Flexibility in General — Remote/Hybrid Work — Express Employment Professionals International HQ pivoted to a mostly remote workforce in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and when we fully return to the office, we will offer a hybrid schedule for positions that allow it. I think this trend will continue in some capacity for the Office Services and other related industries. I don’t believe remote work will be feasible in the logistics and transportation fields as their work is more hands-on.
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 Bill Stoller.
William H. Stoller is founder, CEO and chairman of the board of Express Employment Professionals, a global staffing provider with over 830 franchise locations in five countries, employing 526,000 people globally in 2020. Prior to co-founding Express, Stoller began his career with Acme Personnel Services in 1973 as a placement consultant and subsequently held positions as branch manager, group manager, district manager and regional manager for Oregon and Utah. Stoller has received numerous accolades, including being named to the National Association of Personnel Services Hall of Fame and serving on the Board of Advisors for the American Staffing Association, National Association of Personnel Services, and Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, among others. Stoller is actively involved in the community, as well, including as a member of the Rotary Club of Portland since 1977 and past president. Committed to sustainable environmental practices, in his spare time Stoller converted his family’s Dayton, Oregon, turkey farm into a wine vineyard in 1993. The farm, in Stoller’s family since the 1940s, is now thriving and was the world’s first LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified winemaking facility in 2006. Producing a variety of wine for the Stoller Family Estate label, they blend traditional gravity flow winemaking with energy efficient systems to preserve the quality of grapes while reducing negative environmental impact. In 1993, Stoller also joined the winery operations for Oregon’s Chehalem Winery, transitioning to sole owner in 2018.
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 Oregon where I learned the value of hard work, discipline and investment by working on our family’s turkey farm. It’s one of my favorite projects because once the farm ceased operation, I was able to purchase it and cultivate the land into a now thriving vineyard. Looking back, I had a high school counselor make a suggestion to me that I should go to college, play basketball, major in business and then come back to manage the family farm once I finished with my studies. I did 3 of the 4 recommendations but didn’t come back to the farm until I was able to transform it into a vineyard.
My staffing and employment career started when I joined Acme Personnel Services in 1973 and it proved to be a life-changing opportunity. After moving up within the company, the United States hit a recession in the early 1980s, rendering the company into financial trouble. I decided to go into business with two other gentlemen who were part of Acme to form what is now Express Employment Professionals. Over the years and through various economic conditions, I’ve learned a lot about what makes a business last. It starts with hiring people who give 100% of their capabilities and people who care about finding people a job. It’s also important as a franchise system that we recruit franchisees who are passionate about being a positive force in their community; without them, we don’t succeed. Additionally, it is key having the flexibility to adapt to market conditions and targeting growth in communities where our franchisees can truly make an impact.
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 obvious disruption currently is the COVID-19 pandemic and the ramifications it will have on the workforce for years to come. The lasting effects are hard to predict but a few things we have learned are what businesses are considered essential, the rise in remote work, and the glaring need for more training.
The biggest threat to employers during this time was the lack of adaptability, whether it was the actual business or the employees. Those that thrived in the last year were able to quickly pivot to avoid disruptions to customers. This included providing technology for employees to work remotely and supporting them during a very stressful time. I think adaptability will continue to be the key to survival as consumer interests and needs evolve over the next decade.
Moreover, one of the biggest disruptions to employers will be people! Finding people who have the right hard and soft skills and who qualify for opportunities. It also remains to be seen how long the worker shortage will last across the nation. While the rapid reopening of business after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted is the cause of the current shortage, the pandemic just hastened what was already written on the wall. Certain industries were already facing a critical worker shortage crisis and unless more people are trained in these areas, the issue will only continue to get worse.
The most critical industries are skilled trades such as welding, machine operators, and plumbers. Businesses need to partner with local Vo-Tech schools now and ensure the pipeline of workers is there to replace those who are on the path to retirement. Training will undoubtedly be the key to this segment of the future workforce.
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?
College degrees are absolutely necessary for some jobs. But with the ever-widening skills gap in the traditional blue-collar roles, those industries are incredibly lucrative for young adults as careers. You can earn a certification quicker than the traditional four-year institution and with little to no student loan debt, providing a strong career with great growth potential. Jobs are readily available following this career path with salaries usually higher than entry-level pay.
Students have to major in something that is of help to not only their future but to our country. My recommendation to all students: If you don’t major in business — minor in business! A background in business will always come in handy. Students should also earn a technical education as well. Such skills will always be useful and go a long way.
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?
Human interaction has become a lost art in hiring and job seeking with all the recruiting technology available. While this technology has undoubtedly made the process more efficient, networking will help job seekers find employment that fits their talent and interests. It’s hard to get the whole scope of a company through a job posting, but an actual company employee can give a better idea of the business culture and day-to-day life.
Additionally, job seekers need to prepare themselves to develop their talents! Interest alone is tough — just having interest doesn’t mean you’ll be successful or get the job you want, unless that’s an in-demand need by a company! Uncover your strengths and talents and position yourself for opportunities where those assets can shine.
The statistics of artificial intelligence and automation eliminating millions of jobs, appears 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?
