The Five Essentials for Success in the Future of Work

1. The future of work is flexible: Know how you want to work

When the pandemic started last year, millions of people found themselves working remotely whether they were ready or not. The number of remote workdays doubled in 2020, reports Gallup.1 Regulatory barriers to telehealth were quickly removed due to COVID, enabling Providence Healthcare to jump from 10,000 telehealth visits per year to 10,000 per day by the middle of the pandemic, according to a presentation on their cloud migration success during Microsoft’s Resilience at Work Summit.2 Harvard University migrated 20,000 students to online learning in five days.

Interestingly, 83 percent of employers say that remote work has been a success, according to a recent PWC survey.3 What’s more, now that they’ve gotten a taste of flexibility, 55 percent of employees surveyed by PwC want to work remotely at least three days a week, even after it’s safe to return to the office.  

Now that remote, flexible work seems to be here to stay, talent has more options than ever. The pandemic has further opened the door for those who want or need an alternative to the traditional nine-to-five office model. You have the power to determine how, when, and where you want to work: full- or part-time; remote, onsite, or some combination of the two; on-demand, project-based work or traditional salaried employment.

Also, at the Microsoft Resilience at Work Summit, Tsedal Neely, professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and Remote Work Revolution author, posited at the Microsoft Resilience at Work Summit that the “sweet spot” of a hybrid work model is 90 percent remote and 10 percent in person. Therefore, she said, it behooves all of us to understand how to maximize our ability to work effectively and successfully.  

To thrive in the future of work, you must know how you work best and define how you want to work.

Upcoming Masterclass

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2. The future of work is on-demand: Know your personal brand and tell your story consistently

In the future of work, companies may increasingly move toward smaller core teams of employees, supplemented with on-demand external talent. In an on-demand world, managers need specific skills—immediately. Whether it’s SEO and paid search expertise to boost a startup’s visibility or program management chops to ensure the successful global launch of a new product, companies will quickly need to identify the right talent with the right skills at the right time.  

To succeed in this on-demand world, you must identify your unique strengths. But it doesn’t stop there: Success and happiness exist at the intersection of your strengths and passions—your personal brand.  

Find yours with my Personal Brand Playbook, and then tell your story consistently and regularly to stand out and attract the right roles at the right time.  

For actionable tips on creating brand integrity across your resume, LinkedIn profile, and pitch, I recommend this free on-demand workshop with career coach Julie Schaller.

3. The future of work is ever-changing: Know what skills are in-demand and embrace continuous learning and development

I recently spoke with Dr. Sandeep Krishnamurthy on the post-experience economy—the idea that we’re moving  away from in-person experiences in favor of convenient, instantaneous transactions devoid of social interaction. 

In this new world, said Dr. Krishnamurthy, marketers must adapt their tactics from broadcasting to narrowcasting. New tactics require new skills, such as marrying targeting and messaging to get the customer what they want before they even know they need it.  

183 million new jobs will emerge by 2022 through AI, predicted the World Economic Forum's 2018 Future of Jobs Report,4 and two-thirds of today’s primary school students will have jobs in the future that don't exist yet.5 The institution also noted that we’ll all require an additional 101 days of learning by 2022 to keep pace with the rate of change.  

In the future of work, continuous learning and upskilling is a necessity. Keep abreast of the latest trends and in-demand skills and educate yourself accordingly.

4. The future of work is intentional: Know what you want your life to look like

Technology and remote work have rendered location nearly irrelevant. After all, if you’re working remotely, does it really matter if you’re 20 or 200 miles from the office?  

This decoupling of work from location, said Neely, is going to play out in extraordinary ways. She predicts that people will begin moving out of traditional employment hubs or spending chunks of time working from beautiful places. In fact, it’s already begun.  

Spotify’s new Work-From-Anywhere program allows employees to do just that—while still receiving San Francisco and New York salaries.6

When Barbados offered visas to remote workers during the pandemic, Microsoft’s vivacious Dona Sarkar tweeted that she’d be working from the Caribbean island for three months just because she could.  

Know what you want your life to look like, and fit work to your life, not the other way around. 

5. The future of work is diverse: Know your worth and find a company that aligns with your values

Spotify’s global head of diversity, inclusion, and belonging, Travis Robinson, believes that the company’s new remote work program will promote inclusion and support equity.  

"Black employees historically have been discriminated against when it comes to pay and growth opportunity, and it is likely the local market pay is lower than a comparable city with a large white population," Robinson told Business Insider. 7

The move will indirectly benefit customers, too, Robinson said: "With even more diverse experiences and perspectives, spread across additional communities, we have the opportunity to bring more stories to life, through original content and other curated audio experiences that resonate culturally.” 

Diversity and inclusion continue to be important focus areas for many companies. Find a company that aligns with your values and recognizes your worth.

Upcoming Masterclass

Ready to learn pragmatic best practices for digital transformation? Register for our digital marketing masterclass with Elissa Fink, former CMO of Tableau Software.

