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Fixing what’s broken

Our guest this week is on a mission to convince organizations everywhere to take the double disruption of COVID plus inflation as an opportunity to change for the better. Debbie Lovich is a Managing Director and Senior Partner at Boston Consulting Group. She brings her sharp wit and analytical mind to this conversation about the need for leaders to model flexibility, how our reasons for being in the office today have increased demand for shared space, and what the future of work looks like for the 70 percent of the global workforce in manufacturing, retail, and other industries where employees can’t work from home. You’ll find Debbie’s article on that topic here, and you can find MillerKnoll’s POV on the future of work here.


Speaker 1 (00:05):

This is Looking Forward, Conversations About the Future of Work, brought to you by MillerKnoll.

Ryan (00:18):

Hey listeners, today, we’re talking with Debbie Lovich, Managing Director and Senior Partner at Boston Consulting Group. Debbie’s recognized as one of the world’s foremost voices on the future of work. In this short talk, we zoom out to take a look at the transformations that are really underway, and why even in a down economy, pursuing changes in how organizations work is more important now than ever.

Ryan (00:41):

Enjoy this conversation with Debbie Lovich.

Ryan (00:45):

Hey, Debbie, welcome to the podcast.

Debbie Lovich (00:47):

Hi Ryan. Thanks for having me.

Ryan (00:49):

We’re thrilled to have you. It’s been a privilege getting to work together in similar circles and get to know you a little bit, but why don’t we start with the basics? Maybe you can share a little bit about you and what you do, with our listeners.

Debbie Lovich (01:00):

Yeah, absolutely. I’m a managing director and senior partner at Boston Consulting Group. I’ve been there 28 years, and I’ve spent the last 10 years focused on people and organization and leadership and culture and ways of working. Since COVID hit, like many people, I became fascinated with this once in a lifetime opportunity to fix a lot. Not everything, I was about to say everything, but a lot of what’s broken about work. There’s a lot that’s broken, so I have been focused pretty much on that for the past two years and now lead that and our thinking on that globally for Boston Consulting Group.

Ryan (01:45):

Knowing that this was an area of passion for you before the pandemic, when all of these things started to change, did you see it? Was there an element of positivity and excitement like, “Oh, this might be a chance to address some of these things,” or did it feel like a setback in some ways?

Debbie Lovich (01:59):

No, it was weird. I’m married to a anesthesiologist who was in the hospital while this real human tragedy is going on. My husband has asthma, and so I was super worried about him and he didn’t have enough protective equipment, and school’s being canceled for my kids. On the one hand… And just the level of death, you can’t get your head around it. One hand there’s all this human tragedy and fear, real fear going on. On the other hand, I’m like, “Wow, this is an opportunity to redefine what work is and to make it better.” I had this strange terror and passion at the same time. Not that it’s a silver lining to rethink work, but it was this almost like, “We’ve got to grab this opportunity. We can’t miss it. We can’t become so absorbed in the tragedy that we don’t grab this opportunity to make work better, and make something positive come out of it all.”

Ryan (03:03):

I think it’s become evident that organizations are thinking about future of work in ways that they probably have never thought about in the past. Some might be more reactionary, some might be more prescriptive, but what kind of questions in the course of your day to day work are organizations bringing to you?

Debbie Lovich (03:22):

Oh my goodness. There’s so much. I mean, the other thing that’s happened is, the world has been thinking about fixing what’s broken with work for decades now. Flexible work, part-time work, agile ways of working, but it’s been massively slow, iceberg melting kind of slow, which even with global warming has speeded up, but it’s been really slow. It’s also been relegated to the world of HR to think about. What happens is, especially around flexible work, it’s become a women’s issue, or have everyone work differently for a small part of the population and they get completely disenfranchised. What happened with COVID is it made it a CEO, everybody issue. Because every leadership team had to think about, “What are we going to do when this is over? Are we going to go back? Are we not going to go back?” They had to make real estate decisions.

