Thursday, February 29, 2024

Transcript: Future of Work

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MS. BAIRD: Hello and welcome. I’m Kathy Baird, the chief communications officer at The Washington Post and the general manager of Washington Post Live. It is great to have all of you here with us today.

It’s been three years since the global pandemic upended our lives and forced us to reimagine how and where we spend our time, especially when it comes to work. Many employees have asked for more autonomy and flexibility, and business leaders have had to adapt. Meanwhile, a new generation is finding its footing in the workplace against economic uncertainty, persistent inflation, and the looming threat of a recession. So what does the future of work look like today? We are going to be joined on our stage by several individuals who are studying workplace culture and putting into practice what they’ve learned. First, my colleague, Cat Zakrzewski, will sit down with the CEO of Kickstarter, Everette Taylor, to talk about the company’s notable move to a four-day work week. Next, Abha Bhattarai will be joined by Lynn Perry Wooten, the president of Simmons University, to discuss leadership during crisis; and then Dave Jorgenson will be joined by David and Jonah Stillman, a father and son research team focused on generational differences to assess Gen Z’s unique role in today’s workforce.

Before we get started, I’d like to thank today’s sponsor for this event, AARP.

We want to thank you again for coming, and after this short video, my colleague, Cat Zakrzewski, will take the stage.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: Good morning, and welcome to Washington Post. I’m Cat Zakrzewski, and I’m a tech policy reporter here. I’m joined today by Everette Taylor, the CEO of Kickstarter. Everette, welcome to The Post.

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you. Thank you all for being here today as well. Thank you.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: Well, thanks so much for joining us, and I want to start today with the four hour–the four-day work week that you’ve implemented at Kickstarter, and this is a practice that you actually inherited from your predecessor when you started in September. And so tell me, I mean, what were your thoughts when you heard about the idea of a four-day work week?

MR. TAYLOR: [Laughs] I was like, well, this is different. For sure, you know, for me, you know, I come from a culture of, you know, work hard, work, work, work, work, work. A lot of my career has not been about work-life balance, self-care. You know, you’re kind of taught that early on like you have to work harder than everybody else. You have to put in extra hours. You have to stay in later at the office.

And, you know, coming into Kickstarter, it made me question whether or not that was the right thing to do. Are you actually more productive? You know, a lot of people end up getting burnt out and things like that, and so as I–it made me really confront the idea of what I knew about how I worked and how others worked and what would be the best way to take care of our employees and for their self-care. And, you know, I’ve dealt with burnout before as well, and I’ve dealt with, you know, absolutely being exhausted. And so it was a surprise for me, and it was an adjustment for me. But it was one that I, you know, kind of had with open arms.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: And yeah, you make that point about how your previous lifestyle was not a lot of balance between work and life, and that’s a challenge that we’ve really seen in the tech industry, especially with this idea of hustle culture. I mean, do you think that mindset is changing industrywide, or is Kickstarter unique?

MR. TAYLOR: I definitely don’t think it’s changing industrywide, but I do think this new generation of workers especially have different expectations for their employers, right? And I think people want to live healthier lives. They want to have more balance in their lives. Especially with the introduction of social media, people have identities and lives that are outside of their work, and so I think it’s just a changing of the times. But I still think that hustle culture is still kind of the biggest kind of culture within the tech and startup scene.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: And on that point, I mean, obviously, you’re going to have employees who are high achievers who might not want to stick to that four-day work schedule. I mean, how do you deal with that, and how do you make it so, you know, there’s not this mindset, well, I do need to work five days in order to get ahead at this company?

MR. TAYLOR: Yeah. The way that we look at it is really optimizing your time. Like for most people, if you’re really honest with yourselves, are you actually working every hour in a 40-day [sic] work week? You know, now we have so many distractions–our phones, the internet, et cetera, et cetera–a lot of people are now working remotely. There’s–you know, you have your children there. You might have other things going on there. You know, you might have contractors in the home, and so a lot of people, when you really break it down, aren’t actually working 40 hours a week. Also, there’s so many useless meetings that we tend to be in or like unnecessary process that we have, and when you start to like really examine those and optimize your time, you realize that, wait a minute, if I cut out these unnecessary meetings, if I’m more focused during my time, I can accomplish just as much or more in a shortened work week than an average 40-day [sic] work week–40-hour/day work week. That’s a lot. That’s a mouthful.

And then in terms of balance and accountability, I’m the worst. I work seven days a week. Like that’s just–it is what it is, but I love what I do. I get to positively impact the world. I wake up, and I just want to do this. This is what I love, but I make sure that I have checks and balances and a lot of fun and self-care in my life. And I make sure to check, you know, the employees that we have too. A lot of people still work Fridays and do different things, but at the same time, it’s making sure you echo the sentiment of you have to continue to take care of yourself. You have to make time for self-care. You have to make time for your family, your friends, and for your own physical and mental well-being.

So continuing to do that, Kickstarter has had no problem shortening to the four day work week, and, you know, a lot of people have really implemented that balance in their lives and it’s–I’m really proud to see that.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: And you just mentioned that you work seven days a week.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: So how do you balance that with also not creating an environment where your employees feel pressure to work that much too?

MR. TAYLOR: Well, I tell them like, you know, for me, it’s like I’m the face of the company. Also, like, you know, I’m different from your average CEO. Like I have a large social following. People recognize me on the streets. Like every time that I step outside, I represent Kickstarter, and now because of the internet, like you can’t escape work. Like people are messaging me on social media, emailing me. Like work just kind of never stops. But I always tell them that I’m not–I’m not representative of how I want you all to live your lives, and still, I’m doing this because it’s fun for me. This is my enjoyment at the end of the day, and also, I’m still having a lot of fun, Cat, like a lot of fun.

MR. TAYLOR: So don’t feel bad for me. I’m still, you know, getting my eight hours of sleep. I’m still enjoying life. I’m a 30 year–33-year-old Black man. I’m enjoying life. I’m having fun. I’m going out for drinks with my friends. I’m going to basketball events and comedy shows and movies. Like I’m having a great life. So I’m making sure to still balance my life for sure.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: And you just mentioned that problem of work kind of following you wherever you go.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: Right now, we all have that experience of emails and Slack messages constantly reaching us on our phones. What are some of the ways that you set boundaries and set limits for yourself so that you still can go have a fun time?

MR. TAYLOR: I mean, you just have to get to a point where you–the power of no, like the power of no, the ability to make space for yourself. Like, you know, I’m like–I don’t know if you guys have ever seen–what’s the movie with Ron Burgundy and Will Ferrell? Like I treat my calendar–you know how he reads the teleprompter and like he reads? Like my calendar, once my day ends, like my day ends, like literally.

So after my last meeting, anything else is optional for me, right? That’s optional. And so for me, I make sure to put fun and social things in my calendar. I put times and breaks in my calendar just to like take a breather and things like that, and so I make sure to utilize my calendar in a way to make sure that I’m making organized breaks and time for myself.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: And going back to the four-day work week, I mean, how has that affected recruitment for the company?

MR. TAYLOR: Oh, everybody wants to work here, literally.

MR. TAYLOR: I was at a dinner the other night, and they were like, “You guys are hiring?” You know, we have a four-day work week. You know, we’re, you know, remote friendly and pretty much 100 percent remote. You know, we pay around 60th percentile in tech, you know, which is pretty high, you know, and no matter where you live. So you can in Louisville, Kentucky, and you’re still going to get paid like you’re in New York and San Francisco working for us. And so for us, we’re really trying to change how, you know, people look at work and have that freedom, and so I think it’s really been appealing for a lot of people.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: And Congressman Mark Takano of California recently introduced legislation that would make 32-hour work weeks the national standard. Is that something you would support?

