Amazon, FTX and predictions about the future of work


Amazon sign
Photo By Alejandro Martinez Velez/Europa Press via Getty Images

Adapted from this week’s CxO newsletter. Sign up here if you’d like to get it by email.

With job losses mounting in the tech sector and elsewhere – Amazon SVP Dave Limp confirmed in a memo this morning that the company has begun to lay off employees in the Devices & Services division – you might think that the balance of power in the talent wars is about to shift. Limp, who was recently named to the Forbes CEO Next list of leaders to watch, wrote that the undisclosed number of layoffs stemmed from a decision to consolidate teams and programs because of the “unusual and uncertain macroeconomic environment.”

Meanwhile, former billionaire and FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried has taken to Twitter to give his take of the crypto exchange’s dramatic collapse. Along with vowing “focus on transparency” and “make customers whole”—an optimistic ambition, perhaps, in light of the investor exodus and criminal probe he now faces—Bankman-Fried tweeted that he “was on the cover of every magazine, and FTX was the darling of Silicon Valley. We got overconfident and careless.”

He was indeed on the cover of Forbes last October, when his net worth was calculated to be $22.5 billion at the age of 29. Deputy Wealth Editor Chase Peterson-Withorn, who carefully tracks the net worth of some of the world’s richest people, reached out after the company went into free fall and was first to have the entrepreneur admit that he was no longer a billionaire. Chase told me how he came across the story. Meanwhile, investigative reporter David Jeans spoke with me about how Bankman-Fried managed to fool everyone. Needless to say, there will be much more to come. Check out Leadership contributor Gleb Tsipursky’s take on Bankman-Fried’s double-or-nothing philosophy.

Here are some insights from our inaugural Forbes Future of Work Summit yesterday. The trends reshaping work are likely to accelerate, not dissipate, as we deal with tough times. As Senior Editor Jena McGregor put it: “We know the future of work is about more than just the metaverse or artificial intelligence or hybrid work … The changes that we are experiencing right now are redefining the way (we) engage, train, hire, fire, hopefully uplift and unleash the talent in our companies, our communities and ourselves.”

The summit brought together CHROs from across the country, as well as founders, innovators and other leaders who are helping to drive a seismic shift in the world of work. Many of them, such as California State Senator Monique Limón, KKR’s Pete Stavros, BetterUp CEO Alexi Robichaux, and HubSpot Chief People Officer Katie Burke, are on the Forbes Future of Work 50 list.

Among the trends to watch:

Skills-based hiring is taking hold – Whether it’s the popular “micro-credentialing” career certificates offered through the Grow with Google program—which founder Lisa Gevelber said will soon expand into new areas—or new upskilling opportunities Walmart’s Chief People Officer Donna Morris, employers are thinking differently about how they find and develop employees. Labor shortages and declining college enrollment prompted many to do away with degree prerequisites for jobs; now, they’re embracing alternate ways to test and train talent. The trend is likely recession-proof because the motivation is as much about fairness and inclusion: a desire to open new paths to prosperity for underrepresented groups and enable a wider pool of talent to compete for coveted jobs. As Euan Blair, founder and CEO of the apprenticeship startup Multiverse, said: “All a college degree guarantees is that that person had the ability to pay for college.”

Talent leaders are becoming more powerful players in the C-Suite. Whether it’s Beth Whited of Union Pacific taking on additional roles like strategy and sustainability or growing demand for people with talent experience on boards, the human resources function is less likely to be seen as an administrative role. Look for CHRO stints to become an increasingly common path to the CEO job and more responsibilities baked into that role. Dean Carter, who most recently led human resources at Patagonia, spoke passionately about the opportunity and responsibility to help everyday working people share in prosperity. Look for him to take on another big role in the weeks to come.

What workers want from work is continuing to change. Yes, we need to make money but the desire to have a meaningful life in whatever location and way that we define it is not going away. Gregg Spratto, the President and Chief Transformation Officer of Magnit, a key sponsor at the event, made a compelling case that many highly-skilled workers are choosing to join the contingent workforce. With contract workers often the first to be let go in a downturn, that could mean you’re firing your most productive and engaged employees just when you need them most. An under-rated skill for success? The ability to listen.

The office is morphing into an event space. That empty retail space could be the next place you come to work, according to Sonya Dufner, Director of Workplace Strategy at the architecture firm Gensler. Employers are taking signals from the hospitality and retail sectors in trying to boost the employee experience at work. Unlike the co-working spaces that were trendy before the pandemic, the priority isn’t flexibility but building cohesion and engagement as a team. Look for fewer desks and more design that’s conducive to group activities and meetings. And, of course, creating sustainable design is table stakes.

Work is the new front in the wellness revolution. Burnout is deep and real and impossible to dislodge with vacation time alone. From the democratization of coaching through platforms like BetterUp to leaders expected to model empathy and talk about their own experiences with mental health, employers have to focus on the psychological well being of their workers. Flexible work is just the start.

Oh, and there was widespread chatter that Elon Musk is proving to be a poor manager of people, at least at Twitter. The examples continue to pile up. His latest missive in his high-stakes approach to leadership: giving Twitter employees two days to decide if they want to stay.

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