Anne Loehr, author and futurist, meets with CrowdSource to discuss the four demographic trends influencing talent and organizations. “It’s like a silent revolution that is taking place,” says Loehr, “the change that I’m talking about is this massive shift in workplace demographics.”
In the following podcast interview, Anne Loehr discusses the impact of this shift, and provides advice to organizations preparing for the coming changes.
About Anne Loehr:
After graduating from Cornell University, Anne Loehr managed and eventually owned international, eco-friendly hotels and safari companies for over 13 years. Frustrated that she couldn’t find top-quality team development programs for her 500 Kenyan employees, Anne honed these skills herself by creating her own dynamic leadership and management development programs.
Since selling her hospitality businesses and becoming a certified executive coach, facilitator and management consultant, she has been working with diverse organizations such as Facebook, US Air Force, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, American Red Cross, Booz Allen Hamilton, John Hancock, Coca-Cola and MD Anderson Cancer Center to consistently help organizational teams improve their communications and deepen their working relationships. The impact? Creative collaboration, improved employee retention and increased sales.
Named the “Generational Guru” by The Washington Post, Anne’s work has been featured in Newsweek International, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Huffington Post, National Geographic Traveler, Washingtonian and CNN Money. A member of the prestigious National Speakers Association, Anne speaks regularly at national conferences and on the radio. She is also a faculty member of the American Management Association, teaching leadership courses around the country.
Anne co-founded Safaris for the Soul, international leadership retreats that help senior managers find their organizational values and purpose. Her first book, A Manager’s Guide to Coaching: Simple and Effective Ways to Get the Best Out of Your Employees, was published by the American Management Association on 2008. Her 2nd book, Managing the Unmanageable: How to Motivate Even the Most Unruly Employee, was published by Career Press in 2011.
Nicki: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Crowdsource podcast channel. My name is Nicki Powers, and today I have the pleasure of interviewing the twice-published author on organization and management transformation. She was named the Generational Guru by the Washington Post and featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, National Geographic Traveler, CNN Money and Lair. It’s so nice to have you on the show, Anne.
Anne: Nicki, thank you so much for inviting me. It’s always a pleasure to be working with Crowdsource.
Nicki: Great, we’re excited too. Let’s get started by talking about the American workforce, and the types of changes that we can expect to see in the American workforce over the next 2 to 10 years.
Anne: Nicki, there is so much to talk about, because there are some really big changes coming to the American workforce, as you alluded to. A lot of people are watching the presidential election for 2016 or they’re watching the economy, but there’s another change. It’s almost like a silent revolution that is taking place right under our noses.
The change that I’m talking about is this massive shift in workplace demographics. There are four major shifts that we’re going to be talking about that are really going impact every single organization, whether it’s government, nonprofit or for-profit.
Nicki: Interesting. What are those four shifts?
Anne: I’m going to start off by saying them one by one, and then we can go into detail as much as you want. First of all, the shift that many people are aware of is the fact that Baby Boomers, the biggest generation that there is, born between 1946 and 1964, is on its way out the door of corporate America. That’s going to have a huge impact on our workforce. That raises many questions about, do they retire? Don’t they retire? Are they going to go into their own practice? It has a huge impact on all the organizations that are in the US. That trend, most people are aware of.
The second trend that I spend a lot of time writing and talking about is the trend that women are leaving corporate America mid-career, mid-level, think Gen X in their 40s. There are a number of reasons for that, but as you can imagine it’s a huge exodus and a huge talent drain that every organizational leader needs to start thinking about.
In addition to the Boomer trend and the women trend, the third trend that everybody needs to start paying attention to is the role of diversity. As of July 2011, the majority of people born in the U.S. were people of color. That’s great and I love diversity, and diversity is important to organizations. What we really need to pay attention to, Nicki, is the fact that as of now, people of color are not graduating from universities at the same rate as Caucasians. We have to do something about that to prepare our workforce for the future.
I find the fourth trend, which very few people are talking about, is the role of freelancers. What are freelancers going to mean to our economy in the next 8 to 10 years?
Nicki: That’s certainly in line with our point of view as well here at Crowdsource as a freelance management software company. Can you talk a little bit more about, what are some of the challenges that organizations can expect to experience as a result of these four shifts that you mentioned?
Anne: Sure, we have to talk about the challenges. I also want to remind everybody that these are also opportunities. We are moving so fast in our globalized world that these are opportunities that the leaders in the organizations who start looking at these trends now can actually start to create a niche and start to figure out for themselves how they can take advantage of these trends.
Let’s start with the fourth trend that I said, but it’s the one that’s important for Crowdsource, is this role of freelancers. Right now, approximately 19 percent of our workforce is what we call freelancers. “Freelancer” is a confusing term. Freelancers the way I’m describing it is people who are not getting salary paychecks, who are not working getting benefits and that kind of thing. They’re on their own. They could be solopreneurs, they could be entrepreneurs, but they are not working in corporate America getting those paychecks.
A lot benefits of that; a lot of challenges as well, not everybody is meant to be a freelancer. What’s going to happen in the next five years, by 2020, 40 percent of our workforce is going to be freelancers. In five years, Nicki. That’s going to absolutely upend organizations on all types of things.
