Milken 2021: Going Global: The Future of Work

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life—and work—as we know it. Employers across the globe quickly shifted their business models and workplace practices to account for the restrictions and challenges posed by the pandemic. While most have successfully transitioned to remote work, new challenges around a "return to office" are top of mind. What are the lessons learned? If a job can be done from anywhere, can the search for talent finally go global? And how has the past year transformed and shaped our perception of the future of work?

Video Transcript

ANDY SERWER: I'm here at the Milken Global Conference in Los Angeles, where the talk is all about moving forward, including this panel on the future of work.

I'm Andy Serwer, the moderator. This is our esteemed panel. We'll get to them in one second. This is about the future of work. And there's-- look like Byron's getting ready.

BYRON ALLEN: Yeah, yeah, I just hate when people--

ANDY SERWER: Pull his-- you can pull your sock--

BYRON ALLEN: --on these panels, when you look at their ankles, it's just not pretty.

ANDY SERWER: You know he's getting ready when he's pulling his socks up.

BYRON ALLEN: I'm just going to pull the socks up.

ANDY SERWER: It's like a serious--

HILARY SCHNEIDER: I actually think my ankles look good.

BYRON ALLEN: No, no, no, no, your ankles look good. That wasn't for you. It was just guys should not show their ankles.

ANDY SERWER: OK. This is going off the rails, just stop. OK. We're going to talk about work, the future work, and, obviously, a lot of stuff informed by COVID and what we've all been through for the past 19 months, you know, the new normal. What is normal? Are we going back to what we had before? What's the future look like? There's a lot of ways that we're all going to be working. And we're just figuring it out.

And so these people are going to help us figure it out, right now, once and for all. My far right is Byron Allen, who is the founder and CEO of Allen Media Group.

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He is his own personal PR person, which is amazing. To my immediate right is Hilary Schneider, the CEO of Shutterfly.

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Right? To my immediate left is Rachel Thomas, Co-founder and CEO of LeanIn.Org.

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And to my far left is Igor Tulchinsky, who is the founder and CEO of WorldQuant.

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OK. So work, working from home, what was it like? Byron Allen, you said that you guys were never more efficient. Seriously?

BYRON ALLEN: Oh, absolutely. Are you kidding me? I have never worked this hard in my life. I had a Zoom call at 7:00 AM. And I couldn't do that pre-COVID. You know, I have to get up at 3:00, 4:00 in the morning to meet with somebody at 7:00 in the morning. And I had a Zoom call for about 45 minutes, took my daughter to school, and came back and Zoom-- I've been doing half-hour Zoom calls for almost 12 hours a day for the last year and a half.

And let me tell you something, business has never been better. We've never been more efficient. I mean, the efficiency is off the Richter scale. But see, I come from a different perspective. I started my company from my dining room table. So I was-- I'm always been comfortable doing that. And but now I have 2,000 employees. And we sent them home. And I saw how much money we were saving on travel and entertainment. I think over 4 million bucks. I was like, hey, stay home. This is OK.

But I think this is temporary. You know, I don't think this is something we have to really concern ourselves with. When you think about the Spanish flu, it had a 20% mortality rate. We never came up with a vaccine. It flared out. And we went back to normal or whatever that was. But I think you're going to be able to redefine your normal. I'm totally comfortable with us working from home at this point.

ANDY SERWER: Right. Makes sense. Hilary, you started, I think, at Shutterfly kind of right when this thing was going down, early 2020. And so, boy, that must have been a no picnic, right?

HILARY SCHNEIDER: I would say, I started in January, shelter-in-place happened in March. We're a broadly distributed country, in terms of fully integrated manufacturing and international offices. And in some ways, being forced to work from home made me find new ways to connect with the organization. And we started an all company meeting every week. And it was meant to be, originally, like the fireside chat during the Great Depression.

And now it's turned into a cultural norm, in which we meet with the entire company. And they can ask any question they want. And all the employees can vote it up or down. And we'll take any question. And so it's made us think differently about how to show up as a leader in an environment where you don't get to see and meet with people in small groups. And really, it's taken a very difficult situation. I'd have quite a different point of view. I think it's been very difficult to manage through this environment.

We have manufacturing. So we've had to have employees back this whole time, figuring out how to keep them safe, how to distance them, how to make sure that we can fill the jobs in order to deliver on what we do. And then we've had our office positions working from home. And, ultimately, my bigger concern is whether or not we've bifurcated the company into the people who are hourly workers versus the higher paid workers. And how do we normalize that?

So while I believe we've been efficient, I think that the employee population has fundamentally redefined what they're willing to allow an employer to decide for them and what they're going to decide for themselves. And I think the repercussions of this, with everything we're seeing in transition, is going to be with us for a while.

ANDY SERWER: All right, Rachel. Byron says this way. Hillary says that way. You have a third way, some way in between.

RACHEL THOMAS: I'm probably mostly going with Hilary. We're probably mostly fellow travelers here.

ANDY SERWER: OK.

HILARY SCHNEIDER: So we conduct a big study every year, women in the workplace. We just surveyed about 60,000 employees to get a sense of how they're feeling and what they're thinking and a bunch of HR leaders. And here are the findings I think are the most relevant. First is, companies really did lean into flexibility. And that matters. Because pre-COVID, flexibility was the number one thing employees asked for. And we know it's critically important to mothers and parents, more broadly. So that-- good news.