In summary, we are living in the future of work and the best way to thrive is to get clear on what work you love to do, where and how you want to work, and what organizations align with your values. You can create your ideal life so why not jump in with both feet and make it happen.

To learn more about how to thrive in the future of work, register for our digital marketing masterclass with Elissa Fink, former CMO of Tableau Software. You’ll learn pragmatic best practices for digital transformation and effective digital marketing.

6 ways to work your network to thrive as a consultant

The adage is true: You’ve got to network to get work. According to LinkedIn1, referrals are nine times more likely to get hired than non-referrals. Every consultant I interviewed for my upcoming book, Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant, spoke to the importance of networking. Here are their top tips for working your network to thrive as a consultant.

1. Focus on them, not you

The term “networking” can have a bad connotation. Some people think of it as meaningless small talk and endless elevator pitches. But I approach networking with a different perspective, which is that it isn’t about me. It’s about building relationships, not selling. It’s getting curious and determining how and where I can add value to others. This is the secret of great consultants. They realize it’s about their clients, not them, and they keep their clients’ needs front and center.

2. Reframe networking as relationship building

Rupali, a communications strategist I interviewed for my book, reframed networking as connecting with others. “I love connecting with people,” Rupali shared with me. “I love listening to their stories, learning about what they’re going through, getting their advice and guidance, and finding ways I can help and support them.”

3. Always be connecting—not just when you’re looking for work

“Don’t just reach out when you need something,” Rupali told me. Make relationship building and maintenance part of your regular routine. For example, Rupali sets aside thirty minutes a week to reach out. “Set a goal for yourself, whether it’s weekly or monthly,” she advised. “Otherwise it’s one of those things that will slide.”

Deanna, a training and development consultant I interviewed, keeps in touch with her contacts when she comes across news or updates that they’d find interesting. For example, she emailed a former client after learning about a new e-learning platform. It prompted a quick virtual demo-date for them to test drive the new tool. It didn’t lead to a new project—yet!—but that’s not the point. Their ongoing communication cultivates a meaningful relationship that’s fulfilling and mutually beneficial.

When you do land that new project or role, send a quick note to update anyone who helped you along the way, Deanna recommends. It’s a great reason to reach out, and it shows that you appreciate their help and value the relationship beyond just what they can do for you.

4. “Never make the person across from you work harder”

When it comes to referrals, “Never make the person across from you work harder,” Deanna cautioned. That’s why I stress the importance of telling your personal brand story clearly and consistently, so it’s easier for others to remember and retell it. It also helps to provide the person you’re asking for help with a clear, concise description of who you are and what you’re looking for, so it’s a lighter lift.

5. Ask for referrals and intros

Rupali always asks for new connections, even when she’s not actively looking for work. To continuously expand her reach, she asks everyone she speaks with in her network if they know of anyone else she should connect with. It’s as simple as tagging, “Is there someone else you recommend I talk to?” to the end of every conversation. Rupali makes clear that in this introduction, she’s not asking her network to simply recommend her for a job.

6. Plant seeds

When it comes to networking, you have to play the long game. In fact, it’s rare to reach out to someone and find a project just waiting for you to find it. Focus on building relationships, adding value, and keep the faith that your efforts will yield results over time. I call it planting seeds.

Another consultant I interviewed, Christopher, told me about how he plants seeds, one lunch at a time.

He routinely schedules lunch with former colleagues or acquaintances just to catch up on life and work. He goes in without an agenda or expectations—he’s focused on relationship building. More often than not, when his colleagues do have a need months later, they’ll think of Christopher and call to see if he’s available.

Now it's your turn...

What’s one way you can activate your network that feels authentic to you?

Work, Your Way

Preorder my third book, Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant, publishing August 2021 from Harper Collins Leadership.

Special offer! Receive a FREE download of the Work, Your Way Playbook when you preorder the book!

Watch my Work, Your Way webinar

Work, Your Way: Freedom

Flexibility, freedom, and focus are the three core reasons why professionals choose and stick with consulting. In the last of this three-part series, let’s explore the power of freedom. We’ll hear from three successful consultants who I interviewed for my upcoming book Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant.

Take a look at the first two posts in this series: Why flexibility and focus are key reasons why professionals love consulting.

The myth of security

There are no guarantees in life or work. Many still believe that full-time employee roles are more secure than consulting contracts, but layoffs have become commonplace. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent example. Roughly one in six US workers, or more than 26 million people, filed for unemployment during March and April 2020 1, and the unemployment peak in April of last year (14.8 percent) was the highest ever recorded since the government began tracking unemployment in 1948.

Just as we saw in the Great Recession of 2008, a subset of these newly unemployed professionals with marketable skills and expertise will turn to consulting or gig work. For some, it will be a short-term stopgap. Others will embrace the benefits of the consultant lifestyle and never look back.

Loyalty is a two-way street

Deanna, a training and development expert, experienced this firsthand. Before she started working with me, a teammate’s layoff helped her realize that she was more loyal to her employer than they were to her.

