Christine Spadafor On How We Need To Adjust To The Future Of Work

Employees, particularly younger ones entering the workforce, are prioritizing corporate Purpose when selecting prospective employers. They want to work for companies committed to establishing ESG strategies and goals — and executing on them. They want to work for companies showing results on DEI goals. They want an environment of equality across the board: gender, ethnicity, age, race, […]

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Employees, particularly younger ones entering the workforce, are prioritizing corporate Purpose when selecting prospective employers. They want to work for companies committed to establishing ESG strategies and goals — and executing on them. They want to work for companies showing results on DEI goals. They want an environment of equality across the board: gender, ethnicity, age, race, pay. In this time of the war for talent, articulating Purpose — and living it — are more important than ever.


As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Christine Spadafor.

Christine Spadafor is a board director, management consultant, attorney, CEO, public speaker, and BBC contributor. She has led large-scale transformation initiatives for Fortune 500 companies across a broad spectrum of industries, both domestic and global. Ms. Spadafor is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard School of Public Health, a co-author of a workplace health treatise published by Johns Hopkins University Press, a lecturer on strategic leadership, diversity, ESG, board governance and women in leadership at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Harvard Medical School and other graduate programs, and a frequent speaker/keynote at seminars, meetings, and podcasts. Ms. Spadafor has been awarded two Doctor of Humane Letters degrees — received in recognition of her professional accomplishments and lifelong contributions to vulnerable and at-risk populations.


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. Please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped the way you are today.

My father was a strong, smart, kind, humble man. A WWII vet. And an early feminist. A precocious five-year old kid, I was always up for joining Dad when he went on errands. One day in the car, we were talking about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I don’t remember what I told him — but I remember what he told me: “Little girl, you can be whatever you want when you grow up. Because I know you can do anything!”

He gave me wings to fly, and I’ve never looked back.

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?

Overall view: The pandemic has exposed the core foundations of companies. Those without an articulated Purpose; without agility and adaptability; are resistant to change; can’t pivot quickly in an uncertain and disruptive environment; put profits before people; support toxic cultures; and have not embraced ESG will become irrelevant — and either cease operations or be acquired by more forward-looking organizations.

What will be different (these are both predictions and hopes):

  • Clear articulation of Purpose to all stakeholders
  • Values-driven mission lived at every level in the company
  • The interests of all stakeholders — internal and external — are served
  • A new business model that prioritizes the humanity of its employees is the top priority. Employees are the company.
  • “Flatter” organizational design built on ability to respond to fast-changing, disrupted markets and industries: agility, adaptability, flexibility, experimentation, collaboration, resilience, sustainability are required for a company to remain relevant
  • ESG embedded in the culture of the company as a “way of life,” not a project
  • Executives are incentivized for execution on Purpose, values, ESG, etc., not just share price
  • Executes on DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) — gender, racial and ethnic equity is the norm in the C-suite and at every level in the organization
  • Transparency in pay has closed the gender pay gap
  • “Non-hierarchical,” empathic and accountable leadership
  • Hybrid workplaces designed to meet the needs of the company and the employees. The 9–5 workday is obsolete.
  • Technological/AI advances for greater efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity
  • Innovation at speed — for internal operations, product development and customers
  • Virtual corporations?

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

  • Review/reassess/recraft the Purpose of the company:

The turbulence caused by the pandemic provides a timely opportunity for companies to step back and reassess the Purpose of the organization. Purpose isn’t mission or vision, what the company is or who it serves. Rather, Purpose answers: Why are we in business? What is our reason for being? What is our role in society? Are we a social enterprise? How do we enhance business resilience and promote the long-term perspective of the company? Is the Purpose the same post-pandemic as it was pre-pandemic? In my experience, I’ve found discussions addressing the questions to be most productive when invited participants have diversity of: thought, tenure, gender, generations, geography, and position levels. Not the usual subjects.

Attracting and retaining employees are challenges currently faced by employers. One reason for “The Great Resignation” is employees’ refusal to work for an organization that exists solely to maximize profits. New hires — especially Gen Z — want to work with companies that “do well by doing good.” A clearly articulated Purpose executed every day can be an effective recruiting and retention tool.

