I love asking questions about the outcomes design can achieve and figuring out ways to answer those questions."
Director of Research at HDR, Dr. Jeri Brittin trained as a public health research scientist, and also has a design and business background in senior-level strategic roles. Jeri’s areas of expertise include research design, intervention evaluation, and analytic approaches informed by systems science.
John serves as the CEO at vSpatial and is responsible for providing vision and leadership while ensuring that day-to-day operations align with the company’s business plan. Having been born with an entrepreneurial spirit, John started his first venture at age 14, which he eventually sold to pay for law school. Prior to joining vSpatial, John enjoyed a successful legal career where he both practiced law and became passionate about remote work and bridging the generational divides that exist in today's workforce.
Rob Levy is Vice President, Financial Health at CFSI where he leads the research and thought leadership practice. His portfolio includes consumer and industry research, product-level analyses, and business best practices designed to inform the marketplace on how to improve consumer financial health outcomes while generating long-term business growth. In his tenure at CFSI, Rob has led several marquee research initiatives on financial health measurement, small-dollar credit, employee financial wellness, and secured credit cards. He speaks frequently at industry and policy conferences and has been quoted in the American Banker, TechCrunch, the Atlantic, Nerdwallet, and HR.com. He has previously worked at a fintech startup and in the U.S. Senate. Rob also serves as Board President for Neighborhood Trust Federal Credit Union, a community development credit union in upper Manhattan.
I'm an HR Leader with 20 years of progressive HR experience, including managing global HR, Recruiting & Office staff. I possess global HR experience in both start-up and large technology companies, but I'm passionate about helping start-ups excel through people, with extensive knowledge in the areas of recruitment, talent management, engaging work cultures, learning & development, compensation and benefits.
Jaeques Koeman MSc, is CEO and co-founder of Dutch Edtech company EDIA. He has a background in Computer Science at the University of Amsterdam, specialising in the application of Artificial Intelligence in education. He has also been part of the founding team of Knowble, producing award-winning adaptive learning solutions using machine learning and natural language processing.
Dr. Jamie Bracey is an educational psychologist leading Temple University’s new Center for Inclusive Competitiveness, housed at the College of Engineering. The Center’s mandate is to advance inclusive, STEM based talent development and entrepreneurship grounded in urban environmental, social and economic sustainability. Her commitment to improving quality of life through community economic development is found in her strategic service on several boards, including the City of Philadelphia Digital Literacy Alliance, the Pennsylvania Department of Education's STEM Advisory Board, the PA Computer Science for All initiative, the STEMbees Girls in STEM NGO Board (Ghana), the KAD ICT Advisory Board (Nigeria), the PA Black Women Leadership Council’s Equity Investment Fund and her recent appointment to the PA Governor's Advisory Council on Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities.
Cyrus Radfar is a serial entrepreneur and the founding partner of V1. Worldwide. Prior to V1., he was the founding engineer at AddThis (acquired by Oracle). He studied Computer Science and Psychology at Georgia Institute of Technology.
Mike DeMarco is the Sr. Director of Sales at ZIVELO. He is located at the company headquarters in Scottsdale, AZ. His mission is to help companies meet the demand of their customers’ digital engagement needs through interactive kiosks and digital signage. Prior to joining ZIVELO, he led sales teams for companies like Chase Bank, Verizon Wireless and First Data. Mike is a U.S Army Veteran with service in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Niko Bonatsos, Managing Director at General Catalyst, invests in first-time founders with strong product instincts, robust appetites for learning, and a desire to create innovations to benefit millions. He has been instrumental in many of GC’s investments including Snap, Atrium, ClassDojo, and Wag!
Kimberly Gartner is passionate about working to improve people’s lives, building sustainable businesses, and cultivating unique partnerships. She’s an expert in credit, financial inclusion, financial health, and underserved consumers. She launched the Kimberly Gartner Group, LLC in 2016 to work with good people doing good work.
Growing @FlyOtto & @OpenAirplane. A professional pilot, CFI, husband, father, nerd. Passionate about user experience + aviation. Inspired by jobs to be done.
University degree in English & German literature and civilisation. Master's degree in literary translation and Master's degree in technical translation.
Olga Mizrahi is the bestselling author of the The Gig Is Up. Recently featured in Forbes, CNBC, and Fast Company, she instructs in the Digital Marketing Program for the University of California CE. Mrs. Mizrahi is a international speaker and marketing expert on branding in the gig economy (Airbnb, ASAE, KNX Small Business Summit), and blogs at ChunkofChange.com
Isabel Perry is Head of Technology at Byte London, where she oversees augmented reality, AI chatbots and automation. Isabel has created chatbots for Spotify, adidas, ASOS and Just Eat. She’s also developed marketing technologies that drive automation around paid social media and analytics. Formerly both a creative and an experienced planner, she read architecture at Cambridge University.