“We had a round of layoffs in our group, and I shared responsibilities with a woman who’d been on the team longer than me,” she told me in a video interview. “They let her go. It was the first time I’d been in a group where someone was laid off. I realized that I wanted more control. I thought, If it’s so easy for them to let her go, why am I holding on?”

Deanna was tiring of her job for many reasons, but she stayed out of a sense of loyalty. Seeing her teammate let go—someone with a solid performance record and more tenure than her—was freeing for her. She realized that her loyalty wasn’t reciprocated by her employer. At the end of the day, as an employee at a global organization, she was ultimately a line on the budget.

As harsh as that sounds, it’s the truth. I have seen too many professionals shocked by an unexpected layoff. They never saw it coming, no matter how good their work was.

Creativity in full supply

For Alyssa, a longtime marketing consultant, consulting frees her up for creative pursuits. While her side hustles haven’t always taken off, they’ve been a creative outlet for her to try new ideas and skills—which she often funnels into her future consulting contracts.

As a military spouse and mother to an energetic two-year-old, the freedom and flexibility of consulting are essential to Alyssa. That flexibility enables her to work remotely and block out family time each afternoon. It’s also given her the freedom to fully embrace her new role as a working mom, thanks in part to her latest side hustle, Little Supply 2.

The company offers monthly “excuses to celebrate” in the form of ready-to-go activity kits designed with working parents in mind. Alyssa and her sister created Little Supply to give parents those memorable, Pinterest-worthy moments without the stress.

Her side hustle is at once rewarding and challenging. Alyssa is getting closer to her goal of having more quality time with her daughter while exploring new areas of marketing.


“Our generation has to be flexible because the world opened us up to the possibility that things can change at a moment’s notice,” said Hai when I asked him why millennials choose alternative career paths like consulting. “We have to plan for the future, but also plan for those plans to fall apart. Rather than scaring us from living to our fullest potential, those challenges made us realize that we need a plan B (and C) for everything.”

Most everyone I talk to has a before story—the career they had or roles they did before getting into consulting—so I was fascinated to learn that Hai doesn’t. A marketer at heart, Hai found a niche as a social and digital marketing expert with a passion for empathy. Consulting is the only way he’s worked since graduating from business school.
Hai has an interesting theory on why his generation is drawn to contract work.
“The collective challenges we’ve faced have shaped how we approach work,” he said, citing monumental events like the advent of the internet, 9/11, the Great Recession, and the global economic impact of COVID-19.

The pandemic has proved Hai’s theory. The New York Times recently reported on the “Yolo Economy”3 (as in, you only live once) in which burned-out millennials are realizing that life is about more than a stable job. “For a growing number of people with financial cushions and in-demand skills,” writes Kevin Roose, “the dread and anxiety of the past year are giving way to a new kind of professional fearlessness.”

Some are abandoning cushy and stable jobs to start a new business, turn a side hustle into a full-time gig or finally work on that screenplay. Others are scoffing at their bosses’ return-to-office mandates and threatening to quit unless they’re allowed to work wherever and whenever they want … a daredevil spirit seems to be infecting even the kinds of risk-averse overachievers who typically cling to the career ladder.

My hunch is that, as more millennials and Gen Zs take root in the workforce, there will be fewer consultants with before stories. It will just be the way we work.

Find your freedom

To hear more stories from successful consultants like these and actionable tips for how you, too, can work flexibly, preorder my latest book, Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant, publishing August 2021 from Harper Collins Leadership.

Special offer! Receive a FREE download of the Work, Your Way Playbook when you preorder a copy of the book!  

Work, Your Way: Focus

When’s the last time you got into flow while working? You know the feeling: everything around you fades away, time somehow warps, and you’re singularly focused on the task at hand. Do you have the ability to focus and dig deep on a project or area of expertise? If so, does it energize you? Ignite your best work self? And if not, how does reflecting on that void make you feel?

As I said in my earlier post on flexibility, there’s no right or wrong answer. But if your need for focus is unmet, I want you to know that you have options. In the new world of work, you can work differently—you can work your way.

In my upcoming book, Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant, I spoke with a number of successful, long-term consultants. Their stories aligned with the many consultants I’ve worked with since starting Simplicity Consulting in 2006.

There are three primary reasons why people choose and stick with consulting: flexibility, freedom, and focus. Here we’ll explore focus.

Work, not politics

Kate is a writer. She quit her corporate job to raise her two young children and write the book that had been swirling in her head during her daily commute. Now, as a consultant, she lights up when talking about her communications projects and geeks out on the ability to lose herself in the topic du jour.

“I just want to do the work,” Kate told me when I interviewed her for the book. “I don’t want to have to worry about all that other stuff.”

That “other stuff” differs from company to company, but it includes things like performance reviews, office politics, administrivia, and endless meetings.
So many consultants that I’ve talked to share Kate’s perspective. They all just want to focus on doing the work they love and doing it well. It’s one of the reasons I chose consulting, too.