And we know that when employees are taking advantage of the new flexibility options, they don't feel very penalized by it, which I thought was really exciting. Because I would have expected that people thought there was a stigma or penalty attached to that. But what we also know is employees still feel burned out. Women feel much more burned out than they did last year. The gap between women and men has only doubled.

And let's be clear, all employees feel burned out. And so if you dig a little deeper, we know that most employer-- a majority of employees feel like they're always on 24/7. So these 12 to 12 30-minute meetings on top of child care or whatever else is going on in your life, I think is, for a lot of people, creating that sensation of always on. And if you, my sense is, and I even have fallen into this trap myself as a leader, is that we got flexibility right, but we put a lot of onus on employees to figure out how to create the boundaries for themselves.

IGOR TULCHINSKY: We've been set up for this kind of operation, I would say, for many, many years. And while we never worked from home, all of us at the same time, it wasn't really a big change. My goal is to-- for the company to be office neutral, like we're a market neutral, we want to be office neutral. So we can go to the office, not go to the office. When the times call for going to the office, we go to the office. When the times call for being at home, we stay at home.

And I think that'll be optimal. And eventually, the system will self-optimize where the activities that are better done from home will happen at home. Activities that are better done from the office will happen at the office.

ANDY SERWER: I like that phrase, office neutral. Kind of fits, I think. By the way, can you tell us, and we're going to do this with everyone, just to give us an elevator talk about what your company does. What is a WorldQuant?

IGOR TULCHINSKY: WorldQuant is a quantitative asset manager. We have offices in-- we have 23 offices in 13 countries. And we are based on the principle that intelligence is distributed equally throughout the world. Opportunity is not. So we go out to different locales in the world, we find very, very brilliant people. We hire them. And then we have taken the trading process and broken it down into components. So somebody can add value to the company in as little as two or three weeks after we hire them. And that, in a nutshell, is what we do.

ANDY SERWER: Yeah, I can see where that's sort of adjacent to remote work, organically. Rachel, tell us about your organization.

RACHEL THOMAS: So I run LeanIn.Org. And we're a women's organization. We're global. I mentioned research already. I will probably bore you with a little more research than you'd like. Because we're always doing deep research on the experiences of women in the workplace, which means, broadly, we're looking at the experiences of all employees in the workplace. We're putting programming out to help organizations change their culture.

Our big program we just put out today is called Allyship at Work, which we developed with experts over 18 months. And it's what you think. It's an allyship program to bridge this gap we see between most employees thinking they're allies but very few employees actually practicing allyship day over day. And the third thing, which is probably the most relevant in many ways for this conversation, is Lean In supports a global community of women over 188 countries.

The whole model is that women gather together around a kitchen table or around a conference room once a month. They're called Lean In circles. And so when COVID started, we had to move the model entirely online. And we brought all the women in all 188 countries online and changed the way that whole community operates. And we learned so much doing it that I think we all feel this way. There's a couple of learnings that came with the disruption that we're going to hold onto, that have actually made the community stronger and better.

ANDY SERWER: And was the organization founded by Sheryl Sandberg, or it's connected to her?

RACHEL THOMAS: So we launched the day that Sheryl released her book. And we are technically co-founders. I always joke, she's the slightly more famous co-founder.

ANDY SERWER: That's probably the case. Hilary, so I think a lot of people know about Shutterfly. But maybe you could get us up to speed a little bit.

HILARY SCHNEIDER: Yeah, so Shutterfly, our mission is to make life's experiences unforgettable. And we do that with an e-commerce platform that has been based on photo personalization. That was pioneered by Shutterfly in 2000 or just before then. And we've expanded recently to include custom designs. So we've acquired a company called Spoonflower that has an artist community. And the artists create designs for fabric and wallpaper. And then they can decide whether that's a private design or whether they want to make that design available to the world writ large.

And Spoonflower is the single biggest seller on Etsy. So it's a little bit of, if you think about social networks have changed the way consumers think, in terms of wanting to express their authentic selves. And they want to do that with their photographs. And they want to do that with their design choices. And kind of the unknown fact about the company is 30% of our revenue on the consumer side is driven by home decor and gifting. And with the addition of this new design and custom design element, we expect that will grow even faster.

ANDY SERWER: So some businesses did really well during COVID. Some did really badly. Dry cleaner, not so good. Peloton, really, really well. I'm trying to-- I wonder how Shutterfly did. Did it benefit you guys or not?

HILARY SCHNEIDER: So here's-- I'll give you the whole truth, which is we also own a business called Lifetouch, which is the leader in school photography in Canada and the US. So on the consumer side, Shutterfly, Snapfish, Spoonflower, we saw some nice tailwinds with people having more time at home and making more photo books. And then that turned into headwinds, as photo book creation is highly tied to travel and major life celebrations. And those weren't happening.

But on the Lifetouch side, if you think about school photography, with many schools not in session, that was a business that's revenue fell in half overnight. So we saw both sides of the tale of two cities.

ANDY SERWER: Wow, fascinating. Byron, speaking of fascinating, your company is really, really interesting. And for those of you who don't know about it, you're about to find out. But the Weather Channel and this-- all the other properties that you have, talk about it

BYRON ALLEN: Oh, thank you. Allen Media Group, I started the company from my dining room table about 28 years ago. We own a portfolio of 12 cable networks, the Weather Channel being the most well known. We own Comedy.TV and Pets.TV and others. We have a-- I started buying ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox affiliates around the country. In the last couple of years, I've invested approximately a billion dollars to buy those assets. We have about 33 stations or so in 21 markets.

