Collaboration is the key for your workforce of the future

A diverse inclusive look at humanity through black silhouettes standing in front of a blue background

From my series of sessions for CPA societies, associations, and businesses on How to Hire, Train, and Retain the Best Employees, I have also completed additional research on how to create your workforce of the future. Collaboration, listening, and leadership are key to developing your workforce of the future. This article explores some of the key elements for your consideration in the application of The Collaboration Effect.

Where do you want to be 2 years from now or 5 years from now? What have you done to explore succession planning for yourself and others? What steps have you taken to expand your own learning horizons around your technical skills and your historically soft skills now known as critical skills? How about for your employees? Take some time to think about these questions and think about where you and they may be 2 years to 5 years from now. Then reflect on what steps are you taking for yourself and for your employees.


Existing employees


Often when you think of the workforce of the future the focus is on hiring. What about existing employees and promoting from within considering diversity, equity, and inclusion. Recently the CEO of a national bank told a meeting of 250 of his managers of color that he would hire and promote people of color if he could find them.

A person of color in the audience commented to me that he was thinking, “I am right here”.

Think about this for a second. What if the CEO’s focus was on tellers becoming bankers, becoming managers, and becoming executives? Clearly, not everyone has these capabilities, but if appreciation, engagement, encouragement, opportunities, mentoring, and coaching are provided, what might be the outcome?

There may be untapped resources within your organization because the organization has failed to truly look at the attitude, knowledge, and skills of its employees. For example, a front-line employee at one organization was the coordinator for the annual race for the cure in a major U.S. city. Can you imagine the skills to coordinate this annual fund raiser for women’s cancer? Before that the employer had not thought of this employee as someone to develop as a leader. Take a good look at your existing employees. Explore their organizational and external interests. By listening and exploring you may be surprised at what talent may already be waiting to be tapped.

The key here is to think outside of traditional systems. What can an organization do to promote from within? Think of the impact economically (not having to recruit), socially (morale enhanced to see peers developed and promoted), and customer service (customers seeing a company that genuinely cares and develops employees). However, there is still a need to recruit, hire, and develop employees.




Hiring begins with recruiting in a diverse world. Think about interns and developing future employees before they are even employees. Where and how do you recruit? Are your existing employees your best recruiters? What might need to change?

Consider your own niche. What sets you apart? What are your mission, vision, goals, and values? Are these values window dressing because your firm needs to state its values, or would your employees say these really are our values? You need to have developed trust as foundational matter. You need to sell your firm to others.

What are the qualities that are needed? How do you measure success?

What level of project management skills do you need? How do you encourage a quality control culture? How do you invest in your people?

Of course, you want your people to work independently and pay attention to detail. You need strong oral and written skill sets. Your people need a sense of urgency and a client focus. Given constant change they need to be adaptable, flexible, and creative.

To be successful goals setting and achieving results matter. Employees need to show up with a positive attitude every day. They need to do what it takes. Do the right thing. Have fun along the way. In turn they are expecting that you will invest in them with training and educational reinforcement. Give contemporaneous feedback. Use the following management manta.


The management mantra


The key to success for managers can be summed up with three simple statements. These are:

  1. Catch your employees doing something right at least once a week and thank them for something specific.
  2. Get them the resources they need from their perspective and do not micromanage.
  3. Give them a chance to shine in leadership and accomplishment.

These are pretty basic, but they are also powerful statements.

Engage with employees and build trust. To build trust as a foundation:

  1. Set clear expectations
  2. Demonstrate compassion by remaining calm, competent, and confident
  3. Demonstrate character by continuously doing the right thing
  4. Be committed to your employees and customers as a servant manager
  5. Engage with employees sharing your insights, inviting them to share with you and truly listen
  6. Be consistent with what you do with everyone.

By making trust a foundation you will be on your way to collaborating for your future. Isn’t that what you genuinely want? An aligned workforce that is engaged with everyone moving in the same positive direction. So how do you do this after new employees come on board that do not know your culture?


Training and retaining the best employees


From the time a new employee comes on board consider the orientation process. As stated, earlier trust is the key. Share career aspirations. Develop a plan together. Help them execute their plan. Listen actively and help with realistic, practical expectations. Keep promises made. Be loyal to those not present by speaking well of others. Really seek to understand.

Point out that we really are true to our values.

That as an employer we value you. Point out that we are ethical. You make a difference here. You are appreciated.

Explore what you do in broader terms and demonstrate that you are making a real difference.

Build self-esteem. Have conversations around compliments, support, shared information, being accepted, mistakes, recognition, delegation, rewards, social interactions, and engaging others. Make sure you provide coaching and mentoring around three areas. These are on day-to-day technical activities, how you really get things done at your firm, and a person of vision with where the firm is going. These may be three different people. To keep the best employees, you need to address all three areas.

After COVID-19, the shocks to your firm and customers, you likely will be making some significant changes going forward. This is a time to consider what you can and will do differently with our ever-changing environment. Now is the time to think about the future and what you will be doing to address these concerns going forward. Collaboration is the key to the future based on trust. To do that take advantage of The Collaboration Effect.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]