Kate not only likes doing the work, she likes the opportunity to get into flow. She recently spent eight weeks wading through accessibility materials—and she was thrilled about it. Her client hired her to refresh the company’s accessibility storytelling, an important project that her client didn’t have bandwidth to take on.

“I was able to completely focus and own it end-to-end,” she raved. That focus paid off. Within the first five minutes of her client’s annual summit, the company’s chief accessibility officer used Kate’s content on stage. “Thousands of people saw that,” Kate said. “It was great.”

Focus breeds success

Like Kate, I remember realizing the power of focus after my first consulting project. I had handed off my deliverables, and my client was showering the work with praise. While I was proud of my work, I couldn’t help thinking, I was successful because I could focus. It was my whole job to do that one thing really well.

Employees don’t have that luxury. Employees are pulled in a million different directions responding to incessant emails and requests. They manage multiple workstreams and competing priorities. Endless meetings. Company trainings. Management responsibilities and annual reviews. As a consultant, you are freed up to focus on meaningful work with impact and only that, without those other distractions.

Plate-spinning fatigue

Deanna is another longtime Simplicity consultant who started her career in corporate.
“I got tired of spinning plates,” she told me. “I was in meetings all day and ‘spinning plates’—moving things forward and not actually doing the work. I missed that part of it: being strategic and having a work product.”

Sound familiar? As professionals, our days are often packed with (virtual) meetings! It’s all too common to spend more time sitting in meetings than actually working—in fact, that’s why some clients want a consultant in the first place. While the consultant lifestyle isn’t entirely meeting free, it does have considerably less. When consultants do have meetings, they’re often relevant to the task at hand, freeing them up to focus on the outcome.

As a consultant, Deanna is empowered to call the shots in her life and work. “I’m the CEO of my own career,” she says … for better or for worse. It’s a non-traditional career choice filled with flexibility, variety, endless learning, and focus that she’s proud of.

Consulting has also enabled Deanna to focus on new and different areas. “I just really enjoy doing different projects and being exposed to new pieces of the organization,” she told me. “My last role was change management--I’ve never done it before and got really excited about that and learning about it.” As a full-time employee, Deanna wouldn’t have had the same ability to explore, dig in, and focus on a new area of the business.

In the third and final post in this series, we’ll explore why freedom is one of the top three reasons professionals choose consulting.

Focus, your way

To hear more stories from successful consultants like these and actionable tips for how you, too, can work flexibly, preorder my latest book, Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant, publishing August 2021 from Harper Collins Leadership.

Special offer! Receive a FREE download of the Work, Your Way Playbook when you preorder a copy of the book!  

In the third and final post in this series, we’ll explore why freedom is one of the top three reasons professionals choose consulting.

Check out the previous post in this series: Why flexibility is the number one reason professionals choose—and stick with—consulting.

Work, Your Way: Flexibility

Since starting Simplicity Consulting in 2006, I’ve seen it all. Professionals from all backgrounds, for all reasons, seeking out a new way to work. While every person and story are different, the reasons people choose and stick with consulting inevitably fall into predictable themes.

When I sat down last year to write my third book, Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant, a number of successful, long-term consultants shared their stories with me. And, just as I’ve observed over the last decade and a half, those key themes emerged.

There are three primary reasons why people choose and stick with consulting: flexibility, freedom, and focus. Let’s start with the most commonly shared reason—flexibility.

Flexibility is queen

It is difficult to quantify the value of flexibility. Whether requisite, such as parents of young kids or caregivers of sick or aging parents, or a desire to own their lives and control their time, flexibility is queen. It’s consistently the number one reason I hear for why professionals transition to consulting.

Consulting, or contract work, is inherently flexible. You choose how and when you want to work. You can choose to work part-time, full-time, every day, or a few days a week, half days or full days, moonlight on the side of your current full-time job, or any combination of those. Contract work is expansively flexible and dynamic, and you are in the driver's seat.

Let’s hear from three consultants who I interviewed for my upcoming book—Jeannine, Allison, and Stephanie—for whom flexibility is non-negotiable.

On the road... again and again and again

Ten years ago, Jeannine took a leap of faith. She left her salaried, full-time role at a large tech company to work with her husband at his new business. Within a few years, she realized that she missed her old role, and so she returned, but as a consultant.

Three years ago, she leapt again. This time, she and her husband sold their home, bought an RV, and hit the road. Since then, they have crisscrossed the country—from the western US to the east coast and back again—jumping from National Park to National Park. Though they’ve hunkered down for much of the pandemic in the Sonoran Desert, they’ll soon resume their roving lifestyle, destination Montana. In the pursuit of their dreams, flexibility is everything.

Jeannine negotiated her contract wisely: 32 hours a week, remote, with Fridays off for travel. Despite trading her office and employee role for a workstation in her roving 42-foot home, Jeannine approaches work the same way she always has. It doesn’t impact the kind of work she does or the value she provides. It’s been a big change, but life is short, she says. Follow your dreams now while you can—create the freedom, even while you’re still working.