Instead of pledging full-time allegiance to a company that seemingly takes care of its employees with benefits and a trajectory for promotion, workers are increasingly piecing together gigs. The traditional private office format is being eschewed for open offices, co-working spaces, coffee shops and the comfort of home.
People can take conference calls from anywhere, and collaborate in online environments, with a staggering array of tools that make geography and time zones little obstacle. Companies, meanwhile, are looking for newer, better ways to understand and reach their customers, and trying to best utilize the employees they can hire to help them do so.
With these changes come incredible opportunities for companies that can innovate to take advantage of them. Multiple waves of employees are shaping workplace trends, while technology is allowing employers to reorganize and delegate tasks to them with the push of a button. At the same time, workers are charged with organizing the paths for navigating jobs and careers, making money, and finding meaning in what they do.
Number of workers (2017): 3 millions
Considered the most loyal generation of workers in the workforce today, traditionalists often stay at one organization for their entire career. They are engaged, they are content to follow authority, and stability is important to them.
Number of workers (2017): 41 million
Baby boomers value teamwork and community. They appreciate open communication and are keen to ask questions in the workplace.
62% of Boomers health insurance as the most important benefit versus 44% of Millennials.
Number of workers (2017): 52 million
Gen Xers appreciate strong authority figures who they can learn from and value flexibility in their approach to work.
Gen Xers appreciate strong authority figures who they can learn from and value flexibility in their approach to work.
They are capable of adapting to new technologies.
Number of workers (2017): 56 million
Millennials are a highly educated and independent generation. They appreciate being recognized for their accomplishments. They value achievements, education, competition, attention and globalism.
They’re often highly capable of working with technology, and they appreciate companies that adopt the latest technologies in the workplace.
23% of Millennials want PTO versus only 14% of Gen-Xers
Number of workers (2017): 9 million
Gen Zers grew up in a period of economic volatility, and therefore want stability in their careers. They’re attracted to work that is creative, allows for entrepreneurial attitudes, and incorporates cutting-edge technologies.
The majority of millennials consider the latest technology a major factor when choosing an employer, according to a 2015 survey by Microsoft and SurveyMonkey.9 Companies that don’t upgrade their operations could miss out on desirable candidates, who will choose to work for companies that offer them access to the most recent tools.
And it’s not just digital-savvy employees that are putting pressure on businesses to go through a tech transformation. A 2017 survey by Capterra of 699 small and midsize businesses reveals that “changing technology is one of the top three external factors impacting business goals.”10 Many businesses are opting to use social media, Google apps and Cloud software because it makes their processes more efficient, notes General Catalyst’s Bonatsos. It’s a trend that’s only going to grow as businesses increasingly engage with AI and automation technology, according to experts interviewed by V1 on the topic
However, pairing the latest technology with a multigenerational workforce is no small task. While some experts interviewed by V1 say that they believe there’s little difference in how generations interact with technology, the majority agreed that the younger generations are overall quicker and more eager to adapt to new technology in the workplace.
When it comes to jobs, millennials aren’t committing to one company for long stretches like the generations before them. A 2016 Gallup report found that 21 percent of millennials changed jobs within the previous year prior to the report’s publication, which is more than three times the number of non-millennials.12 And LinkedIn research reports that early in their careers, professionals who graduated between 2006 and 2010 typically stuck with an employer for a year and nine months. Professionals who graduated 20 years earlier, meanwhile, stayed at jobs almost a year-and-a-half longer.13 A few decades ago, someone who took a new job every three or four years raised red flags, says Bob Lehto, Vice-president of Human Resources at financial services company BRD. Not so anymore.
“I feel like we’re at a point, in the world of work, where we have more choices,” explains Lehto, who accepted a new position after just under a year at his last company. Lehto says that despite falling into the Gen X age bracket, he actually identifies more as a millennial. “I think intrinsic motivation and self-realization, being able to really have an impact in the role that one plays, and being able to have the freedom to choose to work at a company that is in turn having an impact in their industry or in their community, makes this a really exciting time to be part of work,” he says.
Gen Zers, the next working generation, are expected to be on the move too, but within, as opposed to between, companies. Set to make up 24 percent of the workforce by 2020,14 they’re more likely to “role hop” as opposed to job hopping in the same way as their millennial peers, reports suggest.15 Instead of changing companies, say experts, they might choose to try on many hats at one company that allows them the diversity of experience.
