Reinvention: The last 2 years has been about survival for many, severe changes have been brought about to many organizations, much out of necessity as a reactionary measure. The extent to which businesses are able to come out of the blocks quickly on the other side of the colossal shift that the pandemic created will define them.
When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.
As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Chris McGrouther, Founder & CEO of Nuvola Talent.
Nuvola Talent is a specialist Cloud technology firm that accelerates the growth of elite technology firms in the AWS & Google Cloud ecosystem, providing industry leading talent and services via a bespoke, partnership driven model designed to address the unique organizational strengths, goals and challenges of our partners.
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. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
Sure! The standout one for me here would be the day that I decided I wanted to move to the USA. I didn’t know where I wanted to move to specifically, and if I’m being entirely transparent, I didn’t even fully know why either!
I had been living in the same city, Newcastle Upon Tyne — which for those that don’t know but have maybe heard of or tasted the beer — it’s a city in the North East of England and it’s where I grew up, went to university and undertook a legal education as a mature student at 22 and then ultimately settled in until I picked up my career with any level of seriousness or commitment at the age of 27. Having worked for the same company from 2012–2017 and had some degree of success, I literally woke up one day and had what can only be described as a lightbulb moment.
I wasn’t sure what it was that was out there that I had to go do, I just had an overwhelming sense of “There has to be more out there for me” …. As luck would have it, that same week I was invited to apply for a transfer to the US and move to Dallas, which I applied for and within a few weeks, here I was. Not a single person I knew, or any real reason beyond exploration and a new challenge to bring me here.
It’s without doubt, the best decision and most life shaping decision I’ll ever make.
I’ll keep the second event brief; I ran a trail marathon once and certainly won’t be running another one!
Let’s zoom out. 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?
This is a very interesting and honestly, somewhat daunting question. If you had asked me the exact same question 15 years ago to the day, it would have been too early for my answer to reflect that 2 brand new social media platforms called Facebook & Twitter would be about to go fully global and Steve Jobs and Apple would not yet have unveiled a touchscreen camera phone, with an iPod and web-browsing capability later to be known as the iPhone 1!
Those 3 things alone have had an unimaginable impact on every single aspect of our day to day lives that would, to most at least have been absolutely unfathomable at the time. So, pressing fast forward in equal measure again feels like raising my finger in the wind, but It’s certainly fun to try!
Let’s start with work, which we can say is the exertion of oneself, whether physically or mentally and is driven by either purpose or necessity. I expect that over the next 15 years, those driven by purpose will more often than not continue be more engaged, more productive and more satisfied than those driven only by necessity. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had professionals at all levels of industry and varying levels of seniority, from CTOs to School teachers tell me they’ve never worked a day in their career, because they enjoy what they do so much.
On that basis, I’d expect that the workplace will be a happier, more productive place and the resulting work will be executed better and the workforce, which is really just the resulting bi-product of both will be defined by the extent to which an organization is able to connect it’s people with a purpose, to connect them with a vision and not a set of instructions.
Easy right? Not really.
The ability of any given organization to identify, attract and retain the right people to map out the right path and to execute the right strategy to take them down it, will continue to make or break many businesses in the next 15 years, just as it has the last 15.
What will be different?
The most exciting and yet terrifying thing for me, is that the speed with which change is made possible, enabled by advancements in technology, continues to grow exponentially. Through technological innovation alone, we communicate differently, socialize differently, run businesses differently and live our everyday lives in a constantly evolving way based on the speed of change.
What I see being different, is the speed of change.
Every day, we hear about new technologies, tools, patents, ideas and R & D that literally change the art of the possible — whether it’s utilizing AI and Machine learning to predict cancer earlier, allowing motorcyclists to see a 360 degree view of their surroundings to revolutionize safety levels or just the fun of being told what the likelihood of a touchdown pass being caught is during a timeout on Sunday Night Football!
These advances in technology are increasingly common, increasingly groundbreaking and are surpassed with increasing regularity.
Organizations must operate in an increasingly polarized setting and whether it’s ideal or not, the political and legal frameworks that underpin the commercial world are just not set up to keep up with the advancements that technology is enabling in a profit, shareholder driven commercial world that loves profit but doesn’t need to be responsible for bearing the brunt of the equivalent risk, so the regulatory framework that governs the workforce and the workplace is going to become increasingly inept at dealing with all but the tip of the iceberg issues as the world moves on at warp speed and I expect that the checks and balances will be reactionary and of course, can still only really address major issues once they have played out.
The ability to power businesses and drive change has never been more freely available via technology. It’s like having a car that can drive at 800 mph but never being tempted to go a little faster than last time because of the risk, what will change — is the level of temptation that organizations feel to put their foot a little more firmly on the accelerator.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
The single most important bit of advice I could give would be to think objectively about your organization and consider the overall consequence or benefit of having “the very best possible person in the right place”.
It’s no secret that this is a key criterion when measuring the extent to which an organization succeeds or not.
Ask yourself, could you be 2,5 or 10% more profitable? Could the right leader have connected your people with a purpose or created a better culture or team dynamic in which retention would be better or employee engagement would be better?
