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The Future of Work and Power of Brand

May 22, 2020

Recently I was a guest on Zync agencies podcast series talking about the future of work and power of brand.

In the podcast we (the Zync team and myself) discussed why having a solid brand is so important now more than ever.

Here is the transcript of that podcast – or you can listen to it here.

Brad: Hi everyone and welcome to this week’s everything is brand. We are really honoured and happy that we have a special guest, Cheryl Cran, she’s joining us for the podcast today on the future of work and brand.

Cheryl Cran is a future of work expert and founder of she’s the author of nine books including the second edition of “NextMapping – Anticipate, Navigate and Create The Future of Work” and it’s companion workbook and we actually worked with Cheryl on the name NextMapping and on the positioning of NextMapping. She is also the number one future of work influencer and an international award winning consultant. She’s been featured in Forbes, Huffington post, Metro, New York, CBS and more. So Cheryl, thank you so much for joining us today and we’re really happy to talk about the future with you.

Cheryl: Thanks Brad. I’m happy to be here.

Brad: We want to jump right into it because the team has a lot of questions for you and we really want to get your perspective on what’s going to happen based on everything that’s going on. So we’d really love to start by asking you based on how things are going right now and everything that we’re kind of finding our way through, how do you think the work landscape is going to change over the next few years?

Cheryl: Well, first of all, I’d like to say that we predicted 10 years ago that 50% of the workforce would be remote working by the year 2020.

We did not predict a pandemic as one of the reasons for it happening, but all signs and all the pattern research that we had done in pattern recognition was pointing towards an automated future where we were going to have more automation, more robotics, more technology innovation, which meant that people would be looking to work remotely. Prior to the pandemic, a lot of organizations were beginning to make movements towards a remote work culture. Now what’s happened is the pandemic forced it, so we’re definitely going to see a future that continues to be remote work focused.

What we’re going to see with that is the requirement for leaders to lead very differently than they’d led before. We’re going to see a lot more self managed teams. We’re going to see organizations resort to a more Holacracy type leadership and sociacracy type leadership. Again, these are things that, I’ve written about in my books and that we’ve talked about. The future of work is going to be more worker led versus corporation led. And I’ll pause there and just let it leave it open for further exploration.

Brad: So when you talk about worker led, what do you think are some of the elements that will change when things are worker led as opposed to corporation led?

Cheryl: Well first of all we’re going to see an increase in the gig economy. We’re going to see a lot more workers saying, you know what, I don’t really want to work for one corporation. I want multi industry experience. So I’m going to work for a number of organizations as a contractor, as a freelancer, and working in a way that helps them build their knowledge base but also increases their future options. So worker led means that even with the current situation that we are in and yes, I’m very aware of the numbers of unemployment in the U S and Canada currently during the pandemic, and that not withstanding we are seeing that there’s still going to be a worker shortage when things go back to a next normal, so it’s not going to go back to what it was. It’ll go to a next normal and that next normal is going to be a very different environment where workers are going to decide how much and how they want to work.

Workers will demand to work remotely as part of job description. Workers are going to dictate how they want to work and organizations are going to still have to find talented people and organizations are going to have to meet the demand of the worker and how they want to work and that’s just a new reality that organizations have been adapting to prior to this. But now really looking to how do we attract the best talent by having a worker focused environment versus a corporate focused environment.

Jeremy: Cheryl, what do you think will be important for brands and marketers to know about this new reality?

Cheryl: I think it shifts the brand discussion. I think a lot of times when we look at brand of course and, and working with you guys, we know your process is really in depth and you look at all the angles, you look at crowdsourcing, your client base and all those things that you guys do really well.

I think brand now needs to have that message of demonstrating the value of the organization and show workers that the brand is a worker led organization. The brand needs to line up with the new worker attitudes. The brand will need to have a remote work policy, ethical worker processes and align brand promise with worker experience in addition to customer experience.

Brad: And would you say, Cheryl, workers are going to expect things to be really truthful and honest and straight.

