Remote work and virtual meetings are here to stay. The rise in virtual meeting technology like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting, have facilitated the transition and we have all become more comfortable using these tools. Even though brainstorming, onboarding and negotiating are examples of things that do not work well remotely, the pros outweigh the cons. For employers, this means reduced office space requirements, reduced need for business travel, which saves the organization time and money. Employers will start to redefine productivity and redesign workspaces to accommodate the new styles of working. For employees, they benefit with a reduced commuting time and increased work-life balance.
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 Janet Candido, Founder and Principal of Candido Consulting Group.
Founder and Principal of Candido Consulting Group, Janet Candido combines strong business and HR skills to help organizations achieve their strategic goals. A creative problem solver with over 20 years experience in the Human Resources field, Janet is an authority on workplace systems and culture, and applies her expertise to provide innovative solutions for clients. Janet’s goal is to help organizations, executive teams and their employees reach optimal performance. Janet also puts her creativity to use as a 3D artist, and is a founding member of Toronto Art Visions, a non-profit community arts organization.
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 studied psychology at York University in Toronto, Canada, because I was always interested in finding out how people behave and what motivates them. HR seemed like an obvious fit as it combines understanding business principles and human emotions and behaviours. I’ve been in the industry for over 30 years now, having led HR teams at various large organizations including Lloyds Bank (now part of HSBC), before I founded my consulting firm in 1999.
Over the years, I’ve seen many changes in workplace systems and culture, especially over the last 18 months. I enjoy working closely with my clients to provide innovative solutions that make sense for the current workforce and world we’re living in, with the goal to retain and attract talent and make their organization a desirable place to work. HR exposes you to people at their best and at their worst — you see how they react to events, and how they interpret what is going on around them.
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?
One of the biggest disruptions for employers is remote work, whether it’s part time or full time. Having a remote workforce changes a lot of things; it changes the recruitment process and how you hire people. For instance, if you’re only doing virtual interviews using technology like Microsoft Teams or Zoom, you have to conduct them differently because you’re only seeing people from the neck up, so you’re missing a lot of body language that can provide cues or add nuance. Also, there were certain positions that you would only hire within a certain geographical location and commuting distance but, now, employers don’t necessarily have to worry about that yet still need to navigate through the roster of talent from new geographical locations.
The main challenge with remote working is that most managers and leaders haven’t been properly trained to manage a workforce that isn’t under their noses. They aren’t equipped with the necessary skills one needs to have in order to lead remote staff successfully. Even though we’ve been doing this for over a year now there hasn’t been, in most places, I would say, any concerted effort to teach them to develop those skills. I think a lot of companies are still thinking that this is temporary so they really need to shift their mindset. Employers also have to rethink how to measure productivity and the best way to do it. It’s not the person at their desk from nine to five, with a half hour for lunch, anymore. It has to be more results oriented as much as possible, and focusing more on whether the employee did what they were supposed to rather than seeing if they’re working within a designated time frame.
Another thing to note is that the pandemic exposed us to mental health in a way we haven’t been exposed to before. Its impact on how people cope permeates the workplace and I think the whole conversation around mental health is going to continue and expand in order to adapt to the employees’ mental health needs and workplace productivity.
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?
My advice for young people is to go to college/university. The non-degree millionaire is really not the norm and instead of focusing on the fact that they don’t have a college degree, you have to ask how did these people become a millionaire — what attributes or skills did they have or possess to enable them to become a millionaire? What circles did they travel in, and what opportunities were they exposed to? The workforce is only becoming more and more competitive so without that degree, it just makes it more difficult to stand out from the rest. Also, most low-skill and low-wage jobs that don’t necessarily require a degree are disappearing thanks to automation. For example, the driverless car will impact workers in the delivery service and self-checkout machines will impact workers at supermarkets. So if you don’t have post-secondary education taking you in a direction, you’re going to have a very hard time finding meaningful work.
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?
I think we’re past the day where people applied for a whole bunch of jobs and took the first offer because they needed it. Recently, recruitment has been a big challenge and there is actually a global shortage of qualified employees. You know, I’ve had this discussion with many people and they all agree that trying to recruit for almost anything is difficult and time consuming. This just means that new strategic approaches need to be put in place in order to attract talent.
I always encourage job seekers to do as much research as they can on the company and the role they are applying for. It’s important for them to understand the work culture, the values, and if they will fit in with the organization. Job seekers need to be self-aware and find out what they need in a job beyond a paycheck that will make them feel satisfied with the work they’re doing and the company they’re employed at.
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?
Nowadays, employees can’t assume that they’re going to stay at a job forever because that job or employer may disappear, or the job may change so much over time that if you’re not changing with it, you may no longer be qualified to do it. We are in a knowledge economy and jobs and businesses are evolving rapidly. People have to pay attention to what’s going on in the industry and always look at the different ways they can upgrade and develop their skills. Be prepared for the world to change and pay attention to how your role can change with it. These changes don’t happen overnight or without warning so it’s crucial to constantly learn, be prepared, and develop the skills needed for the new roles out there.
Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?
Working from home is absolutely going to continue for a lot of reasons. Virtual meetings take less time, there’s no commute to the office, and employers can reduce their office space as well as business travel, saving the organization time and money. From an employees’ point of view, they can often work hours that are more suitable to their lifestyle. It’s definitely been a factor in creating a better work-life balance, which ultimately creates a satisfying and productive workplace.
What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?
That’s an interesting question. There may be less emphasis on public transit that moves large groups of people during defined hours, and more emphasis on moving smaller groups of people throughout the day. A new definition of work from ‘a place you go to during defined hours’ to a more personal, individually driven state. The ‘gig economy’ is an example of this; less one-size-fits-all workplaces and more flexibility to meet individual needs.
