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 Nikki Coleman.
Nikki Coleman is COO of the flexible career platform We Are Rosie. She has held multiple leadership roles since joining the company as one of its first employees in 2018, always focusing on efficient operations, growth, and happy, engaged people doing work they are passionate about. Nikki has helped grow the company to a valuation of $110 million in just four years.
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.
First, I grew up with a supportive family. My parents told me I could achieve anything. They instilled (and continue to instill) confidence as I have grown into a mother, wife, and executive. The second life experience that shaped me was having my son. The moment I had this incredible tiny human to care for is when I changed my perspective on work and how I spend my time each day. I reimagined what I wanted my days to look like around him. I knew I wanted to be there when he gets off the bus daily. I wanted to be present for him and my family as much as possible and work for a purpose-driven mission that could impact his generation of work.
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?
It is projected that in 2027, 86.5 million people will be freelancing in the United States and freelancers will make up 50.9 percent of the total U.S. workforce.
That means more than half of the workforce will be freelancing in less than 10 years. I think working remotely is not a trend. It is here to stay. Over the past few years, we have seen more “job hopping,” traditionally an HR taboo for job applicants. Now, it’s normal to see people jump every two years as they continue to want more from work. More fulfillment, more autonomy, flexibility, experience, and pay.
We are in the midst of a “great awakening.” People want more from work and the culture it brings. We are seeing this now with our business. As freelance work increases, people will want access to opportunities with big brands, but on their terms. I believe we will continue to see a trend toward companies that have purpose-driven missions and are fierce about people being aligned with their core values.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
- Be inclusive. Don’t just look at an applicant’s tenure at past companies and their pedigree. The best people are those with a fire to learn and a passion for the mission.
- Remote / flex work is here to stay and companies who wholeheartedly embrace it will recruit and retain the best people. There is no going back.
- Live your core values. Change and growth are hard; know when you are moving away from your values and bring the team back together to align.
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?
People-centric companies with accountability. The balance between caring for your people and creating accountability can feel tough. Accountability is a gift to your employees and your culture. Help your team learn from mistakes and coach them to have the autonomy to make decisions independently.
Remote work — there is an expectation to return to the normal 2019 way of working. Employers who implement this will find people who are less engaged and it will lead to greater turnover. There is no going back to normal.
Benefits — yes, health benefits, but what else do you have to serve the whole human? How are you supporting the alarming rise of mental health issues? How do you support parents when schools shut down? In what ways are you supporting remote work, personal and professional development? The best companies to work for will have an array of benefits for their employees to choose from.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
We Are Rosie has been working from home since 2018. During this time, we have learned that you pay a “communication tax” by being remote. Not having the normal water cooler talk can impact your business and how you work together. There is magic in humanizing the person behind the screen. We have experimented with different ways of communicating and getting to know each other personally by creating opportunities for connection.
We have had a lot of prospective clients who were wary of remote work in 2019 come back to us with a new awareness of the benefits after being forced to work this way. Clients began to see the benefits of having access to over 16,000 marketing experts across the US instead of only looking at their geographic location.
Access to opportunities to work with the most respected brands opened up significantly for our Rosies by opening the remote work option. We have seen extraordinary projects completed with teams of 10 Rosies who have never met in real life.
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?
As a society, we need to constantly remind ourselves that people bring their whole selves to work. The trend has been people dedicating themselves to work and identifying themselves to others with what they do for a living. People have woken up. They know that they can work in a different way — remotely, during the hours that best suit their lifestyle, on work that lights them up. Companies need to make this way of working easy in order to get and keep the best talent.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
Employers are waking up and realizing it’s not only about the bottom line. People doing work they are passionate about and showing future generations that the traditional model is a thing of the past. There is life outside of work. I am excited to see the new ideas, businesses, and opportunities that sprout from people working in their zone of genius.
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?
With the rise of services like TalkSpace and Betterhelp, it’s easier than ever to access mental health resources from the comfort of your home. At our company, we have also partnered with Donut, an app that links with Slack to set up virtual coffee dates with other members of our team to learn more about each other and our interests. Creating connections on a deeper level with people you spend time with daily can support mental health.
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?
- The “old way” of working is overdue for a revamp. People want more flexibility and work that lights them up.
- Live your mission and core values. People will take a lower salary to work with a company that has a great culture and walks the talk.
- Remote work is here to stay — if you don’t provide flexible options, you could be missing out on the best talent.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- Purpose-driven work: People want to feel the impact of what they do each day. How does their job, no matter what it is, impact the mission and purpose of the company?
- A focus on the whole human: Life is always happening. How are you showing compassion for the whole employee?
- Remote work: It works, and there is no going back to the way it was. It is also a form of inclusion for people with mental health and/or disabilities, providing more access to work than ever before.
- Employers shouldn’t count the number of hours worked or ask people to put in PTO to go to the doctor or see their kid’s school play. Hire the best people and trust that the work will get done.
- Access to diverse opportunities: People are hungry for new experiences and change. The future of work gives access to all types of work (clients, hours, length, challenges, etc.) in a super easy way.
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?
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. Viktor E. Frankl
As our business has grown from a scrappy start-up of a handful of people to almost 60 employees, the original team is learning what it means to have support. We are learning that it no longer serves us to move fast and break things and that we must embrace the pause to remain focused.
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.
I would choose Brené Brown. I have studied her work on leadership for several years and would love to dig into the balance of courage, accountability, and vulnerability in the workplace.
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?
Please connect with me on LinkedIn! https://www.linkedin.com/in/nikkicolemanpmp/