MR. TAYLOR: Actually, not really because I feel like it just depends on case to case, you know, case by case. I think for some jobs and for some companies, it makes sense. For other things, it doesn’t make sense. I think it has to be a case-by-case basis, and so I can’t be–I can’t sit here and say like, hey, this should be the standard and, you know, for everyone. But I think for Kickstarter, as we trial this out and we experiment with it, it’s worked well thus far. But I’m still open-minded.

The moment that this doesn’t work for us, then we have to continue to evaluate, and so to me, it’s hard for me to say that this should be like a law or something legal, because I think there’s just so many different factors that go into whether it fits your company or your organization.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: And you mentioned kind of this experimentation phase. What are some of the biggest changes that Kickstarter has had to make as you adapt to this new four-day work week?

MR. TAYLOR: Yeah. It’s kind of some of the stuff that I was talking about before in terms of being–you know, optimizing your time, right, really looking at your calendar and really evaluating your calendar and what’s necessary. Is this meeting necessary? Do we really need an hour meeting? Could this be a 30-minute meeting? Can we do this asynchronous–async? Sorry. I only have a high school degree. Can we do this async? And, you know, really evaluating those things, I think it’s really, really important to really think about that every day. Is this worth it? Is your time worth it?

Like I was talking to our marketing team, and I said, “Why are we doing the things that we do? Are these things impactful? If they’re not impactful, we shouldn’t be doing it.” If this meeting isn’t impactful or worth your time, you shouldn’t be doing it. How many times have you all been in meetings and you’re just sitting there and being like, “Why am I here?” Right? Everyone has experienced that, right? And so if you feel that way, you probably shouldn’t be in that meeting, but a lot of us are consistently in these types of meetings or doing work that doesn’t make any sense or have any impact for our companies. And so I think that’s what we have to constantly do is hold ourselves accountable, think about the things that are going to be really impactful, and not wasting our time.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: Yeah. I think we’ve all had that experience of being in a meeting and thinking, “Wow. This could have been an email.”

MR. TAYLOR: Yeah, yeah, for sure.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: And, you know, on that line, I wanted to ask you, you took over Kickstarter in September 2022.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: The pandemic had already changed how a lot of us were working by that point. What lessons did you take from the pandemic and that time in lockdown as you took over the company?

MR. TAYLOR: You know, before Kickstarter, I was at Artsy, and Artsy is the largest online platform for buying and selling art. I still love the company. Use it if you need some art. I saw a beautiful Sam Gilliam as I was coming into the building, by the way. Anyways–

MR. TAYLOR: Anyways, what I really learned was the discipline needed in these environments, right? You have a lot of people, especially younger employees, that are coming into some of their first jobs and not having a structure. Like when you’re at home, there is no structure, especially for those who aren’t–like for me, as a more senior leader, very structured schedule. I have all these meetings. I have very structured time for me to do work and things like that before–you know, younger employees or more junior employees, they may not have the same kind of structure. And so like having standards of accountability, having sprint process, having KPIs–key performance indicators–having metrics of accountability is super important, and it’s more a remote environment.

And then, also, human connection is still important, you know, figuring out ways that you can help people connect, even if it’s virtually, making sure that people are connecting and having those conversations and having those interactions. People don’t stay at jobs. For some people be like–are going to disagree here. People don’t stay at jobs just for the salary. People don’t just stay at jobs just for the benefits or et cetera, et cetera. A lot of times people are staying at jobs for the people and the human connections and the work that they’re doing, and so when you take people out of, you know, physical environments or, you know, the world changes, that takes away something really, really special about a lot of the places that we work, and so making sure that you optimize for that human connection is extremely important.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: And on that point, I mean, I saw a news report that your office in Brooklyn is actually for sale. So–

MR. TAYLOR: Yeah. Anybody want to buy it? Thirty million. Easy. Yeah.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: So what does the future of the office look like at Kickstarter?

MR. TAYLOR: Yeah. I mean, we still have another office, a smaller office in Brooklyn, and we’ll accommodate people as much as possible. But the office is a ghost town. It’s literally, you know, a $30 million asset that’s just sitting there and not being used, and $30 million is a lot of money. And so, for me, you know, I had to make the decision and say, “Hey, we could really utilize that cash and do something really positive with that,” and so–especially for our community of creators and backers. And so that was why I decided that we were going to sell the building in Brooklyn.

And, you know, in the future, as I told you backstage, like I don’t have a black or white kind of mentality. I always live in the gray. Things can change at any given moment. So, you know, five years from now, we might be looking at it and be like, wow, that remote thing was weird, like, you know. Everyone’s back in the office. And so I want to make sure that we stay flexible and that we don’t 100 percent commit to anything because the world is always evolving and it’s always changing.

But at the end of the day, I also know that remote isn’t for everybody either, right? And I think it’s important to be able to accommodate as many people as possible. Maybe it’s not having a big $30 million office. Maybe it’s having smaller offices and satellite areas that we can utilize.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: And on that point, I mean, what are some of the most important things that you feel you need to do as CEO to make that kind of a hybrid environment work so that people who aren’t in the offices still feel included?

MR. TAYLOR: I mean, we’re all going down to Austin, Texas, soon in May. I’m taking the whole entire company, the whole global team to Austin, Texas, for a whole-team company retreat. So everyone will get a chance to meet each other and interact with each other. Number two is that our individual teams have budget to actually meet each other and gather. So individual teams, whether you’re on a product team or a marketing team or finance team, you can bring–you have the budget to actually bring your team together and meet. And also, we encourage, like, if you’re–you know, we have people in Seattle or Portland or Toronto or whatever. We encourage and give budget to people being able to have those in-person connections as well.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: And we’re almost out of time, so I just have time for one more question.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: You’re only a few months into your role as CEO. What’s been the biggest accomplishment so far?

MR. TAYLOR: Whew. I think the biggest accomplishment was–well, two things come to mind. Number one, in the first, you know, five or six months in the role, we didn’t lose one single employee, not one, you know, and that’s very, very hard at a tech company, where–as people are leaving. And so I was very proud of the culture that we were able to establish at the company. The positivity, the excitement, the velocity in which we were moving, it really brought people together and made Kickstarter a place that people really wanted to be at.

Number two is for the first time in company history, since 2000, and within five months of me being there, I launched–me and the team launched two new business lines, so the first-ever new business lines in Kickstarter’s history since 2009. So I came in there, and I was like let’s go to work, and we did it. And I’m very, very proud of the team for accomplishing that.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: Well, Everette Taylor, we’re just about out of time. Thank you so much for joining us today–

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you. Yeah.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: –at The Washington Post.

And don’t go anywhere. My colleague, Abha Bhattarai, will be up here with our next guest right after this video.

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, everybody.

MS. ZAKRZEWSKI: Thanks so much. That was great.

MS. BHATTARAI: Welcome back. For those of you who are just joining us online, I am Abha Bhattarai, and I’m the economics correspondent here at The Post.

I am so pleased to be joined by Lynn Perry Wooten today. Lynn is the president of Simmons University in Boston and the author of “The Prepared Leader: Emerge from Any Crisis More Resilient Than Before.”

Lynn, thanks so much for joining us.

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: Thank you for having me.

MS. BHATTARAI: So I’d like to start by rewinding three years to the beginning of the pandemic. You have been studying crisis leadership for decades, and then all of a sudden, the pandemic plunged us into what is likely the biggest crisis of our lifetimes. So I’m wondering what was going through your mind in those early days of covid? What were the issues that you were grappling with?

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: Right. So my co-author and I had been saying we needed a new book, and we were both in career transition. I was still at Cornell and about to start the presidency at Simmons, and I remember the day that the–Cornell shut down. I was looking for a new house in Boston, and all of a sudden, I was like wait a second. This pandemic is more than Seattle. It’s more than China, and we need to understand how to be prepared leaders.

