The Entrepreneurial Mindset: Equipping Students for the Future of Work

The Entrepreneurial Mindset: Equipping Students for the Future of Work

Rapid innovation in technology, automation, and artificial intelligence is changing how we work, learn, and play. The pace of change is such that by the time students complete their education, the skills they have learned may no longer be relevant in the job market.  While traditional educational models may struggle to keep up, we have an exciting opportunity to reimagine learning. 

By embracing entrepreneurship and nurturing entrepreneurial ethics, education can equip students with the resilience and adaptability needed to thrive in tomorrow’s diverse and dynamic job market.

The Entrepreneurial Mindset

Entrepreneurship isn’t just about starting businesses.  It’s a way of thinking that empowers individuals to adapt, innovate, and create value in the face of adversity. It cultivates essential skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, adaptability, creativity, learning from setbacks and failures, and calculated risk-taking. These skills are valuable in any career path, empowering individuals to be proactive, resilient, and seize opportunities.

Traditional education often prioritizes comfort and clear answers. Entrepreneurial education flips the script, encouraging students to experiment, embrace challenges, and learn from setbacks. It helps students learn two of the most important skills for the future – learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable and how to be content living with uncertainty. As the world continues to change faster than ever, students must be prepared to navigate ambiguity and embrace the unknown. 

Entrepreneurial education provides a unique opportunity to cultivate this mindset by exposing students to real-world challenges and encouraging them to step outside their comfort zones.

By nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset in students, we help them build the resilience, adaptability, creativity, and emotional intelligence needed to navigate any challenge that comes their way. Whether they choose to start their own ventures or pursue careers in established organizations, students with an entrepreneurial mindset are better equipped to identify opportunities, drive innovation, and create positive change.

Why Entrepreneurial Education Matters

The traditional focus on rote memorization falls short of preparing students for the future. Entrepreneurial education bridges this gap. Here’s how:

  • Problem-solving and critical thinking: Entrepreneurship requires students to identify real-world problems and develop innovative solutions. Doing this helps develop the ability to analyze complex situations and make informed decisions.
  • Creativity and innovation: By encouraging students to think outside the box and explore novel ideas, entrepreneurial education nurtures their creative potential and helps them develop the skills needed to drive innovation in their future careers.  
  • Adaptability and resilience: The entrepreneurial journey is often fraught with challenges and setbacks. By learning to embrace failure as a learning opportunity and persevere in the face of adversity, students develop the adaptability and resilience necessary to thrive in an ever-changing job market.
  • Digital Skills: As technology continues to reshape the world of work, digital skills have become increasingly essential. Entrepreneurial education provides students with opportunities to develop proficiency in areas such as coding, data analysis, digital marketing, and the use of emerging technologies like AI, AR (augmented reality), and VR (virtual reality).
  • Storytelling: Effective communication is key to success. Entrepreneurial programs teach students to craft compelling narratives, present ideas persuasively, and connect with their audience. Sharing your vision can be a powerful tool in any career path, from leadership roles to mission-driven nonprofits.
  • Lifelong Learning: The ability to continuously learn and adapt is paramount. Entrepreneurial education fosters a growth mindset, encouraging students to embrace lifelong learning and stay relevant in an ever-evolving job market.
  • Building Empathy: Every entrepreneur needs empathy to understand their audience’s needs, desires, and pain points. This skill is essential for creating products and services that genuinely address customer needs and for building strong relationships with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders. And like every other entrepreneurial skill, this one is important for overall success. 
  • Resourcefulness: Every entrepreneur learns to create value with limited resources. This entrepreneurial skill is especially important in nonprofit work for addressing social issues.
  • Comfort with uncertainty: In a world characterized by rapid change and disruption, the ability to be comfortable with discomfort and to thrive in the face of uncertainty is a critical skill. Entrepreneurial education helps students cultivate this mindset by exposing them to ambiguity and encouraging them to make decisions with incomplete information.

The entrepreneurial mindset is the foundation for success in any industry, including climate change mitigation, hospitality, and even nonprofit social impact work.

Integrating AI and Emerging Technologies

As artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies continue to transform the job market, it is crucial that entrepreneurial education keeps pace with these developments. By incorporating AI and related technologies into the curriculum, educators can help students understand the ethical implications of these tools and learn how to leverage them to create value and drive innovation.

Like everyone in every industry, educators, school administrators, and staff must learn to use AI to augment themselves. Ask yourself, “What can I uniquely do? And what can AI do reasonably well — to help me spend more of my time doing those things?” By using AI as a teaching aid, educators can augment their own capabilities and free up time to focus on the unique aspects of their role, such as providing personalized guidance and fostering critical thinking skills.

As students become more familiar with AI and its applications, they will be better prepared to navigate the AI-driven changes that are reshaping our society and the world of work. I’ve been using AI with students in grades 4-12 and we’ve had engaging, thought-provoking student-led discussions on how to use AI appropriately — while also leaving students with the confidence to use AI to make the world a better place. My students are using AI to envision bold entrepreneurial futures for themselves. By the time they graduate from high school, every student should know how to responsibly use AI as a copilot. Students can also learn how to leverage AI and machine learning (ML) to create innovative products and services, automate processes, and make data-driven decisions.

Ethics and Responsible Entrepreneurship

While entrepreneurship has the potential to drive positive change, students must learn the importance of ethical and responsible business practices. That’s why we emphasize the triple bottom line (or the three Ps of People, Planet, and Profit) with every student. It’s important to teach kids to understand the broader impact of their actions on stakeholders, communities, and the environment.

