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Tampa Bay Tech summit: Zoom, Salesforce execs look at the ‘next normal’ for the workplace

Margie Manning

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The workplace has changed forever because of Covid-19, according to top executives from Zoom and Salesforce.

“We went from working at work to living at work. We are now moving forward and evolving at work,” Harry Moseley, global chief information officer for Zoom, told attendees at Tampa Bay Tech’s poweredUP virtual summit. “We’re going to transition as people and companies experience and experiment with different ways. We’re going to navigate through this next normal to what ultimately will become the new normal.”

Companies are focusing more on employee needs, while also looking for different skills from the people they hire, Karen Semone, senior director of innovation at Salesforce, said at the summit, a two-day interactive tech conference featuring innovative thought leaders and the fast-growing teams and companies in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.

Harry Moseley

Before Covid-19, 97 percent of employees worked from an office, Moseley said. “I fundamentally believe that’s gone forever.”

Seventy-five percent of employees in an IBM survey said they would like to continue to work remotely after the pandemic eases, he said.  At the same time, employers have seen productivity increase as workers do their jobs from their kitchen counters, their living rooms and other new worksites.

“It doesn’t work for every job or all geographies or in every country or cultures, but it has been proven to work for millions of people. It will be better when the kids go back to school so parents can focus much more on the work. It creates a better work-life balance for parents,” Moseley said.

Employers also have learned they don’t need to recruit people who live locally, but instead become “geographically agnostic” in recruitment.

For those employees who do go back to an office setting, most will likely be required to wear masks and gloves and there will be temperature-checking robots and cameras.

“Tomorrow’s workplace will feel like a biohazard containment area,” Moseley said.

He also expects greater use of augmented reality and virtual reality technologies, as well as hybrid events that combine in-person gatherings with online experiences. 

Accelerant for change

Work was changing even before the Covid-19 crisis hit, Semone said. People are living longer, so they will need to work longer as a result. Knowledge is outpacing education, with 50 percent of the knowledge learned in the first year of a four-year program outdated by graduation. There’s also cognitive overload, with the average worker getting 180 emails a day.

Karen Semone

“Workers already are feeling like they will never retire, they will never graduate and will never have the time off they need for cognitive rest. It was exhausting to be a worker even before Covid. Add Covid into the mix and it’s accelerated change in the world,” Semone said.

In determining the “next normal,” Salesforce talked to hundreds of CEOs and clients and a few patterns emerged, she said.

• There is more focus than ever before on employees. “Leaders care deeply about the human side of their employees.”

• Companies need to act with the speed and simplicity of a startup. “If Covid is an accelerant to change, we need to be ready to accelerate our own transformation.”

• Tomorrow’s digital agenda is re-invention. “Gone are the days where digital transformation is about getting the most ROI out of your investment. It’s not about that anymore. It’s about how can I pivot to meet my customers’ emerging needs, my employees’ emerging needs. It’s really about reinvention. Being digital is table stakes now, it’s do or die. We’ve moving on to an agenda around reinvention.”

• Learning is key. “In this last six months we have been able to attend conferences in person, but there’s a deep hunger to reach out to peers and share insights through peer engagement. … There’s a deep hunger to hear about things that have worked and for a paint-by-numbers road map to get there themselves. People want to learn from each other.”

• Business is a platform for change. “It’s an important time not just to think about the bottom line, but what role do we play in our organizations to take on these grand challenges society is facing.”

The future workforce will expect more from their employers, including more autonomy and control over their work and lives, as well as companies that take a stand on social issues, she said.

Skills are changing as well. Employers are looking for “soft” skills, such as agility, learning by doing, creativity, risk-taking, empathy and problem-solving.

“These are things no algorithm or robot can do, and these are the things we’re going to need to foster in the future of work,” Semone said.

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