Continual learning and the adaptation to the future of work ft. Kristine Dery


Manage episode 293903714 series 2874135
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The future of work will be defined by employee empowerment. The shift in expectations brought on by the pandemic renewed the focus on what it takes for employees to do their best work. And, according to MIT research scientist and future of work specialist Kristine Dery, how we learn to capitalize on this will be a continuous process. Hear her insights on the power of empowerment, the role of analytics in employee performance, and the real benefits of nosiness in the workplace.

Key Takeaways:

[1:35] COVID-19 came with some big changes that prompted us to think differently about how we conduct business. This shift has brought our focus from the customers to also showing us the ways we have been neglecting the employee experience. This has been a huge game-changer for a lot of organizations that have been slow to come to the party.

[2:30] There are often “blockers” or areas within an organization that prevent employees from doing their best work. For the companies that were already fairly advanced, it’s been a great opportunity for them to push through their blockers and really accelerate their efforts to create an employee experience that will enable them to move into the future.

[3:03] Kristine likens this push to the future of work like a wormhole that takes us from one space and dimension to the next. It may feel like chaos as we go through it, but it will propel us into a new way of work.

[3:42] The pandemic offered us an opportunity to rethink our work design. Clay Richardson of Digital FastForward, talked with us about who is at the center of the design.

[4:33] Companies that are more advanced in the digitization of work are creating work in these small identifiable blocks that can be put together in new ways, much like a series of Lego blocks.

[5:33] We need a deeper understanding of the ways employees engage with digital. What does it really look like when the employee experience is at the heart of business strategy?

[6:38] Maximized comfort for the customer really begins with maximized comfort for the employee.

[7:30] Scaling digital fitness across an entire organization can mean a massive culture shift. One of those, Kristen says, is going from talking less about the space of where the working will take place and more about continual and accelerated learning. Rapid learning is one of the biggest changes that we will see, and Kristen estimates that the time devoted to learning in organizations will go from 10-15% to 40%.

[10:05] With all the new learning on the horizon, how will organizations create time for it? Kristen said that leaders will have to account for this and it’s important to be on the lookout for the speed bumps. The more we can encourage our team to be empowered problem solvers instead of passive participants, the more beneficial for the organization as a whole.

[14:05] Speed bumps can even be the technology itself. Ginny Clark, Google’s Former Head of Diversity Leadership Hiring program, talks about this. The speedbumps weren’t about finding diverse talent, it was about digging into the infrastructure and the process itself.

[14:46] As we digitize work, we create a huge amount of data about how our employees work. This calls for analytic minds to combine this data with other work sets to think big and see how we might efficiently reorganize work for everyone.

[16:48] Innovation is becoming the DNA of the entire organization, and everyone is responsible for how technology can be best applied. Gary Scholten from Principal echoed that tech is no longer the domain of a separate group, but everyone’s responsibility.

[19:07] Opening up channels for innovation is more than a strategy. It’s also about equity and offering opportunities to more diverse voices and perspectives. The future of work will be dependent on people being empowered to solve problems. If we keep that at the forefront, we are trying to create a workforce in which humans are doing what they are good at, using technology to help customers.


  • “Whatever you are focused on, it has to have the customer and employee at the center. That is where forward design thinking is the superpower. - Clay [3:56]
  • “For those companies that have been accelerating their work in the last 12 months, they are moving way along that digitization of the work spectrum.” Kristine [5:03]
  • “What does it really look like when the employee experience is at the heart of business strategy?” - Jo [5:33]
  • “Maximized comfort for the customer really begins with maximized comfort for the employee.” - Jo [6:38]
  • “If the focus of your conversation right now is only about where work is going to be done, you aren’t seeing the bigger picture here.” - Kristine [7:41]
  • “I would encourage you to shift the conversation away from space and start talking about what it will take to create a workforce that is able to deliver on your strategy.” - Kristine [8:25]
  • “Learning is a constant thread in the conversation about the future of work.” - Jo [11:26]
  • “New technologies always mean new skills.” - Jo [11:35]
  • “I think this rapid learning idea is one of the biggest changes we will see.” Kristine [11:43]
  • “A lot of it isn’t just about identifying underrepresented talent. It’s as much about understanding the process and really digging into the infrastructure and what the mechanics are and how people are behaving.” - Ginny [14:09]
  • “As we digitize work, we create a huge amount of data about how our employees work.” Kristine [14:46]
  • “In our newest framework, we actually say we are hostages to heroics.” [15:53] Kristine
  • “Innovation is becoming the entire DNA of the organization. Everyone is responsible for innovation.” [16:52] Kristine
  • “We are the way forward. And that is what the future of work is all about.” - Jo [21:00]

Continue on your journey:


Kristine Dery