On this episode Josh speaks with Soulaima Gourani. They discuss what work will look like in the near future.

Soulaima Gourani has been employed in international companies such as A.P. Møller Maersk Group and Hewlett-Packard In 2007 she was fired whilst pregnant and to make a living she set up her own business, Soulaima Art, which offers lectures and counselling. Since then she has developed her business and is also an investor and author of the books; “Ignite your career”, “Take control of your career”, and “Courage to success”.

Soulaima Gourani is on a number of boards, including Global Dignity, whose Danish organization she founded in 2012. On November 1, 2016, she joined Global Dignity’s’. Global Executive Board in New York and The Miracle Foundation. She is a member of the jury of Global Teacher Prize and appointed an Expert in Behavioural Sciences Education and Skills for the World Economic Forum. Gourani has also taught at Global Entrepreneurship at Harvard University.

In today’s episode you will learn:

  • How is work going to be changing?
  • How is work going to change for those who work with their hands?
  • What about the coming generations?
  • What talent do you need in your company five years from now?
  • How do you connect generations?


Josh:                  Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business podcast.

My guest today is Soulaima Gourani. I probably massacred her name but will get there close enough. She is just an amazing woman. She has a CV that’s ridiculous. Among them is attending a program at Stanford, the Harvard Kennedy School, Innovation Program at Berkeley.

She tells me she just moved from Scandinavia to Palo Alto. She’s been doing— her next book is on future work. We’re just been having a fascinating conversation about that. Instead of leaving you out, let’s bring you in and let’s welcome Soulaima.

Soulaima:          Thank you so much for having me in your show. I’ve been so excited to be here. I’m excited about our conversation and congratulations on your success. This is an amazing podcast. Well done!

Josh:                  Thank you so much. We’re almost 4 years now. It’s hard to believe that actually. So, tell me about your book. We’re just talking about the future work—my idea with the future work looks like I’m really interested on what yours is.

 Soulaima:         So first of all, I was really— the future of work is very interesting because a lot of people will be changing the way they work. A lot of people will now have to think about if the way they work is really working. I’m an employer myself. I have employees. I have teams all over the world. I’ve just realized that if I am going to survive, if my business will stay sustainable I need to understand how the work is changing.

My next book is a book for employees and employers to try to understand how the different generations—we don’t know for sure, but how we expect they will change the way we work. I think as a business owner myself. I’m very interested in understanding what people are looking for. What are they trying to accomplish in their life?

For that, I need to write a book because when I write a book I get the opportunity to interview the experts and I’m still learning about the topic. I’m suggesting and I’m trying to plan and show how the work is going to change from 2019 to 2040. I have a long perspective on how things are changing and for that reason—one of the reason is I moved to Palo Alto is because here I’m in the middle of Silicon Valley and I have access to all the newest technology and the brightest minds within technology. I see how they are going to impact and change the way we work and the way we live. I’m writing the book because I want to understand the work even better myself.

Josh:                  How is work going to be changing in your opinion?

Soulaima:          Work is going to change—if I should use one word it will be freedom. Freedom for you as a business owner meaning for the first time in life you don’t have to really worry about if you can get the right people into the United States of America because it says it really does not makes sense anymore because you have access to high skilled, highly productive people from all over the world and they no longer need to sit next to you in the office. That means freedom.

Freedom for you but it’s also going to change the way you look at work because if you need to see people in your office for you in order to think that they work for you. You will be challenged a lot.

Josh:                  Okay, so I want to stop you for a second because that’s absolutely true for knowledge workers. I have no doubt about that whatsoever, but if I own a construction company and I need someone to be banging hammers and nails they’re going to be working at my company. How is work going to change with them?

Soulaima:          Actually a few functions will stay the way they are for now for the next 10, 15, 20 years and one of them [inaudible00:04:21] construction workers, therapist, service industry and hospitality. I was in Japan to look at how the way work is changing within those industries and they have as you might know a massive lack of employees because no kids are being born. They sell more diapers to old people than to babies right now those industries still needs manpower, but they cannot get them. They are trying to disrupt those industries where they need people— construction, service in restaurants and all that, they actually disrupting that with technology.

I don’t think that’s going to be the case in US as much as in Japan because we still have a lot of workers in US. And if you go to India, they don’t have that issue at all because they have many, many more people than they need. So, on one hand you have Japan, massive lack of employees and they don’t import people. You might notice as well. They don’t import foreigners to work for them. They have no Mexicans. They have no Indians. They don’t have people in Japan so they are really trying to disrupt even labor work, construction and hospitality while in US we will not have this issue for a while but it’s coming. In India, they don’t have an issue at all.

So, in the US just to stay local is not going to be an issue for you as an employer to be disrupted by technology for now, but parts of the job will be disrupted. The very heavy lifting, it is going to disappear. We already have the technology. If you can say it short, it will be most safe to work in the industry because we still have a lot of accidents happening in their heavy duty labor market.

