The Five Essentials for Success in the Future of Work

The future of work is now, and professionals have more options than ever before to choose when and how to work. With remote work policies becoming the norm, many people are exploring new ways to integrate work and life. Here are five essentials to help you thrive in the future of work that I describe in my upcoming book, Work Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant, available August 2021 by Harper Collins Leadership.

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.

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

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.

Marketers, consider this: How has the pandemic changed your daily routine? What do you do at home now that you didn’t do before?

If you’re anything like the average consumer, the list is long.

We’re cooking at home more and when we don’t, it’s restaurant take out or delivery. We’ve traded the gym for Peloton rides and virtual workout classes. Our homes have transformed into offices and classrooms.

In short, virtually everything changed in 2020. How we work, how we shop, how we learn, how we eat, how we socialize and communicate—everything.

Home delivery of groceries by Amazon Prime
Grocery delivery

Take retail.  Online sales in the US grew by 31% in 2020 from Q1 ($160.4 billion) to Q3 ($209.5 billion). Before COVID, a mere 12% growth occurred in all of 2019, according to this graph by Statista.

That, says Dr. Sandeep Krishnamurthy, is the post-experience economy. And those sweeping behavioral changes impact our economies and businesses in a big, big way.

Here’s what Dr. Krishnamurthy, School of Business Dean at UW Bothell, has to say about what you need to know as a digital marketer to succeed in the post-COVID world.

Q&A with UW Bothell's Dr. Sandeep Krishnamurthy

Q: Let's jump right in. What is the post-experience economy … in 280 characters or less?

Dr. Krishnamurthy: Many customers will permanently shift a portion of their lives away from in-person experiences. We’ll move from the service economy to a post-experience world where customers seek value without social interaction—everything now comes to us in a brown cardboard box from Amazon.

Q: What are some examples of this phenomenon?

Dr. Krishnamurthy: Take the restaurant industry. To survive, they’ve had to move away from in-person dining to take-out and delivery service. How do they retain that experiential touch? How do they use social media to connect with customers? And how do they scale up? Traditionally, you need more space for more seating. Now it’s a bigger kitchen, more chefs, more efficient processes like food prep. Everything needs to change.

Technology undoubtedly plays a powerful role in this transformation. Microsoft, for example, saw a 33% jump in profits in the last quarter of 2020 which CEO Satya Nadella attributed to a “second wave of digital transformation.”

However, it extends beyond that. Iconic American brands are reinventing themselves for the post-experience. Starbucks is enhancing drive-thrus rather than building the in-store experience. McDonald's new growth strategy focused on speed and pickup centers on drive-thrus, smaller restaurants, takeaway, and curbside pickup.

Business owners still want to maintain curb appeal for pickup—it saves consumers money, gets them out of the house, and offers a little touchpoint—but that intense hedonism of experiences will be under pressure.

Or healthcare. It used to be driven by the idea that you need that physical visit with the doctor. That shift from in-person to online was only exacerbated by COVID—one expert estimated a “ten-fold” increase in virtual patient consultations once the pandemic hit, according to The Lancet.

IndustryExperience EconomyPost-experience economyBrand example
GroceryShopping at the supermarketFresh grocery deliveryAmazon Fresh, Instacart
RestaurantDining in an upscale restaurantDigital delivery serviceDoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats
BankingBanking at your local branchVirtual banking services
Capital One
CoffeeOrdering coffee in person from your regular baristaMobile app orderingStarbucks mobile app
ExerciseWorking out at your gymDigital-enabled exercisePeloton
Examples of the post-experience economy, by industry, provided by Dr. Krishnamurthy

Q: Finish this sentence: Success in the post-experience economy requires _____.

Dr. Krishnamurthy: Laser focus on your customer.

How well do you know your customer? What do they want? And how many? Why do they want it? Do they watch Netflix at 7pm or 9pm? Do they also stream Prime video? Do they like Colgate or Crest?

When you start thinking like this, it’s not just about having the right data, it’s also about having the right messaging. Digital marketers must marry targeting and messaging to not just get the customer what they want, but before they know they need it.

Q: Talk more about that marriage of targeting and messaging. As digital marketers, we’re always looking for ways to connect with and engage our audiences—what does that look like in the post-experience economy?

Dr. Krishnamurthy: People are much more interested in direct messaging. There’s still a place for storytelling, but people want to know what they can get and when.

There’s a shift happening. Look at the Super Bowl: Budweiser, Coke, and Pepsi aren’t advertising this year. Rather than mass appeal broadcasting, we’re shifting to narrowcasting.

Let’s put the customer in control and focus on giving them exactly what they want. For digital marketers, instead of a single Super Bowl ad, it’s a thousand different segments—there’s so much data. You can’t write a thousand unique messages, so you need a system to think of three or four factors to change subtly for those audience segments. It’s targeting to the max.