This is where individuals should hone the soft skills of adaptability and flexibility. Workers need to be aware of which industries promise the most longevity and gain the necessary skills now to enter those fields. And while automation can be scary to some, it isn’t something to fear! There is still so much opportunity and companies will need staff to program these methods and technicians to repair them when they go awry.
Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?
With the tight labor market, for companies that are able to offer this, I do see some sort of remote work continuing for at least the new future. This could be a hybrid schedule of coming into the office a few days a week and the other work from home. The hybrid model offers some work/life balance employees are looking for, but it’s also important to interact with colleagues in person. It promotes camaraderie, creativity, and cohesiveness.
What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?
The younger generations in the workforce view their career journeys very differently than my generation does, and it’s not all bad. I’m sure the generation before me thought me and my peers were thorns in their sides.
Studies show that these workers are looking to work with companies that stand for something in the way of social justice or philanthropy. They also want a better work/life balance that allows them to travel or take on new hobbies. This is what has led to the rise in requested remote positions and companies will have to invest in more technology to support this. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work in so many ways, so again, I think it remains to be seen how society will need to shift to support these fundamental changes to work in the post-pandemic era.
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 the current job seekers’ market, I think it’s hard for employers to shift their mindset of traditional work to attract applicants. They’ve had to get creative with benefits and other incentives that you usually don’t have to deploy for recruiting in the shadow of a recession.
If employees want more work/life balance, they will have to prove their skills in the time they are on the clock. This may mean not logging off at 5 p.m. every day and answering calls during their off-hours. But the trade-off is greater time flexibility.
For both employers and employees, it’s going to be a trial and error of “give and take” in addition to increased flexibility on both sides. No one party holds all the cards. Less rigidness is key, while also balancing and protecting company culture. Honestly, if a person doesn’t feel connected to a company, they lose that sense of togetherness, which is vital to human interaction. Losing that connection — on both sides — will do more harm than good.
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?
Regarding social safety nets and potential inadequacies in the system. I’ll defer to political pundits and analysts to debate these topics. The pandemic uncovered both challenges and opportunities across the board. As an employment expert, what I do know is that the greatest safety net is created when individuals evolve in their skillset and upskill whenever they can. The skills gap has widened even more during the pandemic and in this tight labor market, those who were able to upskill and diversify in their knowledge are ahead of the game and able to unlock a world of opportunity.
Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
My greatest source of optimism is the resiliency of the human spirit. Through the struggle of the last year-and-a-half, Americans have found ways to survive, whether that is personally or professionally. We’ve come together when things have seemed impossible and I hope that adaptability translates to economic prosperity. Yes, the future of work will be different, and different can mean more innovation and success. Not to mention a greater sense of purpose.
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 the job losses and the growth of new jobs. What do you think we can do to reduce the length of this gap?
This “pandemic induced” recession has been very interesting because it was short-lived and followed by an explosion of job openings. Not all the jobs that were lost have been recovered, but there are a record number of job openings right now. That means a good portion of the working-age population has given up looking for a position and we need to find out why.
Survey data says barriers, such as caregiving, are a major issue, as well as the inability to find work at the previous pay level. Yes — some people have chosen not to work, some households have transitioned to single-income earning units. In addition to retirement and early-retirement. I think employers are trying their best right now to accommodate employees and we need to continue encouraging those are the sidelines to rejoin 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.)
- Flexibility in General — Remote/Hybrid Work — Express Employment Professionals International HQ pivoted to a mostly remote workforce in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and when we fully return to the office, we will offer a hybrid schedule for positions that allow it. I think this trend will continue in some capacity for the Office Services and other related industries. I don’t believe remote work will be feasible in the logistics and transportation fields as their work is more hands-on.
- Automation — Companies have been testing out automation for years and with the current worker shortage, businesses see this as a more cost-effective and efficient way to keep services flowing. You can see this at your local McDonald’s where you can walk up to a screen to order and only interact with a worker when you pick up your food. Because of automation, I also predict an uptick in technology maintenance and programming jobs.
- Reskilling — Employers are going to have to offer reskilling or upskilling options for their workers as consumer needs shift. Several of our franchises partner with local colleges and VO-Techs to have workers trained and ready to start skilled trades jobs on day one. Companies must play a part in training the next generation or face a critical shortage of skills.
- More Technology Integration — Technology will continue to integrate into every facet of the workforce. At Express International Headquarters, we have doubled our budget for technology upgrades, realizing investing in quality systems now will help us reach our business goals of the future. We speeded up the advancement of technology.
- Temporary Assignments — Workers are looking for more opportunities and flexibility and temporary assignments offer both of these, as well as a chance to dabble in different industries. We have several Express associates who are caregivers for their spouses or parents, and these assignments allow them to be there both physically and financially for their families.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?
Peter Drucker said, “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.” Culture is the backbone of a company. It’s what makes work fun, enjoyable and provides purpose.
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.
Musicians/Singers Billy Davis Jr. and Marilyn McCoo. Currently they are 2/5ths of the Musical Group 5th Dimension. What great talent and career longevity!
Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?
The best place to keep up with news about Express Employment Professionals is to visit the Newsroom section on our website, ExpressPros.com.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.