How corporate consultants can embrace the new world of work

Naomi Titleman

The corporate world is changing at “warp speed”. As consultants and small business owners selling to and working with corporate, your corporate clients rely on you to be aware of and be able to help navigate those changes. In essence you need to be Thought Leaders.

In light of this, I interviewed Naomi Titleman Colla, Founder of Collaborativity Leadership Advisory, who has deep experience and perspective on these changes. Here is an excerpt from that interview.

About Naomi: Naomi is a strategic Talent and HR consultant who partners with leaders of Fortune 1000 organizations to implement progressive people strategies so they can capitalize on their competitive edge and avoid stagnation in this new world of work.

Naomi’s background includes being an award-winning HR executive and CHRO for AMEX Canada. She has developed a reputation as a thought leader in HR disciplines such as Diversity, Organization Design, Talent Management, Employee Engagement and Future of Work.

What is the “new world of work” and why this is a passion and focus for you in your consulting business?

The new world of work, or Future of Work as its often referred to, has been brought about by the power and recent acceleration of technology, which has enabled us to think differently about how we define work, and the countless ways we can get work done. For example, the emergence of freelancer platforms (like UpWork, TopTal and Kahuso), which enable the gig economy; virtual work policies; and robotic process automation would not be possible without the significant advances in technology that have been made over the past few years. These advances in technology, coupled with the changing work preferences of the millennial generation have really disrupted the notion of the traditional workplace.

What do millennials want?


Millennials have brought many new ideas to the workplace. They are often coined as “experience chasers”, wanting work with purpose. They want the freedom and autonomy to get work done in a way that’s most productive, and not in the way that necessarily clocks the most hours in the office.

So for milennials, productivity trumps face time, correct?

Yes. In fact, FaceTime for millennials is an app through which they can call their mother in another city when they need advice about their next career move.

In past decades, there was no other way to get work done than being at a desk with your pen and paper. But as technology has evolved, the workplace has evolved to meet people where they are, providing flexibility to many workers to get work done when and how and where they are most productive. On the flip side of the equation, there is the expectation, in some cases, that you’re “on” all the time and that you must respond quickly to emails 24/7. So with flexibility comes responsibility, both on the employer side (to ensure their employees are not burning out) and on the employee side (to make sure they get their job done and don’t take advantage of flexibility provided).

What are the challenges with flexible and virtual work?

Change is hard. Especially for generations who are used to different standards and norms in the workplace. Prior to millennials’ entrance into the workforce, and the rise of the smart device, workers went to the same desk every day for a specified period of time. So it’s often hard to shift mindset from “if you’re not in front of me, you’re not getting work done” to “assume people want to do well and will get their job done… wherever it may be”. If someone is not producing, it’s not because they’re not in front of you, it’s because there are performance issues. This being said, it does take awhile to get into a rhythm of what types of meetings and situations require in-person presence, so leaders may need to be a bit more directive at first.

How do you see the new world of work impacting leaders and executives and how they work?

I think people have to be open to change. Big change comes with discomfort but resisting is not going to change the plot. It’s important to figure out the best way to adapt and set norms so leaders can feel comfortable and teams feels empowered and trusted.

What is the positive impact on organizations who adapt to a flexible environment? What are the key top two or three benefits?

Some organizations approach it from an engagement standpoint; some approach it from a real estate standpoint. Real estate costs go down when you apply a ratio of 1 desk per 3-5 workers… and employees feel more engaged because they are trusted. Engaged employees are more productive employees so there’s really lots of upside.

When designing a workplace of the future model, it’s important to consider what types of spaces are most needed for the day-to-day activities of your employees (sometimes down to the department level), as well as what will resonate best in your culture. Some questions that seem simple but are not easy include: should spaces be reservable or not? How could we position “neighborhoods” so that people naturally run into each other in the hall and have collaborative, innovative conversations? Should executives of x level have their own offices? There’s a lot of thought and method that goes into designing the workplace to drive towards the goals of that particular organization.

How does delayering and downsizing affect the new world of work and what does that mean for senior leadership, going forward?

I wouldn’t necessarily make a causal relationship between the new world of work and delayering. I think they’re happening simultaneously. I think we go through cycles where there is downsizing in a certain industry, downsizing in certain countries, but it’s definitely a consideration. First important thing to consider is that, as some roles are becoming obsolete, others are emerging. We don’t even know about the majority of the roles that will exist when the next generation enters the workforce not long from now. Also, now more than ever, there are other opportunities to start your own business. Again, thanks to technology, it’s very simple to put out a shingle and start your own business. And to add to the possibilities, there are talent platforms that are emerging that make it easier to be a freelancer.

For instance, Kahuso is a talent platform that’s emerging specifically for executives who want freelance. I think not only because of the delayering and the displacement, but people are just having more options in terms of what they want to do with their life and career.

We always go through cycles in terms of getting things done quicker, more efficiently, sometimes with less layers. I think that’s the natural evolution of business, but I think now more than ever there are opportunities other than going to a corporation for the next executive role, as they’ve been traditionally defined. I think people are thinking about their careers much more broadly.

And as I referred to before, milennials have coined the term “experience chasing.” I think Millennials have taught us that it’s not always about chasing salary, title and stature. There is always going to be a place for senior executives in corporations, but it’s not the only option anymore for all levels of organizations. I think it’s important to think more broadly about what you want out of your career, what you want out of your next role, what kind of experience you want to have and what you want to contribute and leave as your legacy.

Digital Image by Sean Locke Digital Planet Design

What advice would you give to leaders and executives who say they want to stay in that corporate salary kind of structure or stature, are delayered/downsized or want to go out on their own?

I would say to stay current. Stay current on your network. Stay current on the trends. Stay current on what’s happening in the world of work, because the more relevant you can stay and the more you can add to the conversation, the more likely of a candidate you will be for the next role.

There are various ways to keep skills and knowledge current, in addition to traditional in-person courses. It can be as simple as being on Twitter and following some of the trendsetters in this space. Just be curious and open-minded about how your skills can translate to other areas or other functions or other industries. Explore your passions and make sure that what you’re after is really going to drive and motivate you at the end of the day. Those are the two things that are within your control.

What do you see as the new way that executives like yourself can work?

The traditional gamut of roles that have always existed will always exist. I see it as additional options being added to the mix. There are new options, but there will always be executive roles. Just because you choose not to do a senior executive role as your next stint doesn’t mean you can’t go back to a corporate senior executive role afterward, because it may add more to your toolkit.

Learn more about Naomi and connect with her on LinkedIn.

© Kim Chernecki 2017

About the author

Kim Chernecki helps high-performing freelance executives, consultants, coaches and other experts, land lucrative corporate contracts. She is the creator of the Land Corporate Contracts Fast-Track System, and is a top-rated sales performance executive, facilitator, coach, advisor, speaker and strategist. A 25-year entrepreneur, Kim has consulted with executives from 100+ leading North American and Fortune 1000 companies and has, herself, started up and helped grow 10 businesses and business divisions. She’s closed millions of dollars in corporate contracts, and provides powerful strategies and proven formulas to help her clients do the same.

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