Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Although (DEI) is a hot topic of conversation today, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Organizations today are beginning to see the value in developing a DEI program. We can expect to see greater implementation in the coming years as organizations continue to be challenged to participate and comment on a wide variety of atrocities. A well-developed DEI program will serve as the cornerstone of an organization’s efforts to be responsive within an organization and the communities in which their employees serve, work and live
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 Kimberly Kayler.
Kimberly Kayler, CPSM is president of AOE (Advancing Organizational Excellence), the for-profit subsidiary entity of the American Concrete Institute (ACI).
Recently selected as one of the most influential people in the concrete construction industry by Concrete Construction magazine, Kimberly is Co-Founder of the Women in Concrete Alliance (WICA) and leads efforts to create networking programs for women in the concrete industry. In this capacity, she represented WICA on the U.S. Secretary of Transportation’s Women in Transportation Roundtable.
A frequent public speaker, she has authored more than 2,000 articles and is the co-author of Leading with Marketing, a handbook for marketing and business development professionals. organization.
She received her BA in journalism/English from The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, and she currently serves as a mentor at the University and administers a scholarship program. She earned her MS in organization and management with an emphasis in leadership from Capella 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?
With a background as marketing director for two separate engineering firms, as well as time as an account executive in an advertising firm, I started Constructive Communication, Inc. (CCI) in 2001 to serve the needs of professional service and business-to-business technical firms. In January of 2018, Creative Association Management and CCI merged to create AOE — the industry’s leading association management and organizational consulting firm and I assumed the leadership role. With a client listing of both industry associations and privately held companies such as contractors, engineers, and product suppliers, AOE provides consulting and association management services ranging from outsourced HR and financial services, publications, electronic media and website development, certification, marketing, social media, public relations and crisis communications, strategic planning, event/meeting planning and execution, as well as strategic and operational planning.
Recently selected as one of the most influential people in the concrete construction industry by Concrete Construction magazine, I serve as Co-Founder of the Women in Concrete Alliance (WICA) and lead efforts to create networking programs for women in the concrete industry. In this capacity, I represented WICA on the U.S. Secretary of Transportation’s Women in Transportation Roundtable. Further, I am certified by the National Transportation Safety Board in crisis communications and am a frequent speaker and business trainer on the topic. Trained by the University of Michigan on Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI), I also frequently speak and train members of the construction industry on DEI concepts and strategy.
As a frequent public speaker, I have authored more than 2,000 articles and am the co-author of Leading with Marketing, a handbook for marketing and business development professionals. I was the first person in Ohio to earn the Certified Professional Services Marketer designation in 1999 and still hold this certification designation. I was named mentor of the year by the University of Arizona in spring 2021 and I was recently appointed to the Alumni Board of Directors for the University. I currently serve as the PR chair and am a member of the Rotary Club of St. Michael-Albertville in Minnesota, and am an active member and Women’s Wellness chair for the St. Michael-Albertville Women of Today organization.
From 2009–2019, I served as an Adjunct Professor in the Integrated Marketing Communications Department at Columbus State Community College, Columbus, OH. During that time, in addition to teaching, I also developed curriculum. I received my BA in journalism/English from The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, and currently serve as a mentor at the University and administer a scholarship program. I earned my MS in organization and management with an emphasis in leadership from Capella University.
It was my experience as a student at the University of Arizona that really shaped my current self. I was provided many internship and co-op opportunities. I was very fortunate to benefit from my exposure to those who wanted to open doors and encourage me to pursue my goals. These experiences drove my commitment to providing others with opportunities, through training, mentoring and empowering. of training employees, training our workforce, the importance of giving people an opportunity.
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 way we work has changed forever and there is no turning back. The remote workforce will be very dynamic. Even when many are back in the office, we will collaborate differently which, if not done right, will limit the path to work with those within our communities. Working with partners will also change. For employers and their employees to succeed, they must accept these changes and create a culture that supports the changes. Employers should ask themselves, “What are our core values, our culture? Are they meaningful and relevant in this new reality?”
I’ve read many articles post-pandemic that warn of inequities for those who work in an office and those who don’t, primarily because the latter are not seen. Discrimination against those who work remotely doesn’t have to happen. With clear metrics and goals, the person working in another city or state can still have as much opportunity as a person in the office.
