Preparing For The Future Of Work: Marisa Elizundia of Emotional Salary Barometer On The Top Five Trends To Watch In The Future Of Work

An Interview with Phil La Duke

Authority Magazine Editorial Staff
Authority Magazine
Published in
20 min readOct 18, 2021


Diversity and inclusion. We live in a globalized and hyper-connected world, where we find ourselves working with people from different generations, with different cultures, backgrounds, needs and experiences. For this reason, when it comes to finding better solutions to the different challenges we face, our best bet is to build teams that are as diverse and transversal as possible. In this way we will find the best solutions to the challenges we face in the future.

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 Marisa Elizundia.

Marisa Elizundia is the CEO and creator of the Emotional Salary Barometer — a unique tool that measures the emotional benefits that people get from working that motivate us, change our perception of work and lead to personal and professional development. A Mexican national who has studied and worked in the UK, Switzerland, Mexico, Germany and Spain. She has worked in the people development department of various multinationals and international organisations and in various countries. A proud mother of three teenagers who finds herself constantly navigating and trying to create some balance between her professional life as an entrepreneur and her personal life, trying to find joy navigating in these two completely different worlds.

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?

Hi, Thank you for this amazing opportunity. My name is Marisa Elizundia and I am the CEO and creator of the Emotional Salary Barometer.

Throughout my work in different countries and in different types or organisations always in the people development department, what I’ve always observed is that when people are giving their best at work, the reasons for doing that go far beyond the financial aspect they perceive from their jobs. With this, I don’t want to say that these emotional aspects work as a substitute for the financial part of work. Never would I even suggest such a thing but I do know that those non-financial aspects are essential for our overall wellbeing and are, in many cases, overseen or ignored by the leaders of the organisations and if you work on it consciously, it has significant and important positive results for both individuals and organizations. This is why I’ve dedicated the past 6 years and used all my knowledge, experience and research to change this and help create better workplaces and through this make a change in society as a whole.

If we stop for a bit and analyse the time we spend working, thinking about work or looking for work and compare this statistic with studies on disengagement or job dissatisfaction, we realise the enormous impact this gap has on our families and therefore on our society as a whole. This is something I deeply wish to change and feel strongly about. I’ve personally seen and experienced in people very close to me the impact that bad work environments or bad leaders have on people at profound levels. If we are able to transform this one step at a time, we will be able to create a better working world in the future and for the next generations and thus create a better society.

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?

The concept of work and the design of organisations is literally being reconfigured as we speak. No one has a crystal ball in which we can predict what is going to happen. However, some of the disruptions we can glimpse now that are redefining work, and the way we work, and where employers can start to prepare are:

1. Every day in our lives we see that working life is increasingly dominated by technology, be it the use of virtual platforms, job automation, robots, the harnessing of collective intelligence and all the possibilities offered by social media. This requires constant openness and learning. We see every day that there are new platforms that make our work easier, but we have to learn to use them very quickly. At the same time we have to decide very quickly which ones can be useful or not for our business. It is not about covering a lot in terms of technology but about doing it smartly and efficiently and balancing the benefits we get from the technology against the emotional cost our teams will pay for introducing this technology.

2. There will be an increase in the outsourcing of work within companies. In other words, organisations will achieve their goals through external partners and collaborators, rather than permanent employees. The concept of “employee” is beginning to take on a stale air as well as all the behaviours associated with this status such as obedience, doing work without asking questions, disrespect, etc. This means that what we mean by leadership is also being redefined and will be further redefined in the coming years.

3. Uncertainty will permeate much of the economy and our lives. The global pandemic forced us to rethink our status quo of work in a very limited time. What had been impossible, such as working entirely from home, suddenly became possible. It showed us that agility and constant adaptation is and will be more and more necessary in the future.

4. We are also seeing a shift towards flat organisations that will replace hierarchies with fluid project teams, which will require power positions in organisations to be democratised. The ability to listen, compromise and adapt will be crucial. The ability to bring out the best in everyone and to promote creativity and safe spaces where ideas are shared will be crucial.

5. We will also see a greater need to create autonomous, disciplined, confident, cross-functional and highly professional teams. They will help us adapt to this emerging new order.

6. The retirement age will be flexible. There is a growing awareness — especially among younger generations — that most of our waking adult lives are spent working or in related activities, making the question “Why do you work?” increasingly relevant.