Now, my co-author talks about it really hit her when the NBA shut down. Then she knew the world was changing, right?

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: But the question was how were we going to do this change and do it well is what we were really interested in.

MS. BHATTARAI: Fantastic. You have some great case studies of your–in your book, some just really rich examples of how other leaders across the country handled this. Can you share a few of your favorites?

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: Yeah. You know, one of my favorites really is the NBA bubble, the example of prepared leadership where they said, okay, we still want to have a basketball season, but it’s not business as normal, and came up with this creative idea about bringing all the basketball players to Disney World, because Disney World was closed, and creating this bubble environment where you could get everything done if you were a basketball player. You could train. You could do all those particular things. So the NBA is an example of someone who said, “Look, I see the signs on the wall. I need to reinvent my business and do it differently.” So that’s one of my favorite examples.

MS. BHATTARAI: Fantastic. That’s a great, very grand example, and I think we’ve seen smaller versions of that at workplaces everywhere around the world. One of the biggest changes has been around remote work and hybrid work, and we actually have a question from our audience about this. Margaret New from Washington, D.C., asks, “While working at home hurt women for promotions, is occasional face time beneficial?”

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: You know, I think the world is changing. I was telling you when we were in the green room, I’ve been studying women-friendly workplaces all of my career, so 25-plus years, and it used to be this thing where women had to show up in their Brooks Brothers suits, they had to work 80-hour weeks, and they had to always show face time. In almost every industry, what the pandemic has done is it’s made an opportunity out of the crisis, and I think for how women work and when they show up, we’ve seen this. So hybrid work is more normal, and we need managers to understand that people–and especially women–can benefit from not being in the office every day and have cultures that really encourage promotion policies, mentoring, and sponsoring.

So to answer the question, I think no. First, you have to pick workplaces that are thinking about hybrid culture or what our previous speakers said, the four-day work week. We have to train managers how to balance and make the tradeoff of hybrid cultures, and then also we have to ensure that people are not overlooked for promotions.

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: But it’s really this notion of negotiating your workplace.

MS. BHATTARAI: What are some of the factors that are most important to consider when you’re negotiating this?

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: Yeah. The first factor to consider is what is the culture of what days people are in the workplace is number one. Number two, is the manager–if the manager’s there five days a week, that’s a tell sign. So you want to make sure your manager understands what are their promotion policy. Who’s getting promoted? Are the people who are on the hybrid track getting promoted, or are they only promoting the people who are there every day? So the work culture and the manager really make the difference.

And even the CEO. Even though the CEO might work, you know, the 60-hour weeks, does the CEO walk the talk, the policies?

MS. BHATTARAI: What do you think beyond hybrid work has been the biggest change in the workplace after the pandemic?

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: The two biggest changes I’ve seen are the gig economy, and I know we’re going to talk about the younger generation, and they don’t really want the traditional corporate jobs–

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: –that I grew up when I’m a Generation Xer. So the gig economy is one big change where they’re willing to Uber–start their own business, their own consulting firm, use their creative for talents.

The other things is–that we’re thinking about is that this current generation of work–and I call it, you know, Gen Xers and Y–you’re going to live to be 100, and if you’re going to live to be 100, you have to think about over the course of your life, what type of education you need and what your whole career trajectory is going to be. So that’s the second trend.

And then the third trend is that women are tired, and you’ve written about this. So I’m seeing women enter and exit the workplace, especially women in my generation who are the sandwich. They might be worried about their parents. They’re worried about their kids, and they’re trying to balance it. And so this trend is that how do we reinvent women-friendly workplaces has really been weighing on my mind.

MS. BHATTARAI: That’s a great point. What does a women-friendly workplace look like? What are some of the policies that managers can put in place?

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: One policy I think is definitely that, despite that we see changes in the demographics for care and responsibility, the data still shows that women do the majority of the care, and so ensuring that we have workplaces that let women do a half a day because you might have to go visit your mom in assisted living like me or someone who has child care.

The other one is ensuring that women have what like Carla Harris calls the “support network.” Women need mentors, they need coaches, and they need sponsors. And so that’s really important so that they know the rules of the game, and they’re not being looked over.

And then cultures that are lifelong learning, cultures that ensure that women are at every stage of their career, they’re saying what do they need, and then how am I going to invest in those women?

MS. BHATTARAI: You are the president of a university, and I’m very curious about how universities fit into this equation. What role do they have in preparing the next generation of leaders and workers?

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: You know, college is still one of the best institutions for really preparing the next generation of leaders. There are these multiple paths now. There’s the entrepreneur path. There’s the gig path, but we know that colleges have systems and practices. And when I think about Simmons University, we were founded by a man, but Simmons is a women-centric university. And I’d like to say back in 1899, John Simmons was this renaissance man. He was this cool guy who decided that women needed an education to earn their independent livelihood, and that is what the role I think of universities, helping people define who they are, how they want to contribute to society, what their career trajectory is, and in particular, preparing them always for the workforce and what’s coming. College is that foundation.

Yes, the pandemic has changed the world, but college gives you that learning orientation. It teaches you that grit, that resourcefulness, how to be on teams, and it makes you be able to pivot and adapt and thrive.

MS. BHATTARAI: How do you personally think about work-life balance now, and how is that different from, say, three years ago or five years ago?

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: That is a great question, and work-life balance has always been a big issue. For academics, I had my son young. So I had my first child when I was 28, and my husband and I were trying to climb up the academic ranks and think about those papers and teaching and those type of things. So the first kind of–I’d say 20 years of our life, it really was about, okay, get the work done, get the kids to the places they need to do, have the homework table, all of those things, I think, that we’re glad it’s gone. And I have to give kudos to people who have kids at home during the pandemic, because my kids were not at home, or they were able to do things different.

Now, you know, my work-life balance really is what does it mean to parent a grown child–that’s a big part of it–and to support them as they’re on their journey.

My husband lives in Ann Arbor. I live in Boston. So it’s commuting. So it’s balancing the commute. So the flexibility of hybrid work has been really a benefit.

And then self-care and fun is really important, making time for fun. Part of being an empty nester is you have a lot more time for fun. So you have time for a couple nights and to hang out with your friends, and I want to be a good daughter. So that’s important to me. So I think a lot about my mom, and I think a lot about–I have a lot of aunts too.

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: So that’s my work-life balance.

MS. BHATTARAI: So what can leaders do? What can managers at companies and institutions do to make sure that people have that work-life balance and to sort of foster that in their employees?

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: You know, it’s really important that we have to throw out the notion that they’re just employees, and that people want to bring their whole self to work. Oftentimes we just see, okay, this is the accountant, this is the engineer. So the first thing I say is you need to get to know your employees, part of their identity. What are their values, and what are their strengths? And when I say identity, I’m talking about there’s the professional identity. They may belong to a faith-based community. There’s their gender, their identity. There’s all those things that shape who they are to understand work-life balance. And then, as I said earlier, it really is important that managers and leaders walk the talk that, you know–so if you’re on my team, you know about my kids, you know about my mother, you know about my husband, so bringing your whole authentic self, and then building time in the workday for work-life balance. And so, you know, some companies have ruled–we talked about the four-day work week. Maybe you’re not emailing people after 10:00 p.m. Maybe it’s that you’re ensuring that you have weekends, but building it into the culture.

I think about well-being should be part of a leader’s role, and the many facets of well-being help with work-life balance, so ensuring you’re creating a culture of emotional well-being, ensuring that you’re creating a culture where people can thrive in the workplace, taking time for physical well-being.

