The Great Resignation & The Future Of Work: Marisa Elizundia and Clodagh Beaty of the Emotional Salary Barometer On How Employers and Employees Are Reworking Work Together

An Interview with Karen Mangia

Karen Mangia
Authority Magazine

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Courage and Creativity: We need to be more tolerant of mistakes, as that is how we learn and improve. If we don’t try because we are afraid of the results we will never advance towards a better future of work. There is no crystal ball that tells us the path we need to walk. So, we need to create this path, and this requires courage, creativity, and collaboration. Courage to try new things, to voice out ideas, to accept ideas that are not your own and to question the status quo. We often come across managers who want to keep doing the same things they have always done and do not want to implement new ideas because they are afraid that the new solution won’t work, and they will risk their jobs or their reputations. The future of work will necessitate continuous change and agility, which is very difficult to achieve when people feel like this.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Marisa Elizundia and Clodagh Beaty of the Emotional Salary Barometer.

Marisa Elizundia and Clodagh Beaty are creators of the Emotional Salary Barometer, a unique online tool that measures the non-financial benefits that people get from work. This interest in making the most of the opportunities we have at work to enhance our lives comes from their decades of experience working in the area of people management and organizational development. Marisa is originally from Mexico and has worked extensively in various European countries and Clodagh is from the UK; they met in Spain where they are both currently based.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.

Clodagh: I didn’t study for a degree until I was in my late twenties and when I did, it was at night school while I was working full time. It was such an empowering experience for me. I decided that I wanted more from my life and work, so I decided to do something about it. It shaped me in the sense that it proved to me that I was in control of my own destiny, I was capable of anything if I tried hard enough, and that if there is something that you want, you have to take action to make it happen.

Marisa: I’ve always enjoyed working and truly love what I do. Having said that, this doesn’t mean that it has always been easy. Throughout my life I’ve faced various challenges like working in various countries and different cultures, becoming a mother of three and working at the same pace and professionally reinventing myself a number of times. All of these experiences have shown me that even at times when I feel stressed and with a lack of direction I can always ground myself and develop a sense of hope by observing what I actually have and start building from that point instead of seeing what I still need to achieve. This has been my constant strength in creating what I have and always motivates and energizes me in difficult times. I’ve kind of made this my super power especially in times of uncertainty.

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

We have to take a step back and think about what work is and what its function is now, and what it has been in our lives over the years. Work is and always has been the opposite of leisure. The word leisure is of Latin origin leisir, “free time, time at one’s disposal”. Work and our workplaces are, therefore, spaces where we do an activity in which we use our abilities, capacities, competences, and skills for a specific purpose that often goes beyond ourselves or our own benefit. By definition, work requires time, concentration, effort and dedication to achieve that end. And we believe that this will continue in the following years. We will continue to work, to search and find in our work and in our workplaces spaces where we have the possibility and opportunity to use all our knowledge, our capacities, abilities, skills, competences, and skills and that we receive compensation in exchange for this. What is going to change is our relationship with our work, and our relationship with our employer.

Up to now, employers have had the upper hand and this has resulted in a number of issues such as bad leadership, unfair compensation, excessive workloads, inconsistency in what is communicated externally with what is experienced internally, lack of consideration for the systemic and environmental impact, and a lack of listening, openness and communication As a consequence of this, there is a feeling of weariness, tiredness and a strong impact on our physical and mental health on the part of the employee, which has had serious consequences in our society. And this is what we believe will, and needs to, change.

In the future, the relationship between employer and employee will be more balanced, fairer and with more awareness that the time we spend working is time that needs to bring benefits to all involved. We are increasingly aware that we spend most of our waking hours working and we need and want this time spent working to bring us benefits that go beyond financial gain, although it goes without saying that we must receive adequate and fair financial compensation for our work. The conventional solution to motivate employees to work harder with financial incentives is short sighted and it is not financially sustainable if large chunks of the workforce need to be motivated.

Employees want jobs that contribute to their purpose, help them to grow personally and professionally, and give them opportunities to use their creativity. It is important that they feel appreciated, valued and that they belong, have the opportunity to balance their personal and professional lives, and at the same time find ways to develop their careers and constantly improve their skills.