  • Do a culture check:

Recently on LinkedIn, I posted an entry about my mistake staying in jobs too long when I knew the culture and I were mismatched, and our values misaligned. My site exploded — more than 560,000 views, thousands of reactions, hundreds of comments — with visitors to the site sharing their same experiences. I reviewed each comment and found an overarching, consistent theme: toxic cultures are driving employees away. (A recent report by MIT Sloan School of Management confirmed a toxic culture is the #1 reason employees are resigning. They’ve had enough.) Comments included experiences feeling invisible, unsupported, not belonging, not being treated with dignity and respect, being discriminated against (gender, age, ethnicity, race, pay), and much more in punitive, hostile environments. Note: of the thousands of reactions and comments, not one person said their departure had anything to do with pay.

Do a deep, authentic dive into how your culture really is being experienced by the employees. Solicit feedback from those doing the work at all levels. Honor the wisdom of the crowd — they will tell you what’s working and what’s not. It’s then an opportunity to begin to craft and implement a healthy culture focused on the employee holistically — their overall wellbeing (physical, financial, mental health, social), feeling “seen,” valued and heard, respected, and treated with dignity. It also includes the company demonstrating it is a “good corporate citizen.” Those are the companies people want to work for.

Easier said than done — it’s simpler and faster to fix the balance sheet than it is to shift the culture. It starts at the top from committed leadership communicating a consistent message regularly and frequently, and visibly “walking the talk.” Executives, managers, and supervisors at all levels are accountable for intentionally reinforcing a healthy culture. As are all the employees — maintaining a healthy culture is everyone’s responsibility.

  • Revisit/redesign the business model in service of the Purpose and strategy:

Decide: do you want to disrupt yourself or be disrupted? Best to be proactively disrupt yourself and redesign business models “ahead of the curve”, rather than reactive to market and industry disruptions that may design them for you.

With the Purpose set and culture realigned, is the current business model designed for acceleration and innovation to achieve the Purpose in an uncertain, volatile business environment?

Design a “flatter,” less hierarchical model. Adopt an “Adaptive Leadership” model to allow for/reward experimentation, permission to fail without consequence, and cross-functional team collaboration (break down those silos). The result is an organization built for agility, adaptability, flexibility, experimentation, resilience, and sustainability. Being “fleet of foot” and able to pivot rapidly in an uncertain environment is a competitive advantage. And necessary to stay relevant.

If implementing a hybrid working model, do workflows need to be reconfigured to eliminate any “friction” obstructing the employees’ ability to get work done? Are tools in place for employees to work from home?

  • Are new partnerships required for seamless supply chain and data integration?
  • What about collaborating with competitors?
  • Reimagine the role of the Chief Human Resource (People/Talent) Officer and the Human Resources function:

The pandemic has put a spotlight on and elevated the role of HR. The CHRO is now a strategic partner with the business to keep operations running in complex and uncertain times, as well as a partner in reshaping the workplace of the future. No longer is it only “the Personnel/Payroll/Benefits Office.”

The CHRO has been at the forefront of agility, adaptability, and quick pivots overnight as the pandemic ravaged workplaces.

CHROs are also now “public health” administrators, responsible for ensuring safe workplaces when employees return to the workplace. As such, they are on point for following compliance requirements, and instituting and communicating seemingly daily changing health guidelines.

  • The pandemic has changed the workplace and is reshaping the work of the future. To design what the workplace of the future will look like, CHROs are addressing multiple challenges:

In partnership with the business, determine the work that needs to be done to achieve the company’s Purpose and strategy, the skills required for those jobs, and where those jobs can be done: in the office, hybrid, or no need to come in at all.

