The Future of Work: Four Generations Working At Once, Plus Machines


Newco Shift Forum 2018

Responsible for driving Dell’s global brand and purpose, Liz Matthews kicks off the Future of Work dialog at Forum last month.

Liz Matthews, Senior Vice President, Global Brand and Creative ,Dell Technologies

The Shift Forum is driven by “Pillars,” core themes that we explore over three days of conversation, debate, and provocative presentations. Our partner in our Pillar on “the Future of Work” is Dell Technologies, who presented the findings not only of its own research in the space, but also of five table moderators who reported out their conversations about the topic during lunch at the event. In this video and transcript below, meet Liz Matthews, who runs Dell’s brand globally, and the five moderators, who are all extraordinary in their own right.

Liz Matthews: I am Liz Matthews. I run Brand and Advertising for Dell Technologies. We are thrilled to be here with all of you. We’re actually very, very excited to support the Future of Work conversation here at the Shift Forum.

As you can imagine, as a technology company, we are closely following and engaging in the dialog around the Future of Work. It’s our job and our responsibility to innovate for our customers, thinking about what not only devices but technology they need for the future.

Also, we’re a global employer. We have over 138,000 team members. We operate in 110 countries. We have to provide a safe, collaborative, connected, and open workplace for our team members to thrive.

I can imagine as business leaders, innovators, and leaders in all the areas that you are you have similar reasons for being here, talking about, and looking at what’s next. What is business going to look like? Much like Starbucks call them partners, we call them team members. What will our team members require or, dare I say, demand in 5, in 10, in 15 years?

We’re all striving to understand that great unknown. It’s why we’re here. It’s why we had such awesome and exciting conversations at lunch. It’s so we can learn from each other. Quick show of hands, how many of you already believe we’re at a point where humans and machines are interacting together?

Awesome, huge show of hands. Now, how many of you feel that you’re adequately equipped to deal with the changes that are going to come with everything that happens with that human-machine partnership?

Wow. [laughs] A lot less hands goes up. In fact, that’s absolutely what we’re finding. What I want to share with you today is a little bit of research that we did. We published last month in conjunction with Vanson Bourne, called, “Realizing 2030,” where we dug into the human-machine partnership.

What we found is exactly what all of you illustrated in the room. If you couldn’t see, for those up front, very few hands went up. Almost every hand went up on my first question.

That 82 percent of leaders that we surveyed across 17 countries believe that human-machines will work together as integrated teams within the next five years. About a quarter actually believe that’s happening today.

What’s interesting is business leaders are torn on the impact. They’re not quite sure what is going to be for their role, for their business, or even for the world at large. In fact, there was a 50–50 split on the belief that machines will free up their time and make their lives better or not.

In fact, less than 50 percent believe they will have more job satisfaction by offloading tasks. The rest did not. You can imagine, if leaders are torn, how do you think team members would feel? How do you think they go around thinking about this? What’s interesting is those feelings differ, based upon generations.

In our research, and I’m sorry to say for my own sake, the future actually favors the young. 75 percent of leaders believe that the majority of leadership roles will be filled with digital natives. As these human-machine partnerships grow, this won’t only be a workplace issue but potentially a societal issue.

Ageism is actually something we must address and put on the forefront, because baby boomers are staying in the workforce longer. Millennials are making way for Gen Z. For the first time ever, we have four different generations in the workforce.

Whether you’re using virtual reality to learn, using Alexa at home and the office, whether there’ll be autonomous cars on the road, and we know there are already now, or shopping in supermarkets that are solely powered by QR codes and apps, we must be prepared to interact with machines, no matter your age, your role, or your lifestyle.

Here’s what’s really interesting. As these interactions become more day-to-day within our workplace, businesses are struggling to offer opportunities for individuals across all generations due to their different knowledge base, their skill set, and their mindset.

Specifically, 87 percent of the organizations we talked to said they will struggle to offer equal benefits to different generations. In fact, a quarter of them actually think it’s a challenge now.

Now, we know organizations are going to use personal technology to try to bridge that gap. There are some real opportunities in the future. The question becomes how do we embrace these technological advancements while encouraging all types of work that’s across all generations?

For us at Dell, and I imagine each and every one of you, this is top of mind because there is something we absolutely know for sure, that ensuring you have engaged diverse and highly happy team members is the number one critical success factor for your future.

Well, while we all may have moments of uncertainty, it’s imperative that as leaders it is on us to keep our workforce engaged and their mindset open. There’s going to be uncertainty and, maybe, even some fear of the unknown. As creative thinkers this tumultuous period, this unknown period will push us all to do better and actually be better.

There’s a risk that comes with mastering this human-machine partnership, but there’s also great rewards and how and when you deal with it absolutely matters. This as leaders and entrepreneurs, I challenge all of you to continue this conversation and examine and think about how you’re looking at the human-machine partnership in your world now.

We did put a copy of the research on your seats. I hope you have a chance to look at it. I am so excited and honored to be here with all of you. I look forward to learning and continuing to learn from all of you. I hope you continue these conversations throughout the next two days.