This is putting more pressure on leaders and employers to change and start creating long term strategies that will transform our workplaces into spaces that allow us to develop all our abilities, strengths and skills and where we can envision a new era that is more balanced in terms of power and where the perception of emotional benefits in the hours we spend working is a right and not just a dream.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

Prioritize purpose: Our world is becoming more and more purpose-driven, and this is likely to accelerate as more millennials move into senior leadership roles. According to Deloitte, purpose-driven companies witness higher market share gains and grow three times faster on average than their competitors, all while achieving higher workforce and customer satisfaction.

Listen intensively and with intention: Be open to all information and suggestions, whether it comes from your front-line employees or your most important client. Be transparent — sharing what you hear will go a long way to inviting co-creation and creating a culture of trust in the organization. Approach information with curiosity and a focus on how it will help the team or organization improve.

Encourage emotional agility: Change is the only constant and in order to thrive in uncertainty, we need to develop an emotionally agile workforce. To do this we need skilled leaders who are transparent, vulnerable, and emotionally intelligent and teams that are collaborative and supportive.

Take a different perspective: Encouraging a systems thinking approach in your organizational decision-making will lead to a deeper understanding of potential challenges and help to create more sustainable long-term solutions.

Put your people first: There is an overwhelming amount of research that demonstrates that people perform better when they feel valued, respected and the organization considers that they are the key to its success. Do everything you can to ensure that there are plenty of opportunities for the 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 (factors measured in our Emotional Salary Barometer).

Work towards your vision: Don’t get distracted by your competitors and concentrate on what makes your organization the best in its field.

Prioritize continuous learning: Ensure that your leaders have a growth mindset and are humble enough to realize that they don’t have all the answers and actively seek opportunities to learn. By leading through a lens of continuous learning, these behaviors will filter down to all levels of the workforce.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

There will be a back-and-forth in this process. It will not be straightforward and there will need to be constant learning and re-evaluation by all those involved about the success of the strategies that are implemented. Organizations will need to become more responsive and agile in making changes to those strategies.

Employers will be happy to change as long as their performance is maintained. Companies (unless they are an NGO) are designed to produce products and services that satisfy a customer need, generate a benefit to society and economic benefits for their investors. The tension that will continue to exist will be between investing resources to make changes that will benefit the organizational culture and generating a sustainable improvement for both employees and society while maintaining the expected financial return. There is likely to be a feeling on the part of employers that nothing is enough, and employees will feel that what the company is willing to give up is not enough. In order to resolve this tension, strategies will have to be consensual with a long-term commitment on both sides and accountability on the part of all the people involved. Co-creation, patience, openness and constructive communication will be key to achieve this.

Employers will need to give up some of their power and learn not to always have the last word in any decision. They will need to learn to listen even when what is communicated will not be pleasant and employees need to learn to widen their perspective, communicate what they see, want, and envision in order for the work and themselves to thrive and not give room for complaining.

Employers and leaders will have to learn that their position as a leader is an opportunity to create a platform for others and not just a platform that boosts their ego and serves themselves. Similarly, employees have to learn not to give all responsibility for their well-being at work to the organization or their leaders and start taking control of their work lives and acting in pursuit of their wellbeing.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

We started to see and experience all that we were not able to do or enjoy because we were working in an office away from home. We realised the life we were missing out on because we were working. Everyday things like enjoying spending time with our loved ones or having time to do non-work related activities or simply enjoying our homes suddenly became very visible and we learned to appreciate and value them (or not). This experience will cause us to re-evaluate our entire office experience and put pressure on organisations, leaders, and employees to make the most of our time in the office. What we appreciate and value about our work will become more evident and at the same time we will be acutely aware of what we consider to be a total waste of time and will do everything possible to eliminate this.

We also witnessed the unique and individual life of each person. The future of work will not only be hybrid but also customised according to each person’s needs, preferences, and desires. One-size-fits-all solutions for all employees are a thing of the past. The need to listen to these individual needs and preferences will be a necessity in the future of work.