  • Expect hybrid to be the new normal. Most employees say they want WFH to continue in whole or in part because of the flexibility it gives them (and avoids hours of commuting per week). It’s the end of the 9 to 5 workday in the office as we’ve known it. Conversely, many managers want employees back in the office. How to reconcile that tension?
  • Are new talent models required? A change in talent acquisition? Do jobs workflows need to be redesigned? Do employees whose jobs will change due to technological advances and AI need upskilling/retraining to stay with the company?
  • How to do virtual recruiting? Be alert to how social movements are impacting recruitment. Prospective employees prefer to work for companies that “do well by doing good” and live their Purpose.
  • How to onboard virtually to make new employees feel welcome, connected, supported, and have a sense of belonging?
  • How to maintain a healthy corporate culture at a distance? With a hybrid model, be alert to avoid “proximity bias” that favors in-office employees over the remote workers for “plum” assignments and promotions.
  • Reskill managers to manage virtual teams. How to motivate and engage teams virtually? How do you replicate the effective office-based informal coaching and mentoring desired and needed by new hires when the work is virtual? Approaches so virtual workers do not feel isolated and alone? Are there any risks to operations? Is innovation hampered by not being together?
  • With business partners, ensure remote workers have the necessary infrastructure in place at home to work efficiently and productively. Are additional cybersecurity measures required for a more distributed workforce?
  • Engage in regular and frequent 2-way communication with all employees. Be as transparent as appropriate. Ask employees what they need, what topics they want to discuss. A CEO told me she scheduled weekly “Ask Me Anything” Zoom meetings while all workers were remote. Attendance was not mandatory, yet nearly all employees joined each week. The AMAs provided a vehicle for the CEO to hear directly from the employees and respond “real-time” to their concerns, needs, and requests. Feedback from the group helped her make material changes to address the employees issues she otherwise may not have heard about.
  • Manage turnover and retention: focus on the overall wellbeing of the employees to support true work/life balance. Multiple surveys report employees are not joining “The Great Resignation” because of pay. The #1 reason they are leaving is because of a toxic culture that does not support them, empower them, acknowledge their work, or treat them with dignity. They feel invisible. CHROs are at the forefront to lead culture change for employees to be “seen holistically” (physical, financial, mental health, social). It’s seeing the “whole person,” not only “the guys in sales” or “the woman on the plant floor.” Google recently reinforced its holistic approach for employees’ wellbeing by recognizing overall health is linked not only to work but to home life: with 40% of the staff in the “sandwich generation,” employees now have up to six months for parental leave, eight weeks of caregiver leave and a minimum of 20 days’ vacation. This recognizes employees’ needs beyond the workplace and is also intended to help prevent burnout — a significant issue for all employees regardless of work location.

Engage the entire organization is setting and achieving DEI strategies and goals. Hold management at all levels accountable for achieving them

Institute a comprehensive plan for women who want to return to work. A recent report by the National Women’s Law Center found that in January 2022, 27x more men than women joined the labor force. “Men have completely recouped pandemic employment losses, while 1.1M fewer women are in the workforce compared to February 2020. For workers older than 20 years old, NWLC found that 39,000 women joined the workforce vs. 1,000,000 men. Why? It’s more than pandemic pressures — with Omicron, schools and childcare facilities were closed.

Align executive compensation to performance achieving the Purpose and strategy of the organization, as well as results of surveys reporting employees’ overall wellbeing.

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?

Many companies are reassessing and changing what they are offering employees — especially in light of “The Great Resignation.” Some companies may have filled pre-existing gaps in response to the pandemic. It is not possible to paint with a broad brush what other employers are not willing to provide.

But the list of what employees expect is a long one. If employers are serious about closing a gap or wanting know employee expectations, just ask the workers. They won’t be shy. Some of these employee expectations have no financial costs yet have great meaning for the workers. Some key expectations:

  • Clarity of Purpose, including how their work fits into the whole and how what they do matters, how their work contributes to achieving it.
  • Supportive, non-toxic culture.
  • Being treated with respect and dignity. Having work acknowledged and appreciated. Being told “thank you” for a job well done.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion to extinguish numerous inequities and to demonstrate a culture of fairness: in gender pay; hiring; promotions; in-office vs. virtual work presence; unbiased performance reviews.
  • Hybrid and remote work, as appropriate and possible depending on the job.
  • Competent, approachable, fair, accountable, supportive leadership at all levels.
  • A safe and healthy workplace. Employees are aware of companies’ responses (or not) to the pandemic.
  • Flexibility in how the work is done.
  • Having the right tools to get the job done.
  • Training and the opportunity for professional development and advancement.
  • An environment that sees the employee “holistically” (physical, financial, mental health, social). This includes innovative parental leave and childcare policies.
  • Demonstrated commitment to the environment and sustainability.