We still have a lot of safety issues. That is going to disappear the next 10 years for sure. Though, I think over time the Americans will also—not people working in those industries because so many new industries are coming. We don’t know yet but there’s a lot of new industry coming because thanks to technology and thanks to the new freedom that people will have. Construction workers are going to stay more or less the same for the next 5, 10 years for sure.

Josh:                  You know, 40 years ago, I had food servers on vending company and actually up until 1995 and I like to tell the story because being a factory has been automated in a way essentially. When I first was learning to drive, that was a long time ago, there was 1500 people working on the paper factory that we served.

Today, there are 200 people making four times the amount of paper 1500 people made. I believe that’s actually going to the construction trades and I’ve been navigating for a long time now that my construction or project, clients who build things adapt either the Theory of Constraints or scrum which is used in the high tech industry but it transfers incredibly well into brick and mortar when you build or make something.

In fact, [inaudible 00:07:49] scrum and basically [inaudible 00:07:53]. He build his house using scrum and he said he did it 30% under budget and in half of time he expected to do it. I think technologies are there. I have another question for you. I’m fascinated by generation of differences—

Soulaima:          Yeah.

Josh:                  When we think about the future of work, we have to be thinking about the personalities of the generations coming up. Every rising generation gets slammed by the older generations. I’m listening to people whined about millennials and I go back to the time when I started to work people are whining about Baby Boomers that point is being the worst workers of all time.

Now, a lot of this is because of generations have different personalities. So, millennials clamp they kind of go like this together. What about the coming generations? How are they going to change the way people look at work and the way employers will be thinking about hiring?

Soulaima:          First of all, there’s one very crucial question that if you own your business and if you have staff, you need to ask yourself one very critical and very important question and that is— what talent do I need in my company five years from now? Most people—

Josh:                  Wow, good question.

Soulaima:          Yes, and you know what? Most people cannot answer this. So, that is the crucial question, however, in 2020 next year we will be for the first time ever 5 generations working side by side. It never happened before. It’s not even true.

It’s actually 7 generations but let’s just keep it to the fact and the generations that we can agree on. We have Baby Boomers, right? They are between 45 and 65-ish—

Josh:                  Yes, older but that’s close enough.

Soulaima:          Yes, you know, 65-ish—

Josh:                  It’s more like 70 [inaudible 00:10:10] Baby Boomers about 70 [inaudible 00:10:11] about 52.

Soulaima:          The thing is Baby Boomers are actually divided into smaller Baby Boomers generations up generations. We just keep it simple here. There’s one big and they’re called Baby Boomers. And then you have Generation X, they are between 35 and 45, right? You have Generation X and Y and Baby Boomers [inaudible 00:10:35] and Alpha.

You have 5 different generations and they all very different. Though, they want the same [inaudible 00:10:42] in life. If you really, really look into what they want in life, they have the basic needs. They grow up in very different circumstances and very different times. The thing is they have access to— for instance, generation Alpha. We don’t know too much about them. My kids are generation Alpha, 9 and 11 years old. We do know that they are highly connected.

They have a global network before they turn 15 because they are used to go online, social media, gaming. They are more connected than ever before. They’re actually more concerned than ever before. What’s going to happen with generation that is concerned and connected? If you take my own generation, I’m Generation X. I’m between 35 and 45. I have to say, we don’t do much. We’re extremely passive. We want your jobs, but Baby Boomers are working until they die. No one’s going to retire really.

The thing is we’re just stuck in the middle because just underneath us you have Generation Y, 25-35 and those are much more— they have much more passion, much more drive. They are super connected with the Baby Boomers. My generation is kind of stuck somehow. We never took it really far. We have few generations that are just missing out. It’s actually why I am named Generation X. We don’t even have a name. X means nothing. We didn’t give the society anything back. We did give them amazing kids.

I think we are all different a lot in the way we work and the way we look at work. We actually want the same things in life. We want to have family. We want safety. We want financial security. We want education, health care but we look very different.

What does it mean to go to the doctor? My generation, I believe Baby Boomers still go to the doctor. While my kids, probably just go online and talk to a doctor online because they used to have friends online and for them, to have a relationship with someone it doesn’t mean we have to be on the same room. They trust people they never met before.

I think the fundamental is the same but they translate relationships and all that very different. Does it make sense?

Josh:                  Yes, it makes sense. My question is, I’m an employer and I’ve got to hire people and my core belief is that I need to treat my employees better than I treat my customers because if I don’t, my employees will give my customers bad service.

Soulaima:          Yes.

Josh:                  So, I need to have happy employees. I know how to make a happy employee with a Baby Boomer. I actually know on how to make a happy employee with a millennial— the 36 group. I don’t know how to make Gen X happy which is a challenge for me. I think it’s a challenge for a lot of employers and the truth is Gen X which is your generation is now coming in to their peak earning years and supposedly peek productive years as an employee.

What do I need to be doing to help this group? What do I need to be doing with my company to plan the future to deal with generation be kind to millennials?