Mental health and the increased conversations surrounding it is another societal change that will continue to change the workplace. Employers will need to define mental health resources that most people don’t even know exist, and adjust group benefit plans. There will be more workplace support for stress management, depression and suicidal ideation as more people may feel isolated at home. The workforce needs to pay more attention to mental health and accept it as an issue that is no different from physical health, so that it becomes okay for somebody to express the need for depression counseling or additional support services.
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, I think what will be the most challenging is not having all employees in a central location during normal work hours. This has definitely been a common concern with my clients. Another change that will be difficult for employers to adapt to is the need to learn how to properly manage staff remotely and provide the leadership that’s needed in order to help employees succeed and thrive at the company and the role that they are in. This is not just about geography, but rather a change in how we work and especially, how we work together in a remote environment. It is more challenging to maintain a connection between employees and employers in a remote workplace, and engagement may suffer. They might also find it challenging to learn how to measure productivity differently so that it makes sense in a new world of remote work and steers away from the traditional nine to five workplace.
For employees, some of the changes they will find difficult to accept include less social interaction with co-workers and for some, they will have to deal with isolation from working alone at home. They will also have more accountability for managing their own work lives so there are challenges that come with that.
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?
I think there should be minimum government intervention, but I believe mandating paid sick days is necessary. The government also has a role in supporting businesses as they implement the government’s directives. Some of these, like checking for vaccination status, are essential but put a strain on these businesses. I also think there needs to be more resources put towards mental health. During the pandemic, people were really struggling — they were struggling with their fear of the pandemic, they were struggling with juggling their kids, their work, and even grocery deliveries. Organizations need to define mental health resources that most people don’t even know exist. We need to accept mental health as an issue that is no different from physical health so that it becomes okay for somebody to express the need for counseling or other support services.
Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
I’m going to say the speed with which we adapted to this unprecedented event shows a lot of optimism for the future. This change was almost done overnight for a lot of us, with having to suddenly deploy your staff to work from home and getting them all the technology they needed to continue to work successfully. So the speed that we did that and the flexibility that came along with it, was very impressive. Also because of the pandemic, most employers and employees have shown more consideration for each other in navigating an unknown situation. During video meetings, they’ve seen how each of them are going through different obstacles and naturally have become more compassionate and aware of each other. That’s definitely something to be optimistic about.
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?
We need to do a better job of analyzing and forecasting the future of employment. I mean, you have to continue to pay attention to what’s happening in the market. For instance, if you know that we’re working on driverless cars and developing more self-checkout machines, start to think about where those are going to be applied; what jobs are going to disappear because of this; and what are the jobs that are going to be created. Academic institutions also need to learn to be more nimble so they are educating and training for the future. Invest in smaller, industry/profession-specific training organizations who can mobilize more quickly. Employers need to be adaptable and amenable to different situations because employees, especially younger people, may be viewing their jobs in a different way than before. So it’s crucial to think outside the box and be accommodating and innovative.
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.)
- Remote work and virtual meetings are here to stay. The rise in virtual meeting technology like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting, have facilitated the transition and we have all become more comfortable using these tools. Even though brainstorming, onboarding and negotiating are examples of things that do not work well remotely, the pros outweigh the cons. For employers, this means reduced office space requirements, reduced need for business travel, which saves the organization time and money. Employers will start to redefine productivity and redesign workspaces to accommodate the new styles of working. For employees, they benefit with a reduced commuting time and increased work-life balance.
- Freelance and/or temporary contracts will become increasingly common. Employers and employees alike benefit from the flexibility such arrangements offer. Although the downside of freelance/temporary staff is that there are no afforded benefits, pension contributions or other traditional perks, I think we can expect to see increased innovation and uptick in individual benefit plans that are affordable and portable. I can also see more creative perks offered by employers to attract and reward temporary staff.
- Diversity and inclusion are increasingly important considerations for talent management. Businesses are recognizing that having a workforce that better reflects our society makes connecting to our stakeholders more authentic and real. Competition for good employees will increase, as they can work from anywhere. Organizations will have to work harder and be more creative to recruit, attract and retain employees. Personal and corporate value alignment is more important as competition for employees increases.
- Leaders will have to develop new skills to connect with their employees. Virtual leadership is very different and much harder than in-person leadership. Employees are less forgiving and leaders need to look for ways to support cross team collaboration, brainstorming and innovation. The future of work will need to focus more on monitoring performance and results rather than the process, meaning less about the hours you work and more about what you produced and accomplished.
- Companies will continue to pay more attention to mental health. Mental health challenges will be destigmatized as people are more open to speaking about them and requiring their employers to support them whether it’s for depression, suicidal ideation, substance and domestic abuse. We will talk about mental health more and offer more resources and support available for employees. The traditional models of mental health support will be augmented by quicker, technology-driven solutions. Employers need to pay attention to mental health concerns and how they’re employees are feeling as it impacts their ability to work.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” by Maya Angelou.
When we make business decisions, it is important to remember these decisions affect people. Considering the impact on people does not mean changing the decision, it means changing the way that decision is communicated and delivered.
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.
I would love to sit down with Lisa Lindstrom, Co-founder & CEO of Doberman Group and Chief Experience Officer EY EMEIA. I heard Lisa speak at a conference and was inspired by her relentless drive for innovation in a very human-centric way. She speaks about creating safe spaces for employees to explore new ways of doing things and to innovate. She also speaks to the importance of trust.
Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?
Readers can visit the Candido Consulting Group website and check out some of the articles I publish on the blog along with additional interviews I’ve done on various HR topics. I also encourage people to connect with me on LinkedIn where I share insights.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.