Streaming services, we have a streaming service. When I bought the Weather Channel in March of 2018, they said to me, oh, by the way, you also own something that's the equivalent of a fully distributed broadcast network. It uses artificial intelligence and, you know, proprietary software to curate and aggregate and stream local news, weather, sports, and traffic geofenced to your zip code. And I went, wow. And they said, don't get too excited. It loses about $25 million a year. And you're going to probably want to shut it down.

And I said, whoa. I said, you know, listen, I'm disappointed I wasn't clever enough to come up with this idea. But I'm not stupid enough to shut it down. So I invested a little over 100 million of my own capital to reposition the asset. And I said, listen, I don't think people want to subscribe to it and pay $4.99 a month for it. So I made it free, the world's favorite word. And I added, you know, over 10,000 movies and TV shows and documentaries and over 300 channels. And it's turned out to be a phenomenal asset.

You know, millions of people are watching this app. And we turned on another one called Sports.TV, which is also the world's two favorite words, sports and free. And, you know, we've just been investing heavily into digital assets. And it's been quite a journey. And the thing I really appreciate most about our journey is that this is a privately held company, right. And we're really able to not worry about a 90-day report card.

I own it 100%. No board of directors, no analysis paralysis, can be extremely entrepreneurial, built it the old-fashioned way, brick by brick, and the Weather Channel has just been-- just turned out to be a phenomenal asset for us. Because it's allowed us to really help lead that conversation on climate change and global warming.

ANDY SERWER: And you've also been a strong advocate for diverse programming and that cable companies need to have diverse programming, right?

BYRON ALLEN: Yeah, absolutely. I'm a-- I'm a big believer in diversity and ownership. What I've said to the industry, very loudly and proudly, is that, you know, women don't own their networks. They don't control their image and how they're produced and depicted. Asian people are pretty much invisible in this society. You've got a bunch of white guys that own Spanish language networks. And they can't even speak Spanish.

And African-Americans do not own their networks. And you don't have a real democracy unless we actually own these platforms and how-- and control how we're produced, depicted. Because you have to be seen and heard to have a real democracy, a true democracy. And what I've decided early on in my life was that I wanted to build the world-- the world's biggest media company that works towards bringing us together and achieving one America.

Because there are media companies out there that work to divide us. And our media company is here to unite us and to bring us together and really push for what I call the four Es, which is to make sure every American has a great education, because that's key. My mother got pregnant with me when she was 16 and had me 17 days after her 17th birthday. And I was fortunate. Not only is my mother beautiful, but she's brilliant. She got into UCLA and ended up getting her master's degree in cinema TV production. And that's what exposed me to media.

So education's very important. Make sure everybody has equal justice, economic inclusion, and environmental protection. And if we can achieve those four Es, we can achieve one America and a slice of heaven right here on planet Earth. And I'm a living example of that.

ANDY SERWER: Great. Rachel, let's talk a little bit about some of those divisions. And you talked about the challenges that women have faced during this time. And there's this phrase "she-cession." I don't know how you feel about that. Maybe it's accurate. Maybe it isn't. But how much worse was it for women? And where are we going with it right now? How can it be addressed?

RACHEL THOMAS: Well, as we know, the pandemic didn't create any of the problems. It's simply exacerbating existing problems. So there's so many ways into this. We know that women were disproportionately, you know, centered around industries where they were laid off at higher rates. We know that more women than men have felt forced out of the workforce. And many of them point to lack of child care.

And then we know, in corporate America, interestingly enough, there's actually kind of two stories of what's happening in corporate America for women. Actually, the representation of women has gone up in corporate America over the last two years, which I was surprised to see. I mean, not just at the very senior levels, which is what we've seen, you know, over the last several years, actually at almost all levels, the representation of women has gone up.

So that's a good news story. And I think it does speak to companies really stepping up and trying to figure out how to take care and hold on to their employees. But the other side of this story is that women are more burned out this year. The gap between women and men has almost doubled. So 42%--

ANDY SERWER: What sort of gap do you mean?

RACHEL THOMAS: Well, 42% of women are feel burned out this year.

ANDY SERWER: Oh, I see.

RACHEL THOMAS: So almost half. And that's, you know, almost the gap that from last year to this year has almost doubled. And then last year, you know, we went out with a really big finding, which was one in four women were thinking about leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers. Clearly, that didn't happen. But I think it was more of a bellwether for how women were feeling and what they were coping with. And this year, that number is 1 in 3.

So although women are hanging on, I think we're looking at, for women and all employees, we're looking at increased exhaustion, anxiety, stress. And then you start to ask, like how is that going to impact the workforce over the long haul? Because many people can't leave the workforce. That's actually not an option for them. So they're hanging on. But what does that mean day to day? And this goes back a little to remote work.

Listen, remote work, and I think really hybrid work, is here to stay. We know that. It brings about a lot of benefits for all employees who need flexibility. But then what is the future of remote work so that it really works for everybody and it's really sustainable? And then, you know, circling back to something Hilary said, another thing I've been thinking about a lot is, how do we not inadvertently to create two classes of employees?

Those that are in the office, they have more access, more visibility. And those that are at home, who will disproportionately be women, people with disabilities, other people who need to be home for personal reasons, and how are we not inadvertently creating those two classes?

ANDY SERWER: Yeah, it's really interesting. I mean, you know, then there are bosses or older people who can stay at home. But can they really do that? It's just, I mean, this is what we're all trying to figure out. It's--

RACHEL THOMAS: Well, one last comment on that.