Kick the commute

Others take advantage of the flexibility to work from anywhere and move to places that feed their love for the outdoors or desire to live near family. Allison, a Montana native and marketing consultant, recognized this in her own lightbulb moment. One day, she realized that she didn’t have to keep putting up with a nightmare commute, far away from her family—she could live anywhere.

Allison traded her corporate job for a consulting contract, and a few months later she moved back home to Montana. She wanted work to fit into the life she desired, and she was determined to make it happen. To Allison, success is living in Big Sky Country, near her friends and family, doing work she loves for clients and a consultancy that share her same values. She’s been successfully—and happily—consulting for more than a decade.

The longest shortest time

Stephanie was tired. She was tired of rushing, tired of wasting hours each week commuting and away from her young family, tired of cramming quality time into the precious thirty minutes between her two-year-old’s daycare pickup and bedtime, tired of feeling like she was failing on all fronts.

So, like Allison, she decided to work her way, on her terms. Stephanie left her full-time-employee role and picked up a few part-time consulting contracts. She now shares the home office with her six-year-old remote learner. She spends far less time rushing from meeting to meeting and far more time doing the work she loves. And while she hasn’t fully found that mythical work-life balance, she is intentional about building each day’s schedule around her work, herself, and her family.

Flexible or...?

I’ve met with countless professionals over the years who loved their corporate careers but didn’t love the inflexibility. They tried to carve out the flexibility they needed to stay, but their employer wouldn’t budge. They weren’t willing or able to continue down a rigid path that didn’t allow for the fluidity of life, so they left and found what they needed in consulting.

Think about your own career. Do you crave more flexibility or does your role afford you the flexibility you need and want? Could you carve out more flexibility in your existing role? And if not, are you willing to compromise in that area?

There’s no right or wrong answer. Be true to yourself, your working style, and your situation. But if you’re not getting the flexibility you need, I want you to know that you have options. In the new world of work, you can work differently—you can work your way.

Want to work flexibly?

To hear more stories from successful consultants like these and actionable tips for how you, too, can work flexibly, preorder my latest book, Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant, publishing August 2021 from Harper Collins Leadership.

Special offer! Receive a FREE download of the Work, Your Way Playbook when you preorder a copy of the book!  

Next up, we’ll explore focus in part two of this series.

5 tips for staying productive (and sane!) while adjusting to remote work

This post was originally published by Lisa Hufford on LinkedIn.

A few months ago, I shared five tips for successfully managing remote employees. I also shared some stats on the rise of remote work:

It’s grown 91% in the last 10 years, and 159% over the last 12 years. 73% of all teams will have remote workers by 2028.

Today, remote work has become an overnight reality for businesses and teams of all sizes as we navigate this global pandemic. Many who have been weighing remote work programs are suddenly rolling them out by necessity, essentially building the plane while in-flight.

Managers, it’s worth revisiting my tips for the shift to managing your teams while working remotely. And for those who are adapting to working from home for the first time—managers and individual contributors alike—this post is for you.

Here are five tips for maintaining your productivity (and sanity!) while working remotely.

And above all else, please remember this: Remote work is still just work. It’s about business goals and people. And it’s grounded in setting clear expectations and using technology to facilitate collaboration, communication, and connection.

1. Get focused on your goals. What do you need to accomplish today? This week? Who do you need to engage with? Block your calendar to carve out uninterrupted time to focus. And then unleash yourself! I love this advice from Seth Godin:

“When you work from home, you can sit back and wait for assignments and hope you won’t get picked … Or can you decide to change your posture. With all the time you save by not going to meetings and not commuting, you can run with the opportunity. Turn the freedom into responsibility instead of fearing or hoping for authority.”

2. Create your to-do list for the day. Working remotely requires more self-discipline, and I’ve found that a prioritized to-do list helps me stay on track of deadlines and deliverables.

Our marketing team lead, Stephanie Chacharon, jots down all of her open tasks before shutting down her computer at the end of a work-from-home day. In the morning, she is able to approach her list with a fresh focus and prioritize her day’s action plan.

3. Focus on what you can control. Be aware of how regularly checking the news and social media may be contributing to your inability to focus. Recognize that there are things within our control—from the work we do to what we choose to read, say, or share. Be intentional.

4. Keep your meetings, and use video! As humans, we crave connection! And remote work doesn’t have to be isolating: Use technology, including your webcam, to create regular touchpoints for human connection. Turning on your camera for video calls and meetings is a great way to replicate in-person interactions and ensure that everyone is still engaged.

My team uses Microsoft Teams and Zoom, and we encourage everyone to turn on their cameras to facilitate connection and participation.

And it doesn’t have to be all business, either. Since we’ve all started working remotely due to the COVID-19 conditions, I’ve scheduled a 30-minute weekly virtual touchpoint for us to share inspiration and support, built on a weekly theme. (Stay tuned, team!) This week we’ve having a virtual sound bowl gathering (thanks for organizing, Carrie Morris!) where each of our teammates are bringing suggestions for how we can stay connected, integrated, and productive while distributed.