7. Systems thinking has to permeate all business activity. Nothing and no one exists in isolation and everything we do has an impact on someone else. Whether this is another person, a team, the organisation itself, other organisations or a whole system (industry, community, society or the planet itself). Being aware of this and seeing everything we do in this light will be necessary to be sustainable in the long term.

All this imposes a great challenge to entrepreneurs and leaders of organisations. We can see all these trends in an apocalyptic way or we can see them as a great opportunity. I see it as an invitation to redesign new rules of the game in which we can all continue to grow and develop. For this reason, what employers can start doing is the following:

Redefine your purpose: This new design of work as we know it will require a redefinition and readaptation of the purpose of our organisations and teams, as well as a constant alignment of what we communicate externally with what is lived internally. Thanks to the constant hyper-connectivity that permeates our lives, any disruption or fissure in this alignment will be visible and magnified. Lack of this alignment will create distrust and cynicism and this has the potential to multiply, which will have repercussions e.g. in attracting top talent, motivation, productivity, etc.

Openness: You are redesigning your organisation, so in order to navigate this sea successfully we recommend that you listen intensively to all proposals from your team members. It doesn’t matter how crazy this proposal might seem to you. The question you must ask yourself is: Why not? What do we gain? What do we risk? What do we stand to lose? How real is this fear? By opening yourself to discussions like this, you open up spaces that invite co-creation and create cultures of trust, which will be helpful and indispensable to be sustainable in the future.

Make uncertainty part of your life. For this reason, you and your team must learn to manage your emotions and to be emotionally agile in the face of constant challenges. It will be necessary to learn to see that there are no negative emotions. There will be emotions that can make us uncomfortable and we have to learn to manage them alone and with the help of the team. Questions such as: What does your team need from you right now?; How do we feel?; How can we help and support each other? These questions will help us to be more emotionally agile in managing our uncertainty and that of the team.

Invite systems thinking in your decision making and invite your team to do the same. It is tremendously necessary to internalise that everything we do in our work will have large-scale consequences now and in the future. By internalising this kind of thinking in everything you do and inviting your team members to do the same, it will help you create more sustainable long-term solutions with more vision.

Don’t forget why your team is working. For the most part, the people who work with you are spending most of their waking hours working. It is time they are spending with you that they are not spending on other activities that might give them more pleasure. Do everything you can to ensure that this time in their lives is time well spent and where they feel that the time they spend working serves as a platform for them to grow and fulfil their personal, social and professional growth purposes. Those non-financial benefits that we can perceive from our work such as belonging, creativity, enjoyment, autonomy, direction, mastery, inspiration, personal and professional growth and purpose have to be redefined, re-evaluated and re-adapted — constantly — in this new work horizon.

Stay focused on your vision and purpose. Don’t let the external noise of new inventions and new technology distract you or cause you to hesitate. Take what is in the marketplace that serves your vision and purpose and not what is trendy or cool.

Be humble, modest and constantly learning. You don’t have all the answers (even if it’s what you want most) and you don’t have all the solutions. Learn from your team and constantly ask their opinion. And always, always value their input. Remember that we are witnessing a redefinition of leadership, in which these positions are not only for achieving objectives but also for managing teams in virtual situations while creating platforms for personal, professional and social growth.

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?

That whatever they study after high school will not be decisive for their future. Having said that, degrees from big universities will make the first steps easier, which does not mean that the next steps will be equally easy. Discipline, openness, flexibility, critical thinking and a lot of guts to take risks will be as important as the degree or the university you go to. This is coupled with a large dose of intelligence and emotional agility to cope with the ups and downs of an uncertain world of work. So my advice would be, if you want to study at university make sure it is something you really enjoy and is something you find pleasure in doing or can learn to enjoy. This will give you clues as to where you can go in your career direction. If you decide that university is not for you, do any activities, courses or certifications that will help you visualise what you would like your future to be like. Before any decision I would advise any young person to visualise themselves in 5 years’ time: what do they do, what job have they found, in what industry and how do they see themselves using their full potential in that job? And, from there, start making the right decisions to get to that point.

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

I believe that the first thing is to know yourself, to know what your talents and interests are and to know how to delve into them. That is essential when it comes to convincingly expressing the reasons for this interest in a work context. Why are they attracted to this subject? Why is it interesting for them? What new perspectives can we see in this particular interest? Few talents are great from the start. One has to learn in a disciplined way how to squeeze these talents, while being aware that this requires a lot of effort and motivation, which is not easy. It is not enough to have passion, as we are told in the media. Every skill, talent, interest and passion requires a lot of work if we want to grow in it and anyone interviewing a candidate can see if their interest is real or if it is just a pose. Knowing what my talents and interests are is the first big step, but knowing how to dig deep and persevere requires patience, hope and discipline. This is something we must constantly work on.