As the workers? Well, some have spoken. Inc. magazine reports that employees returning to the office are disappointed: the culture has not changed; there’s no improvement in collaboration; and no increase in productivity. They felt more productive at home. Most employees want WFH/hybrid workplaces. Many managers want the employees back in the office. Do managers believe employees will stay if nothing changes? Do something, don’t be surprised for the high turnover to continue.

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

Comments on WFH have been provided above. Here I will share a summary of my conversation with a Fortune 500 CEO, showing how the sudden WFH experiment has influenced the future at his company work.

This CEO for years has, by his own admission, been a leader who expected employees to show up and be at their desks every day. Then the pandemic hit. Overnight the entire geographically dispersed corporation pivoted to everyone working from home. Including the CEO.

At the same time, the company had blueprints completed to construct a new 100M dollars office building to house administrative and executive offices.

The CEO was concerned about how “Work from Home” would work — concerned about his employees and the business, which was now temporarily closed. But certain administrative functions needed to accelerate during the crisis — with the executive team, HR, Finance and IT now in almost 24/7 operations.

Over several months, the CEO noted those operations were performing well virtually. No one was more surprised than he was. As time passed, he had more “data points” about increased efficiency and productivity. And employees’ feedback was that they preferred to work from home. The “be at your desk” CEO surprised himself once more when he directed his executive team to determine which tasks must be performed in the office, which could be hybrid, and which permanently could be done remotely. That work has been completed and workflows redesigned, as necessary.

The CEO also cancelled the 100M dollars building project. With so many WFH staff, more office space was available in an existing office building. The administrative and executive staff have comfortably moved in.

The CEO completely transformed the future of work. He says he sees no return to the pre-pandemic, “overbuilt” business model. It is also interesting to note that since the new model was implemented, the company has achieved record earnings.

We’ve all read 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?

A number of events have caused companies to rethink how the future of work will be supported. Two key events driving changes are the murder of George Floyd and the pandemic. Some societal drivers necessary to support the future of work:

  • #MeToo movement: institute a zero-tolerance policy for workplace harassment (or worse).
  • Demonstrated progress on DEI: to extinguish numerous inequities and demonstrate a culture of fairness: in gender pay; hiring; promotions; in-office vs. virtual work presence; unbiased performance reviews. Clearly communicate progress against goals to internal and external stakeholders.
  • Employee empowerment: “The Great Resignation” has exposed the previously unacknowledged power of employees. They have more bargaining power than they’ve had in years — and they’re walking away by the millions. It’s no surprise to see campaigns to unionize. Employers should expect more such actions if employees believe they are being treated unfairly or workplace conditions, including culture, remain unchanged.
  • Demonstrated progress on ESG: being a “good corporate citizen,” climate change and sustainability are important to employees. Companies need to show they, too, are concerned — clearly communicate progress against goals to internal and external stakeholders.
  • The pandemic has disproportionately impacted women in the workforce. Two million have left the workforce, largely to provide childcare at home. Restructuring parental leave and childcare solutions to meet the employees’ needs would provide a pathway for women to reenter the workforce. (See also response to Question 3, second to last bullet point.)
  • The pandemic has also exposed significant negative impacts on employees’ overall wellbeing and mental health. There’s no work/life balance for many. Employees are stressed to the breaking point and burned out — we hear about it in the news every day. Providing an effective mental health program as part of a “holistic” approach for employees’ overall wellbeing is a requirement and expectation, no longer an optional benefit.
  • Workplace health and safety are a priority for employees returning to the office. Employees have refused to return to offices, citing insufficient pandemic precautions. I know of several persons who quit rather than return to the office when required to do so a condition of employment. (See also response to Question 4.)

What is your greatest optimism about the future of work?

My greatest optimism about the future of work is the power, strength, creativity, and insight of teams. One can count on the wisdom of the crowd.

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 employees’ mental health and wellbeing?