Debbie Lovich (04:22):

I literally had breakfast this morning with the COO of a global banking organization that’s based in Asia Pacific and he’s visiting Boston to visit his kids. He had seen my TED talk on this topic and read some of the things, and so we had breakfast this morning. He even said to me this morning, a couple hours ago, “I never thought about these things, and now I’m consumed with it. This is one of our biggest issues. Do we bring people back or not? How do we bring them back? Do we allow people to work from different countries? What are the tax issues?” It’s fascinating. Fascinating what COVID did to elevate this important agenda.

Ryan (05:00):

Yeah. Given the instability and rapidly changing nature of the world, are you finding that those who have a mind for strategy for business continuity planning are thinking beyond supply chains and traditional factors, and actually thinking about future of work as a way of being more adaptable, more agile, or more resilient as a business in the future?

Debbie Lovich (05:22):

I don’t know. It’s a great question, Ryan. I don’t know if people are thinking of it as a way to be more productive yet. I think what’s really getting… I think two things are driving the CEO level focus. One is we have to make some decisions, and they’re actually big decisions about location and people and strategy. The second, I think the more primary factor, is there’s a talent shortage. I mean, even with a impending recession, there’s a huge talent shortage. Even if the recession hits, don’t you want to keep the best talent? People are losing talent, they’re losing it on what I call the desk-space population and the desk-less population. The desk based populations are office workers, what other people call white collar or knowledge. I hate that term, white collar, blue collar knowledge. What are people who are not knowledge workers, dumb workers? Unknowledgeable?

Debbie Lovich (06:23):

I use, for lack of a better word, desk-space, so anywhere between 20 to 30% of the global workforce that can take a laptop home and do their work remotely, and desk-less, be anywhere from 70 to 80% of the global workforce population that actually has to physically be with equipment or in premise, like retail, factory, laboratory, hospital, distribution. I mean, it goes on and on. Both those populations are having… Workplaces are having a hard time retaining and recruiting. There are shortages, real shortages.

Debbie Lovich (07:02):

I mean, you feel it if you take a trip anywhere. I was in a hotel where they’re like, “we’re sorry, there’s no room service because we don’t have the staff.” Flights being canceled. Everyone is feeling that. I think that’s the motivator now more so than, “Oh, we could reinvent our business strategy.” It’s more, “We have to reinvent our work to keep and attract workers.” I wish they were coming at it from a “Gosh, this is better for how we serve our customers and value delivery,” but I’ll take what I can get, whatever triggers people to rethink it.

Ryan (07:34):

Yeah, that makes sense.

Ryan (07:36):

Hey friends, we’ll get back to our episode in just a moment, but first I want to take this opportunity to let you know that Looking Forward is part of Surround, a podcast network curated by SANDOW Design Group. Surround brings together some of the best architecture and design driven audio content available. If you like what you hear from us, visit SurroundPodcasts.com and check out some of the other great shows on the network. Well, as part of your ongoing research involvement, you’ve been a key builder in Future Forum, which is an organization that MillerKnoll’s privileged to be involved with as well. Tell us a little bit about that, and your involvement.

Debbie Lovich (08:15):

Yeah. It’s interesting, I’ve never been much of a writer. I, in fact, went into consulting because we communicate with bullet points instead of prose. That was one reason. Everyone has, even my SAT scores, much higher math than verbal. Something moved me at the beginning of COVID to write about the experience. We had a leadership team meeting where we were all supposed to be together in Madrid. No, sorry, Milan. Hotspot, Milan. It was the second week of March. Two days before we were supposed to all fly into Milan to be together, we canceled it and did the whole thing on Zoom, and it was a miserable experience. I just wrote about it, maybe cathartically, and put it on LinkedIn and it got…

PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:09:04]

Debbie Lovich (09:03):

Cathartically and put it on LinkedIn, and it got 4,000 likes. Now I know why kids like Instagram and Snapchat and all those things. It was heady. I was like, woo people, what I have to say. So I just started writing, but very just stream of consciousness, writing about it. As I said, got sort of really obsessed with this is an opportunity to change the world and make these interactions better, and more fulfilling, and more productive and more humane.