You know, sometimes during the pandemic, I said, “Okay. We’re not going to do Zoom meetings. Instead, when I’m going to do my one-on-ones, we’re going to do it on the phone, and we’re going to walk,” so making sure those well-beings. You know, much to my team’s chagrin, I’m a health food nut. So I don’t have the best lunches all the time, but you’re going to have a good salad.

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: So thinking about those aspects of well-being.

MS. BHATTARAI: Fantastic. I want to go back to remote work, which we talked about a little bit earlier, and you touched on this. But in a lot of workplaces, we’re seeing a tug-of-war between managers who want their workers at their desks and workers who’d rather be working from elsewhere. And I’m wondering what advice you would give to those leaders who still want to go back to the days of having people in their desks, five days a week.

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: You know, that’s a great question. I saw an article that one of my mentees sent me this week that said the latest banking crisis is being blamed on remote work, and I was like, “What? This is ridiculous,” right? So let’s talk about this.

For managers who say we want to go back to times, those are managers that I’m wanting to say we need to push the status quo. We have to do the work about thinking about how to be innovative for work-life balance and these hybrid workforces, and so one, it’s that having a set of norms. What are some days we’re going to all be in the office? What are some days we’re going to be on Zoom? But having a set of norms are so important.

And then learning how to conduct remote meetings. Most people still have not learned the art of having productive remote meetings and how do you have check-ins, and the other thing is ensuring that you have guidelines and you’re–you know, because there are some people who are getting over. Let’s be true. There’s some people I’ve heard who are working two or three jobs through remote work. So making sure you have guidelines about when you’re going to show up, when you’re supposed to be working, and having good performance metrics.

But it takes lots of redesigning. It takes the commitment of the manager to say we can make this work and be a better company. It goes back again to this has been such an opportunity, because four years ago, people weren’t talking about hybrid and remote work.

MS. BHATTARAI: Absolutely.

MS. BHATTARAI: How do you have a successful remote meeting? What are your tricks there?

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: Yeah. So, you know, the tricks there are, one, having a time agenda. I think also I approach every meeting as what are we going to learn from that meeting. So if there’s pre-material, you want to have pre-material. You want to be able, good, to use some of the technology functions. So using the whiteboard, using the shared stream, and using the chat.

The other important thing–we talk about this in the book–is remote meetings, but all meetings, you want to make sure that you hear all voices in the room. And what we’ve learned during the crisis is the expert is not only the person with the title, and so in remote meetings, it’s making sure that you do round-robins that call on everybody.

And then at the end of the meeting, it’s making sure that people are clear about their action steps and who owns the agenda and who’s going to get the work done. So it’s the multiple roles that we need to have good remote meetings. It’s not just showing up on your Zoom square and saying I’m here.

MS. BHATTARAI: Perfect. There’s a lot of uncertainty still out there. We’re still in a pandemic. There’s fear of a recession. We’re seeing these headlines about layoffs and bank failures. How do you navigate that as a leader, and how do you manage employees at a time of so much uncertainty?

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: Yeah. The anxiety is high. You know, we were talking about this on my team, and I’m leaving to go do kind of a community meeting. Jerry Maguire said, you know, “Show me the money. Show me the money,” and anxieties times, we say, “Communicate, communicate, communicate.” We know that the world is changing, you know, inflation, a recession, different employments and layoffs, and so we have to communicate. We have to lead with grace. We also have to care. We have to care about the people and the people who are currently on our workforce, the future workforce, and the people who are going to leave. And so caring is a big part of the manager’s role, just caring and communicating and getting people to understand what’s happening in the world, the why we’re seeing this change and that we are invested in your interest and this is the pathway forward.

And these are hard times. They are really hard times. I mean, we go from a pandemic to a social reckoning to political unrest to the banking crisis to what are we seeing happening in Europe, and so every day, we have to get up and ensure people that we have their best interests and the institutions that we lead. That’s the thing about being a leader. You’re thinking about the individual. You’re thinking about the team, but then you have to go up and do what’s the best interest for the entire institution or the shareholders or the majority stakeholder group.

MS. BHATTARAI: Perfect. And one last question for you. Where do we go from here? What does the future of work look like, and what are some of the issues that are going to become increasingly important in the next few years?

MS. PERRY WOOTEN: Yeah. So, okay, I have–I love these T-shirts that my daughter buys me that the future of work is women. So I definitely want to think about that one, about how do, one, we become places where women can thrive and that we invest in the education systems that people need.

So one is that we continue on this trajectory to have workplaces where not only women can thrive, but the future has to be that we have to see more people from under-resourced and underrepresented backgrounds shattering the glass ceilings. And the only way we’re going to do that is to ensure that we have equitable systems, and that’s systems from everything. That’s those mega communities, that we have education systems, and government policies and organizational policies are so important. So that’s one of the ones.

The big one also is that we’re going to have to do something about this labor shortage. I say the three H’s that I study a lot–hospitality, higher ed, and health care–are totally going to have to reinvent their self.

There was an article on The Boston Globe talking about in the Boston area, you know, about one-fifth of health care providers want to leave the industry, and all of us need health care. So how are we going to reinvent more–have paraprofessionals invest in education systems, think more about telemed? So part of it the future is innovation also.

MS. BHATTARAI: Fantastic. Lynn, we are just about out of time. Thank you so much for joining us.

And please stay with us. Our program will continue in a few minutes.

MS. WONG: Great. Good morning. Happy, happy day. Happy Wednesday, and thank you for joining us here in person as well as online.

My name is Lana Wong, and I’m the founding member of a diverse women’s speakers bureau, Moderate the Panel. Si today we’ll be discussing innovative approaches to managing risk, and as we’ve heard earlier today and as I’m sure we’ve all experienced firsthand, covid has really forced workplaces to pivot like never before. And although there are certain advantages to working at home in your pajama pants and not having to navigate that mute button on Zoom, can I just say, first of all, how nice it is to be here in person with all of you here today. So thank you again for joining us.

I’m joined by two experts today who will tell us about the importance of planning and innovative approaches to managing risk. So, first of all, I’m honored to introduce Scott, Scott Frisch, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of AARP. Scott has helped guide AARP through a period of dynamic change, reengineering many operational functions, and establishing innovative investment tools in the health and wellness space. He also oversaw the complete renovation of a 500,000-square-foot national headquarters space here in D.C. to create a new environment with the latest innovations in tech and sustainability. So welcome, Scott.

MS. BHATTARAI: And then we’re also lucky to have with us today, Dr. Jean Accius, the president and CEO of CHC, Creating Healthier Communities. That’s an organization which brings together nonprofits, businesses, and communities around the shared commitment to better health and well-being. Jean has been widely recognized for his transformational leadership and is passionate about equity, the contributions of women to society, and to making the world a better place. So welcome, Jean.

MS. BHATTARAI: Pleased to have both of you here, and let’s dive in.

So, Scott, we’ll start with you. How did your organization manage risk before covid, and what’s changed?

MR. FRISCH: Well, first of all, thank you for having both Jean and I here.

So risk management has been sort of in our DNA at AARP for years, and about seven or eight years ago, we took a slightly more formal approach to think about what are the top risks facing the organization, internal, external, micro, macro, pick your descriptor. And by doing that, that has allowed us to think about how to control those risks, to the extent that we can, and that formal function, which started working with our board and our executive team and our leadership team, aligned the organization on what is facing AARP in the future and facing us today.

Now, one of those top 20 risks happened to be business continuity planning. We never thought we’d ever face a pandemic, but preparing for business continuity, because we knew it was one of our risks, has allowed us to be able to adapt to the pandemic during the pandemic and post pandemic.