A holistic wellbeing program is a foundational to the future of work. Employees need and want these programs as they deal with stress, burnout and trying to balance work and home. A recent survey documented: 91% of employees want wellness programs; 68% of millennials and 81% of Gen Z employees resigned because of mental health issues; and 67% reported at least one mental health symptom in the last year, including those in the C-suite. Innovative approaches:

  • It starts, once again, by shifting the culture of the organization:
  • Prioritize and incorporate overall wellbeing and mental health into the sustainability goals of the company. Employees are the company, so a healthy workplace supporting their physical, financial, mental health and social wellbeing are necessary. It’s the right thing to do for them. It’s also the right thing to do for the business.
  • Supportive, empathic leadership is expected. Leaders at all levels must advocate for employees’ wellbeing and mental health.
  • Every level in the organization is responsible and accountable to support wellbeing and mental health programs. It is not “owned” only by Human Resources. There’s no financial cost for managers to “check in” regularly with the employees to ask, “How are you?” Listen carefully to responses… and hear what they are really saying beyond just the words. And then take timely, meaningful actions to address their concerns.
  • Break the stigma: openly discuss the impact of work on mental health. How does the work get done and how can flexibility be built into work to combat overwork and excessive stress? Consider increasing the number and/or length of breaks, allow for time off for attending therapy appointments. Discuss work/life balance ideas and explore options to achieve it while maintaining productivity. Ask the staff for solutions. They’ll tell you.
  • Recognize that DEI is linked to wellbeing and mental health programs: data show that younger and historically underrepresented groups suffer the most.
  • The benefits, programs and tools mentioned below are needed to address wellbeing and mental health, but alone are insufficient. Employees report improved mental health and wellbeing when their work has meaning, when they feel connected, when told what they do matters to achieve the company’s goals, and being recognized and acknowledged for a job well done. Tell them they make a difference. Say “thank you.” This culture shift is an easy one to do. What about the culture is standing in the way?
  • Build more wellbeing and mental health offerings into the overall benefits package. Do current insurance benefits cover mental health? If not, what needs to happen to build it into the plan? Redesign the Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) to increase mental health limits. Expand services. Can the employees afford it? How can companies make access to mental health professionals easier and faster? It’s now common for mental health professionals to have long waiting lists or not taking new patients. Many do not take insurance.
  • Make digital tools available at no cost to the employee: Some employees may prefer to address concerns privately and at their own pace. Digital tools readily available and easy to use. It’s one option to get started. Given its generally difficult to schedule a mental health appointment in a timely way or find a professional taking new patients, this may be a faster way to start.

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?

Messages that leaders need to hear and actions to take have been addressed above, as well as how cultures need to evolve.

To “The Great Resignation” I’ll add two more “Greats:”

I’ve posted on LinkedIn about another “Great” … “The Great Renegotiation.” Employees have more power bargaining than they’ve had in a long time. It’s time for employers to pay a fair wage and erase the gender gap in pay. Employees are encouraged to engage in “The Great Renegotiation.” But let me be clear — if the employer supports a toxic culture, it is unlikely employees will choose to stay even with higher wages (see Trend 2 in Question 10).

Key tips for “The Great Renegotiation:”

  • Before the meeting:

Know the outcome you want. You’re not asking for a personal favor.

Prepare! Is there a state or company pay transparency policy? Do market research. Ask colleagues with the same job about their pay. Review your last performance evaluation — did you improve and act on the feedback?

  • In the meeting:

Emphasize your contribution to the organization and the team.

Deliver with fact-based assertiveness and a clear request.

Engage in a 2-way conversation.

  • If “no”:

Have a Plan B and be ready to respond.

Is there something else you want to count toward total comp?

Schedule the next meeting.

Regroup, work on feedback, try again.

The other “Great” is “The Great Aspiration,” as defined by Whitney Johnson, CEO of Disruption Advisors in Inc. magazine: “The Great Resignation ought to be called The Great Aspiration: an ambitious workforce on the march seeking better pay, better work-life balance and better opportunities.” Indeed. Employee empowerment at work.

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

Articulation of and Execution on Corporate Purpose. Employees, particularly younger ones entering the workforce, are prioritizing corporate Purpose when selecting prospective employers. They want to work for companies committed to establishing ESG strategies and goals — and executing on them. They want to work for companies showing results on DEI goals. They want an environment of equality across the board: gender, ethnicity, age, race, pay. In this time of the war for talent, articulating Purpose — and living it — are more important than ever.

Add to this the requirement from institutional investors for Purpose statements to be implemented. A recent article in Fortune noted “Institutional investors… don’t see purpose being practiced in the companies they invest in… companies are not taking it seriously… communications are shallow, flimsy, lacking substance and any mechanisms for accountability.” Ouch. Lots of “talk.” No “walk.”