Gen Zers have so far been characterized by some workplace managers as resilient, financially conscious and overly reliant on technology.16 They’re also characterized as being less interested than previous generations in financial rewards, and instead more driven by social initiatives and working with responsible companies.17
Employers looking to the future will need to focus on making their workplaces Gen Z friendly. Not only does this mean equipping them with the most user friendly technology and giving them the perks they expect, it also means preparing for a more transient workforce that is likely to want to move within their industry and within the organization they work for.
Companies that can tap into the expertise of multiple generations in the workplace have a distinct advantage when it comes to learning and applying skills to creatively problem-solve. They’re able to benefit from the experiences and perspectives each generation brings, even though they also have to juggle the eagerness for new, fresh and fast with the wisdom that comes from more measured, tried approaches.
Getting those employees in the door and keeping them – especially when each generation brings such different expectations to the table – can be tricky, but doable if the employer can remember to be sensitive to each generation’s needs. Poor communication sometimes results from misunderstandings across the groups. Traditionalists, baby boomers and Gen Xers sometimes look down on their younger counterparts as entitled and even lazy. Their younger counterparts often speak their minds more freely.
While traditionalists, baby boomers and Gen Xers often have a more pragmatic approach to work, millennials and Gen Zers expect more from their employers. They want their employer to have a mission that they can relate to; they expect their employers to respect their need for human growth, both in and out of the office; and they appreciate flexibility in their roles. These are traits that every generation can benefit from, so it’s important for employers to recognize them and try to implement them in the workplace. Those that do will be better able to appeal to the multiple generations in today’s workplace.
Focusing on curating simpler experiences they can all share helps build a cohesive team across groups, as does making sure potential employees understand how the company will address their needs. Employers can keep notes on the feedback they receive and use it to build out stronger explanations and more streamlined processes where necessary. On the technology front, younger generations are often attracted to companies that work with the latest in cutting-edge technology, and older generations sometimes feel excluded by workplaces that are constantly updating their technology tools. That said, companies that focus on smoother software and hardware, regardless of generations, stand to show all of their employees the company is investing in making it easier and more effective for them to do their jobs.”
Not only are more people changing jobs more frequently, but jobs are changing, too. Companies are bringing on an increasing number of gig workers, allowing them to outsource specific tasks. Between 2005 and 2017, the number of independent workers in the leisure and hospitality industry, for example, rose by 41 percent, and 50 percent in transportation and utilities.18
As of 2016, 20 to 30 percent of the labor force in the US and EU-15 engaged in independent work.19 The most recent wave of gig opportunities has been driven by both technology and the economic climate. Online platforms such as Craigslist, which was launched in 1996, provided a global platform for employers and gig workers to meet, and the industry proliferated in the early 2000s in response to the dot-com crash. The 2008 financial crisis also helped propel the gig economy forward, says Lehto. “A lot of amazing, bright people couldn’t get jobs right out of college, and people that felt they had given strong commitments to their companies were suddenly out of a job,” he says. “They felt they’d fulfilled their end of the bargain and employers did not.” People explored new avenues, becoming self-employed and taking business risks, because their other employment options were limited, he says.
Despite cultural changes and the rise of gig work, many employers still favor full-time workers. Their ongoing connection to the company means they’re more likely to deliver high quality results, in part because they have more skin in the game, several experts interviewed by V1 suggest.
Tom McLeod, whose on-demand storage and rental company Omni has 60 full-time employees, believes having full-time instead of gig workers enables alignment around the company’s vision and improves results. “It allows you to have the overarching values of the company flow through every layer of business,” he says. “If someone is committed to working alongside others to accomplish a greater, common goal, they’re going to do better than if they’re working four separate jobs at companies with different visions, every day.”
Mike DeMarco, senior director of sales at interactive self-service kiosk company Zivelo, says that his company recently started working with gig workers, and that it sometimes means more work, not less, when the projects don’t come in up to snuff. “We end up a lot of the time having to redo the work anyway,” he explains. Still, he finds that the gig economy is vital for his business, and that it wouldn’t have been able to scale without contracting work out. “For us, [we need to use gig workers] because of our growth. I would love to keep everything in-house, but if I have a marketing team that can’t keep up, then I have to give some of my smaller projects out to someone else who can handle it.”
Many, including small businesses without the resources to compete with larger peers, see the gig economy as a boon for business. Sweden-based entrepreneur Per Cromwell, CEO and co-founder of mobile supermarket The Moby Mart, says that while the quality of gig workers can be hit-and-miss, for him, the lower fees commanded by gig workers make up for it.