Soulaima:          First of all, I’m happy you agree with my generation is kind of stuck, you know. It is actually the most unhappy generation ever. If you measure our life—

Josh:                  It is.

Soulaima:          I think it is a taboo. This is actually the first time I openly have this conversation with someone on a podcast because it’s kind of a taboo. We are now entering all the powerful positions in politics and business. We are, I don’t know, we’re kind of useless. I have much more faith in generation Baby Boomers and Generation Y. How do you connect?

First of all, for you in order to serve the different generations perfectly fine and in a good way and in the right way, we know what it takes. You and I know what it takes. You need that [inaudible 00:15:05] in your organization yourself. Actually, the short answer is, if you want to understand how to serve a Generation Y or some younger generations if they are among your clients, you need to have them hired. You need to have it inside your organization.

That’s really the biggest challenge because if you start employing different generations—let’s say you start employing 5 generations as you should, there would be a lot of conflicts because diversity is not productivity, right? It’s anything but productivity. Because if you want to be productive, you will just keep hiring people that look like yourself who have the same values—

Josh:                  If you do that you have a company that is just a disaster. If I hire clones of myself nothing will ever get done. I am a highly innovative, conceptual person but when it comes to doing something A, B, C or D— I can’t do A, B, C, D. I have to go A, D,C ,B.

Soulaima:          [Laughs] That’s because you have a beautiful spirit and a creative mind.

Josh:                  Well, that’s great but it doesn’t make you a great company.

Soulaima:          You pick your finger into something that you and I also know is that recruitment is really crucial. However, if you look into most recruitment processes, we end up even if you test people, even if you have HR, even if you have recruiters involved. You always end up hiring unless you really know your own biases then you always end up hiring gender, age, nationality and educational background that more or less look like your own. Because those people are the ones you like.

We like the ones that look like our self. We like them. You shouldn’t employing people you don’t like. That’s very difficult for most people. You don’t want to work with people you don’t like. It takes something from you to start employing people that do not look like yourself. If you start doing that, you will be very successful. That’s why most people only have small successes and not the big ones because the big success really does demand diversity.

Josh:                  So, with that in mind, we have time for one more topic to talk about. We only have few minutes left. I want to talk to you about the concept of respect. For me, the key is why bringing different people into my organization and they have different skill sets that I have, I can go two ways. I can call them idiots because they do it differently than me or I can respect the differences and love what they bring to the party. Talk to me a little bit about the concept of respect with the different generations.

Soulaima:          I think actually respect is a very strong word. Allow me to put another word on top of respect namely dignity. If we start understanding that we are very different and we look things in a different way and if you really embed human dignity into every conversation and everything we do in the company, we will not only tolerate and respect each other. We will actually really, really understand each other.

You know, like of respect, people who have high emotional intelligence, who really love and like themselves and respect themselves and walk with dignity, we know that people with high emotional intelligence have more empathy and if you have that you are capable of respecting other people. But if you are stressed, depressed, dropped out because of depression or you abuse alcohol or whatever, you don’t have that emotional empathy.

You don’t have that. It’s really down to making sure that every single person in your organization is at its best self. I think every company should have a policy for well-being. When I talk about well-being, I’m talking about well-being not only at work but at home so we have to—the lines between being private and professional have to vanish. We need to understand that I go to work. I’m a full person. If I’m not functioning at home, I will not be able to respect people at my work either.

So high emotional intelligence, make sure you test people. You employ people with high emotional intelligence. I think it’s far more important that traditional intelligence and today you can test it. You can give people challenges. You can give them things to work on before you employ them to see how they work with the ethics, map people’s values, make them align to your corporate values.

There are so many great tools out there nowadays because you just want someone who is intelligent and can work hard because that person can destroy your entire company. Respect, dignity and emotional quotient it’s key. I like that you focus on that. That’s key.

Josh:                  Cool. So, Soulaima we are out of time. I going to bet people are going to want to find you. If they wanted to do so, how would they do so?

Soulaima:          The best way is go to my homepage soulaima.com maybe we should spell it out.

Josh:                  You should spell it out.

Soulaima:          s-o-u-l-a-i-m-a.com and that’s my homepage. They can sign up if they want from my newsletter. I send out amazing stuff for company owners on those topics that I just talked about here.

Josh:                  Cool, sounds great. I also have an offer for you. Last year, I published my first book.

Soulaima:          Yes, congratulations!

Josh:                  Thank you. If you want to find us it’s pretty easy just go to sustainablethebook.com and there is a big orange button. You click on it. You put it in your credit card and we send you the book. We also give you an opportunity to have a 20 minute free conversation with me about how to make your business more sustainable and I guarantee this one a good idea. I wrote a 37-paged cheat sheet or how-to book to do all the things that we’re talking about in the book Sustainable.

This is Josh Patrick. You’ve been with Soulaima Gourani. You’re at the Sustainable Business. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back. You’re really—

Topics: sustainable business podcast, sustainable busines, future of work, future generations, future talents, generations, soulaima gourani, future fork

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