ANDY SERWER: Sure.

RACHEL THOMAS: So, you know, when we were doing prep for this, I think, you know, someone, I can't remember who, made a comment that moving online perhaps it was alleviating a lot of bias in the system or making our cultures better. And actually, we don't see any evidence of that. So I think like the thing we all need to internalize is the hard work of changing your culture is the hard work of changing your culture.

And so moving online is not going to be a panacea when it comes to leveling the playing field, creating more access, improving the way we work. We're actually going to need to do the hard work of making cultures more diverse and equitable and inclusive wherever they are, on or offline.

ANDY SERWER: Right. Yeah, I was just noticing some of the bad actors at my company were still bad actors on Zoom calls.

RACHEL THOMAS: A lot of the same--

ANDY SERWER: Not that we have any bad actors.

RACHEL THOMAS: I work with a sociologist all the time. And she says, bias finds a way. Like it will just find itself into the new environment so.

ANDY SERWER: Their personality traits, excuse me. Igor, you have just written a piece for the Milken Conference called "The Future of Work, Three Lessons in Driving Adaptability and Flexibility"-- adaptability, excuse me. Why couldn't I say that word?

RACHEL THOMAS: It's end of the day, this last panel.

ANDY SERWER: I haven't started drinking, OK. Adaptability and flexibility across an organization, and you talked about embracing change. The global talent pipeline is broader than ever and prioritize and foster social capital. Do you want to talk about some of those items that you wrote about?

IGOR TULCHINSKY: Sure. I think one of the challenges that companies face in the new environment is the preservation of social capital. Because we're used to all being together. And every day that you're not together, social capital-- well, first, let's define social capital. That's the number of connections you have between your people and the quality of the connections. And it used to be that these connections were reinforced by people going to offices and seeing people.

And now-- now, it's a bit different. Now it happens mostly over Zoom. So the challenge becomes how to keep these connections alive and well in this environment. And the answer, well, one of the possible answers, is something we call multi-teaming. Every person belongs to different teams and is involved in a great deal of projects. There is a constant, constant connectivity happening across different dimensions. And people have a sense of belonging to that.

And another important factor that has to be considered is that, in the age of Zoom, employees become very transportable asset. So to keep them from moving, the job of the leader becomes to provide vision to the employees, to make them want to stay at this company. Because they can just one day dial up a different Zoom link and be at another one.

ANDY SERWER: You've been doing this remote work well before COVID, the whole time you were talking about. But so how does a younger person learn from an older person? How do teams work together? I mean, don't you miss all that. And-- sure, OK, so maybe you were doing 100, right. But wouldn't you be doing 120 if people were together and talking and collaborating? So in other words, and how do you know you're not missing that extra part?

IGOR TULCHINSKY: Well, you never know what you're missing, right. You-- there's only one path, one reality. And so you really don't know. But what we do to engage employees and to bring in them quickly into the fold of the companies is, number one, is we have radical transparency. So the employee from day one sees what's going on. They develop their interests. They get-- they become part of the organization.

And, you know, number two is we have a tremendous number of mentors and advisors who are tasked with developing young talent. And most of the mobility in our organization happens, you know, we hire people, and then they move up.

ANDY SERWER: Right. So I mean, it's-- so it was always sort of different. Like people were doing a lot more mentoring, or where they were specifically tasked to mentor remotely. Good. OK. Hilary, I want to switch over to you and talk to you about retention and hiring and attrition. It's kind of a nightmare. I mean, I'm not singling you out. But it's like, for everybody, it's so difficult, right.

HILARY SCHNEIDER: OK. I like to be optimistic. I wake up every day optimistic. And I would say this is fricking hard. It is really hard. It is across the board. A couple of things that I would echo that Rachel said was there's a real connection between burnout and a sense of belonging. And we use a survey group called Glint. And we just did our employee engagement scores. Engagement's highly correlated to high performing organizations.

Burnout's up and belonging's down. And it goes to that idea that you were asking about I believe, which is, how much is enough real life connection to create the kind of bonds that make you feel like you really know someone else? And I'd also echo that women are doing much worse on burnout and on feeling much less like they belong. So it's like a double whammy. And the interesting thing is that it's across the board, whether it's hourly workers in manufacturing or photographers for the school.

We've taken up wage rates. And it's somewhat irrelevant. The workforce is just not there. And I don't know, it's everywhere. I mean, I checked into the hotel. I ordered coffee this morning. And 45 minutes later, there was still no coffee. Because there's not enough people to fill the roles in these organizations. And so I think it's forcing us to really think about brutal prioritization. So what is it that's the most important things that we need to get done, and how do we get the employees we have aligned around that?

The second is, how do we create that sense of connection to our culture that makes talent want to seek us out? And this word flexibility, I think it's going to be with us for a while to come. Which is, I don't believe that after having lived through the pandemic that it just reverts back to normal. I was just reading an article, and I love this term, so I'm just going to throw it out there, neuroplasticity.

But, essentially, that we all got rewired during this time we were home. And so while the pendulum swung, I don't think it'll swing back. And so navigating the course on how do you find qualified labor, how do you get that labor engaged, and then how do you develop them so that they want to stay with your organization I think has become more complicated. And it requires more intention.

And one of the approaches we're trying to bring to it is the idea of presence with a purpose. So if we bring you back to the office, what is the reason you're in the office? And how do we make that time worthwhile? And I don't have the answer yet. But I believe we'll find one.