5. Practice regular self-care. It’s easy to get lost in your work and move far less than you would in a typical office environment. Remember to stand up at least once an hour, get some fresh air, stay hydrated, stretch, and take care of yourself. Mollie West Duffy, co-author of No Hard Feelings, uses the Time Out app to remind her to take periodic breaks. I like taking my dog, Winston, out for short walks around the block to recharge and reset.

Be kind to yourself and your team. Reach out if you’re feeling isolated, and take advantage of technology to stay connected and collaborate effectively. We’re all in this together.

Check out our remote work real-talk

Want more support? Check out our on-demand remote work webinar with our founder and CEO, Lisa Hufford, and remote work experts Monica McNeil, Mary Cronkhite-Johns, Maura Donaghey, and Hai Duong, for a real talk on how to thrive in the new world of work.

Start the new decade right: Invest in your personal brand

This post was originally published by Lisa Hufford on LinkedIn.

It could be anywhere—at a party, a work event, or a coffee shop. You meet someone, and they introduce themselves with their name and their job title. And unless their title is truly memorable—and let’s be honest, it often isn’t—it quickly fades from memory.

Now what if they introduced themselves differently? What if they fused their what (job title or impact of their work) with their why (their motivation) in a way that gave you insight into their personality and how they view the world and their place in it? That sets them apart. That’s personal brand.

What if they fused their what with their why? … That sets them apart. That’s personal brand.

Origin story

When I first quit my corporate job in 2006 and set out on my own as a consultant, I didn’t give much thought to how I was presenting myself or what I wanted to be known for. I activated my network, found projects that played to my strengths, and started to drum up a consistent pipeline of work.

Soon, just as consistently, I was asked to help others do the thing that I was doing. Over the years, I’ve advised literally thousands of professionals on their careers and helped many of them transition from corporate to consulting. Along the way, I’ve realized that the key to success—especially in consulting and project-based work—is a clear, compelling, and consistent personal brand.

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. – Oscar Wilde

Personal brand, defined

But first, what makes a successful brand? Great brands stand out intentionally. And in doing so, they’ve become engrained in our social consciousness and are instantly recognizable. Nike, Apple, Nordstrom, Microsoft.

We can learn from great brands. In a world that’s increasingly digital, people still matter. How we show up and the impressions that we make are important differentiators. I’ve dedicated my career to those human-to-human moments: helping the people in my community achieve greatness in work and in life.

I define personal brand as the intersection of your strengths and your passions. It’s how you show up and the authentic words you use to describe yourself.

So, what’s my personal brand?

The authentic words that I always come back to are generous, driven, and helpful. (What’s an authentic word? Download my playbook and discover yours!)

I thrive on making complicated things simple, and I love learning. I enjoy taking on big challenges and doing things that haven’t been done before to improve people’s lives.

Looking back on my many jobs, I now see how my personal brand shows up across all my different roles. This is the power of personal brand—recognizing that it can adapt to a variety of jobs for each person.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman

Personal brand in the gig economy

Call them what you will—freelancers, contractors, consultants, independent experts, high-end gig workers—a growing number of professionals are shifting from traditional corporate careers as full-time employees at a single company to creating their own path. The freelance workforce in America rose by 4M in 4 years, reaching 65.7M in 2018. 61% of freelancers do so by choice, and the continuing growth is driven by younger generations of workers.

In this increasingly competitive market, it’s not enough to just be able to do the work. First, you have to land the work. And that requires knowing and articulating your unique personal brand statement—not just what you do, but why you do it and how it adds value.

At Simplicity, we receive thousands of applications each year. The ones who stand out have taken this message to heart. Rather than regurgitating their resumes, they’ve tapped into their authentic personal brands and gotten clear on why they’re unique. They’re also intentional about what they’re putting out in the world. They’re asking for the work they want, and not asking for the things that don’t meet their criteria (even if they’re good at them!).

Each of us has our own definition of success and each of us has a unique personal brand. I believe that personal success—whatever that looks like for you—is achieved by understanding your unique personal brand and choosing to live it. As Oscar Wilde said, “Be Yourself: Everyone else is already taken.”

Here’s to you!

Download the personal brand playbook

Get started! Download my personal brand playbook to get clear on your personal brand and achieve professional success—whatever that means for you.

Check out my virtual personal brand workshop

Ready to dig in? Watch my on-demand personal brand workshop where I guide you through the five steps to defining your personal brand. You’ll leave inspired, informed, and energized to create and share your unique story.

Work + fulfillment

This post was originally published by Lisa Hufford on LinkedIn.

Last week I was privileged to travel to Palm Desert to attend the 2019 Global Annual Meeting of EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women—a program that now includes 500 women entrepreneurs from around the world. To say it was inspiring would be a serious understatement. Lisa Schiffman, pictured below, is our fearless leader and fairy godmother who we are grateful for leading this program since its inception.

I was selected to join the 2014 class of Winning Women and through the years of attending the annual conference, many of the women have become friends. There is nothing more empowering than being in a room of driven women, each making an impact in their own way. This year was no different.