Debbie Lovich (09:28):

So I started writing in LinkedIn and then I graduated to a Forbes post. I put out every two weeks on it and doing research about it. So I started doing research VCG, fielding research. We put out a paper, I think early on the first summer in 2020 saying you know what 12,000 employees have to say about the future of work. We were approached by Brian Elliot, who’s head of Future Forum, actually a Boston consulting group alum. So he came through someone he worked with approached me and said, “Should we collaborate?” It turns out they were doing the same exact research. We were future work soulmates really.

Debbie Lovich (10:10):

The way Brian and Helen, and the team are thinking about it and Sheila, it was just so aligned with how my team and I were thinking about it. So we decided to join forces and we do the research together every quarter. We put it out as part of Future Forum and it’s been fabulous. We’ve also convened working groups that we started to meet monthly to just talk through real time, what are you doing? What are you doing? What issues are you facing? We’ve been doing those monthly working groups for a year and a half now.

Debbie Lovich (10:43):

It started with 24 C-suite executives for six months, then expanded to, I think something like 80 across four or five different groups. Now we’re up to 130 across six groups. We’re all figuring this out real time. There’s so many issues to get help from other people on and compare notes on. So that’s what Future Forum has really evolved into both this working group to problem solve and share learnings together and this research that we put out together, which is fabulous.

Ryan (11:17):

Well, we’re thankful that you and Brian and the team expanded the circle. So that Miller Knoll and Management Leadership For Tomorrow could come on as founding partners as well. I personally have found the entire experience incredibly enriching. Given the breadth of topics that are being discussed about both desk workers and deskless workers, which I like that vernacular by the way, because I also struggle with the term knowledge worker and office worker doesn’t feel [inaudible 00:11:43]. It holds quite the same accuracy as it once did. How would you characterize the major issues in terms of things that need to be overcome by organizations in order to work better in the future than they do today?

Debbie Lovich (11:54):

Well, gosh, there’s so much. I think for desk based workers, there is a lot around flexibility and it’s a misnomer this days in office question. To have a senior leader dictate how many days a week you should be in the office is only a marginal improvement over having to be in the office all the time. I know everyone’s perseverating on it, but that’s not the issue. It’s the symptom of the issue.

Debbie Lovich (12:24):

The issue is trust, accountability, flexibility agency. So allowing teams to figure out what is the best way for us to collectively deliver and have leadership hold us accountable for impact? Not just output because output you could have quantity and not quality, right? But for impact. So if you interview or you survey desk based employees, what they say they want is number one, compensation. Number two, flexibility. Number three, connection to colleagues and to senior people. That’s what we need to try and solve for.

Debbie Lovich (13:06):

On the compensation one, by the way, I think COVID has changed how the world thinks. It’s moved the world from we live to work to we work to live. It reminded us what our priorities are in family and community and work. We want to be fulfilled and have an impact in the world, but it’s not all of us. So that’s the desk based population. Interestingly, we just literally at midnight last night today launched a press release and launched a piece of research online around the deskless worker because there are way too few people focusing on that. When I ask myself why is it this deskless workers, people in factories, retail stores, distribution centers, hospitals, laboratories, you name it. They’re 70 to 80% of the global workforce. So why is it that the media and leadership is really focusing on these days per week for desk based workers? I think it’s because we’re all desk based workers. Media people can work from home and leadership can work from home. Management can work from home. So it’s just not in our mental scope, but really so this research tells us, so we launched a piece of research literally last night. I mean, we shared the findings last night and it’s out there and it’s fascinating.

Debbie Lovich (14:26):

It shows that 37% of deskless workers are at risk for leaving their company. You could break that 37% down into 12% are actually looking for a new job, 12% aren’t sure if they’re staying or going and 13% say they’re staying, but they’re not committing past six months. So 37% are at risk of leaving and if you ask them why number one is career opportunities. How do I move from this entry level job into a better life for myself and my family? Second is compensation related to that. Then you get into flexibility. More people care about flex in time than flex in place.