Also, through remote working what became very evident is that both our shortcomings and our strengths became more evident. It is as if all of us have been under a magnifying glass. In the future of work that we are redesigning together, we will be more aware of this and become more and more accountable for the impact that we and our work has on the outcomes and on other people.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

The biggest change we need to make as a society is to redefine what work means for us and to harness all its possibilities and opportunities beyond the financial aspect of it. By this we mean to use work and the time we spend at it as a positive force in our lives. Work provides us with abundant opportunities that play in our favor — social connection, to use our unique talents, skills and abilities, and to learn and grow as human beings are just a few examples. We all need to be able to find meaning in the work we do and feel recognized and valued on an individual level.

For this to happen successfully, work itself needs to become more enjoyable and with more value for many people. We will need to personalize the experience of work as much as we can based on the needs of the individual and balance this with the needs of the organization. As individuals we will need to develop an awareness of what we value most from our work and take responsibility for redesigning our work. Leaders and organizations will need to become much better at facilitating a culture of co-creation, with a shift in the balance of power away from the organization and leader to a more collaborative employee-centric model.

We also need to understand that everything we do at work has a consequence — good or bad — for people, society and the planet. We need to take responsibility for the decisions we make every day and the impact of those decisions on ourselves and others. Ethics should be at the core of everything we do, and organizations and leaders must prioritize professional ethics and make it a fundamental requirement in any job.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

Every day thanks to our work, research and experience with our clients we can see that there is more and more interest and awareness in emotional salary and how we can use it to redefine work towards something better than what we have experienced so far. This fills us with enthusiasm because when we started our project, we felt that we were part of a movement that seemed like a dream. Today we see that what we dreamed of is gradually becoming a reality in companies in various parts of the world. When we talk to companies there is a strong desire to integrate emotional salary with their long-term strategy to transform leadership style, create a more personalized employee experience and create workspaces that have meaning, purpose and growth and where the time people spend at work provides both financial and emotional benefits.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

Using Emotional Salary and its ten factors (Autonomy, Belonging, Creativity, Direction, Enjoyment, Inspiration, Mastery, Personal Growth, Professional Growth and Enjoyment) as a framework to have individual and group discussions for continuous and focused improvement, co-creation and design of how we want to work and how we envision our work and future.

What is innovative about this strategy is that the leader becomes a platform for the growth and wellbeing of their team. The key questions the leader must ask in this scenario is: How can I help you to increase your emotional salary and wellbeing? What solutions can we generate together?

We realize that what people yearn for is the feeling of being seen and heard; to be recognized, valued and appreciated as a unique individual, including their capabilities and needs. When someone takes the time to listen to your proposals, ideas, concerns and needs, it has a fundamental impact on emotional wellbeing. In a recent survey of large firms conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, a research outfit, the majority of companies admitted they did not have adequate data about the skills of their workers, making it harder to spot talent. A quarter reckoned that LinkedIn knew more about their workforce’s capabilities than they did. If this data is only about the skills of their employees, one can only imagine how much is being ignored in the area of wellbeing. This must change in the future of work.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

We think the message we are hearing loud and clear is that people are very unhappy in their jobs and they perceive the following:

