistributes. If we are outsourcing to save money it goes against job creation in the market you are removing jobs from. This comes from an archaic approach of trying to influence share price and the bottom line. It is the same when companies have massive layoffs. I recall one boss who had to lay off many people from his firm who decided to park in the very back of the lot to walk by every empty parking space to remind himself of the jobs lost, to constantly find ways to bring those jobs back. That is how every boss should be, but not all of us have that foresight and lens of empathy. There is always a gap, a natural rate of unemployment, but you can make yourself more marketable or start a service-based industry at any time. You must create your own opportunity. But many may not humble themselves to do what needs to be done, thinking it is beneath them — which is counterintuitive while they potentially sink deeper into depression, despair, and debt. Opportunity often shows up wearing work clothes.
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.)
- Product Reviews Are GOLD. At Beautytap, not only do we provide products reviews, we provide expert reviews that are deeper, more thoughtful, and more elevated content. The trend, according to review behemoth Bazaarvoice is “over three quarters (78%) of shoppers trust reviews, even more than family and friend recommendations,” and even more so from an expert. It’s like getting medical advice from a friend versus a doctor and there is no comparison. So, all work will require some type of feedback loop for whoever is looking at something to understand from end-users how it works.
- UGC Is Important. A picture is worth a thousand words, which is why at my company every review from our expert community requires a picture. We also allow YouTube Video uploads. We see this trend on Amazon and other sites and it will be the norm everywhere in the next few years with websites and e-commerce. Work will need to showcase and create with the end-users and show more diverse faces in the community.
- Influencer Marketing Will Fade. People want authentic, honest information. In a world where everything can be bought, we can now see the difference between someone who has been paid for their opinion, versus someone who truly knows their stuff and can give sound advice who was not paid. Workers gravitate towards the relatable and authentic and can tell when they are just being marketed to. They want to be part of the dialogue and conversation.
- Continuing Education Is Essential. From apps like Udemy and Masterclass.com, online content designed to educate yourself is a billion-dollar industry. Even within our digital community at Beautytap, we put tremendous emphasis on education, not just in a classroom, but live online or on-demand, where people can pull down content to better their education and empower themselves. Many people are creating classes and content based on what they know and using it as a platform and vehicle for passive income and to upsell on other products and services. If you want to stay marketable and employable you must continually educate yourself on the latest and greatest.
- Deep Work Over Shallow Work. I think there will be a trend for more efficiency experts coming into organizations to remove redundancy and low-level, unproductive work. The people who only answer e-mail twice a day at specific times and have fewer, more productive meetings will do better overall than those who do not. Time is our greatest asset and biggest commodity and we have heard about ROI and ROAS, but it will be all about ROE, return on effort now. Get rid of all the time wasters and energy vampires in your life and work.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?
Jim Rohn says, “Don’t ask for it to be easier, ask for you to become better.” I got into self-help heavily about 10 years ago and I realized it is all about perspective. Leaders and successful people look at a problem and don’t see the limitations, they ask how can I achieve this? What do I have to do and who do I need to know to accomplish this task? Life will never be fully easy, no matter what level you will have challenges your entire life, but you can become better by constantly improving and push your best metric upward.
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.
Oprah. Anyone who can get by with just one name is epic, but someone who came through so many obstacles, to build a media empire, as a woman, and African American is very inspiring to me. I would have so many questions to ask her, my main one being did you see the vision for all this when you started out? The Oprah Effect is a real phenomenon. Her Favorite Things are still revered. It helped make Spanx a Billion-dollar company — with a “B”.
Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?
You can see all my great work behind the scenes at Beautytap ( beautytap.com and @beautytapofficial on IG) and find my music under Cliff Beach online and streaming platforms or @CliffBeachMusic on socials. Find more info on my new book “Side Hustle & Flow” at sidehustleandflow.net and my Deeper Grooves radio show is on 885fm.org Fridays 9–10 p.m. PST. Josh Gates Tonight Season 4 also airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m .PST on Discovery.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.