The financial pressure from institutional investors who hold companies accountable will likely result in corporations stepping up efforts to craft, clearly articulate and communicate, and live Purpose statements.

Increased attention on and delivery of holistic wellbeing programs (physical, financial, mental health, social). As previously discussed, employee mental health challenges caused by burnout, being overworked, being overstressed and no work/life balance is in a state of crisis. Employers need to support employees differently than in the past — to support the “whole person” (see Question 8 response). Do the right thing for the people who keep the company operating. Increasing pay alone is no longer sufficient to support employees or keep them from resigning, as you’ll see below. They want “different.”

A recent New York Times article makes this point specifically. The heading: “Why Wall Street Is Suddenly Bullish on Work-Life Balance: Even huge bonuses can’t offset plunging morale at investment banks and the rush to escape a ‘toxic’ work culture.” The article reports that Wall Streeters’ compensation packages increased from 20% to 50% last year. At the same time, workers reported working 110 hours/week. One said, “I’ve been through foster care and this is arguably worse.” They’re joining “The Great Resignation.” Why the shift in priorities? An expert finds that people have increased satisfaction when their work matters, that “meaning” matters. Once again, we circle back to having an articulated, actionable corporate Purpose and adopting a healthy culture. They are inextricably linked.

A survey of 322 companies, conducted by Willis Towers Watson, illustrates how far companies have yet to go to meet employees’ need and expectations. Of the respondents, 86% said mental health and burnout are top priorities, but only 25% had articulated, adopted wellbeing strategies. Overall, only about one-third said they were planning or considering strategies and implementation plans in 2022. Only one-third? Are employers listening? Companies listening to, hearing their employees, and taking actions on voiced concerns will have a competitive and recruiting advantage.

ESG and DEI. To add to what has already been written on these topics in the above responses…

For both ESG and DEI, companies are being squeezed from the “top down” and “bottom up:”

  • From “top down,” investors are tracking progress in both areas — and making investment decisions accordingly. Not sufficient progress against the goals? Depending on the results, investors may decrease the amount of investment — or decide not to invest at all. Rating agencies for public companies are also keeping a keen eye on how companies are advancing these initiatives.
  • From “bottom up,” employees and customers have increased expectations of ESG progress and having a diverse workforce, including in the C-suites and on boards of directors. Goldman Sachs recently announced it will not invest in companies that have no women on their boards. Others are following suit. California legislated a quota for women on boards.
  • More and more employees are deciding who they want to for based on companies’ commitments of and execution on ESG and DEI. Millennials and Gen Z expect it. Customers are speaking with their wallets when evaluating a company’s commitment to ESG, particularly sustainability.
  • Enlightened companies realize that ESG and DEI strategies must be part of the fabric of the company — not “one-off, time-limited” special projects — to attract talent, create a competitive advantage, and enhance a company’s reputation.
  • Marsh McLennon recently reported that execution on ESG and DEI increases employee satisfaction, and increases retention, thereby building a pipeline of diverse talent. The study found that when employees connect to something important that gives their work “special meaning” rather than “just a job,” they are 56% more likely to experience innovation opportunities. Exactly the spark you want in your talent. For the long-term.

Increased in technology/AI. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital transformation — by three years, according to a study conducted by McKinsey. Companies with a head start pre-pandemic had a competitive advantage compared to those that did not. But still, the acceleration has not slowed down and is making way for advanced innovations.

McKinsey tracked the rate of acceleration to digital transformation across several business indices. For example, companies surveyed had planned for an increase in remote working and/or collaboration take 454 days. It was done in 10.5 days. The increased use of advanced technologies in operations was expected to be completed in 672 days. It took 26.5. And the increased use of advanced technologies for business decision making was projected for 35 days. Done in 25.4.

These rapid accelerations and in-the-moment pivots also affect culture: sudden WFH arrangements required agility to roll out tech tools to work efficiently, productively, and securely. Workflows were redesigned to keep operations working without friction. Consumers — already well acquainted with online shopping — increased their use of online channels in large part due to the closure of brick-and-mortar stores, many of which accelerated their tech offerings, as well. Those that did not have been left behind.

The accelerations and advances have also had an impact on employees. New workflows eliminated some work previously done by staff. Automation and AI has done the same. What are employers doing to upskill and reskill these employees to keep them in the organization, even if in a different role?

