Aaron McEwan, one of the top 100 global HR influencers on the future of work
April 2, 2022 – With just over a month to go before innovative work. Location. Culture. remote work conference in Dubrovnik, TCN continues its review of the list of high profile international speakers who will share their wisdom in the pearl of the Adriatic. Next, a real heavyweight in the remote work world, Aaron McEwan from Australia.
For a country where change has traditionally been quite slow and bureaucratic, Dubrovnik’s digital nomad journey has been nothing short of breathtaking. It hasn’t even been two years since we first presented the concept of digital nomads to a very receptive mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Frankovic. Work began the following day, followed by the first-ever digital nomads conference in Croatia in October 2020 and the award-winning Dubrovnik Nomads-in-Residence program the following April.
And now this. Having speakers of the caliber of Aaron McKewan at Dubrovnik’s latest remote work conference, Work. Location. Culture. (a collaboration between the City of Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Saltwater Nomads and TCN) is a sign of how far Dubrovnik has come in its journey and position.
Aaron certainly knows his stuff. As Vice President, Research and Consulting for Gartner’s HR practice for Gartner, a $4.1 billion company and member of the S&P 500, he provides strategic advice to some of the world’s largest companies across the world. future of work. Recently named one of the Top 100 Global HR Influencers and one of the 5 HR Leaders to Watch in 2022, Aaron is clearly a voice to listen to on the subject of the future of work.
This voice will speak in Dubrovnik during the WPC conference from 5 to 7 May. Aaron kindly found time to answer a few questions before the conference:
1. With the drastic changes in the workplace over the past two years, the relationship between employee and employer is changing. How would you describe this change and how do you think this relationship will develop?
Historically, pandemics have reshaped society, not just work. So I think we’re seeing the relationship of people to work changing in very fundamental ways. For example, 65% of employees globally told us that the pandemic has caused them to rethink the place work should have in their lives. Employees today don’t want to be seen as workers, they want to be seen as human beings. They want a lot more autonomy over not just where they work, but how they work, who they work with, what they work on.
2. We also hear a lot about the talent shortage in this new flexible reality. What strategies do companies employ to successfully attract top talent to work for them?
The most obvious is what we call radical flexibility, where companies offer things like plane tickets around the world and encourage employees to work wherever they want. But we are also seeing the rise of compressed working hours like four-day weeks, cooking and gardening lessons, childcare support, access to personal career and life coaches, opportunities to learn new languages and instruments. The common thread is that it’s about giving employees more flexibility, more autonomy, and helping them be healthier, better people, not just workers.
3. As Vice President, Research and Consulting for Gartner’s HR practice and one of the Top 100 Global HR Influencers and one of the 5 HR Leaders to Watch in 2022, you are at the forefront of the conversation. To what extent do you find that global companies are ready to completely reinvent their modus operandi to respond to the new reality?
Unfortunately, this remains the exception, not the norm. Many executives want a return to the status quo where everyone works from a desk. These leaders are simply not grasping the seismic shifts underway and the incredible opportunity they have to attract and engage the best and brightest talent in the world. Companies pushing for a return to old ways of working will find themselves on the wrong side of history and likely facing a “Kodak” moment that threatens their very existence.
4. The freedom to work from anywhere versus human contact with colleagues in the office. What are the best strategies companies are implementing to balance this?
This is where hybrid approaches are so important. Companies that do this match the work to be done at the time and place that best suits that particular task or activity. They encourage collaboration in multiple contexts to drive innovation. Some synchronous activities like brainstorming, creative problem solving can work better when you bring people together in the office (although virtual collaboration is also very efficient and much more time and cost efficient). Bonding and connection might be best achieved in a more social setting like a bar or restaurant or an engaging natural environment like the beach or forest. Asynchronous tasks that require deep thinking, concentration, attention to detail, etc. as writing and designing might be best done alone in a quiet environment like a home office. In fact, it turns out that asynchronous work accounts for about 49% of team innovation.