Now consider, in the context of the above question….
Does the amount of resource allocation, focus and strategic emphasis that you put on your organizations ability to identify, attract, hire and retain the very best people for your business — proportionately or disproportionately match the benefit you feel it could bring to the organization?
In attempting to future proof an organization, my advice would be to stand back from your business, remove the relevant ego or pride elements and look objectively at the extent to which you strive to make sure that you get the absolute best talent available for your business.
Then, think creatively about how you can act on the results of what you find.
People make businesses. Over time, I have found that it is often the resource, focus, creativity and forward-thinking organizations put into attracting talent now, that will shape the caliber, productivity and future impact on your business that the people you hire tomorrow will make. These are the people who will future proof your organization.
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?
My day to day involves speaking to technologists, one notable shift over the last few months as the world returns to “normal” is that the “life on the road” type lifestyle, often a pre-requisite for the “go to” Global consulting firms is simply not something that workers are as prepared to undertake post-pandemic.
Historically, these larger organizations have always been able to negate the “red eye flight” lifestyle by offering higher paid roles than their smaller competitors, but we’re seeing a considerable shift in their ability to attract the right talent despite this and actually, have seen some considerable churn within some major players based on this alone, even across longer term employees as the “return to work” policies and travel rules become gradually more relaxed.
My advice to these organizations would be to look at some of the legacy policies they have in place, under a humanistic and empathetic lens which reflects the fact that we simply do not live in the same world now as we did 2 years ago.
A one size fit’s all approach to the workforce simply does not cut it anymore and there is more emphasis for the workforce to be met by organizations at their individual level as humans, whether in travel expectations, flexible working hours, paternity/maternity….the list goes on, in my view we have experienced a paradigm shift where the worker has more awareness of their opportunity to seek out an organization that fits their lifestyle and personal needs more than ever before.
I expect that over the next few years, organizations that are able to internalize and embrace this reality and think creatively around how they shape their strategy around it, will be rewarded with an influx of disillusioned segments of the workforce who simply see the benefits of a forward thinking employer, that demonstrates awareness and thinks progressively as the world changes, against old school “one size fits all organizations” who do not.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working from Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
The “work from home” experiment has exposed many organizations, for over emphasizing the need for the workforce to be in a physical location from a productivity standpoint at least (although the question of culture being established remotely as easily as in person is certainly very valid) and has left us with a sample size large enough that in some industries, it is very hard to construct an argument that in-person should be a requirement as it was pre-pandemic.
This has created a “stick or twist” crossroads in decision making for organizations in this category, where they can choose to evolve and go towards meeting the needs of the workforce, or they can risk a more conservative “return to normal” approach and hope their workforce fall in line. My view is that the shift is too comprehensive for this approach to work and the patterns I have seen over the last few months, as discussed with the larger consulting firms earlier, are that organizations choosing this path will gradually become less desirable and lose ground to organizations who provide a workplace that reflects the societal change we have undergone.
We’ve all read the 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?
The pandemic has created division, isolation and loss for so many and it’s an undeniable certainty that we are going to experience the effects of that for years right across society. As a society, we need to embrace the fact that we all experienced it as a collective and that we should work together to make sure we land on our feet as much as possible from it in the exact same way.
One societal change I’d love to see, albeit likely very difficult to implement, would be to increase the availability of education outside of traditional academic institutions, specifically I’d like to see a much more freely available, well publicized and funded “neutral ground” whereby people can go and seek factual freely available advice on areas they need to, free of polarizing political positioning and content. The sad reality of it, is that for many, social media or traditional news networks are considered sources of “truth” for so many when it comes to the lens under which they understand the reality of the pandemic and the effects it has.
In the same inspiring way that people came together to get us through the pandemic (volunteers at food banks, homeless shelters and vaccination sites) I’d love to see cross collaboration between non-profits that frees itself from political sway and I think that there’s a huge opportunity for the corporate world to step up and be counted in the way that we bounce back as a collective. The adoption of an “enough is enough” attitude towards the spread of harmful misinformation disguised as news at the individual level upwards, which could be met not only with funding, but by really embracing and committing to equitable, fair policies devised with the mindset that the burden of such a large bounce back would be best spread, equitably and responsibly across the areas of society that can take the weight on their shoulders.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
I’m very optimistic that now, the employee has increased leverage. Many companies, time and time again required people to go into offices and attend in-person events/unnecessary events meetings on a daily basis.
The pandemic showed that the demand to work in-office for many was a systemic lie perpetuated by a large majority of companies. While I think a varying degree of in-office work is important, remote work has completely elevated the lifestyle of many professions to the point where some are more productive, happier, and healthier working remotely.
What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?
I hate to go against the grain of the question here, but as someone who consistently works on the edge of innovation by talking to those driving it, I think the key to optimizing mental health and wellbeing really does lie at the other side of the scale. For me, mental health is about being human and the absolute key to it, is making sure that whatever your organization’s size, industry or purpose, you have a culture of expectation that humans are going to be humans.