Cheryl: Yes, with the plethora of fake news that we’ve been bombarded with people are really sensitive to alignment and integrity, which comes down to authenticity. So they’re looking for that in brands. They are looking for companies that are living the brand, being the brand, delivering the brand. At NextMapping one of the things that’s worked really well for us once we branded to that with you guys was the fact that the brand completely aligned with what we were about, which was helping people get to what’s next. So if the brand doesn’t align, people are not there.

You don’t have time anymore to win people over, the brand has to land instantly and authentically so that people get it right away and they get the value proposition right away from the brand.

Gabi: Speaking on the organization level, will the structure of how we work, change with different hours, more remote work, like you’ve said or anything else?

Cheryl: Oh, all of the above. Yes. I was asked the question the other day around real estate. What does the post pandemic reality mean for corporate real estate? Well, a lot of organizations, pre pandemic, we’re already looking at sort of what is a remote work workplace look like? You know, what’s the percentage of workers that work in office? What’s the percentage that would work remotely? How do we do that? Well, that requires a whole remote work policy, which a lot of companies are looking at now. So work is going to be, I think more of an a la carte versus there’s only one way to work. So I believe in the future it’s going to be do you want to work full time remote or do you want to work in office 50% of the time remotely, 50% of the time are you suited for that type of work.

We’re going to see a bigger alignment around personality and work style and the type of work that best suits them. Interesting anecdote for the time we’re in right now is introverts are thriving during the pandemic. Why? Because generally they do better working alone . It’s the extroverts that are struggling because they thrive in a person to person hive of activity in an office environment ,already we’re seeing, you know, in the, in the sort of ease back post pandemic, we’re seeing organizations looking at reduced numbers of people in the office. And I think that trend is going to continue. I think we’re going to see less warm bodies and offices and more of this hybrid of remote with in office and rotating teams. And I also think office use is going to be more of a, WeWork type structure. Pods of groups of people that come in for projects. They’ll still work, you know, again, hybrid remote and in office. And I also see offices, corporate real estate looking at almost like Airbnb for residents. We’re going to see Airbnb for corporate where you’re going to be able to make use of space beyond how it’s currently being used. So lots of changes coming and very quickly.

Christian: You talked about about the way it’s going to influence businesses. I was wondering if the pandemic will change the way governments actually conduct themselves?

Cheryl: Government, I believe similar to the worker led corporate, we are going to see a citizen led government and we’ve all been heading there. I mean, in Canada we’re very fortunate because we do live a true democracy, but we’re going to see generally more more of a what we’ve been seeing with the, with the money that’s been funded for small business and for you know, the, the healthcare workers, the essential services from a government employment standpoint.

As an industry government has a lot of work to do to catch up to the future of work.

And I can say that because they’ve been my clients and are some of my clients.

And what I mean by that is a lot of traditional industries such as government finance, insurance, they have been so strict in how they’ve structured the workplace that they’ve had a challenge in adapting to the remote work reality of, of what, of what’s had to happen recently, but also they’re having trouble attracting and retaining talent or people because they’re so restrictive in how you work for them and with them.

So I’ve been saying for years, the two places where it’s going to be most painful as employers is going to be government and unions. And the reason for that is the structure is not flexible and conducive to where we’re going for the future of work. It doesn’t mean that you can’t modernize institutions, but there’s a lot of leadership that needs to be leveraged to loosen up and have them meet this remote work reality, but also meet the flexible work reality, meet the gig economy reality.

Brad: What I’m hearing you say is that before where, you know, whether it was businesses or governments were very prescriptive in how things have to be done. What’s happening now is that the citizens, the people, the workers are saying to both governments and businesses, this is what we expect and this is what we want. And from a brand perspective, the brand power is shifting from the, you know, governments and employers back down to the people. Would you say that that’s a fair assessment?

Cheryl: I would say that’s very, very accurate. So just like corporations are being worker led, government is being citizen led or where we’d like to believe, like for example, in Canada here we’d like to believe that we are a democracy and we’re very fortunate we have healthcare, you know, we are, I feel the way we as a country have operated during this pandemic has been stellar. So we are very, very fortunate also though as a government employer, if your brand is not matching the competitive brands. Government competitors are now Amazon and Google and all these tech firms and if I’m a millennial looking at all my options and there are many options now even though we’re in this pandemic, there’s a predicted 32 million global worldwide worker shortage until the year 2030.

