How leadership will shape the Future of Work – Cheryl Cran [Interview]
About Cheryl Cran
Cheryl Cran is a future of work expert and founder of NextMapping. She is a globally known Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker and has a long term successful track record with clients that include small, medium and Fortune 500’s businesses. She has also been named as #1 Future of Work Influencer. She is also the author of over 5 books, on business and leadership. Bringing with her vast experience, we are happy to have someone of her stature on our interview series today.
We have the pleasure of welcoming Cheryl Cran today to our interview series. I’m Sumitha Mariyam from the peopleHum team. Before we begin, just a quick intro of PeopleHum. peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.
Welcome, Cheryl, we’re thrilled to have you.
So Cheryl, moving on to our interview, the first question I have for you.
Can you tell us a little something about how you prepare organizations and leaders for the future? Tell us a little something about your work, what you do?
Yes, thank you. So NextMapping is a future of work consultancy. We have been in existence for over 20 years. We rebranded to NextMapping a few years ago, about four years ago. We work for the branding company to take all the work that we’ve been doing over the past 20 years and distinctly give it a name, which is where NextMapping came from. And at NextMapping myself, who is a consultant to coach, a keynote speaker on the author of the books, the thought leader behind NextMapping.
We help companies by being future ready, and we do that a number of ways. We do that by providing skills development to the leaders, executives, the teams on, things such as critical thinking, how to work into shared leadership, how to communicate shared leadership. How do you strategize and build the business plan based on looking at the future.
In one of my books, NextMapping anticipates, navigates and creates the future of work. We provide the wild model and the predict model, which are tools that help people research trends, look for patterns and then help them plan the future.
So we do everything from helping people build future ready strategic plans to working with leaders and teams and helping them have those skills of agility, flexibility, adaptability in order to really move with the future of work as quickly as it’s being created.
So how do you think the leaders of today should prepare for the future of work as we call it, once we come out of this current scenario of the pandemic? Do you think that is going to be a drastic change?
Well, I think a lot is already changing. But you and I were talking before we started the interview around the reality of working remotely the majority of the time. At NextMapping, we’ve actually been a remote working consultancy firm since we established, so we were quite used to this. But for many businesses, it’s been a complete shock, especially for traditional multinational businesses. They’re having to adapt very quickly to that remote reality. So I think what’s happening now is we’re seeing a lot of change and response to that change.
And people are either really adapting quickly and well, and others are struggling. And then what we’re seeing in the future is a hybrid. So what we’re gonna see is there will be an increase of remote work. We actually gave a statistic of over 10 years ago that by the year 2020, 50% of workers would be working remotely.
And of course, we never predicted a pandemic. But the pandemic has made it, so right now currently, 81% of workers are working remotely, so it’s so when we go post pandemic about, since I believe that the number will be around in 50% and I believe that companies will have to have very strong remote work policies if they don’t already have them, I believe that workers themselves have to be far more flexible at the ability to work not fully remotely, but also hybrid.
Going into the office, working remotely for you, me as remote workers working in different time zones on a consistent basis, working with diverse cultures. Diversity is gonna be increased. I believe that work, as we’ve known it will be much more human.
“Diversity is gonna be increased. I believe that work, as we’ve known it will be much more human.”
For the last decade or so, we’ve been focused on technology, robotics, automation and that’s all been important. But we’ve kind of neglected the human factor. What does it mean for people? Right now, a lot of people are struggling to stay motivated and to stay engaged. And so I believe the future between you and I and anybody watching or listening.
The future is very positive because it’s forcing us to change. It’s forcing us to make business more people oriented. It’s forcing us to allow workers to work the way they want to. Many workers have been asking for flexible work for decades now, and finally we have a situation where it’s being required of business to say,
“How can we work differently in the future, not only for the benefit of the business but for the benefit of our workers?”
Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And organizations have to be more flexible with their work from home policies and you have to fix the roof while the sun is still shining, and that has to be done.
So what do you think is the role of technology and digital? How can you leverage technology and digital for the success of an organization? And you can also cover the aspects that are relevant right now.
Well, technology is crucial. So what’s interesting is the digital solutions were something that we glamorised for the last 10 years, like it’s all about, oh, when we get that new CRM or oh, when we get the new digital platform, everything’s gonna be wonderful. And then what they realized was, wait a second. People aren’t necessarily using the new systems properly or they’re not leveraging them. So digital is important.
But digital needs to be much more ease of use and much more focused on how teams actually work, you know? So, for example, I know peopleHum has its own technology that links up systems and people. But if I think of examples such as Zoom, a simple example, Zoom allows you to share, allows you to screen share, allows to video.