Now, nothing’s really changed since the pandemic in terms of understanding our risks in terms of evaluating our risks and mitigating those risks. We’ve simply maintained our steady course from the function that we established seven or eight years ago, and it’s held up so–very well so far.

MS. BHATTARAI: That’s great. All right.

Then over to you, Jean. In this current climate, organizations really need to be creative and nimble and take unique approaches to succeed. So what mindset do you think you need to have to really innovate?

MR. FRISCH: Well, first of all, thank you so much, and thank you, Scott, to be part of this amazing conversation.

I think it’s critically important, particularly for us at CHC. We’ve been on this transformation journey, and we realized that for the past 65-plus years working with our partners that we’ve had an amazing opportunity to drive impact. But because of the pandemic, because of the range of issues that we’re facing both here and abroad, that we had an opportunity to accelerate the impact that we needed to make and then also to start to think differently. And part of that thinking differently was really to outline both in terms of the–our staff as well as our executive team in conjunction with our board, what would the next 65 years look like for Creating Healthier Communities? What are the opportunities to really think outside the box, and how do we ensure that we have a strategy as well as the right skill sets and mindsets within the organization in order to drive that strategy?

So we just actually recently released our transformation journey as a case study that outlines how we’ve been able to support our staff, both in terms of learning, having a growth mindset, how we’ve been able to transition as an organization to a four-day work week to support that well-being, so walking that talk. And what we’ve seen so far has been tremendous results.

MS. BHATTARAI: Fantastic. Great.

And so how has AARP been required to innovate post pandemic?

MR. FRISCH: Well, I think, again, if you go back a few years, we realized that we must be “everyday innovators in aging,” and that’s actually a phrase we use with our staff. And that does–that just doesn’t mean innovation from trying to create the next product or the tech product or some service. It’s the full range of what can we do internally to how to make us more efficient, how we change our processes, all the way to creating new programs and services.

So we had that mindset prior to the pandemic, and it allowed us during the pandemic to adapt quickly to a variety of things as two examples. One, prior to the pandemic, what would do about 10,000–excuse me–10,000 events in person every year across the country. So on whatever it was, March 13th, March 14th, 2020, when the world changed, we had to figure out how to do that virtually, how to maintain the same engagement, the same involvement, and get people energized about doing things virtually.

Now, obviously, we weren’t the only ones to do that, but we were able to adapt very quickly because we had the infrastructure in place. We had a mindset of, hey, how do we “think differently”? And that’s a good phrase that Jean used. How do we take what we do, morph it, and adapt to something new? And that has been sort of our–I would say it’s embedded in our culture for the last, you know, seven or eight years.

And the second example, I think within a two-week period, we launched an online mutual aid society, that we ended up having 700,000 people participate in across the country, which spawned–I forget how many other hundreds of other similar types of online or virtual communities. And we did it in two weeks, again, which is very fast for us. So I think it worked. I think it’s part of the culture.

MS. BHATTARAI: Fantastic. No, those are great examples.

And so, Jean, let’s move over to the workforce. How has the workforce changed, and what would you say are the changes for the better and the changes that have been more challenging?

DR. ACCIUS: Well, you know, I think some of the earlier panelists really kind of talked about this, that this pandemic has really caused us to think differently about how we utilize our time and how can we be more effective. At CHC, we actually started before the pandemic to go partially remote, and then as a result of the pandemic, we thought that it was important to really provide staff with the tools and a culture that supported their ability to be productive. So we have a hybrid model, but what’s so interesting is that even when staff is in the office, that you’re on your computer to create that culture of oneness.

And then, as I mentioned before, we have a four-day work week, and again, all of that is designed to create that opportunity to allow people to be more productive, to give people an opportunity to manage their time more efficiently in terms of how they need to allocate time throughout the day.

And then I think, finally, as I was sharing earlier during one of our–green room in the back, is that I sat through an exercise called “In Your World.” Now we’re a relatively small organization, and we have an opportunity to really examine and understand people and really kind of build that culture of trust. The In Your World exercise is basically one slide with eight pictures, and each staff member gets an opportunity to talk about their holistic self. So when you say bring your whole self to work, that is just an example. And I sat through 15 of those, and I was very inspired by the commonalities that existed, whether it’s the folks that were in the room or those that were online.

MS. BHATTARAI: That’s nice. That’s a great way to really engage staff and get to know that social interaction that I think we’ve all been missing in the virtual world.

So let’s actually now move to leadership. So, Scott, how is your leadership really looking at the whole risk management space moving forward? Do you think the worst has happened, or what’s your view on that?

MR. FRISCH: God, I hope the worst has happened.

You know, no one knows. No one knows what the future predicts will happen in the future. I think–not to be repetitive, but I think we have established this risk–understanding our risks and creating plans to reduce those risk–risks. We use tabletop exercises on a variety of topics to help us, you know, prepare for them. Some are unannounced; some are planned. I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to continue to think forward, continue to try to connect dots of what’s happening in society, what’s happening in the marketplace, what’s happening in the financial world, to think about how do these things, whatever they may be, impact your organization.

You can’t predict the future. I mean, if we would, I’d probably be sitting on an island somewhere, retired, 20 years ago. But I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to continue to think about the future and think about the present and how they connect, and create the infrastructure to allow you to be adaptive, to be–to adapt quickly and efficiently.

MS. BHATTARAI: Great. And it sounds like AARP certainly was very nimble in times of crisis.

MR. FRISCH: Sometimes it’s to be better be lucky than good, but so far.

MS. BHATTARAI: And so I guess with time wrapping up, I think we do have a chance for both of you to answer this question, but let’s start with you, Jean. What have you learned about yourself as a leader, and how do you think you’ve changed?

DR. ACCIUS: That’s an excellent question. I actually want to build off what Scott said earlier about building the right infrastructure. Having been at AARP under the leadership of Scott and also Jo Ann, the CEO, you actually saw firsthand how a strategy around innovation, risk management align to advance the strategy overall for the organization.

So when Scott talks about the infrastructure and the changes that has taken place, AARP literally went through a transformation in and of itself physically in terms of the building to really be able to articulate that innovation that Scott talked so well about.

For me as a leader, I think that it’s clear. It’s about the difference between being busy and being effective, and I think that because of what we’ve all collectively been through over the last three years, really understanding how do you maximize your time and how do you decide on what meetings to take and what the opportunities are. So for me, it’s about being a better listener, really creating that space to be very strategic in terms of driving strategy and the vision for the organization. It’s about collaboration, understanding that each person that you interact with has gifts and talents, and it’s also my responsibility as a leader to figure out how best to leverage those gifts and talents to advance the mission of the organization.

And I will tell you that the folks over at CHC, they are amazing, passionate people who inspire me each and every day. Really do.

MS. BHATTARAI: Fantastic. Great.

And, Scott, your reflections?

MR. FRISCH: So, you know, years ago, I once heard a professor–asked a class that I was part of–said, you know, what is–how do you define great leadership? And everyone threw out all these adjectives. Well, you have to be inspiring, visionary, creative, you know, high integrity. You know, probably there was like 20 responses, and the professor sort of nodded, and every time he nodded, someone threw out another word. Then we ran out of words, and he said, “Well, I’m going to give you a different view. Leadership, a good leader, creates an environment where all those adjectives that you just threw out at me allows the staff to grow and empower themselves.” So you don’t–the leader doesn’t necessarily need to have every single one of those descriptions, but they need to allow for an environment that fosters those adjectives. And I think that was–you know, that was just something that I’d never heard before.

