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The Future of Work in OKC

Recent disruptions in workflow, thanks to the pandemic, and the shifting expectations of new employees entering the workforce will cause the future of Oklahoma’s work to look mightily different than it did just a few years ago. Oklahoma business leaders, from several diverse industries, discuss* the need to stay flexible, listen to employees and provide for the different needs of the changing workforce of the future.

Panel Speakers

Maurianna Adams, Chief Community Investment Officer, MetaFund

Lee Copeland, Director of Talent and Business Growth, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber

Jim King, Owner, Standard Roofing

Andrew Payne, Owner, Standard Roofing

Quintin Hughes, Program Director, Northeast OKC Renaissance

Vince Lombardo, President, Heartland

Cara Greenhaw, SVP Human Resources, Heartland

When you think about workforce development and talent management, what are the top challenges you think about?

HUGHES: When I think about workforce development and talent, one of the biggest challenges I see within our company are areas like the inability to retain the talent that has come from within the community. I don’t know that we’ve done the greatest job to paint the picture of the future as a place for them in this city. And so instead they see Dallas or Atlanta or other glamorous cities with communities that have a place for them rather than bringing opportunities to build here.

COPELAND: The nature of work continues to evolve so quickly that the roles of the future will be ones that we don’t know anybody who’s done it yet. And so we have to begin to build bridges now that create a nimble workforce across multiple industry verticals.
What are the costs today for not having enough of the right people?

LOMBARDO: What I have found to be the bigger challenge is meeting those right people’s expectations where they are as this workforce continues to change the way it is. There’s a reality about the changing workforce that’s going on in the U.S. today as more Boomers continue to retire and more Xers and Yers continue to come in. They have a different set of expectations. They have a different idea of what work is supposed to be. They have a different set of desires and entitlements and requests, and all those sorts of things that just require you to be able to meet all of those different employee needs across all those spectrums, and then you add in this whole “Do I have to come to the office?” conversation.

ADAMS: Those individuals who are 25 to 45 years old are looking for three things: They’re looking for meaningful work. They’re looking for fair compensation, and they’re looking for flexibility. There may be some other options, but they’re looking for those three things. We do have this exodus of workers who are more traditional and who need to be recognized by employers. I was looking at some data, and it looks like investment, training and professional development has shrunk tremendously over the last five years. While we are talking about artificial intelligence or disruptive technology, you need to be investing in your talent pool to make sure that not only that they’re capable but that your company can exist 10 to 20 years from now. And while we’re talking about AI, 40% of the tasks that we as humans do will be automated by 2030. That’s in seven years. Now, there are definitely jobs, but 40% of the activities and tasks that we do will be given to robots and AI tech. This will complement what we do, but it’s projected that 15% of our jobs globally will be replaced by technology. So we need to invest in them to make sure that we stay competitive and that we have the capability to exist in a market alongside technology.

When you think about the workforce of the future, what do you see? Take us down the road 10 years — what’s different?

GREENHAW: I think in 10 years, you’re going to look at someone in a job, and when you look back at their resume, you’re not going to see this natural progression that we’ve always seen. You’re going to see people who have worked in multiple industries in multiple kinds of companies and multiple roles. You’re going to have to look for those transferable skills. I can’t read a resume and just look for keywords. You have to really look for the things that you can translate to these other jobs.

COPELAND: I think one of the most significant advances that we’ll have is also thinking about leadership and the compressed acceleration that we saw in terms of workforce during COVID. One of the fastest emerging themes I saw is the companies that were quickest to understand that employees are people with needs and they are as significant a focus as the customers and their bottom line. The more that you train your managers and leaders in the future to understand how to influence people, how to train and how to motivate behavior, that’s where the workforce is going.

What are you doing to get more than your fair share of the talent? How are you winning the talent game?

KING: I think we realized early on that we did not want to get into a transactional relationship with our employees. We had a constant bidding war where people were coming up and offering them 50 cents more an hour, and we were losing. And so we made the hard shift in culture, and we said culture begins day one at our company. What does that mean? That means when you arrive, there’s a gift basket waiting for you. That means that your email is already set up. You already have emails from all key employees in the company welcoming you before you arrive that day. We have an on-boarding program that begins, and you’re ready to go. There is no walk-around and wondering, “Who am I supposed to report to?”

How does purpose fit into the talent equation?

GREENHAW: We’ve always cared about purpose. But now it’s a demand, and we know that we can’t recruit people by telling them, “You’re coming here to create value for institutional shareholders.” That doesn’t translate. People don’t get out of bed for that. So, when we reframe and when we empower people with a purpose that we’re entrepreneurs spurring entrepreneurs, maybe they’re not someone who’s in a position to start a new business, but it’s something that they want to support. Then when people come to work with us, they know that they’re there helping this person who is starting their mom-and-pop business, and they are getting it off the ground and partnering with them from day one. And that does give them a purpose because they’re helping build the American Dream. And when you give people the purpose, that is leadership, no matter what position that they’re in.

What have you learned about building a strong culture?

COPELAND: I would say the quick and easy way to think about it is this: Your culture is the predictable patterns of behaviors. It’s what the person who pulls you aside and says, “Let me tell you how it actually works around here.” That’s the culture, right? So, it’s being able to intentionally shift that conversation that happens and understanding what are the predictable patterns of behavior around authority and decision-making communication, conflict resolution — all those kinds of things. When you’re shifting the conversation about the predictable patterns of behavior, you’re actually addressing culture. So, if you’re not thinking about those things, begin to shift your focus.

HUGHES: I think it just kind of speaks to this generational shift and constant questioning of why it has to be this way. And that’s where the leverage is now. The leverage was with the corporations. They could just say, “Sit here. Do this.” This generation is like, “No, I’ve got options.” The leaders of corporations and organizations really have to keep up with that and really understand we obviously know the values and the people, and as we get more and more opinionated workers, we really have to adapt.

COPELAND: I think the folks who have navigated the post-COVID process the easiest are the ones who trusted their employees and those who were willing to redefine how they measure what is productivity and then really listened to and understood that their employees were of high value. The ones who did have figured it out in a way that works for them. I don’t think there’s going to be a one-size-fits-all. What I’ve seen is that some of the adjustments have settled back into how the companies answer those questions. Do they trust their employees? How do they measure value, work and productivity? And are they listening?

*Questions and answers edited for length and clarity from a recent 405 Business panel discussion, The Future of Work, featuring Vince Lombardo, Heartland president; Cara Greenhaw, Heartland senior vice president; Andrew Payne, Standard Roofing owner; Jim King, Standard Roofing owner; Maurianna Adams, MetaFund chief community investment officer; Lee Copeland, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce director of talent and business growth; and Quintin Hughes, Northeast OKC Renaissance program director.

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