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?

These kinds of fears are not new and have always existed. When women entered the labour market there was the same fear among men of losing their jobs. This was not the case. On the contrary, because if anything, the formalisation of women’s work has improved the world of work. The same thing happened when, for example, wheeled suitcases were created. All those jobs where the people who carried the suitcases on the trips disappeared. So I think the same thing will happen, new jobs will replace the old ones. However, we have an advantage now, because we know that this is going to happen. Let’s use the time we have now to train in something else that is of interest to us and where we know we can make use of our talents and creativity. For this we need to know what factors are important to us when looking for an alternative job. Apart from the economic aspect, what do we want to find in a job? What is important to us? And from there start to make a learning plan that helps us in finding new possibilities.

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

I believe that technological advances and the pandemic have shown us what we really appreciate about working in offices and what we don’t miss at all. Now that we are moving back to offices we can slowly see more clearly the great benefits of working in an office such as more collaboration, creativity, feeling of belonging, etc. And at the same time it becomes clearer what is really a waste of time in offices, such as endless meaningless meetings or the idea that a fixed schedule determines our productivity. For this reason I believe that we will see more and more flexible work designs where there is a compromise between what employees want and what the company needs and requires to fulfil its vision and purpose. Always remembering to remain flexible and open.

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

As a society, the change we need to make is to be fully aware that everything we do in our work is going to have a consequence for someone, for a group of people, society or the planet. The idea that what I or my company does (good or bad) has no short or long term consequences is a thing of the past. It is crucial to be aware of this when making decisions and taking responsibility for what we do. In other words, no matter what position or role we assume in our work or in society, we make small decisions every day, and these decisions have an impact. When we are able to think like this as a society, we will make better decisions and we will see a change and an improvement in all of us.

It is also going to be more and more necessary to humanise organisations. Technology has to serve humans and not vice versa. As a society we cannot put technology as an absolute priority, what is the cost that this is going to have for our employees and for our customers and collaborators? And, in case there is a large cost, how can we help to make the cost less severe?

We need to make professional ethics a requirement in any job. Every day we see in the newspapers news about the lack of professional ethics and we experience the impact this has. Often the consequences of this lack of professional ethics have very serious consequences for future generations. The loss of credibility in institutions, the cynicism that permeates many workplaces and our society is a consequence of a lack of professional ethics and an awareness of the impact we have on others.

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?

I believe that the biggest challenge for employers is to have the capacity and sufficient vision and courage to change the status quo that permeates the world of work. Aspects such as co-creation, openness, flexibility, the need to make compromises, the inclusion of the emotional aspect of people in their work, honest interest in the wellbeing of teams, changes in leadership styles are some aspects that require clear intention and investment. Maintaining the old hierarchies prevents the possibility of not only improving the working environment but also of transforming it into a place where the majority can derive satisfaction from the time they spend at work.

Employees will face two major challenges.

First is to accept our own responsibility for our future and our wellbeing. As individuals and employees we need to be able to define exactly where we want to go, what we need to do to get there, who can help me achieve this and take the necessary actions to get there. It will become increasingly difficult to blame different actors for the situation we find ourselves in.

The other big challenge may be perceived as contradictory but it is not, and that is that we have to be able to help others as much as we can, according to our possibilities. The likelihood that at some point in time we will find ourselves in need of help is great, so it is better to start now by helping others.

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?

It is true, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the inadequate social network of many workers at all levels. Because this is such a big and necessary issue, there is a tendency to pass the hot potato to the other party, be it business, government or supranational and intergovernmental bodies such as the European Community.

This is an issue that needs to be addressed jointly. Companies alone cannot bear the burden of this inadequacy, nor can governments alone, nor can international bodies. I believe that what the pandemic has taught us is that mechanisms must be created where close cooperation between business and government is necessary, where government not only creates policies to extract more money from business, but also creates mechanisms and policies to generate wealth and well-being in view of future trends. At the same time, companies should check their budgets and review whether budget allocation can better contribute to narrow the gaps in the social safety net.

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

I believe that most people — especially the younger generation — want to create a better working world. I see this every day in my work. This gives me the energy and certainty that the future of work is better than we think or are afraid it will be. What happens is that there is no 100% certain solution where we can see results in the short term. We will move forward little by little. But if we do it all together and with the intention of creating a better world, I am convinced that we will.