So if you fast-forward to the pandemic, I think he’s still absolutely accurate, but I’m going to add one little twist. I think leadership in–we think of leadership as a ubiquitous term, and how do you lead people? How do you lead? It doesn’t matter if you’re a captain of a sports team or you’re a teacher or you’re a CEO or you’re a department head or you’re a line manager. “Leadership” is–I think has become this ubiquitous term, but I think the pandemic has showed us that leadership really applies to the individual level, how you respond versus how I respond or Jean responds to an individual leader or a circumstance is going to be different. And it’s up to that leader to understand how each one of us are going to react to things, and that is taking this sort of ubiquitous approach and making it focused on the individual.

And that is probably at least what I’ve learned along with listening more and listening better. The pandemic has taught me that it’s individualistic as well as group.

MS. BHATTARAI: That’s fantastic. So I think we can take a note from that professor and also those messages from both of you. Thank you for being–listening compassionately with empathy and at the individual level to make sure that everyone can bloom and flourish in the workplace. So thank you, Jean and Scott, for this rich conversation.

And thank you all for joining us here and online, and if you have ideas that you want to add on the future of work, please add your voice online using the #PostLive.

My name is Lana Wong, and I thank you again for joining us. And now we’ll turn it over to our colleagues at The Washington Post. Thank you.

MR. JORGENSON: Good morning. Is my mic on? Hi. I’m Dave Jorgenson, senior video producer here at The Washington Post, and I’m so excited to be joined today by David and a mustache-less Jonah Stillman.

MR. JORGENSON: But I like the mustache. So I thought that was pretty good. This is my first time doing the Live in person, so it was a little–it’s a little bit jarring to actually see faces. So, hopefully, we get some laughter. Good. Because normally I’m just looking at the webcam going, “I’m hoping they’re liking this.” So this seems much better than that sort of, you know, 21st Space Oddity thing where it’s like, “David?” Okay. Anyway, so I’m excited to be joined by them. This is a father-son research team and co-author of a book called “Gen Z @ Work.” David and Jonah, thank you for coming.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: Thanks for having us.

MR. JORGENSON: Yeah. We have a lot of good questions for you, so we’re going to get right into it.

Jonah, you’re a card-carrying member of Gen Z, allegedly. So I want to start with you. Tell us in your own words what your generation wants out of an employer.

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: Wow. Right to it. Yeah. I am a member of Gen Z. I was born in ’99, and we define Gen Z as those born between ’95 and 2012. Some say ’97 to 2010, but I’m dead smack in the middle.

MR. JORGENSON: We can do a vote at the end of this. Yeah.

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: Yeah. To answer your question, what Gen Z wants to have a career, it’s very different than I think a lot of people are assuming. So if you look at the millennials in the early stages of their career where Gen Z is now, the number one thing statistically through all research that they wanted was meaning out of their job. They entered their career saying, “If I’m going to work here, I want to change the world. I want to move the needle on something.”

And now we have Gen Z in the early stages of their career, and it’s not that Gen Z doesn’t care about meaning, but the number one thing Gen Z is looking for out of their employers in the early stages is pay and salary. And the research is showing, one, it’s because of the events we grew up in, the 2009 recession, messaging from our parents and telling us what we need to focus on, and then also we hear oftentimes that Gen Zers are saying, you know, we can find meaning in a host of other ways and ideally, we can blend that with our job, but if not, at the end of the day, I have to pay my bills. And that’s what–o Gen Z cares about money a lot.

MR. JORGENSON: Got it. Okay. I’ll make sure to make sure–make sure you’re well compensated. Nix. We don’t pay.

MR. JORGENSON: But, Jonah, it sounds like you talked a lot about meaning. I think you’re getting a lot of meaning. You already wrote a book. Are you 23? Is that correct?


MR. JORGENSON: Okay. That’s pretty good. That’s better. Me at 23, I was–you know, I was having a good time, but I was at Starbucks.

So, David, many Gen Zers entered the workforce in the middle of the pandemic with no real history of what in-person work looks like, including the two Gen Z members of my TikTok team. So I’m curious, do you think that puts them at a disadvantage?

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: I actually do in the sense that–it was mentioned in the video–so much of how everyone gets ahead isn’t necessarily the projects they work on, but it’s those interactions at the conference table or, like we said, around the water cooler or just being with each other in the workforce. And so if all you are is a two-by-two picture on a screen and maybe people didn’t even turn on their video that day, you know, I think what they’re really missing is those opportunities when you get to see someone in action. What are they like in a meeting? How do they insert themselves? How do they follow up? And I think a lot of what the pandemic did is took away that ability to get the social capital that launched all the other generations.

MR. JORGENSON: Are you seeing–is Gen Z adapt–like how are you seeing Gen Z adapt to that? Is there a way that that’s happening right now in the moment where they’re, you know, sort of reacting to this?

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: I think it’s really the other generations that need to react more in that what they need to do is either figure out ways to help them get social capital in a digital environment. You know, if you’re in a Zoom chat, maybe say to someone, “Hey, can you stay on for a little bit? I’d like to talk to you and get to know you better.” Or, you know, for those campuses where you have a lot of employees and they show up, make sure your executives aren’t just on that floor up above and don’t even have access to you. So I think it’s really the other generations that are creating these opportunities for access, and what you’ll see, that Gen Zers raise their hand and sign up definitely.

MR. JORGENSON: Great. Jonah, you said your generation wants face-to-face interaction. It’s happening right now with all of us, but face-to-face interaction could mean in person or video chat. Explain what you mean by this.

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: Yeah. So it’s–that’s definitely a controversial point, like this idea of what is defined as face-to-face–

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: –conversation. So in our latest study, which we’ve now asked this question over, you know, probably 10 times is we say, what is your preferred mode of communication? And the four choices we give are email, text, phone, or face-to-face. And overwhelmingly, each time we’ve run the study, the answer is face-to-face communication. I think the latest time, it was 84. Just under 85 percent of Gen Z said that they prefer face-to-face communication.

Now, out of that 85 percent, over half would say that they would define a Zoom call hangout, whatever those–any of the platforms as a face-to-face conversation, and it’s what we talk about is, you know, Gen Z lives in what we label the “phygital world, where the physical and digital worlds are the line between the two, phygital.

MR. JORGENSON: Phygital. Got it.

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: It’s one of our–

MR. JORGENSON: Okay. All right.

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: It’s concept that we–

MR. JORGENSON: We’ll do a spelling contest.

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: Yeah. We’ll do that at the end.

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: But where Gen Z starts to, you know, eliminate the line between the physical and digital spaces. Now, ideally, most of those respondents say that conversation would happen in a room like this, but, you know, if I can see your face, you can see mine, and we’re talking. Like we are in today’s world, in today’s work where most, as we’ve heard the past conversations today, like are in a remote environment. It’s as close as a lot of Gen Zs are getting, especially professionally. So I think that they’re starting to more so define that as face-to-face communication.

MR. JORGENSON: Do you think part of that has to do with like–you know, I remember¸ for instance, D.C. lockdown.

MR. JORGENSON: I would go and walk my dog four times a day with a mask on, and the first day, they said you can be outside with a mask off. I’m walking outside. All of a sudden, I’m just like, oh, my God, this is overstimulation. But it was good because, suddenly, I knew how people felt about me walking by. Like before, I was like I think that person hates me, but the next time I saw them, oh, they’re smiling at me this whole time. Do you think there’s like almost–it’s almost a–that part of that face-to-face interaction–


MR. JORGENSON: –comes from just literally not having that for two years?

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: Well, I think that, and then also on the other side of it would be never not knowing a world without digital communication, right?

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: So like your generation, generations before, you had to learn to accept a world where now we communicate on Zoom or we can have a meeting that way. For Gen Z, we’ve never had to accept that that was a new mode of communication. It’s always been there. So I think it’s a big difference between like learning to accept a form of technology versus like expecting it always to be there.