Gig work platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr made it possible for him to launch his business, Cromwell adds. “[Without those platforms], sourcing the right competence would have been harder, because now it’s basically like a buffet,” he says. “You can pick the competence, and it’s very easy to find people. There are so many platforms where you can do that. [Beforehand], it would have been much more complicated to find people, taken a longer time and cost much more, because we would have needed to hire people full-time, and not just to hire them for a specific task.”
The gig economy offers some attractive choices. Gig workers have the ability to set their own schedules, select who they work for and the types of work they do.
But that wasn’t always the case. Before the rise of smartphone technology and global gig economy platforms, individuals looking for supplemental income were often limited to specific industries, such as hospitality and retail. “Now there are platforms that offer you the opportunity to work a few hours every day, whenever you want, and have some extra income.” says General Catalyst’s Bonatsos. Those platforms open up opportunities for workers from a range of demographics, he adds. Retired individuals looking to earn extra cash and stay involved in the labor force might get a job at Uber, for example, instead of serving tables in a restaurant.
The gig economy is made up of four types of workers, according to a 2016 study by McKinsey. That’s 30 percent “free agents” for whom independent work is a choice, 40 percent who use independent work for supplemental income by choice, 14 percent of people who would prefer traditional jobs but make their living from independent work, and 16 percent who do supplemental independent work to help make ends meet, the study says.
Kimberley Gartner founded her own consultancy firm in 2016, which meant more freedom to select her clients based on their values.“I get the opportunity to choose and to have the criteria in place for the types of organizations I work with,” she says. “When you’re a cog in a big consulting firm, you’re doing the projects that are handed to you, and the culture of innovation, the culture of a company, might not fit with how you want to do your work, or the types of people or organizations you want to work with.”
Still, as a self-employed worker, she says, it can sometimes be tough to convince organizations and prospective clients that she’s as dedicated to her work as a full-time employee within a company, and making a career choice as opposed to being in a period of transition.
Furthermore, some of the experts interviewed by V1 expressed concern that today’s gig economy is leading to a number of problems for both organizations and individuals.
V1’s Radfar says that gig work leads to a lot of anxiety on both ends. “Gig workers are constantly worried employers are going to stop needing them, and employers are constantly worried gig workers are going to find a better rate elsewhere,” he says, speaking as an employer.
However, research suggests that these anxieties aren’t limited to gig workers. These days, many employees, gig and otherwise, feel similar job concerns around work, including affordable healthcare, debt and ability to save, according to a 2017 study Upwork and Freelancers Union.
Dr. Jamie Bracey, director at the Center for Inclusive Competitiveness at Temple University College of Engineering, says she is particularly worried about the effect that the gig economy will have on individuals. “Gig workers are increasingly vulnerable to these intense, short-term, no-benefits assignments that don't provide financial security, or pathways to onboard into career paths,” she says.
Other experts interviewed by V1 also expressed concern that the rising gig economy could be exploitative to lower-income and less-educated individuals. CFSI’s Levy says he believes that a lack of benefits could cause a bifurcation of gig workers, some of whom have the income and education to know about health and disability insurance and pensions, and those that don’t.
“One of the biggest challenges with the mass transition towards gig work is the increasing responsibility it puts on the individual to manage all of the life stuff that was otherwise being taken care of by a full-time employer,” says Levi. “If you’ve got a part-time job and you’re a gig worker, you’re totally on your own – not only to figure out your health insurance but your retirement, making sure you’re saving money to pay your taxes, selecting insurance products, such as disability and life, and more.”
The US courts are still struggling to outline the rights of gig workers,22 and many of them fall into a gray area without the guaranteed benefits and support offered to full-time employees. Regulation is moving in the right direction, though, says Molly Turner, a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley. “US courts are starting to consider gig economy workers to be employees of the platforms that provide them with gigs,” says Turner. “Platforms are becoming more willing to help gig economy workers with tax and regulatory compliance.”
The gig economy isn’t going away. That is, in part, because remote, gig work appeals to the millennial generation, says vSpatial’s Sallaway."
And The Moby Mart’s Cromwell says that, as people begin to see the benefits of gig work,more and more workers will want to make the move. “If I was an employee working from home or working remotely from a beach, solving problems that people hire me for, I would love to be on any of those gig platforms,” he says. “And I think that more and more people will want to be there.”
Data from McKinsey also suggests that the gig economy is set to continue its rise in the coming years, based on “the stated aspirations of individuals and growing demand for services from consumers and organizations alike.”23 The technology that enables the gig economy is also likely to help make it more enticing to both organizations and individuals, say experts interviewed by V1.