We should expect many of these technologies to stay. BDO projects permanent and long-term changes for business, including:

  • Healthcare — likely all of us have seen our health care professionals on telehealth Zoom videos over the last two years. Before, all our visits were in person in the office. BDO projects that telehealth will replace the traditional annual visit by 2025.
  • Real Estate — new and renovated houses will have WFH spaces.
  • Financial Services — technology will provide better security and tracking of individual purchases and transactions by 2023.

Welcome to the new norm.

Increased employee empowerment. Employees have been exhibiting their power through the ongoing mass exodus of “The Great Resignation.” They are clear about what they need and are not getting, and clear about their expectations that are not being met. They are walking.

To reconfirm some of the strategies already described that address employee concerns:

  • Shift to a model of Adaptive Leadership from the hierarchical top-down structure. AL is best suited to address systemic, complex problems for which there is no obvious answer and no one group owns the problem. This leadership approach encourages collaboration across functions and breaking down silos with diverse teams — gender, race, ethnicity, level, tenure, geography, thought — selecting persons who feel the impact of the problem first-hand, not “the usual suspects”; freedom to experiment and innovate; an environment where failure is not punished (call it early and pivot quickly); and discussing the undiscussable — talking about the elephant in the room — because if not done in the experimental phase, it will come up later and possibly derail the solution. This approach cements the interconnectedness and interdependencies among all the departments and functions in the organization. When I worked with clients make the evolution to AL, the design-thinking solutions were more effective, comprehensive, and had greater impact — both internally and externally — than any management team, department or function could have designed in isolation.
  • Employ strategies ensure the company and employees are aligned on Purpose and culture.
  • Redesign systems to give employees more control over their work, providing more flexibility, and upskill those who may be displaced by technology.

More is being reported in the news about employees in certain sectors organizing to unionize. Unionization in the US is at an all-time low, but these employees remain undaunted:

  • Amazon workers want better working conditions: higher wages, longer breaks, better medical leave options.
  • Congressional staffers want to renegotiate working conditions: diversity, Covid-19 safety protocols, sexual harassment, stagnant pay (average is 29,000 dollars/year).
  • Starbucks baristas have unionized in two locations in New York and have filed petitions for 50 other stores in 19 states, wanting changes in staffing, training and pay.

What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” And how has this shaped your perspective?

“Whatever you choose to do, leave tracks.

That means don’t do it just for yourself.

You will want to leave the world a little better for your having lived.”

– Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

This quote resonates exactly with how I was raised. I was fortunate to be born to two exceptional people. Both parents were generous, talented, patient and they loved my brother and me ferociously. Lucky, lucky me.

Quiet philanthropy was a way of life and part of the fabric of our home. My parents were active community volunteers for decades. They were role models for charitable works and giving back. My Mother, for example, was a volunteer at our local hospital for 25 years. My Father, an engineer, did pro bono electrical work for the elderly and the poor. And so much more… always without fanfare. I learned from watching them and the examples they set. For years I’ve been involved with non-profits, been a community volunteer for at-risk and underserved populations, and serve as a mentor to many young professionals. As my late parents did and continue to do through their legacies, I hope to leave tracks.

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 love to meet Mark Cuban for a private breakfast or lunch. Why? Because even with his spectacular wealth, he’s not forgotten where he came from — Pittsburgh! — and the challenges he overcame to build his successful enterprise. (I love Pittsburgh, too! I went to college and worked as an ICU nurse there.) He understands and empathizes with contestants on Shark Tank who have faced the challenges he did — and offers them a hand up to realize their dreams. Mark is a champion of DEI and gender equity. But even more so (going back to my medical roots) I admire him for his “conscious capitalism” approach, most recently using his talents and funds to establish a company to make prescription drugs affordable, championing covid vaccines and thoughtfully creating a space for immunocompromised persons to enjoy watching his Dallas Mavs. Giving back and doing well by doing good.

Runners up:

  • Jose Andres — the global “Food Angel”
  • McKenzie Scott — the role model for philanthropy

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what your discovering?

I invite readers to connect with me and stay current on what I’m discovering though my LinkedIn site: LinkedIn.com/in/christinespadafor

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

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