The old 9–5 is likely going to retire, and if it doesn’t, it really should. We don’t need to babysit our employees for eight hours a day, they can get their work done when and where they see fit and conforming to a 40-hour work week isn’t a top priority. What 2020 and 2021 taught us is that not only are our employees adaptable, but they are also trustworthy and responsible.
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 Lonn Shulkin.
As BAM Strategy’s President, Lonn brings over 20 years of leadership experience and is responsible for assuring excellence in all phases of BAM’s business. Lonn began his career in New York, at digital agency Beyond Interactive (a division of GREY), where he worked on several key accounts such as Reebok, Dairy Queen, and DoubleClick. Following the completion of his MBA at Ivey, Lonn joined the team at Bell Canada that introduced VoIP to the public. Right before joining BAM Strategy, Lonn was Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Rideau Recognition Solutions, an online b2b employee loyalty program provider. There, he managed all sales operations, business development, strategy and marketing initiatives. Lonn is very involved in several not-for-profit organizations including sitting as Chair of Y Country Camp, a residential children’s camp based in Montreal.
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 was born in Montreal and have lived here much of my life. After college, I wanted to work in sports and landed an internship with the New York Islanders, so I packed up and moved to NYC. After a summer with the Islanders I moved to Beyond Interactive, which was one of the early digital agencies and was acquired by Grey. Eventually, I went to do my MBA back in Canada at the Richard Ivey School of Business and went from there to work at Bell Canada and an employee loyalty and motivation company called Rideau Recognition.
I grew up in a very entrepreneurial and business-oriented home. I’m the youngest of three boys and my dad was a businessman. He did a great job of inspiring all of us to be interested in business, stock markets and handball in our basement. As teens we all had small businesses we started and much of the dinner time chatter would center around this. My dad also set an example on how to treat others, a critical part of what I take into my current role today. I remember working in his warehouse every summer and seeing how he interacted and spoke with the workers there. It taught me to put others first and that building relationships, no matter what a person’s role, level or class may be is the most important thing you can do.
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?
Before Covid I think we were seeing a shift in work-life balance and the need to allow employees to live and work. Especially with the growth of devices, jobs have become part of our 24-hour life. Enter Covid. Everything has changed and I think we are going to be disrupted for a very long time. I think the real question will be — how flexible and adaptable can employers be. To me, it’s a cultural question. Today I’m observing way too many people make proclamations like “People will never come to the office again”. We’re trying to stay really focused on those lessons I mentioned above. We need to connect with people, they each have different needs. We need to create a work environment that can be flexible enough to make sure we can attract great talent and also get great work done. I think the “disruption” is that the employer no longer holds power over the employee, instead we have the power to partner with our employees. We also need to focus on learning new ways to build culture, social interactions and soft skills, potentially from a distance.
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?
I don’t think college degrees are necessarily correlated with job or career success. However, I think the college experience — the growth people get from expanding their formal learnings while also learning to function in a formal environment are very, very useful and fundamental to career success. I think the flaw is that we try to isolate the things we do into a single reason…. College = Career. Whereas College brings so much more. It’s a critical growth time in a young adult’s life. For some it’s often their first time living away from home, there are social opportunities, network building, exploration, and of course learning. I often tell people who have left BAM that they could be the next founder of something like Facebook, I truly believe that. Many people have the potential. The experiences I shared above that most shaped me are not my time doing my MBA, but instead about how I grew up. We all have something different and there’s not one formula. If you have the opportunity to go to college I think it’s an excellent choice, but it is not the only choice.
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 this is incredibly hard, even for experienced workers. What I have learned is that cultural fit is more important than job task. Like anything, if we’re in an environment where we feel a sense of belonging, then we’ll find our way and likely the employer will help to do that, because we “fit” — not only do we feel it, they feel it too. This is where I’d begin if I were looking for employment.
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?
I don’t think this will be an issue for most. I think the goal for my area of work is to be able to shift resources into other areas. With the automation of some things, we end up creating opportunities elsewhere. I think those planning their career should be focused on understanding their strengths and developing their weaknesses primarily and to find a place that takes advantage of those.
Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?
The pendulum is going to swing back and forth for a while and hopefully we’ll land somewhere in the middle. For some jobs working from an office is critical, but for others it does not add a ton of value. For example: if someone is a customer service representative in a call center and has to drive 45 minutes to a call center where they sit the entire day on the phone with other people, requiring them to work from there vs. in their home is actually destroying value. There is an impact on the environment by forcing a commute, less family time (and thus more fractured families), less time for physical fitness, etc. etc. Each situation is different. Leaders really need to look at their environments and determine how they will achieve what they want for their company — and If they want amazing talent I believe they are going to need to take their needs into account.
What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?
As leaders, we need to figure out how to still facilitate the building of strong internal relationships. This does not happen as well over zoom. We envision a model where we need to 1) do more in the office to attract employees to want to come in (not force them to), and 2) Create opportunities for social connection. More offsites, more travel to one location, potentially more parties and social events for team building purposes.
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?
Most employers I’m talking to are trying to figure out compensation. We’re used to a model based on cost of living — you get paid a certain level depending on where you live. However, with distributed workforces a lot of people are unsure how to handle this. On the employee side, some may find it difficult to go back to what “normal” used to look like. Many offices are requiring in-person now, and I expect that to continue. For those who moved away or started families and now have a commute to consider, it may be difficult to accept a reality that looks more similar to pre-2020.
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?
We try to assure that employees feel supported. We have an employee assistance program that individuals can access for social support, but more and more we’re confirming what we all probably knew before — employees do not look to their employer for all of their needs — many who need support will continue to need to surround themselves with a system in their personal (and professional lives).
Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
I think the greatest thing to come out of this is that “old school” management styles have finally come around to the fact that employees are people with lives and other things that are more important than their business. We can be successful in business and support our employees in having fulfilling lives. It doesn’t need to be one or the other.
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?
Time will help. There has been a big shock to the system. Some governments have put too much money into the system and some employees have realized there are alternative jobs they can have working in the comfort of their homes vs. commuting into a job they never liked. Over time, we’ll have new people who want those jobs, and in the meantime, we need to take care of our current employees because replacing them will become more and more difficult.
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.)
1. Employers will come up with new ways to create a strong culture amongst a distributed workforce. We all know building culture hasn’t been easy over the last 18+ months, but we will find new ways to do so. Whether it be in-person meetings, drinks, dinner, a picnic in the park. We need to find a way to go back to cultures of the past, while still learning from and implementing our newer ways of working.
2. Pay equity will continue to strengthen as companies figure out how to balance skill vs. location. The world has flipped a bit and talent is harder and harder to come by. We saw this especially with so many women leaving the workforce last year. The talent now has the upper hand over management, and compensation is the way to bring them through the door, whether they left the workforce and are ready to come back, or are simply looking for a new role. Their needs are important and pay equity is of the highest importance to employees. As executives, we need to figure out what this will look like in a world where the people we are employing are not necessarily our neighbors.
3. Diversity and inclusion isn’t going away — it will be a major part of why people want to work for and with a company and something we need to strive to achieve on a daily basis
4. Once smaller companies will become more global — the pandemic has forced the workforce to take down geographic barriers. Now just because you’re a company in Montreal, doesn’t mean you can’t be in the running for a client in San Francisco. That wasn’t always the case before.
5. The old 9–5 is likely going to retire, and if it doesn’t, it really should. We don’t need to babysit our employees for eight hours a day, they can get their work done when and where they see fit and conforming to a 40-hour work week isn’t a top priority. What 2020 and 2021 taught us is that not only are our employees adaptable, but they are also trustworthy and responsible.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I’ve seen over and over whether its employees, clients, strangers… if we genuinely care for others and support them on their journey, you will achieve your goals
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’d like to have breakfast or lunch with Marc Benioff. I’d love to hear about how they continue to scale so aggressively, while also maintaining their brand and focusing on a caring approach for humans and humanity.
Published on September 29, 2021 by Phil La Duke on Thriveglobal.com. See the entire article here.