Debbie Lovich (15:09):

So you may think, well, this doesn’t pertain to the deskless worker, but wait a minute, wait a minute. Why are shifts the way they are? Some retail companies are experimenting with shift marketplaces because if you have something for your kid, or someone’s sick and you want to take care, of them or you have a refrigerator repair man coming, your manager won’t give you time off. Well, you’re going to call in sick and take it anyhow. So why not create a shift marketplace where people could trade their shifts? Why are shifts the way they are?

Debbie Lovich (15:40):

So there’s a lot of flexibility, or even examples of retailers who are letting their sales people work from home. Because part of what they do is email their best clients with hey, some new items came in or the administrative part of being a sales manager, you could do that from home. So rethinking flexibility is also key for deskless population. It just looks different.

Debbie Lovich (16:08):

Then it’s issues of appreciation. I enjoy my work and it’s about making work better. So similar themes as the desk based population, they just manifest themselves in different ways.

Ryan (16:20):

That’s fascinating and it’s very useful information. I get asked about this all the time, by the way. Even though I might be spending time with organizations thinking about their corporate real estate footprint, as we talk about user flexibility, it often comes up that well, flexibility isn’t just something that people who traditionally worked in offices need. It does seem like time, and this notion of a fixed schedule and this expectation that people are productive in very specific time seems to be the red thread that goes through all of it.

Ryan (16:48):

But I just want to go back for a second to the movement for leaders to mandate a specific amount of time or in some cases, very specific days for desk workers in the office. It has felt to us as we observe organizations counterproductive to the more prescriptive it is, it seems the more resistance comes around. What are you seeing there? Is there a better approach?

Debbie Lovich (17:10):

Oh my God yes. Thank you for asking. Well, I think it’s become like religion or politics at this point. You have very famously the investment banks and Elon Musk now. If you want to pretend to work for another… Do it for another organization, not here at Tesla, you have to be on site 40 hours a week. I wonder where he is. Hopefully he’s not listening or maybe hopefully he is, but there’s this religion like I need people here. That’s the way it needs to be. Connections are made in hallways. Well bologna, what hallways is everyone walking in? Executive suite hallway?

Debbie Lovich (17:49):

To the complete, we could be completely remote. Do what you want. I honestly believe the answer’s in the middle and it depends on the type of work. I use this analogy. I said earlier, I write for Forbes. I have a piece that I’m writing right now that…

PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:18:04]

Debbie Lovich (18:03):

I said earlier, I write for Forbes. I have a piece that I’m writing right now, that compares work, figuring out what method of work for what interaction. I compare to the sorting hat. Harry Potter had the sorting hat and it says, “Okay, I look inside your mind and you’re Gryffindor, and you’re Hufflepuff, and you’re Slytherin.” And it’s the same thing. You should think about, okay, this is what we need to accomplish. Therefore, this is the interaction we need. And that will determine where, when, how, why? Does it have to be synchronous? Could it be asynchronous like a shared document? Can we do it actually easier by Zoom? Because we could do live polls and people could get a voice in, and it democratizes the head of the table phenomenon. Or you know what? This is social, and connection, and we have to be together in the room.

Debbie Lovich (18:51):

And so we have to build a muscle to sort our work with intentionality. I know it’s an overused word, but it’s the right word. And so back to executives, they’re on the prescribed days versus not prescribed days. And I’m on the, well, can we be as thoughtful about the work as we are about, I don’t know, product launches or operational questions, or customer questions. How should the work be done? Let’s be intentional about it. And so I try and move people to the middle, to this, it’s not about a prescription, it’s about solving for the best way to get something done. And because workplaces are so complex, like command and control leadership has been dead for a long time because the world is changing too fast. It worked in the industrial revolution when we need to manufacture widgets, but it doesn’t work now when the speed and complexity, there’s no one sitting at the top that knows the answer. The answer’s actually at the front line.