Employers must view their remote workers as equal and contributing members of the team, and then work diligently to create a culture that supports them. My team at AOE was remote by design before the pandemic. And we had (and continue to have) a great culture. But we worked very hard to build it. It was very intentional in how we communicated and collaborated. With many organizations now shifting back to at least some coming back to the office, there is this mentality of returning to that same culture as before. I don’t think you can. And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. But we must work hard and be intentional in building a culture that works for those who are remote as well as those in the office. This is about more than having great collaboration tools — it’s about your culture as an organization. We’re in a major disruption right now and addressing what we’re experiencing now is relevant and very important.
I get very frustrated when I hear of employers questioning whether a remote working is really “working.” Are they completing assignments? Meeting deadlines? Contributing? Employees working remotely often feel undervalued, not trusted to do their jobs and/or ignored. If a person must be in your office for you to know what they’re doing or if face-to-face interactions in the office are their only path to moving up the ladder, then you are lacking the performance metrics and goals that not only ensure that your entire team is performing to its potential, but they are also key to your employees’ (and organization’s) success.
The choice as to whether 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 to go to college?
Everyone is tired of talking about the pandemic, but it has so clearly changed many aspects of our lives and our views on what was once “normal”, including education. With many schools switching to fully remote learning last year (and some retaining this as an option this year) and more students considering their options, the pandemic has become an equalizer of sorts.
We need to look at alternatives and rewrite that narrative and we need to reshape what higher education looks like. Community colleges and trade schools, for example, are great and less expensive alternatives.
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?
My advice to job seekers is to get out there! Volunteer. Do something to gain experience in your field of interest. I know it can be difficult if you’re trying to put food on the table. And, because of the pandemic, many have not been in the workforce (paid or voluntary) for the last year or year and a half. I see many resumes crossing my desk where the individuals have not done anything since the start of the pandemic, yet they are looking for their big break in a specialized field. Volunteer opportunities don’t have to be time-consuming or in-person. If they have difficulty finding a job that fits their interests, they should look for a job that will pay the bills and help them develop the skills that translate well from one job to another (i.e., managing a project, leading a team, innovating, etc.). Volunteering can also help the jobseeker hone these basic skills as well as those that align directly with their interests. I’d rather see a candidate with zero experience in marketing, for example, if you were working for the last year in an unrelated field but volunteered for community organization, gaining marketing and communication skills. That hasn’t changed since I was in college. If you don’t have the experience needed for a desired position, volunteer somewhere. And consider requesting to shadow or conduct informational interviews with those working in your area of interest.
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?
Become a critical thinker and develop excellent communication skills. Robots can support but can’t replace our strategic thinking. They also lack the ability to create, conceptualize, deal with the unknown, or act with empathy. This is not to discount AI. Rather, we need to be open to change and adapt, embrace and learn about this technology, and keep your eye on those job opportunities where humans and machines collaborate — some of which have yet to be imagined.
Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?
Absolutely! While working from home has been around for years, prior to the pandemic, many organizations were hesitant to embrace it. Now, after more than a year for many, employers are bringing people back to the office and, while some are thrilled to be back in the office, others are much less enthusiastic. The pandemic forced the shift to work from home and, even though many are returning to the workplace, there is no turning back. Ultimately, the workforce will include a mix of employees in the office and those working remotely. In addition, remote working will take on a different meaning — going beyond simply working from home. Employers need to acknowledge this new reality and ensure a culture that supports all employees, whether in-person or remote, equally.
What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?
A deliberate attention to building a remote culture, ensuring clear goals and metrics for employees, and improving how we provide and receive feedback to and from employees.
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?
For employers, it comes back to people not wanting to work how they did before. Goals and metrics are needed so you know that your employees are working. The ideology shifts from the time clock to performance. It boils down to trust. Do you trust your employees to get the job done? Employers need to build the right culture with established goals and metrics designed to measure their employees’ performance. One of the most frustrating comments I have heard is, “you trusted me for the last two years when I was in the office. Now that I’m remote, you no longer trust me.” That can be demoralizing for the employee and significantly affect their job performance.
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?
Major disruptions like the pandemic not only affect the economy and the workplace, but they can also have a serious impact on workers’ lives and their families. Lay-offs, fewer job opportunities, reductions in hours (and pay) are compounded by daycares closing and schools moving to remote learning. Add to that a sense of isolation, separation from loved ones and fear of illness, and it’s no wonder that many workers are extremely stressed during this pandemic. While some are looking at ways society can address the challenges workers are facing today, employers can also develop solutions to help reduce their employees’ stress levels. These could include offering remote workers flexibility in their schedule so they can care for their children while their spouse or partner is working, and vise versa, or ensuring consistent and purposeful communications with employees to discuss how they are doing, what level of support they need from you, their employer, and how much they are appreciated. These actions may not solve the overarching issues, but they will go a long way to help workers get through difficult times.
Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
I am most proud of how our team continues to support one another and collaborate, no matter what challenges have been thrown our way. And I hope that others will take note of their successes and the obstacles they overcame in the last year and a half and feel that same optimism in the future of their work, I see a tremendous opportunity for organizations to build a culture where employees, whether in the office or remote, are truly valued based on their performance. We have a huge opportunity to create our future, one in which we are strategic and deliberate in everything we do, and truly valued based on collaboration and performance.
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?
Employers may not be currently hiring but that shouldn’t stop them from providing young people with opportunities like internships and co-ops. We need to invest in the next generation, give them our time and attention, provide hands-on training and experiences, and prepare them for the workforce. This will, in turn, develop their skills and experience and they will be ready to hit the round running when a job opportunity arises.
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) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Although (DEI) is a hot topic of conversation today, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Organizations today are beginning to see the value in developing a DEI program. We can expect to see greater implementation in the coming years as organizations continue to be challenged to participate and comment on a wide variety of atrocities. A well-developed DEI program will serve as the cornerstone of an organization’s efforts to be responsive within an organization and the communities in which their employees serve, work and live.
2) A shrinking talent pool. As more members of the Baby Boomer generation retire, there will be more jobs to fill and a shrinking talent pool. It is important now more than ever to consider expanding the industry’s diversity and inclusion initiatives — in part, to help widen that talent pool. Beyond the bottom-line reasons for incorporating these types of programs, regularly having conversations about diversity and inclusion issues will help foster an environment of openness with team members, which has been shown to improve productivity and employee retention. At the same time, we need to open doors for the next generation and prepare them for the passing of the torch. Provide internships and co-ops, sign up to teach a course at a local college, invite young people to shadow veteran workers — these are just a few ways to pave the way for the next generation.
3) A more balanced management approach. Too often, management styles fall into one extreme category or another. Aggressive, rigid and intolerant on one hand, overly empathetic on the other. A book I often recommend to clients is Radical Candor by Kim Scott. This is a great handbook for leaders looking to create a culture where employees are appreciated, enjoy their jobs, embrace collaboration and strive to meet or exceed expectations. To succeed in the future of work, organizations must find that balance between the two extremes. Managers can accomplish this by building strong relationships with their team members through guidance and constructive feedback (including both criticism and praise), building a culture where employees feel empowered and engaged, and establishing clearly defined goals to ensure that everyone is performing to their potential.
4) Greater collaboration. The pandemic forced the shift from the office to remote. Organizations that adapted well to the relatively sudden displacement of their teams were those in which collaboration was supported, encouraged and celebrated. They embraced the change and discovered new ways to work together.
Even with some returning to the office, remote work is here to stay. And that’s ok. But leaders must recognize that adjusting to this new mix of office and remote workers will take work. But the pay-off can be fantastic!
5) Organizational transparency. The demand on organizations to be more transparent with their employees and stakeholders will continue to increase. The American Society of Association Executives’ ASAE Handbook of Professional Practices states, “The need for organizational transparency will generate growing demand for information on the ethical implications of the organization’s decision-making process.”
Workplace transparency has evolved from simply ensuring employees know the organization’s goals and how they will be measured to providing employees with the who, what, when, where and why. We will see more organizations embrace transparency to better engage their employees, build trust and nurture loyalty. In turn, they can expect to reap the benefits of improved communications with employees freely expressing their opinions, greater collaboration and problem-solving, to name a few. The result? Job satisfaction will skyrocket and so will the organization’s ROI.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?
I think as it relates to business, one quote that has had quite an impact on my perspective is, “the answer will present itself.” And that’s because I am not, by nature, a patient person. In fact, I am a huge planner and, at the same time, a quick decision-maker. But I have found, in trusting that the answer will indeed present itself, confidence in times when I’m not sure which direction to turn, and, in some cases, I have taken a step back to consider my options and allow the answer to present itself. This philosophy has helped me in my approach to planning and making some tough decisions.
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.
Kim Scott, author. Twitter handle is @kimballscott
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.