Some of the opportunities and challenges are, what do we do with legal? What kind of contracts do we give these people if they’re going to be working for us? What kind of obligations do they have? If they’re not technically our employees, would do we do with social media? Can they post? Can’t they post? What about finances, is it better to have them full-time employees? Is it better not to have them full-time employees? Let’s look at this workspace, what kind of workspace do we need to say, come in one day a week? What are we doing? Let’s look at technology, how are we going to work with them in terms of making sure that we are able to access what they have in a way that’s easy to share files?
Probably one of the most important ones, at least in the world that I’m in in terms of organizational culture is, what does it mean for our organizational culture? If 40 percent of our workforce is not a full-time employee, how do we create an organizational culture that works for those who are full-time employees as well as those who are not full-time employees?
Nicki: It’s certainly a lot to think about for business leaders. Is there any advice that you can give to business leaders as they’re preparing for those changes?
Anne: There are lots of different things. I do want to add on to what you say, this is a lot to take on. When I start to talk about these four trends, people kind of look at me like a deer in the headlights, like, “Where to I begin?” I say exactly the same thing – you should just pick one trend and focus on that one trend. Let’s dive into that one trend and figure out how it’s going to impact your organization.
If we’re sticking with the freelancers, there are lots of things that we need to think about based on everything that I’ve just said about legal, financial, etc. First of all you need to figure out, is your culture really a freelance type of culture? There are some cultures where really freelancers just may not work for you.
If it is an organization that can benefit from freelancers, what are the actual nuts and bolts? Sarah Horowitz, “The Freelancer’s Bible,” there’s Crowdsource and other resources that can help you figure out, how do we manage them? What are the dos and don’ts? What are the protocols? How do we bring them in with our full-time employees? How do we manage our expectations?
There are resources out there that employees who are not familiar with it can start to look at and really start to think, where do I begin with this? If you already have a lot of freelancers and this is not news to you and you know you’re going to be growing even more, then I would really encourage you to look more at the nuts and bolts in terms of the legal aspects, what types of contracts you have to put in place. Again, the Freelancer’s Union and other resources can help you with that.
Nicki: Interesting. You bring up a good point, you really have to start with the basics of figuring out, how are you going to integrate these individuals into your organization as the workforce moves toward this trend? Which brings up another question about culture. In your Huffington Post column you talk about a purpose-driven organization. Can you first describe what that means, and then tell us how would you weave that into the culture when a workforce is distributed across the globe, or when you have freelancers on board who are not necessarily within your four walls?
Anne: The answer to that question, again, I just need to back up a little bit and explain what organizational culture is. People get a little like, “What does this mean?” It’s a soft, fuzzy aspect.
What organizational culture is, if you actually look at it and break it down, it’s three things, Nicki. It is the values, what are the organizational values? Usually stated on paper, hopefully more than that, but at least the organization has these values they believe. Then it is the mindset. How do employees, whether they’re full-time, part-time, freelancers actually think and align with these values?
Finally, the last part is the behavior. How does this actually show up in the
organization in daily operations? For example, if your value is integrity, is it okay for employee – again, whether they’re freelancers or not freelancers – to speak up in meetings? Is it okay for them to perhaps disagree? That’s all part of culture. That’s making sure that the behavior mirrors the actual values. That’s what we mean we talk about culture.
When you get back to organizational culture and you talk about something called purpose-driven culture, which again people are like, “What the heck does that mean?” A purpose-driven culture really talks about organizations that are focused more on what they are actually doing in terms of their purpose than on what they’re actually producing.
Imperative, which is an organization in New York City, and Aaron Hurst is in charge of it, defines it as really three aspects of it. One is creating a positive impact. Second is connecting with other people by building meaningful relationships. Third is achieving continued personal growth.
The whole premise of that, if you have a purpose-driven organization where people are driven by the purpose, and not necessarily driven by their team or by whatever it is that they’re creating, that they will be more engaged and they will be more in tune with the culture. Easier said than done, however it is possible. There are certain things that leaders can do within their organization to make it more of a purpose-driven organization.
To get to all of that, then you start thinking about, “Okay, let’s say I have a culture that welcomes freelancers as well as full-timers,” but as you said, they’re dispersed across the globe. They are all over the place. How do I bring them together? Whether it is the purpose or whether it is the vision — that is the best way to bring them together.
There’s a model out there that is called the vision alignment execution. What is this vision, how do we align everybody to the vision, and then how do we actually execute? The more clear that the leaders are in terms of what their vision is, i.e. what the purpose is, the easier it is to get everybody on board, whether they are full-timers, freelancers or part-timers.
Nicki: That’s great and very, very helpful for our listeners, I’m sure. If our listeners would like to contact you or read more about the topics discussed here today, how would you recommend that they contact you?
Anne: My last name is spelled a little unusually, so I’m going to spell it out real quick, and then after that they can find me easily online. My last name is L-O-E-H-R. It’s Anne with an E, and then L-O-E-H-R. They’re welcome to contact me on Twitter, my handle is @AnneLoehr. They can also go to my website, AnneLoehr.com. They can email me, email@example.com, any of those ways. I love hearing from people, I love getting ideas. Oftentimes, when people contact me — that’s the next blog idea that I have, I write a blog on a regular basis. Please, anybody who has any questions about freelancers, the four trends, organizational culture, purpose, would love to hear from you and get your ideas.
Nicki: Thank you so much Anne. To our listeners, we will post links, the links that Anne mentioned just now on our blog. That’s Crowdsource.com/blog. Thanks for listening.