Preparing For The Future Of Work: Lisa Brezonik of Salo On The Top Five Trends To Watch In The Future Of Work

An Interview with Phil La Duke

Authority Magazine Editorial Staff
Authority Magazine

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Taking care of the whole person: Employees desire companies that, not only recognize the other areas of their lives, but create opportunities to help with those areas. For example, offering childcare, flexible working arrangements, PTO, mental health resources, etc. Perks are no longer perks; they are staples. Employees expect more from their employers because their work makes up a big portion of their lives and they are better understanding the value they bring to an organization.

There have been major disruptions in recent years that promise to change the very nature of work. From the ongoing shifts caused by the COVID19 pandemic, the impacts caused by automation, and other possible disruptions to the status quo, many wonder what the future holds in terms of employment. For example, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute that estimated automation will eliminate 73 million jobs by 2030.

To address this open question, we reached out to successful leaders in business, government, and labor, as well as thought leaders about the future of work to glean their insights and predictions on the future of work and the workplace.

As a part of this interview series called “Preparing For The Future Of Work”, we had the pleasure to interview Lisa Brezonik.

Lisa Brezonik is CEO of Salo, a talent firm that matches organizations with senior finance, accounting, and HR consultants — so both parties can accomplish their goals. It’s a fitting job for Lisa, who has built her career around helping people and organizations grow and thrive. Before joining Salo as Chief Talent Officer in 2015, Lisa spent eight years as owner of Brezonik Consulting, an executive coaching and organizational consulting firm. She also held leadership roles at RBC Dain Rauscher, Integ, and Room and Board. Additionally, Lisa is the author of the book Fire Yourself! Reignite your career and live your life with intention, which provides tools that help established professionals figure out where to go next. She is also on the board of directors for Bridgewater Bank, the Hennepin Health Foundation, and KIPSU.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?

I was born on an air force base in Wiesbaden, Germany while my father was stationed in Tripoli, Libya. We lived abroad for six months before moving back to the states and settling in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where my father was a dentist.

I am fortunate to have two incredibly passionate and all-in parents. They have always been 100% committed to everything they do, whether it was parenting, volunteering, or work. Not participating was never an option for them. I learned a lot by watching my father run his dental practice. He ran the practice based on his belief that if you can make someone feel healthy and smile, that makes the world a better place. Afterall, the more you smile, the better you feel physically and mentally. That’s a big reason why I try to focus on the positive and have an optimistic outlook. My mom ran the back office of my dad’s practice, volunteered, and had board roles for countless charities. Every time people came to our home my mom went out of her way to created special touches to make everyone feel welcomed and special. Without really realizing it growing up, my parent’s influence heavily impacted my values and the work I do today.

What do you expect to be the major disruptions for employers in the next 10–15 years? How should employers pivot to adapt to these disruptions?

There are quite a few factors that will keep that talent shortage one of our biggest disrupters. The first is we there are fewer people entering the workforce. Less babies being born, people working differently, earlier retirements and other factors will require us to think differently about our talent pool. Then compounding this is that people are now prioritizing life over work.

We must fundamentally change the way we think about and approach leading organizations. We’re already seeing new possibilities for where and when people work (which will continue), but we’ll also start to see changes in what how we get more effective at work (goods, tech, environments, processes, etc.). Businesses need to start thinking of people as whole humans, not just workers. We all have lives, families, hobbies, goals, needs, and work is one part of who they are. People are recognizing that in themselves more than ever and are reflecting on what work should look like for the future, but also for now.

As this happens, and as Generation Z is entering the workforce. Whole they want to work different they also want to be mentored and learn from Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers. We need to ensure we find ways to meet them where they are at to help them find their way. Gen Z has new ideas and ideals, the fundamental nature of how work gets done will keep evolving as we all want something different and one way will not work.

I also think the pace of change needs to be discussed. Change and evolution is happening faster than ever. We need to embrace the change and look to evolve but at the same time not let the pace sweep us off our feet. Time for reflection and absorption needs to be embraced.

I believe this is also an amazing era for innovation and creativity. Because we are evolving so quickly we are going to see amazing advancements in so many different areas. We don’t realize that these are really “the olden days” right now.

The choice as to whether or not a young person should pursue a college degree was once a “no-brainer”. But with the existence of many high profile millionaires (and billionaires) who did not earn degrees, as well as the fact that many graduates are saddled with crushing student loan debt and unable to find jobs it has become a much more complex question. What advice would you give to young adults considering whether or not to go to college?