Sallaway says he sees virtual reality as an enabler for anyone who wants or needs to be connected to a coworker or a client that can’t physically be in the same place, adding that he believes such technology is central to helping people be better at their jobs. It means putting people in the “same room”, to give them the sense that they’re together, and also giving them the ability to interact with different 3D models in a virtual environment.
“VR and AR in general are going to open up a world of opportunities for people who are really talented but simply can’t travel to a major metropolitan area every day to work.There are talented, amazing people all over the world who are suddenly going to be able to tap into this economy because of VR and AR who were previously excluded from the market,” he explains.
Indeed, as VR technology becomes more sophisticated, it could tackle some of the concerns that employers have working with remote workers and gig workers. In recent years, large businesses including Yahoo and Reddit have banned their employees from working remotely, stressing the importance of “physically being together” and that these separation prevents teams from being able to efficiently coordinate.24
Sallaway believes that technology used by v Spatial and similar companies provides a solution to employers’ problems. “Because there is such a sense of presence in VR/AR, employers can feel like their employees are ‘showing up for work’ and employees can feel connected to their coworkers from anywhere in the world,” says Sallaway. “In VR/AR, you really are in the same room together. Maybe it’s a virtual room, but the sense of presence and the flexibility of a 3-dimensional environment are something traditional 2-dimensional video conferencing solutions simply cannot provide.”
From an individual standpoint, increased engagement with the gig economy will mean that both traditional workers and gig workers will have to become “lifelong learners” if they want to succeed, says Mizrahi. “The people that are more able to communicate their best qualities – the reason that they’re a fit for that particular project, the reason why they are the most responsive, the most team orientated, the most skill specific, for example – are going to be chosen, and they’re going to be chosen again and again,” notes Mizrahi. “And that’s where we see one of the rifts between people who are freelancers and people who are in the same job for a long time. The people who are freelancers know that they have to keep up their skill set and they work to keep up their skill set.”
As the tools that facilitate the gig economy improve, and it becomes more of a cultural norm in business circles, an increasing number of employers will outsource tasks to gig workers. There are, of course, problematic features of the gig economy. For workers, there’s the risk that they will be dropped unexpectedly by an employer, leaving a hole in their earnings; and for employers, gig workers committed to the long-term vision of a company can be hard to find.
For both workers and employers, it’s important to be aware of the risks involved with the gig economy. Gig workers need to avoid committing too much of their time to an employer that is unwilling to provide them with security, so as to avoid being left in a financially precarious situation. And employers should be aware of the steps they need to take to hire the best gig workers for their company.
Young companies and startups often engage with the gig economy in order to maximize on early projects without paying the overhead of a full-time staff. And while this makes fiscal sense, it is risky from an employee retention point of view.
Founders running teams of gig workers often feel an inordinate amount of stress and pressure, having to manage a company without partners or fellow stakeholders who are equally as invested in the success of the company.
Those entrepreneurs looking to start a company using gig workers as a way of mitigating the higher costs of full-time workers should consider going into business with culturally aligned partners, who can not only bear the workload, but also share the stresses that come with being a business owner.
Many of the steps that employers need to follow before taking on a new gig worker are similar to those of the traditional hiring process: make sure prospective workers have relevant references; that they have a good history of work and/or portfolio; and that the worker is eased into the company via a pilot project rather than one that is integral to the success of the company, so that the employer can evaluate the worker’s communication and planning skills, and whether they gel with the general culture of the team.
Ideally, companies would avoid relying on gig workers on a regular basis. Of course, doing so can be a valuable tool to push through projects during busy periods of work; however, the transient and non-committal nature of gig workers means they are less desirable than full-time workers who are more likely to become ingrained in a company’s culture.
Diversity is an important topic today, with many companies striving to make inclusivity a hallmark and their workforces reflective of their customer bases at large. Race and gender are two elements often used for benchmarking progress in this arena. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2017, 21.6 percent of the working population was non-white,25 compared to 16.5 percent in 2000. Women’s representation in the workplace has also risen just over 2 percent in that time, to 47.7 percent in 2016 from 46.6 percent in 2000. While these changes may seem small, especially women’s representation in the workplace, they are indicative of a rising trend in diversity.
Temple University College of Engineering’s Bracey says in her career, which has included work as a corporate marketing executive and nonprofit executive, independent consultant and education leader, she’s seen a commitment to diversity as a core operating value.