Our first speaker, Jeff Stier, Executive Director of Purpose & Leadership at EY, talked about connecting vision and mission with fulfillment. It reminded me why I started Simplicity in 2006. I was on my journey to find my definition of fulfillment. At that time in my life, I had two small boys, and I wanted to do meaningful work in a flexible way … which made consulting an appealing alternative to the traditional employment model. Little did I know that creating my own path would unearth my passion for helping thousands of other professionals find that same work fulfillment and transition from their corporate jobs to consulting.

66% of employees are unfulfilled at work

Jeff shared that 66% of employees are unfulfilled at work (source: Imperative's 2015 Workforce Purpose Index). Despite all we hear about employee engagement these days, he believes that what people really want is fulfillment. That resonated with me.

I believe the definition of fulfillment is deeply personal, and different for each person and at different points in their life. As I was reflecting on what fulfillment means to me at this point in my career, I thought about the personal brand workshops I have led over the years. In them, I help people define their unique strengths and passions and articulate what they want in a confident and credible manner. This is the heart of fulfillment: authentically identifying and sharing the thing(s) that motivate you right now in your life. And this is work that each of us must do on our own to determine if our jobs are fulfilling. Sometimes it takes a perspective shift toward our current roles to see that we could be more fulfilled if we could do a little more of what we love every day.

Top job satisfaction driver: business practices in line with my values

For employers like myself, fulfillment is an especially important concern, because 75% of employees are Millennials and Gen Z, and they’re demanding alignment of their personal vision and purpose with that of their employer’s. Aerotek recently conducted a survey of more than 1,200 workers across industries and skill sets and found that the top satisfaction driver was business practices in line with my values. It’s clear that the companies who want to attract the best talent are those who are focused on helping employees achieve fulfillment at work above all else.

What are you doing to find fulfillment at work? And leaders, how are you actively fostering your people’s fulfillment?

5 Tips For Successfully Managing Remote Employees

This post was originally published by Lisa Hufford on LinkedIn.

It’s #WorkFromAnywhere Week (thanks for the head’s up, Career Contessa), which is as good a time as any to talk about remote work.

In this business, I spend a lot of time talking with leaders and hiring managers about the future of work. And for so many of them, enabling and managing a remote workforce is a big, scary unknown.

But here’s the thing: Remote work isn’t scary. And it isn’t any different than on-site work. The same management principles apply in the office and remotely—they're just heightened with a remote workforce. I’ll dig into why. But first, the data:

Remote work is on the rise. It’s grown 91% in the last 10 years, and 159% over the last 12 years. As of 2019, nearly 70% of companies allow remote work and 16% are fully remote. In fact, 75% of all highly-skilled freelancers already work remotely. (75%!) And 73% of all teams will have remote workers by 2028.

Gone are the days of the 9-5 sitting at your desk and having your manager hover over you. What has emerged is a fluid culture, one that embraces flexibility and favors the self disciplined, with perks for both employers and employees.

We all know why people want to work remotely. They’re tired of wasting time commuting, want to lower their carbon footprint, desire flexibility to fit it all in, all enabled by great technology tools to “feel” like you are in the office.

Every manager I talk to wants access to the best talent and increasingly the best talent demands flexible, high impact work. It’s a win-win!

I built my business because of my personal desire to work mostly remote in 2006. Since then, it’s proven to be more than a passing trend: Employers must embrace the remote workforce or be left in the dust.

My Remote Journey

13 years ago, I left my job at Microsoft after the birth of my second son. I still wanted to do impactful work, but I wanted the flexibility to spend meaningful time with my family. I was tired of traditional office hours and spending time in airports with my breast pump in tow.

I found that not only did I like working remotely, I loved it! I was more productive and focused. I didn’t have to waste time fighting traffic. And I was able to balance my time and priorities in a way that worked for me and my family. And my clients loved my work because my only focus was solving their big problem. I didn’t have the day to day distractions and meetings all day like they did. I loved being their secret weapon and providing plans and strategies to drive their business.

Over the years, I’ve talked to so many women who have the same story. And that’s what our business model is based on: enabling talented professionals to work (mostly) remotely while helping managers get business-critical work done. I love that we can help people work however they want without compromising on quality.

More The Same Than Different

At the Geekwire Summit this week, Auth0 CEO Eugenio Pace was asked about maintaining culture and managing his mostly remote workforce. He answered that it’s largely the same as a traditional office culture—remote work simply surfaces problems that can remain hidden in a typical face-to-face environment. What becomes of utmost importance in a remote environment is clear, deliberate communication of goals and tasks and a bias toward hiring people who don’t just diagnose problems, but present solutions, too.

I couldn’t agree more.

In my years of experience enabling marketing and sales leaders with remote employees, I’ve learned a lot about making remote work work. And the bottom line is this: It’s not scary or a completely new way of doing business.

Remote work is still just work. It’s about business goals and people. And it’s grounded in setting clear expectations and rules of engagement at the onset.