  • That there is more to life than work.
  • That the world of work is wider than they imagined. The prevalence of remote working means that more roles are plausible options for more jobseekers.
  • A great frustration of what is communicated by companies externally and what is experienced internally. People in workplaces are tired of big slogans that do not match what is lived every day at work.
  • Little recognition from the organization and its leaders. As mentioned before, social media sometimes knows more about individual achievements or new skills than the companies they work for. People do not feel seen, valued, or recognized.
  • Poor salaries. Employees are tired of listening to companies brag about record revenues and profits whilst at the same time not offering salary increases to match inflation.
  • A sense of injustice due to a large salary gap between the senior leadership and front-line workers in companies. People do not want to have the feeling that they are giving their lives away for someone else’s benefit and not their own.
  • Poor leadership in all its forms from discrimination and mistreatment to egocentric behavior and micro-management and many bad practices in between.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Focus on the emotional aspects: We 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, what we desire from our work and what we realistically expect from it. When we ask these questions to our clients, people normally go back to the answer “money”, but once we explore further, we have discovered that the majority of people want to have workspaces and use the time they spend working to grow in the various dimensions that make us human beings.
  2. Generosity: We need to be more generous, not only in what concerns us personally, but also to be open to help others grow. We need to do what we can to make the working lives of everyone we come into contact with more enjoyable and fulfilling. The only way we can face the future of work and design it in a way that benefits us all is if we do it together as a society. What you see as a possibility may not be seen by me. One of the things we often recommend when working with organizations is the implementation of a pay it forward scheme. Whenever a team member has any type of learning interaction (i.e., attending a workshop, a how-to session with a colleague, reading a book relevant to their personal or professional development etc.) they are encouraged to think about someone else in the organization who might benefit from their learning, and take the time to pass that learning on.
  3. Recognize what’s working: It is important to recognize what you have as a team or as an organization. Analyze first what you have that works and that you want to maintain. And also recognize what you don’t want to have anymore even if it worked and create new solutions or processes for it. I think there is not enough recognition about what is going well (which in many cases it is a lot) and we tend to concentrate only on what is not working and this influences our overall feeling. When we were working with a particular client there was a sense that everything in the culture was not working. After a thorough analysis we discovered that there was a lot that they were doing well, and they only needed to work on one specific area of their business which really needed to change. This specific area was creating so much noise around it that it gave the sensation that nothing was working. Once the problems of this area were fixed, the company was able to move forward and is now thriving.
  4. Courage and Creativity: We need to be more tolerant of mistakes, as that is how we learn and improve. If we don’t try because we are afraid of the results we will never advance towards a better future of work. There is no crystal ball that tells us the path we need to walk. So, we need to create this path, and this requires courage, creativity, and collaboration. Courage to try new things, to voice out ideas, to accept ideas that are not your own and to question the status quo. We often come across managers who want to keep doing the same things they have always done and do not want to implement new ideas because they are afraid that the new solution won’t work, and they will risk their jobs or their reputations. The future of work will necessitate continuous change and agility, which is very difficult to achieve when people feel like this.
  5. Perspective: We need to widen our perspective by embracing diversity and having a systemic mindset in everything we do. We need to become more and more aware that everything we do has an impact on someone or something (and we may not be aware of it) and through this, create solutions and strategies that create a positive impact on the system we are working in. The future of work does not mean that everything will be new, and we need to reinvent the wheel. It means that by adapting this mindset we can shift the course we are taking to be able to make the best of what we are and what we do. In my work as a mentor for young entrepreneurs we often use a systems thinking process. The outcome is frequently the recognition that they are able to make small changes that do not cost much money but create a better result. It is beneficial to take a step back, have a helicopter view and become aware of all the impact you have and if you see a possible negative impact on someone or something try to change it.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

Marisa: “I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” by Brene Brown

Whenever I start a new thing my immediate emotion is fear, and the feeling of the result not being perfect or enough. This quote constantly reminds me of my why, to be brave, to take the first step and try to strive for my dream and be brave to achieve it.

Clodagh: You become what you believe, not what you think or what you want, by Oprah Winfrey

Our mindset has such a huge impact on our performance and our beliefs really do shape our reality. Unfortunately, so many of us hold on to beliefs about ourselves that stop us from achieving the greatness that we all have inside us. It also serves as a reminder to me that we don’t always get what we want!

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, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

So many people and we would choose breakfast as it is our favorite meal of the day! Top of the list has to be Martin Seligman, as he has been such a huge influence on our work. His work in positive psychology has been life-changing for so many people and he has been fundamental in advancing the concept of wellbeing.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

We have a company page on LinkedIn where we share our insights on the world of work and emotional salary: https://www.linkedin.com/company/emotional-salary-barometer.

If you’d like to learn more about our Emotional Salary Barometer and how to redefine work using emotional salary , we have some great free resources on our website www.emotional-salary.com.

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.

Thank you. It’s been our pleasure.

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