So like for me and my peers and coworkers, it’s like, oh, it’s just an expectation that, you know, I can meet with you in person, or we could have a conversation via Zoom. And I’ve never known a world without that, and none of my generation has.

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: So I think that that, on top of what you’re saying was, you know, not having that in-person interaction for two years, but also having the ability to always, you know, connect via Zoom or Microsoft Teams or any other digital platform is a huge part of it as well.

MR. JORGENSON: Right. Or if you’re my 93-year-old grandma, something called a “GrandPad.”

MR. JORGENSON: –which is an iPad that just has video.

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: There you go.

MR. JORGENSON: It’s fun. It’s very nice. I recommend it.

Anyway, David, right now it’s not unusual for a company to see five generations of employees. So you have traditionalists, baby boomers, Gen Xers, millennials, and Gen Z. Where do you see the most tension between these generational groups? Hopefully, not millennial and Gen X.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: No. I think some of the biggest tension right now is going to be between millennials and Gen Z for a couple of reasons is that–

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: Yeah. So more space, guys.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: No. You know, millennials, the most collaborative generation ever, it was the generation that really just cannot even know each other, come in a room, figure out each other’s strengths, play to those strengths, operate as a team, and their ability to collaborate is really just dazzling.

You compare that to Gen Z. You know, they’re just super competitive. And so, you know, an example would be open-office concept. A lot of millennials, that’s the generation that pushed for it. We saw cubicle walls come down.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: You know, it’s a big–everyone can sit anywhere, you know. So we ran this study, and 6 percent Gen Z likes open-office concept.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: As they see it, get your nose out of, you know, my work. I actually want your job.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: And so I think what’s going to happen is that this collaborative group of millennials is not going to be ready, and because of the pandemic, to your point, they haven’t had a lot of time, you know, actually managing in a face-to-face environment. It’s been via Zoom. So, suddenly, you’re going to have a generation that’s in there. As Jonah mentioned, they want money. They want to get ahead, but they’re super competitive. And I think they’re going to really challenge these uber collaborative millennials.

MR. JORGENSON: I might be a millennial anomaly because I do not feel this.

MR. JORGENSON: For my job, I’m trying to watch TikToks, and it makes it look like I’m not–I’m like, “I’m working. I swear. I need to watch this.”


MR. JORGENSON: Just so everyone knows.

Anyway, Jonah, you and your dad have done polling that found more than 65 percent of employed Gen Zers have side jobs. What does that tell you? Do you have a side job? What’s going on?

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: Yeah. It really is the era of the side hustle. So like it’s the idea that for Gen Z, it’s become like substantially easier to do both. Like the debate for previous generations was, do I go work at a company, or do I start my own thing? And now for Gen Z, it’s not an either/or. It’s a both. So like I’ll come work–I’ll come work for The Washington Post full-time, but on the side, you know, I’ll sell sneakers on eBay or have an Etsy store, drive for Uber, any of these things. And it’s a two-part thing. It’s like one–like as I mentioned, like access to do it is much easier, to start your own business. To find like the gig economy is obviously much easier. And then it’s also this idea of like flexibility around work, right? If we’re in a remote place and I’m getting my job done and my boss is happy with me, I have maybe a little bit more extra time to dabble and make a little extra money on the side. It comes down to this idea of paying salary, right, eager to make more money.

Yeah. And I do have a side hustle. I coach. I coach a workout class twice a week just because I like doing it.

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: So like that example. I think I–and yeah. I mean, to me, the follow-up side that’s even more interesting is there’s 65 percent of Gen Z have a side hustle, and almost 90 percent of those people want their side hustle to become their full-time job.

MR. JORGENSON: And Jonah will be leading a workout with all of us after this.

MR. JORGENSON: I’m very excited for it.

David, you–we talked a little bit backstage about your relationship with your son. I want to know broadly, but also maybe personally, how Gen X parents have influenced Gen Z.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: You know, Gen X parents, in general, we have always been these independent alternative generation. You had 80 million baby boomers. Along came much smaller Gen X, and so not a lot of attention on Gen X because we didn’t really create cash cows anywhere we went. And what we find is Gen X has always been these independent thinkers, open to alternative paths, and so you will say to, you know, their Gen Z kids, well, you know, maybe you should go do that side hustle, or you’re right, maybe you don’t need to go to university and we could try an alternative path, where you just found with a lot of baby boomers and their millennial kids, like you will go to college. You will, you know, go this typical path. And so we find Gen X really, you know, taught their Gen Z kids how to embrace alternative paths.

And even more so, one of the biggest things we saw was the death of the participation award. You know, a lot of that collaborative millennials, baby boomers, were like, you know, just everyone show up, do your best, you know, you don’t even have to be that good at it, you know, where we said to our kids, oh, there’s winners and there’s losers.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: More often than not, you’re going to lose.

MR. JORGENSON: What did you tell Jonah?

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: Not my dad, but my mom growing up used to tell me if anyone got a participation award, it was her because she got me there, and we were on time.

MR. JORGENSON: That’s going to be the new–yeah. They gave out the orange slices. Yeah. They get the–yeah.

MR. JORGENSON: Okay. Well, just so you know, the mugs are actually participation trophies for appearing in this.


MR. JORGENSON: So, if you take it, you accept that.


MR. JORGENSON: No, but, Jonah, I want to switch gears totally for a minute from participation trophies. There’s a lot of reporting on how artificial intelligence is making its way across industries. It’s getting quite real. I’m not sure that I’m real, but how do you see technological advancements like AI working for Gen Z, and how does that compare to other generations?

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: Yeah. It’s such an interesting question. I think that the AI is going to be extremely interesting for Gen Z compared to the rest of the generations, and the reason being, it kind of ties into my last point about the, you know, learning to accept technology versus expect it. And that’s a big difference because for Gen Z, you know, the advancement of AI–and, you know, now resources like ChatGPT and all these things coming out that are making, you know, once very robust jobs very simple and almost automatic and instantaneous. Like Gen Z sees then and like, okay, now this is how it’s going to be done. We adapt versus a lot of other generations, while they’re willing, it takes them much longer. So what we hear is that when it comes to technological advancement, when it comes to AI and machine learning and all these different things, is Gen Z is, you know, more readily prepared to adapt to a workplace culture where that’s a thing, because our expectation to innovate and change and be ready to move to the next big thing–like right now, all this conversation around–in universities around ChatGPT being banned, being not banned, Gen Z is just on the front side of that, and as soon as the next thing comes, they’ll move, where, you know, a lot of the other generations, it takes a little bit more time. So I think that Gen Zers are oftentimes going to be the change agents when it comes to technological advancement.

They’ll be saying we need to move here, we need to push here, we need to get there. And then I think the rest of the generations, you know, will follow suit in a way. And I don’t think it means that we’re necessarily better employees or smarter. I just think it means we’ve been more readily equipped to adapt with technology.

MR. JORGENSON: Okay. I’ll do my best to catch up.

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: Yeah. [Laughs]

MR. JORGENSON: If you’re watching at home, this is a real video, but we did do an article where it generated through artificial intelligence what’s real and what’s not real, and it’s a whole quiz. And I failed. So take that quiz at home.

Like kind of combining the last two points here, David, you did talk a little bit about, you know, Gen Z not necessarily going through with college, but they–and they are being more digitally native. How do you feel like employers are adapting to that?

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: We’re starting–so our survey found that 75 percent of Gen Z feel there’s other ways of getting an education than going to college.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: And I’ll come back to the parenting front. You know, a baby boomer sent their millennial kid to college literally at any cost.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: I had mentioned that Gen Xer is a little bit more alternative. We said to our kids, well, maybe you don’t have to. And so you found a lot of Gen Zers maybe not going to university. You throw that on top of that. A lot of employers that we work with around the world have dropped the requirement for a four-year degree.