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?

I believe that today we all know for sure that our jobs are going to change in one way or another and we have to assume that there will be a time lag in finding new jobs. I fervently believe that the only way we can manage the future is by seeing and appreciating what we have now in our jobs and from there, keep creating mechanisms of continuous learning to have more of what we like. This is both on a professional and emotional level. And, in this way, little by little, discarding what we do not want. I also believe that we must be constantly alert to all the opportunities offered to us in order to reduce the time lags that may arise. And, at the same time, help our colleagues, employees and friends to face these challenges as much as possible.

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 need to invite and incorporate the emotional aspect of work into our workplaces. As we become increasingly aware of the amount of time we spend at work, it becomes more and more necessary to ask why we work and what we get out of work beyond the financial benefits we derive from it. The answer to this question will tell us what we have that we are not fully aware of, appreciate what we have, and indicate what more we can do to have more of what is important to us and we value. Some years ago when I was in a very insecure place in my career and had doubts about everything, I asked myself just this question and the answer I wrote in my journal that day was so revealing that I decided that day to grow in the direction I have now taken and create the Emotional Salary Barometer.

2. We see a need to create a magical balance between our personal responsibility to face the future of work and our ability to be open and generous towards those who will need a little push. Only in this way can we all grow simultaneously. Let us remember that what I see as a possibility may not be seen by others. That is where generosity and openness lie. Generosity in sharing and openness in seeing opportunities and possibilities. I have learned that in all the decisions I have made and in all the paths I have taken I have always had a magic hand that has helped me in every possible way, be it with a word, a piece of advice, their time, a recommendation or simply a comment on social media. All this help for the most part has not been expected nor has it been through my close circles, it has just been there and I have learned to accept it and be grateful for it.

3. Openness and flexibility. Nothing is written in stone. We have learned that everything can change in a second. So let’s take advantage of what we have. Let’s learn to try things, technologies, possibilities and be brave enough to question what we thought was set in stone and create new rules. When I started the Emotional Salary Barometer, I believed that the path was clear and that it was just a matter of doing my job as planned. I never imagined all the changes that were necessary even when I thought I was all set. In other words, what I see is that there are no “goals” to reach but that there are directions to take that will lead us somewhere and that we take that direction every day.

4. The need to belong, to connect and to inspire each other. Even in times where virtuality permeates everything we do, we are still social beings and our need to belong to something bigger than ourselves is still there. For this reason, in whatever work situation we find ourselves in, it will continue to be extremely important to be proactive in connecting with those with whom we share an interest, a value or a talent and that this connection goes beyond our immediate circle. This will not only create a sense of belonging but will also help us to connect and inspire. And it will also give us the opportunity to inspire others. When I decided to start my own company I never thought that this factor was so important. And one of the best decisions I could have made was to join a group of women like me, with the same concerns and needs but completely different from me in other aspects. Thanks to this openness I stopped feeling alone and the people I have met there and with whom I now work together, are a constant source of inspiration and have been key in achieving what we have done so far.

5. Diversity and inclusion. We live in a globalized and hyper-connected world, where we find ourselves working with people from different generations, with different cultures, backgrounds, needs and experiences. For this reason, when it comes to finding better solutions to the different challenges we face, our best bet is to build teams that are as diverse and transversal as possible. In this way we will find the best solutions to the challenges we face in the future.

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

I am a person who loves quotes. That’s why it’s difficult for me to decide. I think I’ll go with this one in the end:

“In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility”.

Eleanor Roosevelt.

I am of Mexican nationality, I have studied in England and worked in Mexico, Germany and Spain. In many work environments, being a woman, a mother and a foreigner, I have faced many situations where what I wanted was not in accordance with the status quo or what was expected of me. This has taught me to fight for what I wanted and to make the decisions that were necessary and take responsibility for them. What I am sure of is that if I had not made the decisions I did, I would never have got to where I am now, nor would I have been able to achieve what I have achieved. I don’t say it has been easy, because it has not been easy, but it has been extremely rewarding and satisfying. And I am certain that I still have a long way to go.

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 know it’s a bit cliché but I would be honoured to have Oprah read this interview. For as long as I can remember she has been a constant source of inspiration to me. Everything she says, the way she handles herself, her resolve and her congruence in what she says and what she does is something that pushes me to be better and is the example of who I want to become.

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

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