Why did you decide to write Back to Human?
My mission in life is to help my generation succeed throughout their entire career lifecycle. My first book, Me 2.0, helped them get their first job, then Promote Yourself gave them a path to management, and now with Back to Human, I’m giving them the tools and framework to lead effectively. During an interview for an upcoming documentary called “The Revolution Generation”, I was asked several times what the biggest challenge for my generation was. While I mentioned the student loan crisis, global warming and world war, I spent the most time talking about social isolation. Through research, I’ve found that the main cause of social isolation at work is technology, and more specifically email. As someone who has worked remote for over seven years, I can relate to feeling isolation and loneliness so I decided to focus this book on leading in the age of isolation. Back to Human solves the core human need of love on the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. After you have shelter, food and love, you can spend more time focused on being a highly effective leader!
Why is this book relevant right now?
The workplace has become increasingly decentralized, fluid and automated over the past few years and this year alone, nearly one in ten jobs will be eliminated. At the same time humans are being replaced by robots, new jobs are being created to manage the jobs for humans. These jobs require the empathy, management, communication and other soft skills that robots may never possess. More of our time at work, and at home, is being dedicated to technology devices instead of face-to-face conversations, yet we have a human need to connect – we need it to function! As a result of our tech addiction, we have sought experiences from yoga retreats to festivals to workations. Back to Human is critical at a time when work tenure across all age groups has declined and global disengagement is at an all-time low. This book aims to help the next generation of leaders foster a healthy, productive and inspirational workplace where employees feel loved and cared for.
You interviewed 100 top young leaders for the book. How do they view technology in their roles?
They view technology as a ‘double-edge sword’ in that it helps improve operational efficiencies and keep us constantly connected, but at the cost of the human touch. They see technology as a way to push information out quickly and efficiently, yet at the same time it can make the workplace more dysfunctional. It keeps them constantly working even after they leave the office, leading to burnout and health problems, yet it allows them to message their teams regardless of location. As someone who has built the first part of their career using social media, I recognize its power if used properly, yet when abused it can be stressful and lead to anxiety and unhappiness.
What was the most significant finding from your research?
The global research study I conducted with Virgin Pulse of over 2,000 managers and employees found that a third of employees work remote always or very often. Additionally, remote workers are much less likely to stay at their company long-term. Only five percent of them always or very often see themselves working at their company for their entire career compared to almost a third that never work remote. This is such a profound finding because compared to a decade ago, the number of remote workers has increase by 115 percent! While remote work promotes flexibility and eliminates commuting costs, it has made employees more isolated, lonely and less committed to their teams and organizations. Technology has enabled us to work remote, but at a cost!
Can you share some advice for leaders on how to foster human connections?
(1) Get to know your teammates on a personal level by having one-on-one in-person discussions with them so you understand how they define fulfillment so you can create a positive experience for them. You can’t possibly satisfy their needs unless you discover what they are and how your teammates best learns and excels.
(2) Use technology to notify people of meetings, syncing calendars and managing deadlines, but when you’re in a meeting PUT THE PHONE DOWN! I’ve seen some teams put all of their phones in the middle of a table so that they can be fully present, attentive and ready to collaborate. Technology is great for organizing a meeting or event, but bad when you’re physical there.
(3) Become a support system for teammates. Instead of trying to push policies on your teammates, empower them to take on new challenges. Encourage them to become the best version of themselves and support their own ambitions.