An interview with Mollie Lombardi, results-focused research and consulting professional, workforce of the future influencer.
Tell me about yourself and how you’ve got to this point in your career?
I didn’t have the most traditional entry to the industry… I originally did a Bachelors in Fine Art and Stage Management. But I would say that it ended up being really good preparation for corporate life because from an early stage I was dealing with budgets and planning, and of course, the occasional diva!
After graduating I made the decision not to move to New York and try to survive on Broadway. Instead, I stayed in Boston and got a job at a boutique consulting firm which had a research arm. Because it was small I delved into the deep end right from the start, and I had a great opportunity to do a little bit of everything. For 8 to 10 years I learned everything to do with business I could from being with high-level executives on a regular basis.
Then I moved on to an analyst firm. Instead of consulting, which is on a more one-to-one level, I was exposed to the macro level – looking at trends across several hundreds of companies and dozens of industries.
After that I set up Aptitude Research Partners which blends both of those parts of my career. It encompasses consulting, diving into the company-level view, and the more macro-level too through research and the wider analyst picture.
What does the workforce of the future mean to you?
I see the next ten years of work and human capital management moving towards how we value a skill. It’ll be about how we help companies gain a better view of skills and their worth, but also individuals understanding the value of their skills, how they can promote and improve them.
It’ll change the interaction between people, employers and work. The way people will be paid for their work will change, maybe to a more task based model and work will increasingly be done across borders.
Especially when artificial intelligence really comes in. It’ll enable us to access more information and to deliver that at the time of need. For skills, it’ll help people to understand their strengths and to build on their skills – perhaps exploring skills that they hadn’t otherwise considered before.
What challenges do organisations face, now and in the future?
I’d say that the role of the manager is increasingly challenged. We’ve not given today’s managers enough information and training on skills. They have a huge range of things that they have to do, like translating strategy from above, coaching, doing their day-to-day tasks and executing everything. On top of that they have to ensure their team is performing and are building their skills.
I’d like to see having a good manager as an organisational competency. They’re hard to come by – someone who can do the strategic activities but also the human stuff. Having a person-to-person discussion with someone around their skills and what those are worth, that’s a tough job for a manager. It might be that in the future we’ll see more of a bifurcation. Some will focus on the human element and others will work on the operations. It’s about using the strengths that managers have and not forcing them to fit a particular model.
How is technology impacting the workforce of the future?
Really technology is impacting the workforce of the future in every single way. If I could narrow it down, I’d say it’s about the democratisation of information. Everyone will have more access to information and will be in more control of their careers – whether they want that or not. It’ll impact how people enter the workforce and how they engage their employers.
We’ll be forced to talk more about money, about fair compensation. Of course that’ll have an effect on inequality like the gender pay gap. There are potentially some tough conversations that people will have to have. They’ll have to get used to talking about topics that might have previously been frowned upon, like pay.
How can organisations ensure they are using the right technology for their needs?
It all comes down to knowing yourself. Look at your needs and goals first, plus the type of people that you have and their experience. It’s not worth looking at any technology until you know all of this.
Also you cannot implement every tech tool at once. So work out which to prioritise first. Think about what differentiates your organisation as well. Choose tech that makes you stand out, don’t just follow the crowd.
What trends can you see emerging over the next year (and how can organisations prepare for this?)
There’ll be a lot of developments around pay data – how people are compensated for their work and skills. Organisations will need to be more open with their data in order to be more competitive. As we work through this significant culture change, things might get a little messy for a while. But it’s important for every organisation to understand that it cannot survive in the future without equity and parity.
Payment will move towards more output and task-based models. You’ll be rewarded for the quality of your work and high performance. Instead of collecting a standard annual salary no matter what.
The thing is, that organisations have worked on everything else. They’ve looked at their tech and processes. People have come last and that’s because they’re tricky. We’re human. We don’t neatly fit into tick boxes and categories. It was a choice between having a hard discussion with a group of people or automating something – so businesses have done the easy stuff first and now need to work on people in order to drive competitiveness and be ready for the future.