Debbie Lovich (19:51):

And so what I encourage people to do is set some guardrails. Some guardrails, like determine the models by team, not individual. So you’re together or apart. When you set the model, worry about cyber security and tax implications, worry about DE&I and maintaining a level playing field. By the way, you’ve seen the data, Ryan, about Black and Hispanic talent in the desk based worker world has gone up 24 and 35% over COVID. Their sense of belonging has gone up by 25, 30%. So you need to think about that. So you could set some guardrails, but then empower your leaders below. And the hard is what’s the right level to say, okay, given our work, given our team, given our individual lives, what are the right ways for us to work? And then let’s experiment and try it, and then collect the data and say, did it work, did it not work?

Debbie Lovich (20:50):

Nobody has the answer. So how do we go into this with humility to say, we’ve got learn our way to a better future together. And let’s try some things or better yet, let me let you try some things. And I’m just going to set some guardrails, and I’m going to ask you collect data, and you learn, and you share your learnings.

Ryan (21:12):

Yeah. What you’re describing is almost like there’s a cascading effect of how the organization really learns to be productive and take charge of its own productivity throughout the organization. And the less centralized it is, the more that organizations can work in new ways.

Ryan (21:27):

And interestingly, by the way, we’ve been sharing for a while, anecdotally, that many organizations that embrace a remote first approach and tell their employees they can work when and where they want, with some limitations, often have thriving physical workplaces because very few people actually want to be entirely remote. But one of the critical factors may be that each employee, or certainly each team, has thought differently about, oh, this is how we can go do our work, which is an important thing.

Ryan (21:58):

I have sensed, at times, for organizations that haven’t achieved that, a real tension around what may be perceived as hypocrisy among the leaders that want the organization to work in one way, but maybe it’s unrealistic or maybe they don’t model it. Have you seen this?

Debbie Lovich (22:14):

For sure. I’ve seen it. Yeah, it definitely exists. And the data supports it and we’ve got great Future Forum data that shows that. And we also have Future Forum data, and there’s new stuff coming out in a week or so, that shows that people are being forced to work in office five days a week are so unhappy compared to those who have flexibility. But I wonder what’s driving the hypocrisy. Is it do what I say, not what I do? Or is it a well, we’ve earned the right to be flexible. We’ve proven ourselves. At my level, I can afford to be more flexible than you. Or maybe there’s a third thing, which is they’re taking advantage of flexibility, but they’re hoping people don’t notice. And of course everyone notices, but regardless of what it is, you’ve got to align it.

Debbie Lovich (23:09):

I’ve also seen the reverse, by the way, which is even more dangerous, where leaders are telling people they could be flexible, but they themselves are coming in five days a week because that’s how they grew up. They make jokes, “Oh, the misses doesn’t want me at home. She says I’m getting in her way.” Okay. That is wrong. First of all, most people below you don’t have stay at home spouses or misses. And so if senior leaders are in because of choice, their preference, what happens? Well, everyone’s like, well, if they’re in, I better be in. And I’ve even heard senior executives say, “Well, our CEO is in, so I better be in.” I’m like, you’re a senior executive, who cares what your… But they feel the pressure too. So I think leaders need to think if you’re giving your people flexibility, you need to role model extreme flexibility.

Debbie Lovich (24:05):

I talk about, what is it? This Australian technology company, like Telasis or something, that early on in COVID, they did something really symbolic on their website. They took the pictures, meet our executive team, which were all people in suits and offices. And they changed them to pictures of those executives working from home in casual clothes, or as casual as a senior executive can get. And symbolically, I think that was so important to say, hey, it’s okay for us, so it’s okay for you too.

Ryan (24:39):

That’s fascinating. You touched on a few things there that really caught my attention. But one that I just want to go back to is one that I hadn’t previously thought about, which is the notion that, for some people, flexibility may be viewed as an earned privilege, not just earning in the sense that you’re responsible enough to be flexible, but literally as you graduate in your career and rise up the ranks, flexibility may come as a perk or a privilege. That’s a provocative thought. But one of the things that reminds me of is one of the brands within MillerKnoll, Herman Miller, released a desk all the way back in the forties for home or the office. So like the OG hybrid working, but it was called executive office group because realistically, the only people who had that privilege were the executives.