5. Destinations and countries have the opportunity to attract remote workers in this new reality. What innovative concepts do you see in this regard? And what could countries like Croatia do to make it more attractive, in addition to the implementation of the digital nomad permit?
Yes, as the pandemic subsides, people’s desire for adventure and travel will continue to increase. As with any product or service, you need to make the product appealing so that countries like Croatia have a lot to offer – history, natural beauty, friendly people, etc. But the real secret to attracting and retaining customers is personalizing the experience and reducing the effort the customer has to put in. A digital nomad passport is a good start because it means you don’t have to deal with immigration or change jobs every three months to qualify for a working holiday visa. But the real opportunity lies in understanding the different personalities of those who want to work differently so you can deliver a personalized experience and remove barriers to make that experience not only memorable but effortless. For example, what kind of experience would a young single woman want compared to an older man with a partner and children? What about someone with a disability or mobility issues, neurodiversity? LGBTI? What about someone with lots of disposable income versus those on a tight budget? Some may want to travel a lot and move around. Others may wish to “live” in a place and immerse themselves like a local. How can these different experiences be made possible? And how to make it effortless? Simplify your tax and immigration laws, invest in infrastructure and public transport, provide cheap high-speed internet everywhere, embrace the sharing economy, invest in great schools and learning centers, facilitate communities that offer advice, support and guidance.
6. In recent years there has been considerable brain drain and emigration from countries like Croatia in search of better economic opportunities. Do you feel that the flexibility of the new reality can reverse this trend, and do you see examples of this?
Yes, as the adoption of hybrid and remote working accelerates, we are seeing people moving from big cities, especially those with very high property prices, to cheaper coastal and regional areas and more “liveable”. So, small towns that have accessible beaches and reasonable housing costs that also offer decent infrastructure and thriving cultural districts are becoming increasingly popular places to live while working remotely.
7. Your top three tips for a company looking to attract top talent?
Treat employees like humans, embrace radical flexibility, and deliver meaningful, impactful work they can be proud of.
8. So with the Work of Dubrovnik. Location. Culture. conference. Why does this appeal to you, what will you talk about and what do you hope to get out of your stay in Dubrovnik?
Despite having a young family now and permanent roots in Australia, I’m still a digital nomad at heart. I love travel, I love adventure and I love the experience of living in foreign cities. I also cherish any opportunity to humanize work and inspire people to take control of their own careers.
9. You obviously follow global remote work trends. How do you assess Croatia’s efforts so far and what should they do to get things done?
Croatia has been a digital nomad forerunner and it’s a beautiful and great place to work. Future success will lie in expanding the current definition of a digital nomad to cater to a broader market of adventurers and hungry knowledge workers and making it an effortless place to live and work.
About Aaron McEwan:
Aaron McEwan is a behavioral scientist, psychologist and futurist and was recently named one of the Top 100 Global HR Influencers and one of the 5 HR Leaders to Watch in 2022. As Vice President, Research and Consulting for the HR practice of Gartner, Aaron provides strategic advice to the world’s top leaders. companies on the future of work and talent and helps leaders manage their most critical executive and board relationships. Alongside his current role, Aaron is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Human Resources, sits on the National Committee of the Coaching Psychology Interest Group of the Australian Psychological Society and is a Fellow of the Center for Workforce Futures at Macquarie University. . He has taught at Sydney Business School, University of Wollongong, University of NSW, University of Queensland, Griffith University and the Australian College of Applied Psychology and was a Fellow of Innovation Nation, a cross-industry initiative sponsored by the Office of the Prime Minister. to enhance Australia’s reputation for entrepreneurship and innovation.
You can follow Aaron McKewan on LinkedIn.
To learn more about Gartner’s services, visit official site.
For more information on the Work. Location. Culture. conference in Dubrovnik from 5 to 7 May, consult the event website to book your ticket.
For more news and articles about digital nomads in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.