Salesforce VP and Author, Karen Mangia talks to Robin about how work has changed forever

The Robin Team
The Robin Team
Published on 
12.16.2021

Karen Mangia is the author of two important books about the changing landscape of work, Working from Home and the newly-released Success from Anywhere. Both books present a profound rethinking of what work means today, including: 

  • Shifting work models (remote and hybrid)
  • Evolving employee experience 
  • The future of work. 

When Mangia is not writing thought-provoking books about the changing nature of work, she’s Vice President, Customer & Market Insights, at Salesforce. Mangia even serves on the company’s Work from Home Taskforce, where she helps Salesforce’s 50,000+ worldwide employees better adapt to a work-from-anywhere (WFA) environment. 

Robin recently chatted with Mangia about how the world of work has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic began. What follows is a two-post series where we share an edited version of our conversation.

How has working from anywhere impacted employee productivity since the pandemic?

Mangia: So many companies are now saying, ‘we need to get all our people back to the office so we can collaborate, innovate, and be productive.’ But look at the numbers. Employees have actually never been more productive than since the pandemic. There hasn’t been any massive drop-off in company performance either.

Even before the pandemic, we all knew people who worked from their sailboat or a co-working space: the technology and tools have been in place for about a decade. What's happening now is a challenge to long-held beliefs that in order to get someone to be productive, we need to be able to see them in the office. 

The data is clear: people can be trusted and productive regardless of where they work. But how do managers and leaders adjust their comfort levels to align with that data? How do they adjust beliefs about work, where it needs to happen, and what to expect from their employees? 

So how should managers rethink their roles?

Mangia: It takes a shift from surveillance-type management to defining the outcomes that employees are expected to deliver, then giving employees autonomy around where and when they work. Employees aren’t saying ‘we should never get together in person,’ but they want to gather with a clear purpose in mind. We don’t just come into the office for the free coffee and snacks.

In Success From Anywhere, I describe how many meetings are happening simply because people want more face time with their bosses or with leadership. People don't want to miss a promotion because the boss doesn’t see and hear about how hard they’re working. 

I recently went through my own calendar and selected a couple of meetings that I thought we didn't need to have. Instead, I simply recorded a video and sent it to the team. I got back so many messages saying, ‘this is great and please let’s do more of it.’ We can think differently about communication.

How will employee demands for flexibility change after the pandemic? 

Mangia: The demand for flexibility is here to stay. Employees want flexibility, autonomy, and choice. They want their employer to say, ‘I trust you to do your best work and to decide where and when work needs to happen.’ When companies offer that work flexibility and trust, they tend to attract more people into the workforce who have a variety of life scenarios or work-style preferences that play well with flexible approaches to work. 

Employers should be defining expected employee outcomes, and then letting employees decide how to get there. The role of managers and leadership is to touch base on progress and help remove obstacles along the way. There's a strong link between trust and ownership: it feels great when a manager or leader trusts you enough to give you ownership of something meaningful. That enhances productivity and engagement.

What's behind the Great Resignation and what can employers do about it?

Mangia: Employees are looking for more of what matters to them, and that’s flexibility, autonomy and choice in how and where work happens. It's not necessarily about getting paid more. For some people, the only way they can get flexibility is to leave their job and go elsewhere. Organizations that are doing better at retaining employees are spending more time listening to their employees.

No employee wants to get up every day so they can be a replaceable cog in a machine, tightening a screw and then sending some widget down the assembly line for the next employee to hit it with a hammer. The most talented and creative employees are also the least likely to want to tighten screws and hammer widgets.

To hear more from author and future of work expert Karen Mangia, read part 2 of this interview [insert link]. To learn more about how Robin can help you adapt to the evolving future of work, request a demo.