Debbie Lovich (25:23):

Yeah. Yeah. And I make that point in my TED Talk, which is, instead of putting rules in place because you’re worried people haven’t earned it, they might abuse it, use performance management. Evaluate people based on whether they deliver impact or not, and trust them to deliver. And if they turn out not trustworthy, we’ll deal with that with performance management. So you should call your desk the everybody desk and then say, okay, but we’re going to take it back if you don’t deliver.

Ryan (25:51):

Well, I think that’s where we got to as well a long time ago, and have been waiting for that reality to catch up.

Ryan (25:59):

Speaking of which, do you think at all about the role of the physical work environment in the course of what you do? Clearly it occupies a lot of our thinking, but I’m just curious if in your work, you’ve thought a little bit about the role of either offices, or corporate offices or home offices, and how they need to support work differently.

Debbie Lovich (26:16):

Oh absolutely. Absolutely. I have a colleague, you may want to interview her in the future, Kristi Woolsey who full time-

Ryan (26:22):

I know Kristi.

Debbie Lovich (26:23):

Yeah. She thinks about this stuff full time, including the metaverse. I interviewed her for a piece on Forbes called, What is the Metaverse and Why Should You Care? Because I really didn’t really understand it, but now I understand it thanks to Kristi. But I think a lot about it because some of us, like here I am, you can’t say it on the podcast, but I’m working from my home office. So I’m fortunate enough in life to have a house big enough to have a home office. I’m on the phone with a lot of junior people who are in their bedroom. And so not everyone has a home they could work from or a home set up that they could work from. So one, you need to think about how to help people get home setup…

PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [00:27:04]

Debbie Lovich (27:03):

You need to think about how to help people get home setups, or access to coworking spaces locally, which, because extroverts, even if you have a great office, extroverts don’t like just being them and their dog. So, that’s one part of it, how do you get a good work setup. But also back to my sorting hat analogy, if the role of being in the office now is to collaborate and connect and form social bonds, then what an office is has to look very different. And so, for example, I’ve heard so many people say, well, I love going to the office to see people, but I can’t get any work done because I’m so social the whole time.

Debbie Lovich (27:46):

And back to, again, the sorting hat had an intentionality. You need to think about, okay, well, what should I put on the calendar for days I’m at home or remote workspace and what should I put on the calendar for days I’m in the office? I mean, even now, I’m either at a client or at home because my space in my office is just a little cubicle and to be on zoom there all day doesn’t make sense because I play this global role at BCG. So I’m talking to people all over the world all the time. So either I’m with them in person or I’m with them remotely.

Debbie Lovich (28:18):

But when there are affiliation events and mentoring events and training events that I choose to participate in or need to participate in, then for sure I go to the office, but I’m not going in my cubicle. I’m in more common space. And then the metaverse is like, as they say in Boston, wicked cool to think about. Wicked cool to think about what that means. And that like probably the office of the metaverse is a padded room. So you don’t like hit into things as you’re doing all your hand motions. You should think about that at MillerKnoll actually, the padded metaverse office.

Ryan (28:55):

So I don’t know that we’ve gotten into padded, but it is something we’ve been thinking about for a long time. And sorry to keep referencing some of our historical moments, but it was interesting back many years ago when second life came out, Herm Miller specifically not only began to create products but sell them. So if we think of the concept of an NFT, there were digital Eames lounge chairs being sold within second life years ago. So the metaverse is something that our team, our digital teams and others have been thinking about. And we might even dive into this within a podcast episode in the near future.

Ryan (29:35):

So your reference to it is a very good teaser. I know we’re coming up a little bit on time here, so let me go to one kind of closing question. Given all the people you’ve helped and all the topics you’ve talked about, if you had a friend who was CEO of a large organization, sincere desire to offer more flexibility to work in new ways, but maybe found the entire process to be somewhat overwhelming, how would you counsel that they start like? What’s the best place to begin this journey if they’re not already?