Best practices for managing a remote workforce

If these sound like just being a good manager—they are! However, these best practices are even more important when dealing with remote workers.

  1. Set clear, measurable deliverables & success metrics. Like any successful project or team, start by defining success. Ask yourself:
    • What does success look like?
    • Are there clearly defined metrics that we can be measuring against (quantitative or qualitative)?
    • How do these metrics align with client and/or team accountabilities?
    • What are some of the upcoming key deliverables and milestones that must be met?
  2. Set everyone up for success by establishing the ground rules.
    • Establish communication preferences. Identify and communicate your preferred communication style and method (e.g., direct/open, formal/informal, email, Slack, IM, text, etc.).
    • Set working hours. Or don’t. Get clear on what works for you and your team. Do you want to mirror in-office working hours or allow for more flexible schedules? What’s the expectation of when remote workers should be online and available? Whatever you decide, focus more on the results of the work than time on tasks.
  3. Schedule regular touchpoints. Set a weekly team sync, even if it’s just 15 minutes. If you want a recurring 1:1 with your reports, get it on the books and include a rough agenda to make the best use of the time. Have employees provide a weekly status report every Friday with updates on the goals you defined together. This makes performance management easy because you will know very quickly if the goals are being met.
  4. Enable anywhere collaboration & communication with cloud-based tools. We use Microosft O365 which is an amazing cloud-based tool for document sharing and collaboration, meetings, and chat. Ensure that remote employees are aware of and have access to all the same resources as their on-site counterparts. And I highly recommended using video calls whenever possible. It encourages team members to fully engage in the meeting and builds rapport.
  5. Face to face still matters. Technology is incredible, but nothing fully replaces in person interaction.
    • If possible, build in f2f time as part of the onboarding process. Arrange team building opportunities for new members to bond. It's much easier to work over Zoom or Teams when you’ve established a personal relationship.
    • Establish regular f2f events with the team. It doesn’t have to be every day, but try to get your people together semi-regularly. This could be a QBR where everyone is present with a rotating location or organizing regional meet-ups and activities for a dispersed workforce.

Check out our remote work real-talk

Want more support? Check out our on-demand remote work webinar with our founder and CEO, Lisa Hufford, and remote work experts Monica McNeil, Mary Cronkhite-Johns, Maura Donaghey, and Hai Duong, for a real talk on how to thrive in the new world of work.

Navigating the talent shift in the digital transformation era

Today, companies everywhere are facing what leaders are calling the “Digital Imperative”—transform your business with digital speed, scale, and value, or else.

Our rapidly-changing Digital Economy has created a sharp increase in need for a new kind of corporate agility: an On-demand Workforce that is transforming the way the world does business. The question is, how will you and your company successfully navigate this unprecedented Talent Shift?

More than 10 years ago, I left my job as an executive at Microsoft and opted to become a consultant. I had a personal need for more flexibility and sensed a potential—now seismic—trend. I needed a new way to work and soon witnessed an emerging demand for what I experienced. I also began to sense an an emerging trend in the workforce: companies were looking to reduce cost and risk, often by slashing talent and resources vital to the business’s success, but they still needed experts to get the work done.

The result: I launched a consultancy which in just over a decade has evolved from a company of one to more than 7,000 consultants. Today, we work with technology companies to strategically deliver Enterprise Marketing Services. Every day we talk with leaders who share their greatest Digital Workplace challenges with us. Their sentiments are a sign of the times:

“The Digital Transformation Era is moving fast.”
“I have too much pressure, too many demands, and not enough people.”
“I don’t want to recruit—it takes too long—I need results now.”
“I don’t have headcount on my team, so I’m doing more than one job.”
“I don’t have the expertise to do my work.”
“I don’t have budget for an agency retainer.”
“I want to experiment with solutions.”

From the “Talent” perspective, I saw an opportunity to provide companies a cost-effective, low-risk way to tap exceptional talent. I also provided corporate professionals with the opportunity to do what I did—be in control and have a choice in their lives.

Now, looking back from where I sit at the end of 2017, the trend is clear. A great workforce shift is underway, driven by a constantly changing global business environment, a highly competitive marketplace that features hyper-specialization, project-based work, and a talent pool that aspires to—indeed demands—flexibility. Business cycles have accelerated; there’s a frequent need for fresh talent, and continuous “recruiting” has become a big part of every manager’s job. Clients are focusing on their business through a project lens. They’re looking at their goals as projects. These could be long-term projects; they could be strategic projects; they could be tactical projects. It’s really about identifying the right talent resources for specific kinds of projects.

A variety of economic, technological, and cultural factors drives this dynamic shift, but three major trends have converged to shape where we are: the coming of age of Millennials, the Baby Boomers’ impact on the workforce, and the trend that will impact about 48% of U.S. workers by 2020—the freelance “1099 economy.” These trends gained momentum during the Great Recession and its aftermath, emphasizing that the definition of talent strategies, and even the definition of talent, no longer work.

In my next article, I’ll explore the new work landscape and the drive to compete in the Digital Transformation Era.