But Zoom has an opportunity to increase, like I see a future portal similar to Microsoft Teams, where you can do everything within a portal, not just video. And I think digital voice activation, you’re not gonna have to use sign in for Zoom. You’re gonna be able to voice activate your log in, facial recognition on our Macs. Already we’re using our index finger or fingers.
“I believe the ease of use of technology and making sure that it applies to our functions is going to be the future”.
And I think us being able to talk to right now I can talk to my computer through Siri. I can do all that, but it’s not innate yet. Not everybody is doing this. So I would say in the next few years, increasing voice technology, facial technology and ease of use. In other words, if I can say to my computer, open this document and then talk to it, that’s gonna be easier for me to use than the way we currently interact.
Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And I think we have to have the correct amount of linking between artificial intelligence and human intelligence for things to work correctly.
What do you think are the skills that are required for leaders of the future?
Oh gosh, there’s such a long list. I actually just wrote a blog post about this. We have a blog as well on nextmapping.com where we post the latest on future of work for anybody who’s listening or wanting to get more info. But the skills include many things.
Number one. You have to have some form of digital literacy so you can’t get away any more of saying, oh, I don’t care about technology that you can’t. So even though I’m talking about people first, you must have strong digital literacy.
You must be able to know how to use cloud computing. You must be able to leverage cloud solutions like Salesforce. You must be able to have basic programming skills on WordPress or Wix or all of these other platforms. I believe really, honestly that those are crucial, critical skills for everyone, regardless of title right now, in addition to the technology skills, the human skills that are needed to develop, are skills that we’ve talked about, but not everyone has really built them up.
So, for example, the ability to have emotional intelligence, the ability to lead without the title. So regardless of your title, showing fundamental leadership skills such as critical thinking, decision making, the ability to share leadership. So whether you’re a leader with the title, the ability to not be autocratic and say, well, because I’m the boss, you have to listen to me, but instead having that balance of yes, I’m in charge and I want your opinion as well.
Other skills include the ability to interpret data, the ability to go to ask for information, crowdsourcing data from your employees, from your customers and then being able to interpret that data. So there’s a long list. I would say. There’s like many skills that we all need to continue to improve and develop. And
“Gone are the days of just being able to settle with your current skill set. We must be lifelong learners”.
We must be saying every day, how can I advance myself on my learning? You can’t get away with just the level of education that we have right now. We have to continually be learning, and I don’t necessarily mean college or university. I’m talking about learning fundamental skill development so that we can add more value to our teams.
So I would also like to ask your opinion on how much recognition is too much recognition? Just a piece of advice for the leaders. How can you stop right there and prevent your team from underperforming. How would you explain that?
I don’t think there’s any such thing. Is too much recognition between you and I? But I do think that your question leads to a great point around real time recognition. So research has shown that if a leader catches someone doing something right, that there is a 60% increase in engagement with the individual, but also with the team. In other words, if they see that they’re being recognized consistently, there’s a 60% more excitement and desire to work harder.
Research has also shown that recognition, authentic recognition, so if somebody does something, you’re catching them, doing it right. But you’re specifically saying I loved how you handled that situation where the technology failed and you were able to fix it right away. And also team recognition. So not just recognising them one on one but using your platforms and your tools in your digital technology to say, hey, we just got a great result from Sally and I want everybody to know about it.
So, for the gamers out there getting badges, reward stars of the gamification is becoming even more ubiquitous with organizations and with their training platforms. So Psychologically, people are geared to respond to positive reinforcement.
“Psychologically, people are geared to respond to positive reinforcement”.
So I believe there’s never too much recognition. I believe, leaders need to get creative and how they’re recognising as I said gamification, real time verbal communication, using video, using email, using the digital platforms that you use recognition is really important to the future of work for sure.
That’s a very fresh perspective that you’re giving our audience. That’s wonderful. Thank you for that and another question I would like to add. We see that there are a lot of startups, small and medium businesses coming up with each day and every enterprise is only as good as its innovation. So do you think so,
I had a talk with David Peterson yesterday, and he was telling me all organizations need to have at this particular period of time for their employees called the Thinking Time. And how do you think we relate all this innovation and giving our employees time to think with the success of an organization? How is the interlinking? What is your opinion on that?
Yes, a great comment. And I agree with him that that’s valid because you can’t innovate and create if you’re constantly working. Creation, innovation happens in those white space moments.
“Creation, innovation happens in those white space moments.”