Debbie Lovich (30:12):

Gosh, there’s so much I want to tell a CEO of large organization. First of all, they should hire BCG to help them think through it. No. That was a half joke. But you’ve got to approach it like you would approach any big change. Like this is not a policy you put on paper and you send out to people. You need to rewire how work gets done. And so any large organizational transformation, any launch in a new market, any launch of a new product line, any new customer segment you’re all of a sudden moving into to serve, any new partnership, those all take real work.

Debbie Lovich (30:49):

Well, guess what? Rewiring the rhythms and routines of thousands of workers to transformatively elevate productivity, engagement, impact, results, satisfaction to become a talent magnet, which is the big motivator as I said, that takes some work and it also takes some alignment. You can’t start until you have alignment as a leadership team. Like this is important to us. What are we trying to achieve with this? For the people telling people back to come in the office, what are you trying to achieve? What’s the goal? Is the goal to maximize attrition?

Debbie Lovich (31:32):

No, I’m just kidding. Get your leadership team aligned on what you need to do and then approach it analytically, listen, get data from your team, survey them. Everyone’s like, oh, they’re overs surveyed. Trust me, people will answer any survey on the future of work with whatever frequency you want because they care. They really care about it. People are tired of surveying things that they never see action based on, maybe. So get data and then co-create that future with your people. You are too disconnected from the realities of a new tech hire to create a future of work that will attract them.

Debbie Lovich (32:10):

I just say a new tech hire because there’s such a shortage there. And so pick your best people at every level and enable them to create a future of work that will allow them to deliver because they want to deliver because that’s how they get rewarded and that’s how they feel satisfaction. That’s how they get rewarded in your performance management system, but also how they get personal sense of reward is impact with the team. So empower them to figure it out and experiment as you go. So you got to set it up well, you got to be data driven, you have to empower people, you have to experiment and learn as you go, and it’ll be awesome.

Ryan (32:47):

That’s fantastic. By the way, I lied you. I do have one very brief follow up question that I forgot to ask you and I’ve been asked it and I never quite know how to answer. It appears as though the economy, at least in North America is softening, so much of our future of work. Conversation’s been driven by the desire to keep and acquire great talent. Do you see all that we’ve talked about in this episode lessening, if we start to see a recession or prolonged stagflation or other economic concerns that maybe make talent a little more available?

Debbie Lovich (33:18):

It’s a great question. So I think no. Like theoretically no, practically yes. And what I mean by that is of course it shouldn’t lessen it because guess what you need to do to survive in a stagflation, you have to get more productive, you’ve got to digitize more, you got to automate more, which means the talent you need is more at risk. And so your best talent will be a shortage to drive your transformation agenda in a tougher economic environment than not. And yeah, if you want all the bad talent, go ahead and not address it. So, that’s the theoretical right answer, the academically right answer.

Debbie Lovich (33:58):

Practically, I think leaders will say, oh, well we no longer have thousands of open positions anymore and they’ll take their feet off the pedal. Well, they’ll fall behind in the long term. You take disruption as an opportunity to change for the better under the hood of the disruption. COVID was one motivator. We’re doing it now. I hope a recession and stagflation would be seen as even another reason to do it even more so you could have the best of the best, so you can be more productive and efficient and innovative in those times, which is what you need.

Ryan (34:34):

I’m so thankful for your insights. It is truly a privilege to be able to collaborate with you and the team. So thank you for sharing your insights with our listeners. I’m looking forward. We appreciate it.

Debbie Lovich (34:45):

No, thank you for having me. As you could tell, I’m on a little bit of a mission. So any platform to try and convince people to do this the right way is helpful. So thank you very much, Ryan. Great to talk to you.

PART 4 OF 4 ENDS [00:35:01]


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Ryan Anderson

Ryan Anderson is one of the contract furniture industry’s leading voices exploring how changes in technology, design, and management practices are reshaping work.

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