ANDY SERWER: But you need neuroplasticity to achieve the neutral office state. Tie it all together. Byron, you had a solution to retention and attrition problems when we were talking the other day. Treating people a certain way, your employees.

BYRON ALLEN: Yeah. Well, you know, I love what she said. You know, for me, I've always been very open, very transparent. And you know, human resources, human capital, it's-- it is a very precious commodity. So folks can work wherever they want. They have many choices. And I've always made it clear, don't come here for a job. Because I know you can have a job anywhere. Come here to make history.

We're doing something far greater than a job. It's far greater than just a career. We're here to make history, to change the paradigm. And I'm very clear about who I am and what we're doing and what we can do together. And I make it clear that you shouldn't be here if you're uncomfortable with us challenging the system. And I tell people up front. I talked to the receptionist that they hired. And I let them know who we are and what we're doing, because I want them to know they're a part of history.

You have a purpose. You can get a job anywhere. This is not about a job. This is about changing the world for the greater good. It's people before profits. So when the world's biggest media companies laid everybody off, I wouldn't lay one person off. I didn't let anybody go. I said-- because, for me, it's people before profits. If I'm going to win the championships, I have to have a championship team. And the championship teams always have fewer turnovers in terms of their bench. It's a consistent team. And there's very little turnover.

I think that's important. And people know that. They look at me. And they say, OK, it's not a media company. When it gets rough, they're going to cut me loose. Absolutely not. We're going to dig in. And we're going to fight through it together. So if I find folks that I like, that I think are terrific, you know, it's so funny, like Janice LaRue is sitting right here. She's the president of a television distribution for us.

And I called a guy once. And I said, who is the very best in television distribution? Because I have my cable networks. And he started telling me about all these guys that were fired and on the beach. And I said, no, I didn't ask you who was the best that's available. I asked you who's the best, period. And he said, oh, Janice LaRue, but she's not available. I go, ah, ah, ah. I go, that's my job to go get her. I just need you to tell me who she is. And he said, you know, who she was.

And I called her up. And I introduced myself and told her what we were doing. And I asked her how much she was making. And she told me. And I said, I'd like to double it. And would you like to start? And she said yes, and we grew our company. I'm pretty straightforward. I go to the bottom line. How much you're making, can I double it, and let's make history together. That's how we do it.

ANDY SERWER: You hiring?

BYRON ALLEN: How many years you been here now?

JANICE LARUE: 11.

BYRON ALLEN: 11, 11 years, there you go. We don't have a retention problem. Because people know they are a priority at our company, no matter what.

ANDY SERWER: Pay them well.

BYRON ALLEN: And we pay them well. And we treat them well. And we give them complete-- we give them complete autonomy. I don't micromanage. I say, look, I'm the quarterback. I can't run into the end zone. I'm going to throw you the ball, just be in the end zone and pull it down. I don't micromanage. We hire the best. And I say to them, what do you need to succeed? That's my favorite phrase to them. What do you need to succeed?

I'm here to support you. I've had people come to me and say, I want to hire three salespeople. I'm like, you're kidding me, hire 10. You're not going to get there with three. Give them what they need. It always--

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ANDY SERWER: Nope, he works for me. And I'm cheap. That's the problem here.

BYRON ALLEN: Susie-- Susie, sitting right up front, she runs my life. And she told me she wanted to work from home. I said, you're the best. Before the pandemic hit, I said work from home.

ANDY SERWER: All right. So that kind of threw me for a loop. So, Rachel, let's talk about some solutions here. Because you've talked about some of the difficulties. And so what are some ways to address these problems when it comes to burnout, women feeling burned out? I mean, and, you know, it's just, oh, women, everyone, all burned out, feeling terrible. Labor participation rate is down here, great resignation. They're all connected, right?

RACHEL THOMAS: They're all connected. So I think a couple of things. One, I do think companies have done a lot to step up. Investment in employee well-being is at unprecedented heights. Companies are investing more in racial equity than they ever have before. A lot of companies stepped up during the pandemic and are offering their employees more paid time off. So a lot has happened that I think is really positive. And maybe the kernels of a future workplaces is better.

Stepping back, I think for every organization, it's going to look different. The one thing that gives me, or makes me kind of cautiously optimistic right now, is, in order to get hybrid work right, we're going to need to be incredibly empathetic and incredibly thoughtful and intentional as leaders. Like we have to really think deeply about how are we going to redesign work. How, you know-- when do we bring people into the office? What does that look like? What does our office look like now? How do we run meetings so they're more effective?

And I think as part of solving all of those problems, like little challenges, to get hybrid work right, I'm optimistic that we're going to be redesigning work top to bottom as we do that. So if you've really taken in a commitment to advancing and supporting women and you've really taken in a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, I feel like they're going to be so connected as we solve our way through what the future of work is going to look like.

And then the other thing, which is the obvious, but I think as human beings we've needed this, and then, as organizations, we're just going to need to grab onto that growth mindset we always talk about and hold on to it tight. Because I think there's just going to be a lot of trial and error, doing something, asking employees, surveying them. Is it working? If it's not working understanding why and then trying again.

So, you know, I really, as we're rewriting the playbook, I guess to use a sports analogy, which is always quite dangerous when I try to use a sports analogy, but if we're going to rewrite the playbook, I think that means we're just going to need to run a lot of plays and really figure out what works. So I am cautiously optimistic. The pathway to getting to a hybrid workplace that works for everyone is going to feel a lot similar, or feel similar, to the pathway to get to a workplace that's actually diverse and equitable and inclusive if we do it right.