College is no longer “the” path. There are so many opportunities in the trades and other “non-college” paths that can and need to be taken. However, a college experience is a lot of things, but one thing it brings everyone who attends is the benefit of leaving the nest and making your own decisions, no matter where you are. A college is an amazing opportunity to gain your independence, find your path and your voice and still have a bit of a net around you. It makes you think differently and gives you skills and experiences you may not know exist. I think we are all seeing there is no one path to suggest to everyone. A college experience will always be a great option, but so will many other new paths that are emerging.

Despite the doom and gloom predictions, there are, and likely still will be, jobs available. How do you see job seekers having to change their approaches to finding not only employment, but employment that fits their talents and interests?

Job seekers need to figure out what they care about and match that to their skillset. There will always be an offer that pays more but following the money does not ensure happiness. If you can clarify your values and define your key talents, you’ll be better prepared to know what roles are good — and not-so-good — fits for you. Have confidence in your strengths, own your values, and don’t settle. Ask yourself questions like: How do my talents translate into work? What company values align to mine? What would success look like to me? How do I want to make a difference? Spend some time investing in yourself to figure these key questions out and you’ll be more efficient and effective in your search.

Ultimately, if you’re unhappy in your current role, know there is a role better suited for you. It’s never worth being unhappy at work. Right now, there are more jobs than people to fill them, so options are endless. Now is the time to be picky, ask the tough questions during interviews, and find the alignment and match you’re looking for. It benefits both you and the company in the long run.

The statistics of artificial intelligence and automation eliminating millions of jobs, appears frightening to some. For example, Walmart aims to eliminate cashiers altogether and Dominos is instituting pizza delivery via driverless vehicles. How should people plan their careers such that they can hedge their bets against being replaced by automation or robots?

Every time we introduce technology, we’ve shown it creates more jobs/work in some way. You can’t ensure what automation or robots will be able to do in the future, but you can focus on constant learning and growth to stay current and in demand. Think about upskilling, training opportunities, and stretch assignments. These are all ways you can build strengths, extend yourself, learn, and show your employer you’re committed to growth. Career laddering is another great tactic. This allows you to move across departments and think about how you can contribute or evolve your career in a different way. Companies can assess you and your talents to see what other roles could be a good fit.

The bottom line is companies and humans need to keep learning and growing. Always. Talent should stay curious, and employers need to check in to make sure their people are satisfied and engaged. By opening that dialogue and creating transparency; innovation, success, and happiness are more realistic for everyone.

Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?

I absolutely see this trend continuing. In today’s world it is about employees being BOTH productive and happy. When you give employees the authority to choose when and how they work, that builds trust. It showcases that employers see their employees’ full selves, not just their productive selves. It allows them to do the work when they’re in the best headspace for it, leading to better results, and it gives them the ability to get to the other parts of their lives when needed.

Through the pandemic, it’s been proven that employees are as effective, if not more effective, when they are given the flexibility to work remotely. That has fundamentally changed the workforce. While it’s not for everyone, it must be an option for consideration. To that point, a recent survey from FlexJobs found that 60% of women and 52% of men would quit if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely at least part of the time.

This isn’t a fad. The pressure is on. Organizations must address remote work and start making a plan now or risk losing talent. In Minnesota, one of the state’s largest employers, 3M, recently announced its 90,000 workers will be able to choose their own remote or hybrid plan to help achieve better work-life balance. Those companies refusing to incorporate remote work into their business plan could face talent challenges significantly worse than the average company.

What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?

Figuring out childcare and elderly care are top priorities. When work-from-home started during the pandemic, this was a big challenge. Thinking creatively about this care and learning how to be flexible and thoughtful will be key to the solution.

Companies also need to look at the work-from-home setup, improve focus, help set up boundaries, and offer opportunities for socialization and collaboration. It’s hard to get the same energy on screen that you get in person and people are craving more of that. They may not want to be in the office full-time, but they do want the culture and socialization back. As leaders, we need to think about how to create a culture that is strong both in person and virtual. To be a successful leader and to both retain and engage talent this is no longer optional.

What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employers to accept? What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employees to accept?

When it comes to employers, the playing field is changing fast, and the speed of change is here to stay. Employers need to keep up with this change, while not exhausting employees. Allow time to pause and breath. Change is good, but only when created intentionally and delivered thoughtfully. Additionally, companies need to take the pulse on how things are going on all employee levels. Expectations are changing. For example, perks are no longer perks, rather they are just standards that should be implemented. The management and care of employees and their needs is more important than ever.