With that, I am super excited to be able to kick off the read-outs. I’d like to welcome our moderators to the stage from the lunch dialogs. I hope you guys had an opportunity to engage. I know my table was awesome. I’m super excited to have that.

They’re going to share exactly according to John, two minutes and two minutes only on the read-out from their tables. We’ll go ahead and get started. Thank you very much.

Jana Rich: Hi, everybody. I’m Jana Rich, Founder and CEO of Rich Talent Group. We focus on building diverse leadership teams.

We had an incredible conversation at lunch today around pay equity. Just a little bit of context on that as Time’s Up has become a big move, originally out of the median entertainment world. It is coming into the technology world.

If you don’t know already, the simple mission statement for that is around equality and safety in the workplace for everyone. It’s not just a movement around women. It actually set an interesting context for us today to talk about pay equity, the Future of Work. Hopefully, a place where everyone gets paid the same for the same job, regardless of gender.

As a quick summary, there was a lot discussed at lunch today. I have three takeaways that companies can do to impact the issue and three takeaways that individuals can do to impact the issue.

From a company perspective, a public commitment to pay equity that is realistic and that can be achieved in the time period that you believe it can be achieved in, and that there’s regular tracking accountability for it.

Number two, setting up something that the media can actually participate in that is both tracking the performance almost like an equality index, if you will, as well as creating ideally something like our industry’s version of the Academy Awards where you’re highlighting companies like Salesforces and others that are leading the way.

Thirdly, what can managers do? Individual managers now versus the CEO and the heads of companies, create an environment where, A, you know what the people on your teams how they are being compensated.

If those are unequal situations that you open up the dialog because feedback has to happen sometimes through managers telling you it’s OK to have that conversation.

As it relates to individuals, one of the most important things we can all do is get market data. In other words, if that’s through things, like Glassdoor, for example. If it’s through recruiters because a lot of recruiters have data on what others like you are getting paid.

If it’s creating your own cohort, you find people that are peers either inside or outside of your company being willing to share your compensation and asking them to do the same.

The second part is knowing your value inside your own company, so that’s your external market validation. When I’m talking about your value inside your company, I’m not actually saying how much you’re paid.

We’re actually talking here about getting regular feedback about job performance, so that you know if you’re a star, if you’re meeting and exceeding expectations. It sets a certain context.

The third and last point would be, “When is the right time to make the ask?” Quite frankly, we talked about it not being so much around performance reviews.

When it is those magical moments where you feel like you’re performing extremely well, you’re getting a lot of validation, and you’re excited, committed, and want to stay at your company. That’s actually a great time to make the ask. Thank you.


Matt Ranen: Hi, everybody. I’m Matt Ranen. I’m a scenario planning and strategy consultant. I help organizations imagine what the future might be like, and how they might need to respond to it. Our topic was about the politics of brands and the politics of consumption.

I’m glad that The Atlantic confirmed the general assumption, which was in the near future, all businesses, not just purpose-led businesses but all businesses, will be judged and held accountable on how they stand on controversial political topics.

Maybe, ones that they aren’t known for, or don’t seem connected to, issues like gender bathroom policies, diversity, or immigration.

In general, the group agreed. In addition to what’s happened over the weekend with the NRA, we also had bike helmet manufacturers get called to the mat, because they’re connected to a diversified conglomerate that makes guns. It’s clear that it’s a trend and maybe perhaps a bit more intensified or heightened right now, but it will continue.

How do you deal with this? It needs to be proactive brand management. Actually, almost company management, like what a product manager does, where you look at all the voice of the customer complaints.

You scan for issues. You talk to employees. Many of you have employee resource groups that will bring up issues. You need to be aware of those as well as what’s just in the general public, what’s being discussed. You take all of those., and you have to find some way to prioritize, because you can’t declare on every single one.

The way to break that tie is through purpose, through a clear purpose. In many ways, what we decided is that this is almost a call for every company to become a purpose-built company or purpose-driven company where your values are clear. It starts by being clear internally. As needed, you can start to declare externally as it’s required.

If you have a weak purpose, you need to strengthen it or revisit it. You need to make it practical. You need to make it consistent and transparent. That way, your employees will also be able to represent you and operate in a consistent way.

We connected this to employee engagement and employee recruitment and retention, and how more and more you will see employees wanting to work where there are these clear statements. We’ve already heard about that. It’s almost like you can’t not be one of those companies.

We did talk a little bit about some unintended consequences, like the sorting of the population across different political corporations. We felt, overall, that that trend would be OK and manageable.

Lastly, in many ways, a lot of companies are trying to deal with this in a reactive way as issues come up. There was a question about how many companies might actually use this as an opportunity to be even more proactive and include things like advocacy to be really, really true to that purpose, values, and where they stand. Thank you.


Amy Aines: Hi, I’m Amy Aines with Waterhouse Brands. The delightful people I got to get to know a bit at lunch was over a conversation around the tax windfall. We have a moment in time opportunity right now for one of the few things that happened in Congress.