ANDY SERWER: It sounds like a lot more work, though. So

RACHEL THOMAS: Here's--

ANDY SERWER: And we're burned out. And we've got to do more work.

RACHEL THOMAS: Here's a news flash. Getting this stuff right, particularly D&I, as everyone else in the room knows, takes a lot of work and commitment across the organization. If there were any easy fixes, I wouldn't have been on a "she-cession" panel earlier today talking about why we're not seeing women advance the way they need do, why we're not seeing women of color advance the way they need to. It's because this is really hard work. Everybody knows that.

But the good news is we've got to do hard work now to redesign work anyway. So let's get it right this time.

ANDY SERWER: It's getting over that-- there are no candidates like that.

RACHEL THOMAS: There are lots of candidates--

ANDY SERWER: How many times have we all heard that line? There are no candidates like that.

BYRON ALLEN: You know, I think, look, I think Einstein said it best. You know, the very definition of intelligent life, life that can adapt. We will adapt. We are very resilient. We're very smart. We're always going to get it there. Smart people always figure it out.

RACHEL THOMAS: And by the way, can I make a metapoint, which none of us likes to kind of probably take in? But the fact that employees are saying, your culture is not good enough for me anymore, so I'm going to go somewhere else, I think means, five years or 10 years from now, we're going to look across the workplace and cultures will be better. Because we are going to have to have pushed hard to get to better cultures to hang on to our people.

ANDY SERWER: And I think a lot of people are not used to employees having leverage the way they do now. Because it's just been decades of, you know, quashing unions, and we'll just figure it out. And, you know, now the tables have turned. And employees have power like they have not had before. Go ahead.

HILARY SCHNEIDER: I was just going to say, I think the most important ability to have on a management team right now is agility. And I'll give you a perfect example. I have some of my best leaders that got together to think about the return to the workplace and how we were going to do hybrid and hoteling. And, you know, we finally launched the idea that we were going to have a hybrid return to the workplace on a Monday.

The CDC changed the Delta guidelines on a Wednesday. And on a Friday, we had to roll back everything we rolled out on Monday. And if you can't take that in stride in terms of, gosh, the work-- the world changing around us faster than you can imagine and have the transparency with the organization of, you know, we don't know the answer. And clearly what we rolled out isn't going to work in the timing that we thought it was and just feel good about being agile, right. Like, we'll figure it out when we need to figure it out. And getting that muscle memory into the organization, I think, is very empowering.

ANDY SERWER: And it's hard. Because there's always 15% of your workforce saying, what? How could you let that happen? It's like, the CDC changed the rules. Like I didn't do any-- right. So you know. And Byron, that point that you made, I think it's really interesting. So you're sort of betting a little bit that we're going to three, four, maybe even five years, it's really going to be much more back to normal.

And the one difference now is we have, you know, is technology, right. That's different from 1918. So it does allow people to work from home more. I mean, you said yourself that some people on your team can't work from home and were from doing that before, correct.

BYRON ALLEN: Yeah, we're flexible. No, I think it's key. I think you have to be agile, to Hilary's point, adapt. And we're open, you know. And I-- we have folks, you know, who've been working from home since I started the company almost 30 years ago. My salespeople were out on the road. And they were working from home. I don't-- I don't really have an issue with that. I look at results.

And at the end of the day, I'm not looking to have you sit at a desk just to sit there. It's really about delivering the results. I'm totally comfortable with it. You have to hire good people and smart people who are passionate about what they're doing. And if they're not, then they can be in the office, and you're going to get, you know, a negative result. You get dysfunction. And you get disruption. So I'm very comfortable with it.

I think the technology is great. It's allowing us-- I mean, I'm writing. I'm writing with my writers via Zoom. And we're efficient. Because we're not in a room together and talking about the Lakers. We get right to it. It kind of creates that environment. So I think it's-- overall, I think it's healthy. I think it's going to make us more efficient. I think, you know, everybody is going to find their new normal. Some people will insist on coming back, and some people will do Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday in the office. People will find what works for them. And that will be the new normal is the way I'm guessing at it.

ANDY SERWER: Yeah, I wonder how many people are really going to be working remotely, except for a very entitled group of people, you know, three or five years from now. But--

BYRON ALLEN: And people do want to get out of their places. They do want to get a break from their screaming kids or whatever it is. They do-- the walls start to close in on them and they do want to get out. So I think that will be in our favor. And I think in about a year or two, people working from home, they're going to come screaming, get me out of here.

ANDY SERWER: Well, there's also-- right, and there's also the young person that one person goes to work, then one person stays home. And the young person who goes to work gets promoted. There's-- people speculate about that. We don't even know if that's true. But people talk about that. Igor, I wanted to ask you a little bit about your work and how it's changed personally for you during COVID, and what you think going forward, particularly with new competitors in financial services. Have you changed the way that you're thinking about your job?

IGOR TULCHINSKY: Well, structurally, my work it don't change very much. Because I've been working this way for many years, even before COVID. But what has changed is that the COVID crisis has pushed companies into doing things similar to what we've been doing for many years, to reaching out to different geographies, to setting up global offices. The competition is always one step behind you. So you have to keep running.

And that's what we're doing. We're designing new and better ways to reach out to more people faster, better, more efficiently, and more effectively. Exactly what that is I can't say yet, but we're working on it.

