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Preparing For The Future Of Work: Tillmann Schwabe Of everphone On The Top Five Trends To Watch In The Future Of Work

Become an expert in the things you love and you’ll never be replaced by a machine but only complemented. And that’s a good thing because it increases productivity and quality leading to a higher standard of living for everyone.

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 estimated that 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 Tillmann Schwabe.

Tillmann Schwabe is the USA General Manager of everphone, a device-as-a-service company offering enterprise customers hassle-free devices for one low monthly subscription. With over 20 years of experience scaling companies of various sizes and maturity, he oversees everphone’s U.S. operations and expansion. Under his leadership, everphone offers North American companies a flexible, safe, and cost-efficient way to equip their workforce with smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

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?

First of all, I’d like to thank you for letting me be a part of this important and inspiring interview series. It’s an honor. As for my background, I grew up in Germany and had a very happy childhood with supportive parents, aunts, grandparents, and siblings. The family dogs were also quite supportive and entertaining when they didn’t steal my chocolate. The spirit of our upbringing was that you can achieve everything you want in life if you set your mind to it. So, from a very early age on I displayed an entrepreneurial streak. First by producing a school newspaper, organizing events, and founding an online retail company, all out of my parents’ garage. I guess I still owe them some rent. It’s those types of experiences that have shaped who I am today. Once I set my mind to something, I follow through.

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 disruptions that have happened as a result of the pandemic are what will shape us for the next 10–15 years. The first inevitable disruption is remote work on a massive scale. Technology has transformed so much over the last 10 years, so when we had to make the switch to remote work we were relatively prepared. However, I don’t think we had any idea that remote work could be an option for several years so in that sense we are ahead. This will seep into the need for virtual collaboration spaces and eventually, which we’re seeing some companies already do, turn to the Metaverse. This means employers will have to put a lot of trust in employees to ensure their productivity reflects company expectations and success rates.

The other disruption is The Great Resignation. Employees are leaving their jobs for a number of reasons, burnout, being underpaid, toxic work environments, etc. They are recognizing their worth and want to find a job that’s going to appreciate it too. As a result, we’ll see an increase in job transparency. This means salary, benefits, company culture expectations will all be provided upfront, allowing employees to properly decide which job is the right fit for them, and in turn, decrease the turnover rate.

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?

My advice would be to follow your passion. No matter what you do in life, happiness comes to those who pursue their calling. And as science taught us, success comes to those who are happy, not the other way around. So, if you enjoy activities that require a college degree, go to college, if not, then don’t. But love what you do, no matter what.

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 will really need to evaluate what they want and don’t want in a job. The Great Resignation, as mentioned above, has forced job seekers to reconsider their interests and passions. They need to come up with a personal checklist that allows them to feel fulfilled both personally and professionally. The checklist should be realistic though. No one can just wave a magic wand and say, ‘I want to make six figures and work ten hours a week.’ There needs to be compromise.

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?

I’d say we have to embrace technological advances and change because they’re the only constant. Be curious and view learning as a lifelong endeavor. There will always be career opportunities for those who view change as an opportunity, not a threat. Become an expert in the things you love and you’ll never be replaced by a machine but only complemented. And that’s a good thing because it increases productivity and quality leading to a higher standard of living 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 believe that the remote work trend will continue, but it won’t be black and white. It’s really dependent on the company, employees, and job market. The hybrid model will work for some companies, whereas others will want to go back to the office full time. The hybrid and remote working trend will allow companies to get more innovative on how they communicate online, which we’ve already seen in the past two years with Zoom, Slack and Teams. But I could see the innovation going beyond those. We’re fortunate to see benefit from this trend at everphone, where we help companies more efficiently deploy technology to their teams, regardless of location.

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

If we continue on the remote work trend, there needs to be enough resources for employees to properly perform their job. This goes beyond supplying laptops and monitors. Low-income employees should have high-speed internet access and a comfortable workstation, and they shouldn’t be forced to use their personal devices for work. This is why device-as-a-service will become the dominant operating model for company mobile devices over the next several years. It enables companies to pursue sustainability and productivity initiatives on a massive scale without large upfront costs, thereby being light on working capital. To further enable those trends the societal change that is needed is to recognize, accept, and embrace the concepts of trust, equality, and sustainability.