At the same time, employees should maintain a tolerance for all of the change. Employees have a lot of choices right now — it can be overwhelming to manage. Take advantage of opportunities provided by employers to share insights, provide feedback, and participate in how decisions are made.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped highlight the inadequate social safety net that many workers at all pay levels have. Is this something that you think should be addressed? In your opinion how should this be addressed?

This is a great question that should most definitely be addressed. I think that most of us didn’t fully appreciate the diverse impact of COVID and the economic factors it created until after it happened. Things like the significant lack of rural internet and so many other things changes the playing field in the exact wrong way. I don’t have all the answers, but I do believe all of us as leaders to listen to our team and our communities and raise awareness to these issues and then get involved in creating solutions.

Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

I’m very optimistic about the future! The pandemic has offered time for reflection and learning. We realize we can work from a kitchen table and be successful! We’re learning that it’s important to find balance as work collides with life. And finally, that we all want to be seen as humans and make an impact on the world.

The future is full of more people trying to find what really makes them truly happy. More people are thinking about how their values match their talents and are exploring upskilling and new career possibilities, all in a world of work that’s different from before. There is so much opportunity looking to the future because many people are no longer doing what they think they’re supposed to do and instead are doing what they want to do and what brings them joy.

And organizations can capitalize on this by harnessing their most passionate employees and bring them into their planning and innovation process. This will bring fresh creativity and productivity unlike what we have seen before. I’m excited to see what comes.

Historically, major disruptions to the status quo in employment, particularly disruptions that result in fewer jobs, are temporary with new jobs replacing the jobs lost. Unfortunately, there has often been a gap between the job losses and the growth of new jobs. What do you think we can do to reduce the length of this gap?

The reality of today’s world is that workers are in control and companies need to understand people’s priorities to compete. Employees are the new consumers of the workplace and organizations that pivot to ensure they are people-first and focused on the employee experience will thrive.

Okay, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Watch In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. The future of work is people-centered: Employees know their worth and their expectations have shifted. Companies need to understand that they don’t have a business, revenue, products, without their employees and by listening to and recognizing their employees, they can build a more successful and engaged workplace.
  2. Creating bottom-up and top-down strategic planning: Ask your employees for input. They’re in the work, they have ideas, and they want to be heard. Make them a part of your strategic process. Give them responsibilities. Be collaborative. Employees want to know where they fit into the company vision and goals. You’ll be more innovative, but you’ll also create more engagement and satisfaction. We do a full-company off-site each year where we ask employees how we’re doing, if we are still living our purpose and values, and what ideas they have for strategic, cross-organizational initiatives for the following year.
  3. Balance of human interaction and technology: There is a line between not enough technology and too much technology. In staffing, candidates want to fill out an application online and receive news and updates automatically via email, but they don’t want to be fed jobs or assignments through a robot, they want a relationship with their employer who gets to know them, their skills, and their goals, and helps them find the right role. They want to know a person is on the other side advocating for them, not a machine matching keywords on their resume to job descriptions.
  4. The shifting DNA of the new leader: Today’s successful leaders are transparent, vulnerable, and curious. The line between professional and personal is blurring because people want to be seen as humans. And they want to see their leaders as humans. Approachability was a differentiator for leaders during the pandemic. Employees were more receptive and grateful to those leaders that shared truthful updates about the unknown with their teams versus sharing no communications or inaccurate information. And people expect more from companies — social impact commitments, DEI initiatives, ESG efforts, and more. Company leaders who show interest, curiosity and transparency around these topics will attract and retain more talent.
  5. Taking care of the whole person: Employees desire companies that, not only recognize the other areas of their lives, but create opportunities to help with those areas. For example, offering childcare, flexible working arrangements, PTO, mental health resources, etc. Perks are no longer perks; they are staples. Employees expect more from their employers because their work makes up a big portion of their lives and they are better understanding the value they bring to an organization.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?

To cheer me up, my dad would always say “Smile and the whole world smiles with you”. Now I share this with my kids. If you look for the positive, I guarantee you will find good, and it sure seems like we could all benefit from finding more good in each other.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I grew up a Sesame Street kid and what many people don’t know is that Sesame Street is a global organization that does amazing work to develop and unite not just kids but families and communities. On my bucket list is to someday join the Sesame Workshop Board of Trustees. It would be an honor to meet Frans Hijkoop.

Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?

You can connect with me on LinkedIn and learn more about Salo on our website. The Future of Work is all about people and the more connections we can make and discussions we can have the better!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.

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