Having a culture that proactively finds ways to talk about mental health, whether promoting exercise and diet, encouraging work/life balance initiatives, educating the workforce, I believe that above all — it’s the culture of a “safe environment” where humans can be humans without fear of being clambered over, talked about behind their back or thought of any differently because they are prepared to be honest and open.
I think diversity and inclusivity has a very important role within this, as humans, we are all preset to talk about some things easier than others. We are all likely to have different issues which can increase stress and have a potentially adverse effect on our health and wellbeing, so to have a truly diverse function that incorporates all ranges of human experience into the way in which we support the workforce in the area, can only really improve the overall offering and it’s positive effect on an organization as a result,
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 employee’s mental health and wellbeing?
One strategy that really impressed me, was a large retailer who pivoted their talent acquisition strategy to being lifestyle led. They gave applicants the opportunity to be very upfront about some of the material facts that historically would be nothing more than incidental, the criteria to ascertain a fit was every bit as much based on the applicant’s needs as a human, as it was their capability of doing the job.
I thought this to be very forward thinking, as to the applicant, it presents the optic of a forward-thinking employer who have recognized and embraced the considerable shift the pandemic has caused in the criteria workers use to select an employer and come up with a smart, creative strategy around it which differentiates them, while also prioritizing the lifestyle needs of the applicant.
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?
I think that first and foremost, there needs to be a real acceptance that we didn’t get here overnight, it didn’t happen by accident and with the sheer volume of data we are looking at, these headlines are not just hype. They’re not something that has been built up out of nothing. They’re driven by huge amounts of data from people just like us!
So once we acknowledge this this is all very real rather than a media frenzy and start to think it through, we can logically say that due to the pandemic, people lost their jobs, received pay cuts, and were isolated for a large part of 2020–2021. Those who remained employed were saving more money and had significantly more free time to learn new skills, save money, and many other activities those do while bored and restricted in what they could do. A position they had never been in before.
This allowed people to soul search, pivot careers, start/grow an online business, otherwise reducing the need to be entirely dependent on an employer. Much of that was (and still is) fuel to the fire of “the great resignation” where people finally are pushing back on jobs and careers that are historically underpaid with unfortunate working conditions. Those companies with those jobs, who were unwilling to change their practices until the pandemic effectively forced them to, are now having difficulty keeping up with their (former) employees taking a stand.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Reinvention: The last 2 years has been about survival for many, severe changes have been brought about to many organizations, much out of necessity as a reactionary measure. The extent to which businesses are able to come out of the blocks quickly on the other side of the colossal shift that the pandemic created will define them.
- Inclusivity: The effectiveness of organizations in building truly diverse and inclusive teams, including the appointment of diverse leadership team and a commitment toward developing diverse future leaders will continue to differentiate these organizations over time.
- Strategic Clarity in Enabling Change: Never before have organizations had the tools at their disposal to leverage new ideas and drive change successfully leveraging innovation via cloud technology, they must balance risk aversion in the now, with the need to innovate and exceed the expectations of tomorrow. Organizations that can successfully empower workforces to drive change via a collective willingness, a commitment to the need for change and an empathetic approach to adversity along the way, will excel in the coming years.
- Purpose vs Necessity: As we venture forward into the realm of automation, robotics and the overall advancement of technology: The contrast between the workforce that connect with a purpose driven role vs a necessity driven role is likely to become even more critical as the overlapping segment of work that can be offset to AI, Machine Learning, Robotics or Automation grows.
- Change Management: It’s no secret that the advancement of technology is offsetting the need for more and more of the workload once born by the workforce. The inevitable fear and uncertainty created by this and the way that organizations choose to either meet it head on or sweep it under the carpet, will be a strength or a roadblock for many businesses over the next 10 years. For most, it remains a huge opportunity to drive their business forward in ways unimaginable only a few years ago.
I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?
“Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing”
It fits very well with my overall outlook on life, and I often think this is what I was subconsciously telling myself in 2017 when I had the “lightbulb moment” I described!
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.
There are a number of people I could mention here, but I simply would not feel right if I didn’t mention the great Ricky Gervais. The UK office is my favorite show of all time and has disproportionately affected my sense of humor over the last 20 years. So much so, that some of the Nuvola Talent team were discussing over a thread this week as to whether we should make watching all 14 episodes of the show mandatory for all new people in the business!
Now while I’m 99.999% convinced that Ricky Gervais won’t be in a hurry to contact me after this, the UK office has a unique quality that I’ve not experienced with any other show that if you find someone else who likes it, you seem to invariably have a very strong read on the other person’s personality type and sense of humor. It really is remarkable!
So, my hope here, is that if anyone here is a David Brent fan (Ricky’s original version of the Michael Scott character for those that have only watched the US version), then I strongly encourage you to drop me a DM and we’ll go from there! For anyone that doesn’t want to go that far, but is curious about the UK office — go watch it! You will not be disappointed.
Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?
Sure! I’m a big believer in the spirit of networking and there’s no such thing as a bad networking call, so if I can help anyone out there to grow their network, develop their business or offer advice on any of the areas we’ve touched on in the interview then I’d love to.
Please feel free to get in touch via email or LinkedIn.
Also, check out our website www.nuvolatalent.com
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.