That’s when we have the freedom, even going for a walk and all of a sudden you got a great idea. Have you ever noticed that you might be struggling with a problem, and then all of a sudden, you just shift your environment or you take some deep breaths and all of a sudden you’re able to see a new solution.
So I agree with that statement around thinking time. What I would add to that is, people really don’t know how to innovate. They keep hearing the word. People think innovation is something that the company should be doing or that the leaders should be doing. They don’t think about personal innovation, and if I may say so this is a bit of a plug, but we have a new online course called ‘How to create and innovate at the speed of change’. Brand New. Just launched a few weeks ago and it’s aimed at the individual to help them gain the inspiration and the energy and the ability to know, how do I create and innovate.
So quite simply, we can innovate in our own job, which many people listening to this do like, you might have a situation of work where you’re thinking, why do we do it this way? And you might have a far better way of doing it. That is innovation. But what we need to do is celebrate that innovation and leaders need to be recognizing when their team members are innovating, rather than saying things like, well, we can’t do it that way or this is the way we’ve always done it. If an organization doesn’t have an environment for that, that encourages innovation.
But if the individuals don’t know how to innovate, well, then we’ve got a double problem. So I think we’re at an opportunity here with everybody socialised. This isn’t isolating. Around the world, everybody is affected by this. There’s a lot of things going out there saying you’re not creating while you’re quarantining that you’re not making the most of your time. I actually disagree with that because that puts way too much pressure on people. I would change the statement to use your time to take care of yourself.
Number one, you’re well being is primary. Second to that, allow your inspiration to bubble up as you go through your days because you’re gonna have sometimes the feeling sad and angry and depressed, and that’s normal and just notice when you’re feeling. But then, when we have those bursts of inspiration, that’s when we can go.
Oh, I have an idea of how we could and so I would give people more space and freedom around. Don’t feel you’re wasting your time if you are spending a lot of time thinking, because thinking is a precursor to innovation. So I would like people to take a deep breath and just relax and not feel like they have to be doing something just because we’re isolating and distancing. And we’re working remotely from our homes.
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Yeah, I think that’s a wonderful answer. And all, like most organizations of today or most leaders of today, especially during these uncertain times, I think they forget to realize what is actually making your employees jump up from their beds and come back to work. Is it just the passion or is it something else? I think they need to understand what it is more to engage them with. So thank you so much for that answer.
And with the increase in the millennial workforce, we have the gig economy rising. It is gaining so much momentum right now and it’s not just the delivery boys or the coffee servers anymore. It’s more like you have executives who want to work for six months and then take a break. So how do you think, this whole gig economy, the gig workforce is going to fit in the organizational structure that we have today, especially with the financial crisis that’s coming up? Do you think it is here to stay?
Yeah, I think we’re seeing the future of work again. We predicted right when we said 50% workers, and we predicted that 60% of the workforce would be gig economy, would be freelancers and places like Upwork and freelancer.com have been talking about this for a long time around the gig economy. And already, I actually just had a conversation with a large organization that is well known to everybody. But I can’t mention it where they were saying that 50% of their workers are outsourced gig workers.
And so you’ve got these large organizations that are saying no, there’s an advantage to outsourcing to these gigs workers and like you say, we’re seeing in our work where an executive may have worked for an organization for a very long period of time, they retire, and now they’re working as a contract consultant, and they’re either working for the original client of employer that they worked with or they’re being hired to work in different workforces. So I think that’s increasing. I don’t think it’s going away.
I think the financial crisis is causing a lot of businesses to look at their structures right now. I think they’re looking at real estate differently because they’re saying okay, if the future is more remote than what does that mean about real-estate holdings. I think that, in regards to real estate holdings we’re gonna see multi use, where maybe a building was one brand. But now it’s gonna be maybe, like a Wework set up as well as maybe you’ll be a child care day care center. We’re going to see much more multi-use real estate and we’re also going to see that outsourcing is going to free up, it’s gonna actually make most economies in every country.
Of course, every country has their varying uniqueness that they’re dealing with. But in most countries already, the gig economy is contributing majorly to the overall statistics of the country. So GDP and success. So I don’t see that trend going away.
And I think organizations need to if they’re not already, I need to look at their full-time worker reality and say, How can we look at work? And it’s not about jobs anymore. It’s about work. So how much of this work can be automated? How much of this work can go to robotics?
How much of this work needs to be done by people? Okay, if this work needs to be done by people, how much of it needs to be done by full-time people? Can we job share? Do you know that women in particular as a demographic? Have you been asking for job sharing in the industry for over a decade on industries like the legal industry? No, we don’t do that. We don’t do job sharing. Well, now they’re going to have to you because talented people there saying all only do it if I could work partially from home or if I can job share.