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 the transformation from a process-driven economy to a knowledge-based economy requires a much greater level of trust. Employers need to trust their employees more and shift from an input-based focus to an output-based one. Only if employers can completely detach from the input idea will we have made the successful transition to a truly results-oriented and trust-based workplace. For employees, additional freedom means more responsibility. There will be fewer guidelines to follow and people will need to adjust to the demands of greater autonomy.

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?

The pandemic helped to expose certain areas that had been set in stone for decades and forced us to come up with visions of how we might be able to enhance these conditions. I think that this process has just begun and we’ll need to create think tanks to develop holistic concepts of how we can enhance society and how to live together as a whole, social safety nets included.

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

The added value it will create coupled with positive ecological effects. There will be a brighter future and digitalization will be a driving factor of this. We’re witnessing the crossing of the next frontier, which has always been a source of evolution. Work will be uncoupled from location more and more, which will help distribute wealth, health, and happiness more evenly in the world.

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?

Education, education, education. And this doesn’t necessarily mean a conventional college education. It’s about the willingness to learn, adapt and apply new skills and technologies. This will always create opportunities for well-trained individuals. Society as a whole needs to re-evaluate its appreciation for certain jobs, for example in the medical field. Doctors and nurses are the real superheroes of our time, and with the average age of our population increasing there will be a higher demand for these types of jobs where automation will not replace human-to-human interaction. It may enhance it, but will not replace it.

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. Remote and hybrid work models. The pandemic has been the great catalyst of this megatrend. In some white-collar roles, 10% or so, it’s possible to perform the work completely remotely while another 40% will probably need to add in some type of interaction in an office. The latter roles will most likely shift to a 50/50 remote/on-site work model. 50% of jobs, mainly in the blue-collar field, will remain on-site driven, at least in the foreseeable future.
  2. Digitalization. We’re only at the beginning of the digitalization of the workforce. There is vast potential for productivity gains that will come with equipping all employees, not only knowledge workers, with digital devices. In the retail industry, the large players have started huge digital transformation projects to give every single employee equal access to digital devices, thereby contributing to DE&I, productivity, and company security.
  3. Sustainability. Companies are beginning to recognize the limitation of resources and their impact on carbon emissions. We’re seeing the creation of executive and C-suite roles for this (Chief Sustainability Officer) in an effort to drive sustainability initiatives and provide the top management attention they deserve and need.
  4. Asynchronous work. The pandemic has exposed the enormous stress levels the workforce is under and even amplified those. As positive as remote work models are, for a number of reasons they can also lead to anxiety and burnout. Many people work constantly and, as is the case for international teams, receive communication around the clock. Asynchronous work aims to implement frameworks, processes, systems, and tools that enable teams to work on different schedules and hand off their work like in a relay race rather than having to be available 24/7. The result will be higher productivity and lower stress levels, leading to increased employee happiness and longer tenure.
  5. Purpose. The Great Resignation is teaching us that people are becoming more aware of their intrinsic values and are aiming to align their jobs with their respective value sets. Purpose will play a much bigger role in decision-making, and even though it won’t completely replace financial considerations, it will become equally important. And it’s also the employer’s responsibility to create these purpose-driven visions in order to attract and retain the best talent.

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

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall,” Nelson Mandela. I’ve heard this quote in different forms from several admirable people who achieved great things for humanity and themselves. So it seems to be one common denominator of success and living by it has shaped my life in many ways.

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.

There are so many people I admire that the list could go on and on. Dirk Nowitzki, a former German basketball player, is one person who comes to mind. He has impeccable work ethic, drive, strong values, and has made a huge difference in the lives of many individuals. Another is Thasunda Brown Duckett, CEO of TIAA. She’s one of only two African American women at the top of an S&P 500 company. She came from a humble background and rose to the top through hard work and dedication, making a positive impact on so many lives along the way.

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

I try to be very active on LinkedIn, so please feel free to connect with me here.

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

Thank you very much and the same to you!

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