ANDY SERWER: I want to point out that we're going to get into some audience Q&A right now. And so I think in a minute, or is there going to be a hashtag up there that will appear any second? And then my understanding is you can, what, point your camera at it, the-- and, there, that's the alarm for the QR code. And type of question in. That's right, point you camera at it, it'll come up so you can text it. And the question will magically appear on my iPad. Rachel, I want to ask you about using data. Because you're, obviously, like a data fanatic. You really are, right.

RACHEL THOMAS: I think there's a lot of power in big data. And here's why. I think a lot of times, I think for companies who use data all the time, it can be an unlock. And then I think for women or other employees with marginalized identities or traditionally marginalized identities, I should say, I think it starts to put numbers behind their experiences in a way that gives them more heft.

And so I think that part of the data really matters, too. So many women, like where I've gotten really proud about our research over the years, it's not that companies are using it. We intended for companies to use the research and our insights from the very get go. But it's how many women now come up to you or email you and say like, I saw myself in the report. I saw myself in the research. I was able to point to a manager or a coworker and say, look, this is bigger than what's happening on our team, like this is something real. And it's impactful.

And so for that reason, I really do love data. And the one thing I've been really frustrated about, since you brought up data, is some conversations today and just conversations I've been having a lot recently. When you talk about diversity, equity, inclusion, when you talk about employee well-being, when you talk about building that into performance reviews, you start to get, well, that's hard to measure. Like how do we do that?

And I don't think it's hard to measure. I think when organizations want to measure something, they figure out how to measure it. And so we can measure employees experiences. We can measure how you're showing up as a manager from the perspective of well-being and from the perspective diversity, equity, and inclusion. And then we can reward you for doing that well. So that's my 30 seconds on data.

ANDY SERWER: Excellent. OK. We're getting some good questions here. I'll go back to Igor. And, you know, someone is pointing out that you're the very definition of the American dream, born and raised in Belarus, moved to the US, and achieved a number of spectacular things here. Do you believe that you would have been able to achieve this if you were not in America? And what does this say about opportunities if the future of work is online? So does that contradict the American dream, the global online marketplace?

IGOR TULCHINSKY: Well, I hope there are no Belarusians here. But I'll say that, if I was still in Belarus, I would not be able to achieve what I could achieve here. And, furthermore, I think the United States is unique and a leader in the world when it comes to providing opportunity and providing opportunity to immigrants and to a very diverse set of people. There's no better country in the world than the United States for this.

Now, how the online situation is going to change all this? It may democratize this kind of process and spread it around more all over the world. That's probably what will happen.

ANDY SERWER: Great. Another question from the audience. And I think I'll give this one to Byron. And Hilary, you can weigh in, too. What are your top three tips for entrepreneurs just starting out?

BYRON ALLEN: You know, I had the good fortune of starting my company from my dining room table. And it was an amazing experience for me. You know, just I started by calling every television station in the country, all 1,300 of them, and asking them to carry my once a week show where I interview celebrities. And on average. They all said no probably 40 times each. And after about 50,000 noes, I squeeze out 150 yeses. And I have my lineup of TV stations.

And that was, you know, that unrelenting pursuit of, you know, got to get the yes. And then I had to learn to sell my advertising time. And that was challenging. And I never let go of that. You know, my home, I probably-- my home went in and out of foreclosure probably 14 times. Because I was trying to pay for the cameraman and the editing and the satellite. And as a matter of fact, my credit was so bad at one point people wouldn't even take my cash.

So I just kept pursuing. And what I would say is you never let go of that vision. You never let go of that dream. There were days I didn't eat. There were days I was calling-- they turned off my phone a number of times. I was calling people from a payphone. This is before we had mobile phones. And you just never let go. So that's what I would say to the entrepreneur. I didn't have access to capital. So I wasn't able to raise capital.

So I had to just build it myself. And I would say, you know, rule number one, you know, don't let anybody come in between you and the customer. Rule number two, because you have to have that relationship with the customer. Rule number two, do not run out of money. And rule number three, do not break rules one and two.

ANDY SERWER: That's great. Hilary, you want to weigh in there or--

HILARY SCHNEIDER: Yeah, so I was lucky enough to join an incredible entrepreneur. His name's Todd Davis. And he started LifeLock, which is identity theft protection. And he was ready to take the company public and didn't feel like he was the right person in the long run to run it and so recruited me into the vision. And, you know, what I learned from working with Todd, and I'd go with the absolute confidence that your idea is going to work, even if the whole world's telling you it's not.

And when he reached out to me, I was introduced through a venture capital firm. And he said-- he pitched the vision. And I said, Todd, dude, I understood the word identity. I understand the word protection. But I don't really know what this all is, right. And he gave me this example of, as he started putting together identity theft protection as a service, and this was before the major breaches had happened.

And it was people that were just starting to worry about their privacy. He went on a radio show. And he was being interviewed. And they asked him, how do you know the service works? And he said, well, let me give you-- let me give out my social security number. I'm so confident in this service that I'm going to give you my social security.

ANDY SERWER: I remember that.

HILARY SCHNEIDER: And they tried to stop him. And he said, no, I'm, you know, this is my social security number. And then it became a bus campaign. And he would call into the phone center every time he'd done anything that was marketing related. And the phone started ringing off the hook, because people really resonated with a founder who was willing to give out his social security number. And that was really a major break for the business.

And so when you think about the serendipity, I always think serendipity isn't just about being in the right place at the right time, it's about creating your own luck. And I think that's what really good entrepreneurs do.

BYRON ALLEN: He was authentic. He was real. And people appreciate that. And that will always work. Be authentic, be real.