Government needs to be looking at how to compete with the Amazons, the Googles, the startups in both flexibility but also in structure so that we can be able to provide the services we need to provide.

The workplace is becoming more of a focus on the people and go to what the people are wanting and needing versus the traditional business mindset that they have to adapt to us because this is how we work.

The questions that government need to ask are more about what is the need of the person and what are some of the possible solutions?

In regards to citizen services are the best served by a person, a chat bot, an AI or a robot? That’s the new future of work question. What is the work, what is the need and what’s the best solution? That’s really what’s driving where they’re going.

Gabi: What role will human connection and interaction have going forward as employees, as consumers, as society in general?

Cheryl: There are fear mongers out there that would stay, the robots are coming and they’re taking over everybody’s jobs and you’re not going to need people anymore. The research we have found is, is that’s not true. In fact, world economic forum is saying that people are more important than ever before. However, the reason there’s that narrative around the robots are coming is because it’s driven by fear of skill level, matching future reality. So what you have is a bunch of people that need to be up-skilled and rescheduled in order to leverage technology to enhance the services that we’re giving to people.

So really it’s more human than ever before in that very human future. That means we as brands have to be looking through that lens of how does this help humanity?

We have to ask, how does this help people?

The future is about people first along with profitability. I think if anything, this pandemic is forcing all of us to go, okay, wait a second, look at the effect of us all pausing on the environment or how do we build a more sustainable future and does our brand adhere to sustainability?

And we also have found that people have found more about people in dealing with their life realities. So how do we be more compassionate leaders to people’s personal circumstances?

The automation and the robotized future is actually forcing us to be better human beings and humans are going to be needed.

And our skill development needs to be around two things.

Number one, yes we need to increase our technology adaptation.

Number two, we gotta be better human beings.

We’ve got to up our empathy, we’ve got to up our emotional intelligence. We’ve got to up our understanding of how to work as a me as well as a we. And I think that’s an exciting opportunity for the future.

Brad: It’s interesting that you say that because I think that branders and marketers would always say, well, we’ve always listened to consumers and they would be right in that assessment and they have been listening. But I think how they have to listen might have to be different in the future. So before where they listened to how people buy or why they buy, I think the listening now has to be what motivates them to buy or what motivates them to even participate with the brand or, or choose a brand. So it, it, it’s almost like having to go in and listen at a much deeper level. You talked about being a better human. I think we have to be better branders and marketers as well. We have to listen in a different way. We have to listen with less of our expectations, you know, because there’s kind of two ways to listen. You can listen and wait for the person to acknowledge all the things that you’re already thinking. Or you can just go in with a blank mind and listen and actually hear what the person is saying. And I think that that’s the shift that we may have to make in becoming better branders and marketers as human beings.

Cheryl: There’s what I would call surface listening. Where you’re listening to see if your point of view is going to be corroborated and then there’s intuitive listening and that requires a spaciousness of mind where there’s no preconceived notion and there’s more around looking for those surprise elements that that person would never, in other words, it’s not conscious for them, but it’s being picked up by the branding experts.

I’ve experienced that with you and your team, you guys are very good at that. So it’s like reading below the level of the surface and be able to intuit the brand promise with the human fulfillment of that promise. I think so there’s a, there’s different levels of listening. I think we’re now entering an era of that deeper intuitive listening where it’s focused on what’s the human element here, where the brand is going to meet a human need.

Jeremy: How do you think businesses and brands, and quite frankly the government can thrive in the future because with all this additional flexibility, I mean there is a cost connected to that, right?

Cheryl: I think it comes down to what we do at NextMapping, which is to help leaders to expand his or her leadership capability. It really requires a new adaptable leadership mindset to start with.

The pandemic has forced is the realization that we have to all be more adaptable it’s a forces disruption that has caused businesses to pay attention, which is really interesting because pre pandemic you could have a bunch of experts like myself going around saying the sky is falling and everybody’s going, yeah, yeah, we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing right?

