Hi Steve, welcome back! Congrats on your new book. Can you please tell us about your inspiration behind writing Workquake?
I feel the current model of work and the current frameworks of work are fundamentally broken and that we need to build a new one. The expectation that you stay in a company a long time and commit and the company commits to employ you for a long time is simply not mapping to the realities of today. Further, I think too much of the narrative about the future of work is gloom and doom: “the robots are coming to replace you.” Both parties in the employment contract are frustrated, and so I set out to forge a new model that is more inspiring and motivating for both parties.
Oh wow, where do I even start? If I were to identify, the most significant shifts in work culture have been the advent of the internet, email and now mobile technology. These three have combined to impact how we collaborate and communicate, how much we can work, where we can work and when we work. That is super powerful. I think communication is at the core of how an organization performs, and these three massive elements have shaped communication in both positive and unconstructive ways. Currently, I am very concerned that we have created a reality where people can never fully turn off, and I don’t know many firms who are intentional in helping their employees turn off, recharge and think. We are becoming victims of the tech we have built more than people who are finding more purpose and meaning through these tools. As far as AI – I am not really qualified to comment on that as well as some others. To me, the future of work is about being more human – and if we are going to be seduced to see tech to solve our future, I believe we are looking at the future the wrong way.
The greatest gift the pandemic gave us is the gift of greater connection. We have all learned more about our co-workers as people. We have seen the insides of each other’s homes, and we have learned about the challenges and realities our co-workers face like never before. I believe this will create greater bonds. If you ask any CEO what are the most critical skills in the future – its adaptability and agility and my goodness, haven’t we all built that skill during the pandemic? In more ways than once.
I also think at a very fundamental level, the pandemic has put all of us in a position to look at our lives and our circumstances and become clear on who we are and what is important in our lives. Many have already changed jobs, careers, and many have moved to new locations loving the work from home reality. We are going to see the biggest career migration in history in the next few years because everyone has just seen the world from a new perspective and I think this will be enormously healthy. I also don’t believe large organizations are prepared for what’s about to happen, but I do think when it settles, job satisfaction and engagement will rise because for many – they had time to think about where they want to be.
Well, listen, I am not sure I can say that it’s more important than ever not to separate work and life. That is a personal choice that we all should have the ability to make. What I think the pandemic has delivered to us is a lesson on how we can integrate the two better possibly. And I am hopeful we will continue to learn and find ways of finding joy in work and family. I have worked from home for ten years. I love it, and I love going to get a haircut or do grocery shopping anytime. I don’t have to be in stores during busy times on the weekend – I can pick times that work for my life, and I am very grateful for that freedom. I love cooking for my family, and I learned so many new recipes this past 16 months as life slowed and work slowed, allowing me the time to try new things. What I believe happened for many people is they awoke to realize all the time they were away from their families, they are not willing to give it up now. We do not know how this will play out, but I am an optimist, and hopefully, good things will result.
I think we need to speak of change differently. We need to not talk about it as something that is external or something that is an event. Change is life. Step back and think for a second – every job in the world is a job that is managing change. We want to improve this, or we want to open a new market or build something new or make something perform differently. Every job is a change management job – that is what life is – we are all changing as humans, and our bodies are changing, and the world around us is changing – nature is in a state of constant change. But we have to be honest that we, as humans, are a paradox. We want two things that are at odds: we want to be safe, but we want adventure. We want stability, but we want to be promoted. We want a life partner who will be loyal and faithful, but we want spontaneity and new joys. We are complicated, and yet we sometimes fail to recognize it. Carol Dweck, who is the godmother of the term growth mindset, said it well. When your brain is hurting, and you are working on something new and challenging, and it feels hard – that is the signal that you are growing! I love how she captured that – she changed the notion of pain into the notion of growth. What has helped me help other leaders is to help them learn to talk about changes in their organizations with their teams FIRST by explaining to their teams how the change will be better for them, how their impact will improve and how they will benefit. Too often, organizations skip this step and only talk about how cool the new technology is. I could go on for a long time on this topic—clearly, it’s not easy, which is why so many “change initiatives” fail.