It’s a trend that BRD’s Lehto says he has also observed. Employers and employees are increasingly emphasizing diversity and inclusion, he points out. “In general, in the last year or two, I think people are just more concerned about their fellow coworkers,” he says. “I think I’m getting more questions or more comments about the overall atmosphere or the overall culture, whereas five years or ten years ago, it would have been more individual-centered questions.”
Companies are becoming more proactive in trying to achieve gender balance and other kinds of diversity in their everyday corporate lives, he adds. He cites an example of when he helped a mostly-male company achieve gender parity, with racial and gender diversity as key considerations. “It was great, and we were a better and stronger people team because we truly represented our workforce,” he says. “I think that’s where HR and companies need to go, in that theme of ‘what does the future look like?’.”
However, while diversity in the workplace is on the rise, some industries and careers are struggling to integrate it. For instance, the percentage of women working in computer science-related professions has notably been on the decline, dropping to 25 percent from 35 percent in the past 15 years, and with only 12 percent of engineers being women.27
V1’s Radfar, who started working on product teams in 2004, says it’s been tough to improve gender diversity, especially when it comes to finding technical talent. “One of the very subtle issues is in the hiring criterion, people don’t like the gaps that happen when people have children – when people have large gaps.” That puts women at a disadvantage, he says, in some instances meaning they don’t make it past the recruiter’s quick filter. A senior role is ten years’ experience for his company.
Furthermore, while many of the experts interviewed by V1 expressed optimism around an increasingly diverse workforce, some were wary of the manner in which businesses will build diverse teams. “There is a concern that companies will do diversity for diversity’s sake, and not really improve the situation,” says Bracey. “It will result in more terms like ‘diversity of thinking’ or ‘diversity of experience’ to justify continued hiring of white and Asian males. The danger is that the new definitions will become convenient excuses to continue the tradition of excluding proper education and training for America's underrepresented racial or ethnic groups.”
While Men Comprise 53%
Blacks make an average of $682 per week
Women in high paying STEM jobs earn 79.2% of men’s annual median earnings. Asian and Black women and Latinas made up slightly less than 10% of working scientists and engineers in the United States in 2015
Asians make up 6% of the workforce and earn $1043 per week, while Hispanics earn $655 per week.
1% Native American Alaskan Native Pacific Islanders
It’s the responsibility of a CEO or founder to understand the need for diversity and push to make it happen at every stage of the company’s growth."
While V1 interviewees stressed that diversity is more than just a buzzword, they also emphasized the difficulties associated with achieving it. Between the challenges of finding the right people to make up the ideal balance and the host of underlying complications that can make hiring them tough, it’s an arena where there’s still more work to be done, they largely agree.
How to best get from here to there remains somewhat of a moving target for the time being. Omni’s McLeod suggests that companies that are struggling to create a diverse workforce can look within their own organization and improve opportunities for existing employees to keep from having a "funnel issue" where roles/departments are skewed by race, ethnicity or gender.
He also says that the notion of not hiring a diverse team because there aren’t enough qualified workers out there is “a bit of a cop out.” McLeod asserts that there’s a way to start moving in the right direction. “We struggle with it, too, but I think you can work on it, you can focus on it wherever you can. And over time, that starts to resolve itself.”
In order to build diversity within their workforces, some companies are exploring innovative hiring practices. For instance, after the financial crisis, Deutsche Bank created a sponsorship program to help female employees stand a better chance of being considered for senior roles. By pairing the female workers with executive committee members who served as mentors, the employees achieved better visibility within the company, received guidance and had a powerful supporter when applying for senior roles. Likewise, technology consultancy firm Thought Works launched its own entry level program to help underrepresented minorities receive training and find employment in the tech industry. The program is for those who haven’t gone through the traditional software training, appealing to career changers and “individuals with transferable skills, and the right attitude, aptitude, and integrity.”31
Employers across all industries wishing to build a diverse workforce often need to make an affirmative decision to do so. General Catalyst’s Bonatsos says that creating an inclusive culture starts early on, adding that it’s the responsibility of a CEO or founder to understand the need for diversity and push to make it happen at every stage of the company’s growth.
Everyone brings their unique experiences to the workplace. Those experiences inform how they work, how they look at a company’s processes and how they do their jobs. And the more perspectives a company can not only empathize with but also incorporate into how they understand their products and serve their customers, the more effective they have the opportunity to be. By having employees who represent a multitude of diverse perspectives, companies can make sure they’re meeting the needs of different demographics and delivering experiences that match customers’ expectations.
That diversity of experience comes from bringing people together from different places, cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds and belief systems. Generating it, that is, building the workplace that can reflect and incorporate these elements, takes work and planning. It often happens more organically with remote teams; employees are generally spread out geographically and so people come from different environments, which can lead to them to having significantly different backgrounds and outlooks.