ANDY SERWER: And be persistent, it sounds like.

HILARY SCHNEIDER: Yeah.

ANDY SERWER: There's a lot of that as well. I want to shift gears a little bit, Rachel, and go over to you. Mental wellness, question about that, how much are employees-- employers, excuse me, responsible for offering prevention benefits for employees? And we're seeing that has become a huge issue.

RACHEL THOMAS: Yeah, I think that's a great question. Responsibility is an interesting question, right. What are employers responsible for? I will say, I think the best companies, . And the companies that are navigating this crisis most effectively, if you look, many of them have stepped up their mental health supports. And they're talking about mental health and employee well-being more regularly and more openly than they have-- than they have in the past.

So, you know, I guess the larger question is, how much are employees accountable for making work work for-- I mean, how much are employers accountable for making work work for employees? And I think accountability is quite high, right. And I actually think we're seeing this shift that we've been talking about, where employee expectations have really started to change. They want cultures that feel inclusive.

We know employees are happier when they're in inclusive cultures. They want their managers to signal and, you know, step up, in terms of being really committed to their well-being. We know that, like, a manager commitment to well-being is a huge marker of success in organizations right now. You know, we know employees want to feel a sense of connection to the organization, beyond the day to day work.

Kind of back to Byron's point, they want to feel connected to the mission. They want to feel connected to their coworkers. And so it's hard for me to imagine a workplace that's delivering on all of those things if it's not truly stepping up from a financial standpoint and a policy standpoint and making sure that employees feel well taken care of.

ANDY SERWER: Excellent.

BYRON ALLEN: And, you know, I think that's one of the biggest crisis' that we have in this country, mental health deterioration. And it's an epidemic. And you can just look at the top of any newscast that is a breakdown of mental health. And we haven't addressed it. You know, if you walk outside and you break your leg, you'll be on a gurney and at Cedars-Sinai within 20 minutes. If you walk outside and start talking to yourself, you will walk around for 20 years talking to yourself until you starve to death in front of a $30 million mansion. And that's wrong.

We have more animal shelters in America than homeless shelters.

ANDY SERWER: Yeah.

BYRON ALLEN: That's wrong. And you have to address this mental health crisis.

ANDY SERWER: And never mind what's going on in colleges and universities with that issue as well right now, which has been really tragic recently. I want to do a jump ball on this one. Again, it's a little different. But see who wants to do this one. What do you all feel about, and we have two people asking this, about pay differential, people at home, people at work, different pay?

HILARY SCHNEIDER: I'm going to give an example. I joined the board of a company called Digital Ocean, which is it's a cloud for developers. And they have been remote work since day one. And they have no pay differential, regardless of where you work. So if you can work in Belarus, or you work in New York City, or you work in Hong Kong, you get the same compensation.

And what's been really interesting to see with that company is that their engagement and belonging is really high. And they have not had attrition at the rate that a lot of other companies have seen the great resignations. So I do think there's something to this idea of, you know, do you create roles and you say there is an economic value of that role, regardless of where you live. And that's kind of radical for a lot of companies.

Because most companies have pay differentials based on a cost of living where you're situated. But it is a very different approach.

BYRON ALLEN: You know, 20-- when I started the company, my very first employee, Joan Robbins, she was the first person I hired, a talent booker to book the celebrities to be on our shows. And right after I hired her here in Los Angeles, she came to me and said, I have bad news. I am battling cancer. And I would like to go back home to Philadelphia where closer to my family. Because this is a challenging cancer. It's just very challenging. And I want to be closer to these doctors who I'm comfortable with.

And I said, not a problem, go back to Philadelphia, work from your home and book our television shows from home. And 28 years later, she's cancer free, thank God. And she still works for me. So this working from home is not some mystery. She's one of the best talent bookers in the industry. And she's been working from home for almost three decades for me. And I wouldn't even think about paying her less. If anything, you pay her more. Results.

ANDY SERWER: I've seen companies moving people around and then cutting their pay when they go to another city. And I just never-- it's just getting a little too cute for me.

HILARY SCHNEIDER: Doesn't feel right.

ANDY SERWER: And there are consequences to that. Byron, we don't have much time left. But I want to ask you the last question, because someone specified you. Do you see your approach, Byron, of people over profits as being necessary for more corporations to adopt going forward, in order to achieve a more equitable society on the whole?

BYRON ALLEN: Listen, I think so. We have to bring more balance. And the imbalance is what's creating a big issue in our society. And I've said, you know, the chairmans and the CEOs of these companies need to lean in and be the chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer. They have to lean in. You've got to go the extra mile and bring that balance. That balance is what will truly keep our company great forever.

We're losing ground. We have to make sure that we bring that balance to this ecosystem, so we maintain who we are and where we need to go. And these corporations have a great deal of power. And I think it's important to set that example and to also-- it puts pressure on others to do better. So I think it's extremely important. And we only have each other. That's all we have, each other. And that's really important.

Your success is my success. And I have to position you to succeed. Because we cannot afford to have a situation where people aren't maximizing their potential. And if you are not educated and maximizing your potential, you're not an asset. You're a liability. And America can no longer afford liabilities based on our global competition.

ANDY SERWER: All right. Well, I think that's a great place to end this session, The Future of Work. Excuse me, please join me in thanking Igor Tulchinsky, Rachel Thomas, Hilary Schneider, and Byron Allen. Thank you guys so much.

HILARY SCHNEIDER: Thank you.

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