Instead we now have a real life global disruption that everybody’s feeling the painful points of that.

So you have two choices in that change and that disruption. You can ignore the pain and continue as planned as you’ve done pre pandemic and, and that’s a choice. And that choice could lead you to a be non-relevant in the future as as a business .B, you have to be open to acquisition or takeover because somebody who is more agile or more willing to adapt is going to be ahead of the game in the response to the pain points in the past,

I would say as a strategic expert that the argument would be, well this is going to cost too much money to NOT make this change.

And I think the new argument is what’s the cost of not making the change and the data and the and the validity of that and being, because in my experience, a lot of leaders get very rigid and fixed in their position around the ego.

Even with over 20 years of experience within our team, none of us have any experience for what’s happening right now. However what we do have is agility, flexibility and willingness to put ego aside to look for ways to collaborate and add value.

What is going to move leaders forward is the willingness to say, I don’t know, but we’ve got a team full of really smart people and together we’re going to open our minds, we’re going to crowd source, we’re going to up our leadership skills so that we are more adaptable, flexible that we can into it, that we can morph, we can pivot on what’s going on and strategically the cost of not making the change is our very viability in the future.

Brad: What I’m hearing is that people are actually realizing that they cannot just simply ask others to have all that flexibility without being flexible themselves. Right?

Cheryl: No question. So one thing I want to make really clear is we’re not talking about when we talk about worker led economy or a worker led business, we’re actually talking about mutual accountability. So anybody that as a worker to survive, you’re certainly not going to survive saying, well, I hold all the cards, mr employer, and now you’re going to do whatever I tell you to do. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is there’s a mutual accountability. So the workers that are willing to upskill and reskill without waiting to be for their employer to do that for them.

You know, in other words, being that lifelong learner and saying, “I’m going to take charge of my knowledge and my learning so that I can be the most adoptable and the most flexible and help the company pivot”.

There needs to be mutual accountability between workers and employers.

Cheryl: The clients and colleagues I’ve talked to say that there is a wake up call happening right now and part of that wake up call is very similar the 1980s when interest rates were 22% and people were losing their homes.
And the nineties when we had war and the recession of 2008.

These disruptions are wake up calls, and they lead to questions such as, what do I need to learn? How do I collaborate? How do I cooperate? How do I maximize my skill? How do I help other people succeed?

Those are the questions that as individuals, if we ask ourselves, then we’re going to have lifelong job stability or work stability. But if you’re sitting back and you’re going, well, you know, the government’s going to take care of me. Well that’s just pure lunacy. That’s not taking responsibility for your role in creating your own future.

Creating that future is really what is in the hands of all of us.

So there’s still a lot of opportunity even though we’re going through a very tough period in history and a tough time, quite different than other tough times we’ve had in the past, but we still have to kind of dig down deep into the same areas that we have in the past to get ourselves through it. But coming out of this, that ability to thrive and not just survive is going to be key to the people who, who do well in this next piece of the puzzle. And, and I think that it’s really powerful when you mix everything that you’re saying about the future of work with what branders and marketers need to do to support all of that.

Brad: That’s exactly right. The messaging has to be aligned. The positioning has to be aligned. You can’t have all of these people working in these situations or living under these governments. And then marketing and branding stays exactly the same. It was as it was before. So it’s really about all of us kind of looking at everything in totality and understanding that in order to thrive and in order to do those things, we really have to do the three things that you said. We have to have better leadership. We, those of us who are leaders, we have to be better leaders and we have to expect more from our leaders if, if we’re not in a leadership position, we have to be better branders and marketers and better at our jobs and more willing to be accountable and expect accountability as well. And then finally, to your point, we have to be better human beings.

We just have to be better human beings. And I think that that’s ultimately what this comes down to. And this is what we can take from all of this. Cheryl, thank you so much for your time. You know, we’re, we’re really happy to have you on here. We’re so happy to talk about the future of work and future of brand and melding those two things together. So thank you for joining us. We really appreciate it. Thank you. So everyone, that’s everything is brand for this week.

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