For teams that share physical space, recruiting from a broad pool of candidates plays a big role in promoting diversity. So does making sure the company advertises positions broadly enough for it to reach beyond an immediate audience of self-selected, like-minded job seekers. Finding places where people from other perspectives spend time and distributing job applications there can be a start, as can participating in forums and presenting to associations whose membership might be reflective of the company’s customer base. Companies can sponsor youth events in a community it would like to reach in order to develop relationships and source employees, or hold an event for older adults to help add their wisdom – which can ideally stop a group from making the same mistakes over and over – to the mix.
Building diversity is achieved by starting with curious and open management, leadership that at its core wants to understand the human experience better. It’s then built further from the desire to make sure the company isn’t missing out on knowing about the people it serves and what would serve them better that could otherwise help the business grow. After all, the next big idea could well come from someone outside of the leadership’s immediate circle, who’s coming from a totally new perspective.
There seems to be some confusion around whether the AI revolution has yet come and gone. AI’s impact on our daily lives, inclusive of our workplaces – not to mention our commutes to and from them – keeps growing, and so it’s frequently heralded in the public eye as an emergent sector just taking wing. But despite its trending status, some of the experts interviewed by V1 posit that the “AI revolution” has already taken place. Jacques Koeman, who founded his business which specializes in the application of AI technology in education in 2002, says that much of the technology people are discussing today has actually been around for more than a decade. The difference is that now the technology is more widely used and trusted.
In 1900, over 40 percent of the US population was engaged in agriculture. Now the number is below 2 percent.
The automobile destroyed 623,000 jobs between 1910 and 1950. But it created 7.5 million jobs in that time, at a net gain of 6.9 million jobs in the US.
The first automated teller machine (ATM) was introduced in 1967. It began the automation of the finance sector.
1992 was the first time a multi-function robot carried out an operation. Its name was Robodoc. Supervised by a human surgeon at Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento, California, Robodoc drilled the cavity in the patient’s femur into which one half of the prosthetic joint was fitted more precisely than a human surgeon could.
In January 2018, Apple reported that developers had earned $86 billion since its App Store launched in July 2008.
Ford announced it is going to be investing $1 billion in Argo AI. The robotics company was created by former Google and Uber leaders. Ford plans to combine the expertise of Argo AI with its existing self-driving car efforts to have a “fully autonomous vehicle” coming in 2021.
Automation technology is no longer just for the biggest businesses in the world. It’s also helping small businesses to better compete. Rod Rakic says automation helped his business, FlyOtto, which caters to small airlines that fly into and out of some of the country’s 5,000 airports, to build its marketplace. “We built the technology, and the automation in our algorithm allows us to do something that replaces what the charter companies do,” he explains. Charter companies often use a string and a map to determine the cost of a trip – nine inches will mean $9,000. They quote that trip rate to the broker over the phone, who turns around and sells the ride from $15,000, pocketing the difference. “We have flipped the script on that by using the algorithm we built to drive FlyOtto,” he says. That means savings and speed. “So now, the automation allows for us to be able to tell you what the retail price of the trip will be in seconds, not hours.” Technology, which in this case aggregates demand, creates an opportunity for them to do more business, he explains.
CFSI’s Levy agrees that the technology is beneficial for small business, especially when it comes to taking out business loans. “Lending is an area where there is now a lot of sophisticated technology that can automate a lending decision that would have otherwise taken days or weeks,” he says. “That kind of automation, which wouldn’t even be possible without technology, is a huge benefit for the small business owner.”
Big data and AI technologies are also creating opportunities in the design and workspace industry, says Dr. Jeri Brittin, director of research at HDR. “That’s another hot trend right now – big data and leveraging big data,” she says. “Everyone says they’re doing it, but there are still limitations. One of the things we are actively working on is to bring masses of data about projects and outcomes into a manageable, understandable format, so that we can better analyze how design decisions impact people. We’ve made great strides, but there’s still a lot of work to do to leverage the full potential as well as to address potential inherent biases."
Some of the experts interviewed by V1 also argue that AI and automation technology are improving the customer experience. “We’re at the break of the wave here. Things are going to be a lot more automated,” says Zivelo’s DeMarco, pointing out that over the last decade, people have come to expect a certain level of digital engagement, and in many cases, come to prefer it. “You want to be able to interact everywhere you go. Ten years ago, it was, ‘You come in, you be that nice customer friendly person, and everything’s good’. Now people are like, ‘I don’t want this person to be nice to me. I don’t even want to talk to him.’ And that really seems to be the way that’s going.”