Q: We're looking forward to your upcoming mini marketing course. Who is the session geared toward? What can they expect to learn? What do you want attendees to walk away with?

Digital marketers, both data geeks and non-technical. They’ll learn what the post-experience economy is and how they’ll need to adapt their skills, strategies, and tactics. We want digital marketers to think not just about raising the volume, but about evolving their capabilities to a point where they're getting people the value that they really want—leveraging AI and machine learning to predict what the customer wants before they even know it themselves.

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Replay: Learning and development: The Post Experience Economy: a mini marketing course

With the increase in virtual teams due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thoughtful communication is even more important. Whether you are working with a multicultural team or establishing your product or service in another country, these foundational guidelines will help you communicate respectfully across cultures and geographies.

You may be asking yourself: What do I need to be aware of? How do I make the right impression?

  1. First and foremost, do your research. Educate yourself in advance to avoid any missteps and, most importantly, demonstrate respect. Learn about the place where the teammate or offshore team is located. This may be as simple as looking up someone’s location in the address book rather than asking where they are from in the meeting.
  2. Familiarize yourself with cultural communication norms. Get the knowledge to embrace differences, read context and meaning, and avoid offensive language or behavior. Resources such as The Culture Crossing Guide and IOR Global Services Knowledge Center are great places to start.

    For example, in some Asian countries, such as Thailand, “Yes” may mean, “Yes, I follow what you are saying,” rather than, “Yes, let’s do that.” You can imagine how this can lead to confusion and frustration.

  3. Plan meetings to accommodate different time zones. Use a meeting planner such as to pick a time that is comfortable for everyone. If that’s not possible, offer to alternate the off-hours time-slot. When working with more than two very-different time zones, it may make sense to offer two different meeting times.

  4. Be aware of regional holidays. Holiday calendars vary around the world. For example, not every country recognizes Chinese New Year and Golden Week. Some holidays are only observed by certain regions of a country, such as Fasching in Germany. Identify holidays to plan around and go over them with the team to make sure everyone is aware of upcoming holidays and time off.

  5. Communicate your global mindset. It’s not us and them—it’s we. Your company (or headquarters) isn’t the sole authority or center of the universe, and a perceived imbalance could lead to negative feelings about the team dynamic. Harvard Business Review contributor Tsedal Neeley shares a framework for leading global teams. As a leader, be conscious about calling attention to each group’s contribution to the overall goal so that the meeting remains focused and everyone feels recognized.

  6. Don’t assume to know where someone comes from. Anyone who has a French accent is not necessarily from France. In Europe alone, multiple other countries use French as an official language. This can be especially hurtful when there is a rivalry or unrest between the countries you are mixing up (Ukraine and Russia; India and Pakistan; etc.). You may sound arrogant or ignorant or both.

  7. Avoid colloquialisms. Refrain from figures of speech such as “put your best foot forward” or “barking up the wrong tree” to help non-native speakers better understand you. People who speak other languages may well have an equivalent for a colloquial expression, however, equating that to their own takes more time to process and takes the focus away from the conversation.

    For example, in the United States people say “the grass is always greener on the other side” to mean that one’s own situation always seems worse than everyone else’s. In Brazil, one says “my neighbor’s chicken is always better than mine,” but in Farsi, “my neighbor’s chicken is always a goose.”

    At any rate, it’s best to speak more literally so everyone can understand your meaning.

  8. Turn on your video camera during meetings, when possible. It can be difficult for anyone, especially non-native speakers, to follow someone’s speech without seeing their mouth move or their facial expressions, such as when talking on the telephone or listening to the radio. How many puzzling song lyrics did you unlock once you watched the music video? And how tricky has it been to understand the grocery store clerk when you’re both masked? It’s the same idea here. Turn on your camera to add visual cues and context to your speech.

  9. Be mindful of what your non-verbal communication is saying. Some gestures that are benign in your culture of origin are seen as offensive in other cultures. For example, the “OK” sign in the US—thumb and index finger together with other 3 fingers in the air—means something entirely different in Brazil and the same gesture means “money” in Japan.

    The Gestures Around the World video shows several more great examples. Once you’re past the basics, the less-extreme examples of non-verbal communication offer insight into what others are thinking. Resources such as Live Japan Perfect Guide can demystify more subtle gestures.

  10. Reflect your cultural awareness in email. Written correspondence, yet another step away from in-person communication that’s often sent hastily, also has great potential for misunderstandings. Darren Menabney provides excellent advice for email across cultures, such as adopting the right level of formality and being sensitive to the directness of your communication.

Now that you have a grasp of the basics, ask yourself: What will I do differently now that I’m aware of these nuances in language and communication?

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