The Top Five Trends To Watch In The Future Of Work

Susan S Freeman Future of Work

Preparing For The Future Of Work: Author Susan S Freeman On The Top Five Trends To Watch In The Future Of Work

An Interview With Phil La Duke

Focus on the needed skills and leverage existing education and training to close those caps quickly and effectively. We should look to existing models both here and abroad where this has been done, and see how we might apply some of these successes.

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 that estimated 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 Susan S. Freeman.

Susan S. Freeman, MBA, PCC, NCC is an accredited Executive and Team Coach, leadership development consultant, speaker and author of “Step Up Now: 21 Powerful Principles for People Who Influence Others”. Her passion is working with senior entrepreneurial leaders and teams by helping them lay the critical foundations required for scale.

She writes on humanistic leadership based on her unique system blending Western strategy and Eastern wisdom to activate the Guru Leader Within™. Visit her at and

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?

I am a midwestern girl at heart, born and raised in the Kansas City area. When I went to college near Boston, I often heard “where’s Toto?” I attended an all-girls high school and Wellesley College, one of the last all-women’s colleges in the U.S. I went on to get an M.B.A. from Columbia University in New York, and worked on Madison Avenue and in London in strategic marketing and advertising with some of the world’s largest packaged goods firms. That was my last stint in corporate America as I soon moved into non-profit management and entrepreneurship when we relocated to Tampa, FL. There I founded a non-profit, helped build a boutique retained executive search firm and most recently, my own coaching and leadership consulting business.

The life experiences that shaped me most growing up were being an only child for seven years and then an oldest where I spent a lot of time around caring adults; close relationships with grandparents who lived nearby and who were important influences in my life; immersing myself in studying piano and music throughout my youth; meeting my current husband of many years while in an art history class, and of course my three children.

More recently, it would be discovering professional coaching and diving deeply into learning; studying yoga and yogic philosophy and writing two books on leadership.

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?

I find it difficult to imagine the major disruptions awaiting employers in the next 10–15 years as we could not ever have imagined covid-19. In the next few years, employers will be re-calibrating from the damage done to workplaces during the pandemic. Rather than a loss, I see this as an opportunity to create humanistic, people-centered workplaces that focus on connection rather than separation, profit that is not gained at the expense of purpose, and physical and mental well-being for all. When we attend to the human dimensions, work not only gets done, it gets done well.

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 response is that this is an individual decision. There is no “right” way to create a life. I was taught, as were so many in my generation, that education, especially higher education was the key to our future success and happiness. That no longer holds true. I would invite young adults to consider what is it that they are drawn to? Where do they feel energized? If what they feel drawn to doesn’t require a college degree, then perhaps get more experience in the world through a gap year, internships, apprenticeships and other ways to “test the waters” before committing four years to an undergraduate degree. There are many paths to a joyful life. What matters most is that the one you choose is a fit for who you are.

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?

Right now, we are in an employee market. Employers are finding themselves in a war for talent. The very structure and nature of work has been upended. Job seekers are looking for places to work where there is care and concern for the employees’ well-being, and also a bigger care for our society and for the planet. I think seekers need to be curious as to how to bring about the changes they wish to see in employment by asking thought-provoking questions in their interviews, and by reading and thinking deeply about where to focus their time and talent.

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?

The statistics are indeed daunting. Within the next decade there will be a massive shift to automation and AI, causing many to lose their current jobs. However, there will also be many more jobs in different fields, including clean energy, healthcare, research and more. The trick is matching the needed work with worker skills. Many people will need to be open to re-training and learning, and we need to have the programs and processes in place to create robust train-to-work momentum.

Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?

As a work-from-homer since 2009, I do believe and hope the trend will continue. Many people did appreciate the flexibility that work from home allows them. However, to make it successful requires robust systems on the part of the employer as well as strong employee self-management. As we continue to navigate through the pandemic, I see that employers want employees back in office at least part-time, so I think a hybrid model will be popular. I do not think we’re ever going back to a strict “five days/week on-site in office for everyone” policy, in part because employees won’t agree.

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

For there to be fundamental changes to work, society will need to come to grips with the needs of working families, including quality, affordable childcare, parental leave, and real attention paid to the importance of physical and mental well-being. A sick society is expensive, not just in the amount of money spent on healthcare, but also in lost human potential. We can do better.

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 think employers will find it most difficult to accept that employees don’t want to be required to sit at desks for 8–9 hours/day, five days a week. We were told that work from home would never work, and yet within one week in March, 2020, much of the world was doing it, and quite effectively. Technology has changed the equation permanently.

I think employees will find it most difficult to accept that institutional change isn’t often fast enough to keep up with the real-time needs they have. It takes time to turn large organizations around and to modify their assumptions, systems, and even cultures to the new reality.

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?

Yes, I do believe that the pandemic shone a spotlight on the lack of a social safety net in the American workforce. We need to address it if we wish to thrive in the 21st century as a society. The happiest countries tend to be those that have strong social safety nets. My hope is that there are parts of that we can all agree make for a stronger, more prosperous society for everyone.

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

My greatest source of optimism about the future of work is that we are living in a time in which so much is being disrupted so quickly, we have no choice but to ask big questions and change the quality of our thinking around the status quo. Humanity has demonstrated tremendous resilience in times of war, famine, and pestilence. We can do this if we are committed to working together towards a common vision. It’s agreeing to what we want that will be tricky.

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?

Focus on the needed skills and leverage existing education and training to close those caps quickly and effectively. We should look to existing models both here and abroad where this has been done, and see how we might apply some of these successes.

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.)

Top 5 Trends to Watch in the Future of Work:

  1. Employers who create humanistic workplaces will win the war for talent
  2. Remote work is here to stay
  3. Employers who invest in quality people-centric development will thrive
  4. Employees and employers will foster cultures of life-long learning
  5. Artificial intelligence will change the nature of work and the number of workers needed

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


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