Just as in the Pleistocene Era, when the most recent Ice Age started, we are currently experiencing a confluence of forces that is bringing about undeniable, unavoidable, and transformative change. Societal evolution, coupled with accelerating technological developments and a vast cohort of workers espousing new working concepts and profiles, requires our attention and adaptation.
Whether you or your company rejects the name or idea of “Digital Transformation,” we are 200 years on from the Luddites who destroyed machinery in England’s mills. It is futile now to mimic their protests. Technology is but one of the critical factors driving the current tumult. Other catalysts include the 67% of married couples who are dual income; the 78% of mothers who are working; the millions of new workforce entrants questioning legacy habits; and the aging population that is retiring later. Leveraging powerful tools, platforms and mindsets, newly enabled work options and approaches can reduce or eliminate the struggle and distractions from people’s jobs and lives. Productivity and results can be increased significantly by focusing on employees individually in order to engage them in a meaningful way.
Few CEOs profess to be Future of Work experts – each business situation is different and multi-faceted. Those who “get it” have been working hard to change the dynamics and future prospects of their particular business. A select number of those recognized the opportunities early on and had the foresight to build companies strategically based on the new talent focus. One of these CEOs is Rob Butler, founder and CEO of Maestro Health.
Wade: Five years ago, workplace flexibility was mostly whispered about at the office, the talent agenda was low priority and little discussed. What was your vision that evolved to became Maestro Health and what was your intention?
Butler: I am a people person – it’s in my DNA. I have always cared about the personal circumstances of my employees. I know their kids’ names, their parents, and their birthdays. Back then, I noticed employees’ needs for a different work environment and recognized the new possibilities for adapting. I realized that my passion for people – relating to them as individuals – could also become a strategic advantage. I identified a business opportunity to combine my background in healthcare with particular attention to humanity in the workplace and leverage sophisticated technology to address end users on a personal basis. This was the concept for Maestro Health, which I founded three years ago: to provide employee health and benefits that can be highly personalized for clients’ employees.
Wade: What did you see as critical components of the evolving work environment and how have you striven to implement them successfully internally at Maestro Health?
Butler: It starts with our culture and it has to be real. You really have to “eat your own cooking!” If it’s insincere, it won’t work. People are very smart today—they need to see it, live it, breathe it. You have to be socially aware. We hire people with the same values and our interview questions include “What movies do you like?” and “Did you have fun at high school?” We give people a chance to connect all the pieces of their lives. We must be respectful and empathetic… I am very aware of being on a stage every day. It’s all about having an open style and being communicative. So, on Mondays, we have “What’s Going On?” fireside chats. Most companies hide the bad stuff and just talk about the good stuff. We run to the bad stuff. We embrace adversity, mourn our losses and celebrate our victories publically.
Wade: How does this talent focus then translate into the services Maestro Health provides? What makes them different?
Butler: We are entirely focused on personalized, and customizable, services, even with à la carte options to accommodate clients’ existing services. We meet them where they are. For example, when clients’ employees are trying to select the right plan, they have the option to review only plans that include their current doctors and or prescription costs. This way they can actually compare plans that are relevant. We also provide clients with choices to offer their employees, based on their situation and preferences, such as telephonic, mobile and paper enrollment, and support options include live chat and nurse line.
Wade: You are pretty emphatic about the need to embrace this new approach. What is your prediction for the future and what it has meant for your company, strategic direction and potential?
Butler: Certainly, these additional offerings have required extra time, effort, and money. However, I firmly believe that this attention to personalization will be a sector requirement very soon. A while ago, I forecast that by 2020, employers in this sector will all be making vendor decisions based on cultural fit and personalized applications, not just price. 2020 is only a few years away now, and we are working hard to ensure that Maestro Health is ready to take full advantage of these developments.
Butler is not only convinced about his direction, he also doesn’t feel that they have any choice but to meet the market and evolve with it. He committed long ago to being vertically integrated and completely coherent in his approach in order to be effective—encompassing his employees, his clients and their employees—his ultimate end users.
In contrast to the last Ice Age, the evolution of current circumstances can bring significant and positive change in the workplace. So while there is, and will be, much disruption during this transition, and some laggard companies will certainly be wiped out, the potential to be unleashed is also unprecedented. If your company doesn’t value its workforce and continues on its current course, are you sure its extinction is not a real possibility?
This article was first published on SAP’s The Digitalist. Sophie is the Workforce Innovation Specialist at Flexcel Network, helping companies transition to very new ways of working, dealing with issues such as workplace flexibility, talent management, Millennial demands and new employee career planning needs. She speaks frequently to corporate and professional audiences about Future of Work issues. Sophie is also President of the NYC chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.