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And so we’re gonna see we’re gonna see executives job sharing. Oracle had this. The CEOs, we’re gonna see more companies having shared rules, not because of the financial implication, but because people are changing their ideas about working life and they’re wanted. Nobody wants to work 100 hours a week anymore.
Those days are gone unless you’re a passionate startup who is just completely immersed in what you’re doing. That’s a different story. But I’m saying in general we are living in a time where millennials, Gen Z’s want to spend time with their families, and they want quality time. This pandemic is actually created quality time for many families. Some people don’t want as much quality time, but for most people, it’s created quality family time.
Yes, I think that answer is an absolute eye opener to a lot of our followers. And just one quick question as a follow up.
Do you think all these kinds of integrations, the modern aspects to it, joined work places and all of that is easier for the new wage organizations or these startups, the small companies that are coming up because larger organizations with the lot of history will find it more difficult to integrate all these factors around it on how to make it more millennial friendly? So how do you think you can advise them to integrate all of it?
Well that’s who we were. We do a lot of work with traditional organizations who are wanting to make the changes to be future ready because, frankly, their competitors for talent are the new startups. Because new startups are allowing the flexibility, there are allowing the job sharing and allowing the profit sharing, so a lot of traditional organizations have been so traditionally structured that to make those changes it is more of a challenge, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
We have a lot of companies realizing if you’ve got innovative homes within the organization, you can now build sort of within a large organization. These innovations like startups and a lot of companies are doing this. Companies like Amazon, Disney or Google have innovation labs and they have these innovative startups. But I think from a worker standpoint, workers are looking for the very things that everything you and I have been talking about.
So if those traditional organizations are not able to create those items, two things are gonna happen. Number one, they’re gonna lose very talented people. If they’re not already losing them, number two, they’re going to struggle to compete with the garage startups who are creating these lean and mean competitors. I mean, we’ve seen that happen with Airbnb. We’ve seen it happen with Amazon.
We’ve seen that happen with Apple, so I believe during this pandemic, because usually These crises are our time for renaissance.
“These crises are our time for renaissance”.
So right now, somebody in their garages is creating something brand new that we’re all gonna be using in the next few years. And that excites me, because then I go, by the way, it’s not to deny the reality of traditional business and the value they break. But it is an opportunity for them to innovate and change and shift. And if they don’t do that, I don’t want to be a fear monger.
But there’s a statistic that says 50% of Fortune five hundreds in North America will not exist in the next five years and I think that’s a very true statistic if you’re not adapting to the changes of both consumer behavior and worker behavior.
“But there’s a statistic that says 50% of Fortune five hundreds in North America will not exist in the next five years and I think that’s a very true statistic if you’re not adapting to the changes of both consumer behavior and worker behavior”.
I absolutely agree with you. And I think everyone’s just waiting to see what’s on the other side once we come out of the pandemic. So the conversation has been an absolute eye opener for me and for the audience.
So just to wrap up the interview, I have one last question for you. If you have any important soundbites that you would like to leave our audience?
Gosh, you asked some really good questions, so I think we got it all. But I think what I would part with is that as an individual asking yourself and ourselves, am I really a changed leader? In one of my books, ‘The Art of Changed Leadership’, I talk about when we’re going through a disruption like we’re going through right now that there’s the change cycle and the first reaction that change cycle is to push back, to resist, to be afraid and then the next phases to defend. We want to defend the old.
We want things to go back to what they were. And then the third phase is we realize that this change is permanent and we go, I’ve got to be creative. This is where we get energized, get inspired.
The fourth part, which is where we want to get to is we take action to create that new future. We actually integrate the change and say, okay, this is our new reality. Here’s what we need to do moving forward. So I think for any individual reading the transcript or watching or listening to be able to just really test yourself, am I really a changed leader? Because I think the more of a change leader we are, the more agile and the more any of us can handle what’s gonna come if we’re adaptable.
“Because I think the more of a change leader we are, the more agile and the more any of us can handle what’s gonna come if we’re adaptable.”
So those would be my parting words.
Thank you so much. That’s going to help a lot of aspiring leaders out there. So Cheryl, this has been an amazing experience for me, a truly enriching experience, I would say, because I learned a lot from this short conversation that we had. And it’s truly different from reading a book. It’s like a one on one conversation with the guru herself, so enriching. Thank you so much for that.
Thank you. Appreciate it.
It was a pleasure to have you and have a safe and happy time ahead of you.
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