The technology is also helping employees who are working with AI-powered automation, claim some of the experts. V1’s Radfar suggests that the tools will makes people’s jobs easier, and that it will help them to better focus. “The ideal is that you automate away a lot of the things that distract, and you allow them to focus,” he says. Similarly, Koeman says that automation technology is performing a lot of the “boring, time-consuming work” that nobody wants to be doing.
A year ago, I didn’t think creativity could be machine generated, how wrong I was."
Despite the opportunities that automation and AI seem likely to bring to the workplace, the technologies do have their limitations, according to some of the experts interviewed by V1. Even though he’s positive about automation in his industry, Cromwell says that not everything in retail can be automated, while Koeman points out AI’s limitations. “AI is currently not nearly capable of something like critical thinking or higher order thinking,” he says. Koeman adds that there are some people in the industry who seriously doubt the ability to scale the more complex branches of AI like deep learning.
Omni’s McLeod says he believes that the value of human salespeople is underestimated, and that automation will never be able to compete with a fully-trained worker in certain roles. Likewise, some roles are simply hard to imagine successfully automated. V1’s Radfar notes that creative jobs would be tricky to replace with a machine. “Storytelling and branding and a lot of creative product work, technical work is incredibly hard to [automate]” he says.
Isabel Perry, director of technology and AI expert at Byte London, says she has seen AI techniques make some strides, however, in advancing creative roles. It’s something she notes she had been skeptical about in the past, until seeing tools like GAN (Generative Adversarial Networks). “It’s able to create photorealistic images from scratch. Pretty awesome,” she says. “A year ago, I didn’t think creativity could be machine generated, how wrong I was.”
And professional translator Lyse Leroy says that even though machines are playing an increasingly large part in her own industry, there are far too many nuances for a machine to be able to interpret. “In terms of cultural references, there’s no way that a machine can do that for now. Getting the tone of the text, as well – the intonations, sarcasm, irony, puns. I haven’t seen a machine do it, so I’m very skeptical.”
With the amount of funding being invested into AI research, its capabilities stand to expand rapidly, even though today it’s hard to imagine all the tasks a machine could take on. “History shows there will always be some breakthroughs or fancy technological institutes or universities that actually overcome these problems,” says Koeman.
AI and automation are making work more efficient. They’re allowing people to focus on priority tasks instead of having to switch between a number of activities. That means a higher quality of output in less time, and likely, less cost. Automation also makes it easier for colleagues to share information, which helps companies create a culture of collaboration and encourages feedback. It gives small companies a way to compete more nimbly against larger businesses, and provides reams of relevant data they can use to evaluate their progress.
Project management applications, which make tasks and their status transparent, and tools that pass information between apps, give individuals and teams an edge. Instead of each person having to check in for every update, there’s a collective record of what’s going on, and a way to find out without interruption.
Some managers also choose to automate daily meetings, while others argue it’s worthwhile for employees to have time together in person to connect. One of the challenges of automation, then, is finding the right balance between establishing the sense of comfort and camaraderie teams need to optimally work together, and the benefits automating different processes provide. Trying to automate more than employees can manage can lead to frustration, so having teams buy-in for automated tracking processes is central. Since automation and people will in many cases continue to work side by side, it’s important to keep people at the center of the equation. Unlike machines, people have responses to how they’re treated, and will react accordingly.
Adding layers of automation slowly and deliberately makes it more likely that teams will readily adopt it. Large organizations can start by adding it in a small cell and then showcase the results to the rest of the company to demonstrate its benefits. Constantly promoting how the process has been helpful or valuable in identifying issues can further be useful in cementing its value to teams, especially when there’s pushback from employees who prefer to do things another way.
Company culture is being distinctly impacted by the expectations of various generations of employees, as well as by diversity, the gig economy, and AI and automation. Individuals and executives who have the foresight to incorporate the knowledge of their peers on these themes into how they operate will be best-positioned to take advantage of the new work world that’s emerging. And the importance of acting on these trends cannot be understated. Great periods of change are opportunities for those who can take advantage of them, but perilous for those who ignore them.
Employers can add value to their businesses by being prepared. Employees can make themselves more attractive to potential employers with the diverse perspectives they offer and skills they are open to incorporating. The future of work appears to be, in many ways, faster and more transient, with businesses growing more quickly and employees moving at a more rapid pace. It is also increasingly informed by new technologies that spur it ahead.
By looking forward, everyone involved in the workplace can be ready for what happens next and also what is changing around them.