The question is, “Can that be used for social good?” We contemplated it from a couple of different directions. First, what’s it going to take to motivate action?

Clearly, there’s some heroes out there that are doing it right already. If we could calm them, we would. Maybe, it’s time for the folks at Salesforce and Unilever to get out there and talk about why they’re doing what they’re doing, and how much of a difference it indeed makes, so other people catch the fever.

We also need to see the accountability requirements that BlackRock put out in their letter come to pass. I know there have been some folks that he’s named as taking responsibility for overseeing that. People are going to be watching to see if there’s real teeth in that. We talked about the importance of that as well.

We talked about pressures coming from customers and employees that want to see companies make an impact. An impact doesn’t necessarily have to be enormous. You don’t have to have Matt Damon out there asking everybody to buy a glass to make a difference for water.

An impact can be wherever your sphere of influence makes it meaningful, makes it matter. Just to echo the comment we heard before, that’s what employees that are looking at whether they want to join your company care about. Are you true to those principles?

We also talked about what principles a company ought to look at in terms of thinking through, “How do we decide where to put our energy, if we haven’t been doing this before?” The first place to start is the community.

Where do you operate? Where do you have a reach and an impact? I would suggest asking your employees is a good idea, because you want to understand what they care about, and where they want to put their energy. We also talked about the need for conversations about ethics. That’s key as well.

Lastly, we talked about the need for metrics. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was something like a gross welfare index where you looked at longevity, health, a reduction in your healthcare costs, as a result of making a social impact and helping your organizations feel like they’re a part of something that matters? Thank you.


Melissa Anderson: I’m not worried about the two minutes. I talk fast. [laughs] Hi, I’m Melissa Anderson, Co-Founder and President of Public Good. We empower people to take action on the causes that they care about, in partnership with brands.

I had a fantastic table. I was really excited. We had a business transformation topic, which was, “CSR is a core mission, or is it a feature?” The question we addressed was, “Do companies need to transform to align themselves with causes, or is corporate social responsibility enough?”

It wasn’t really a question for our table. The resounding answer was, “Yes, of course.” 87 percent of consumers pick between competitive products based on whether that product aligns with their social values.

We very quickly moved on to, “So what’s holding companies back?” If this is the data that we’re seeing, why aren’t more companies stepping in line, and why aren’t they more effective?

We talked about a few key things. One was for companies that didn’t build themselves from the ground up as a purpose company, it’s just hard to rehab, especially if you’re going to do it from the employees out and have it be authentic and not a bolt-on.

The second challenge that we talked about was internal core KPIs. When the KPIs are built around sales figures, it’s hard if social impact isn’t a core KPI. It falls down, and it’s not sustainable, especially when times get tough.

That led us to the concept. Would the internal KPIs come from the external KPIs? When the external KPIs are around short-term profitability, it’s hard to get the external patience to wait for the long-term profitability of good social impact practices.

When we moved into solutions, we had a couple that came out of this great conference. One was the long-term stock market. How can we change those external forces to have a longer term period of time to give back investors, like BlackRock, and the concept of having a measurement?

We have the NPS score. What if we had an external management around social good that our stakeholders could look at and our investors could look at?

Thanks for your time. Appreciate it.


Diane Tate: Hello, I’m Diane Tate. I work at Mozilla, in employee engagement initiatives. Technically, I’m in internal communications and what we’re about is engaging our staff around the world.

I appreciated Liz’s opening remarks about engagement and how important that is in today’s changing world. Specifically, we spoke about distributed workforce, what works and why it matters.

I’m going to start with why it matters. Why are we talking about this? There’s tons of benefits to being distributed. Obviously, you get access to all the talent you need, wherever it is. That’s important in today’s competitive world where time to market is super important.

Importantly, that talent is also inclusive. You can be more diverse in the type of talent that you source for your company. You can be more innovative.

Obviously, it provides more flexibility for folks, which is increasingly important. I encourage you to check out Buffer’s report on remote working that came out today. Flexibility was one of the biggest reasons that people prefer a remote working arrangement.

Dell is a leader in this in pushing its distribution of employees for environmental reasons. It has less of an impact on the environment when you have less offices.

Finally, you can get to market easier because you’re working 24/7. Potentially, you have staff everywhere that can do things. Interestingly, cost reduction was not listed as a reason for being remote, or it was quite rare. There’s a lot of issues with it.

In the interest of time, I’m going to get with what works, what helps make it work. Convening face-to-face regularly is hugely important. As digital as we are, that face-to-face connection is very important to build trust. There’s lots of other tactics.

Changing the protocols and how you communicate and use these devices, communicating those protocols out to new folks important. In the interest of time, I can’t list them all, but I have a bunch of links on my website that will give you some interesting resources and tips on how to do distributive work more effectively.

The takeaway we had is how are we going to do it better, how are we going to do things differently as a result. It’s like democracy. It’s an ongoing effort. There’s no silver bullet in making remote teams work. It just takes a lot of work and care. Thank you.


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