And so what we are finding is a lot more people entering the workforce with maybe different qualifications, and I think the workforce has had to adapt because they used to be like, well, you have a degree. And I could compare, apples-to-apples analysis, a lot harder to do that.

But I think the bigger work is even for those that are accepting that Gen Zers maybe don’t need a four-year degree–I don’t need art history to come work in the marketing department. You know, look, I always say if you’re going to operate on me, I want to know you went to medical school, you know.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: But not every job requires that you do go to university. But the bigger work is, you know–and I–President Wooten had said that before, you know, when she was talking about getting it into culture–and I think the bigger work is going to be for organizations. If you see Jonah, who didn’t go to university, and you find out he works at your company, he’s walking down the hall and someone says, “Oh, he didn’t go to college,” you know, it’s really the hearts and minds of people that I still think have a ways to go. It may have changed on paper, but you still have a lot of the older members of generations feeling that something went wrong with Jonah because he didn’t go.

MR. JORGENSON: He seems all right, except for the mustache.


MR. DAVID STILLMAN: No, but I think in general, the work to be had is to really be open-minded. You can change it on policy all day long, but it’s really what we’ve got to embrace is this idea that people are going to come with different experiences, and it won’t necessarily be that typical four-year degree.

MR. JORGENSON: So for me, the most–one of the most valuable parts of college for me was the internship, and I specifically remember that, you know, basically I went to a school partially because the internships that I could get through that school and they had–to get that internship, it was a college–you had to be in college. Do you feel that more and more we’re going to see places with internships where they no longer require someone that’s a student or has a degree or anything like that?

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: Well, I think, you know, we’re seeing the shift in internships because companies, you know, they obviously want to test you as a potential employee.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: And you get exposure. They’re waiting too long. So of those that do go to university, 67 percent of Gen Z have a predetermined career in mind. So I always joke that my first stated degree was forensics. I had a brief stint in pre-med and then, naturally, four years later, got my degree in journalism.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: You know, it’s just what you did.

MR. JORGENSON: That’s actually the journey for all of us.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: Yeah, for all of us, where we got 67 percent of Gen Zers, that what’s happening with them is like they go with a predetermined career in mind. So that means if someone’s entering their freshman year, they kind of already know what they want to do. What we tell a lot of our clients is get on the radar earlier. Like be partnering with high schools. You know, they’re looking out the window, you know, daydreaming about a job with a brand that’s already on their radar. And we can probably think of many of them, but a lot of these companies and industries where a Gen Zer knows nothing about it, if you’re waiting until that junior year to get on their radar, we’d say that’s too late. And so we’re really encouraging people, you know, to go earlier and maybe find internships and learning opportunities, sponsor curriculum, whatever it would be, to get on the radar much earlier.

MR. JORGENSON: Jonah, another thing that employers are kind of doing to adapt to all this and recruit and retain Gen Z employees is, you know, have hybrid work, four-day work weeks, competitive benefit packages, maybe a pizza party once a week. I don’t know. Do you find that that works?

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: Yeah. I think that in some regard, it has worked, right? I think that it’s become the difference is now like a lot of these things are becoming more like expectations, and I don’t even think that’s a Gen Z thing. I think it’s a lot of it’s, you know, by like senior leadership, and it’s being driven by Gen X as they rise to place of leadership saying like, well, it just makes more sense that we should do it this way. And I think the pandemic like skipped five chapters in that journey and said like everybody just realized that, oh, wow, we actually can work outside of the office.

And it’s the idea that we call–you know, like where before covid, if you would, we were trying to operate in a work-life balance scale, nine to five, when work was no longer a place. You could work anywhere. And the model that we see working more is what we call “work-life blend,” where work and life are happening 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and where, when, and how I’m getting my job done should be much less of the focus. And it should be, you know, almost all, solely, exclusively based on how I’m doing at my job. If you’re my boss and you haven’t seen me in a few days and I’m doing great at my job and you’re not even sure necessarily what time of the day I’m getting it done, but I’m getting it done, and you’re happy with my output, should that necessarily matter? And I think that’s the narrative that Gen Z is going to continue to push in the workplace.

MR. JORGENSON: That’s a great plug for The Washington Post TikTok team. That’s exactly how we work.

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: Yeah, exactly.

MR. JORGENSON: And the TikToks get made, and I’m happy. So that’s–


MR. JORGENSON: So I have one last question for you, David. Do employers–I’m sorry. I just said the same thing. Jonah–this is for both of you. According to a study, 70 percent of Gen Zers say their mental health needs the most attention or improvement. What should employers take away from that? And I’ll start with you first, Jonah.

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: Yeah. I think the conversation around mental health to me, while there’s–you know, we often hear Gen Z statistically struggles the most when they’re compared to other generations–to me, a lot of the conversation has become very positive because there’s a conversation. I think for a long time, especially in the workplace, it was you keep your problems at home, and if you have a problem, the last place you bring it is work. And now we’re seeing things with, you know, Mental Health Days, the ability and access to counseling and therapy within your place of employment. It’s part of your benefits package.

So I think for Gen Z, yes, the mental health is extremely important because there’s a lot of things that as a generation, we hear they need, we need to work on. But to me, the conversation has become very positive, especially in the past two and a half years, where we’re allowed to talk about it, where it’s okay to share your problems and have somebody within–you know, outside of your personal life and in professional environment to address mental health. So I think that that to me is exciting.

MR. JORGENSON: Yeah. And same question, David, with the thought in mind that like for you and even for me, for most of my career, mental health wasn’t something that necessarily came up in interviews or work at all, but now I feel like it’s very prevalent. Do you feel like that’s an easy adjustment for you, and do you think that that’s going to be a natural thing that will stick around?

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: I think it’s going to be really harder for baby boomers and Gen Xers and maybe less so for millennials because, as Jonah alluded to, being the model is you come to work nine to five, and then when you go home, you deal with everything else. Like, you know, even to sneak away to go to the dentist or have a phone call was a big deal.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: And, you know, really mental health just wasn’t sort of allowed into the workplace.

So now what you have is that most people in leadership positions maybe are a boomer or an Xer, and they’re the ones supposed to be foraying, you know, how do we bring mental health into the workplace, and it’s hard, where I think the smarter companies are letting the younger generations lead the way and showing that I can still get my job done, it’s still okay, you know, to have the discussion around mental health. But, you know, for a baby boomer, 80 million of them, you know, like you couldn’t step out of line because there’s so many people who would pass you up. So you’d never have a baby boomer walk into the office and be “Hey, everyone, I’m struggling with my mental health.” You know, just like it just wouldn’t happen. Or a Gen Zer walks in. They’ll have that dialogue, and they’ve given the other generations really permission. It’s not like baby boomers or Xers didn’t have mental health challenges. Everyone has had them.

But I really applaud the younger generations is they’re showing it’s okay. We can have these conversations. But I think my concern is that oftentimes those that are going to be in charge of the policies, procedures are those where it’s always felt, you know, a little bit more uncomfortable and maybe even wimpy to admit it.

MR. JORGENSON: I think that’s really great, and I look forward to more of my colleagues declaring that when they walk in–

MR. JORGENSON: –or at least being open about it.

David, Jonah, we’re just out of time today. Thank you so much for being here.

MR. JONAH STILLMAN: Thank you for having us.

MR. DAVID STILLMAN: Thank you for having us.

MR. JORGENSON: Thank you.

MR. JORGENSON: And thanks to all of you both here and online for joining us. This concludes today’s program. To learn more about upcoming programs from Washington Post Live, go to

Once again, I’m Dave Jorgenson. Thanks for being here. Have a good day.

Great job, guys. That was awesome.

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