By teaching students to prioritize ethics and sustainability alongside financial success, we can help ensure that the next generation of entrepreneurs is equipped to build businesses that not only generate profits but also contribute to the greater good. This focus on responsible entrepreneurship will be particularly important as we face pressing global challenges such as climate change and social inequality.

Revolutionizing Education for the Future of Work

The current educational system is not equipped to meet the changing needs of the job market. Traditional education is often focused on rote memorization — and doesn’t encourage students to think critically or creatively. This approach is poorly suited to the future of work, where thinking outside the box and solving complex problems will be critical for success. 

In contrast, entrepreneurial education encourages students to be proactive, to think critically, and to take risks. It also teaches them to embrace failure as a learning opportunity and to be persistent in the face of obstacles. The entrepreneurial mindset is the foundation for success in any industry, including climate change and nonprofit work. 

Integrating Entrepreneurial Education Across Levels

Entrepreneurial education should be integrated into the curriculum at all levels of education, from primary school to higher education. This can be done through the development of dedicated entrepreneurship courses, the creation of innovation and entrepreneurship programs, and the integration of entrepreneurial skills into existing courses.  Imagine a science class where students develop new sustainable products, or a history class exploring entrepreneurship through the lens of historical events.

Shaping the Future

The future belongs to those who can adapt, innovate, and lead. By embracing entrepreneurial education, we equip students with the skills and mindset to not only survive but thrive in the ever-changing future of work. They’ll become the problem-solvers, innovators, and leaders driving economic growth and positive change in the world.


Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

Yolanda is also a Founding Board Member of the Hawai’i Center for AI (HCAI), a non-profit organization. HCAI envisions a future in which all of Hawaiʻi’s residents have access to AI technology that effectively and safely serves their individual and collective well-being. Hawai’i Center for AI promotes the beneficial use of AI to empower individuals, communities, and industries throughout Hawai’i. We are committed to understanding the ways AI will help grow the state’s economy, help our institutions evolve, and transform our society. Through collaboration, education, and service, we drive research, innovation, and community partnerships to build a sustainable, prosperous, and policy-driven future for Hawai’i.

The Enduring Relevance of Coding Skills

In the age of AI, many say that coding is a dying art. But I think it’s more essential than ever.

Ever since ChatGPT was launched in November 2022, it has upended how we work, think, and even play. Generative artificial intelligence (AI), based on large language models (LLMs), have made huge improvements since then. Multi-modal AI — which can process info from multiple modalities such as images, video, text, and audio — makes some time consuming and tedious tasks seem effortless. 

With generative AI, anyone can complete computer programming coding projects. I’ve had many non-coder friends tell me that AI has helped them build their first website, app, or other coding project. For that reason, people keep asking if learning to code has become obsolete. 

I believe learning to code remains highly relevant.

Here are 13 reasons why:

1. Fundamental understanding

Learning to code is like getting a backstage pass to technology. When you understand code, you get to see how everything works behind the scenes. Coding helps people understand the fundamental concepts and principles behind how software and technology work. This understanding allows people to use AI in more powerful ways and helps to interpret AI-generated results. 

2. Problem-solving skills

Coding teaches students how to break down complex problems into smaller, manageable parts and develop step-by-step solutions. These problem-solving skills help people solve problems of all types. Want to solve climate change, the problem-solving skills learned with coding will help you ideate more effective solutions. These skills are valuable in many areas of life and work, regardless of whether the actual coding is done by AI or not.

3. Logical thinking

Programming necessitates a structured approach, where every line of code builds upon the previous one, akin to constructing a building’s foundation before adding floors. This process fosters logical thinking, where individuals learn to anticipate potential outcomes, identify patterns, and discern cause-and-effect relationships. Such skills extend beyond coding, enabling individuals to dissect complex real-world problems and devise systematic solutions. Whether troubleshooting a malfunctioning device or strategizing in business, the ability to think logically is indispensable.

4. Learning to experiment

Learning to code encourages students to embrace experimentation and take risks. Through coding, students can quickly prototype and test their ideas, learning from their failures and iterating on their designs. This process of experimentation fosters creativity and innovation, enabling students to develop unique solutions that push the boundaries of what’s known and possible.

5. Collaboration with AI

As AI becomes more prevalent in programming and software development, people who know how to code can better collaborate with and guide AI systems.  Programmers will need to guide AI by providing context, defining requirements, and validating its generated code (debugging). As a result, educators will need to emphasize problem decomposition, testing, and debugging – skills that are important in collaborating with AI for coding. 

AI is great for data analysis and repetitive tasks, but it lacks human intuition and understanding. Conversely, programmers bring these strengths to the table, ensuring the relevance, accuracy, and ethical considerations of AI-driven solutions. When we work together with AI, we maximize the potential of both and create more robust and nuanced outcomes.  However, students need to be taught to be skeptical of AI-generated results and take ownership of verifying and validating them. If students become over reliant on AI, they’ll short-circuit the important learning process.

AI-generated code can provide a starting point, but it often needs human intervention for refinement. Programmers can evaluate the code, identify areas for improvement, fix errors, and tailor solutions to specific needs. This critical evaluation is essential, especially as technology and user requirements evolve.

6. Computational thinking

Moreover, learning to code develops computational thinking, a fundamental set of skills and thought processes essential for solving complex problems across various disciplines. Computational thinking encompasses problem-solving skills, logical thinking, and other key components such as decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and evaluation. By learning to code, students develop the ability to break down complex problems into smaller, manageable parts (decomposition), identify patterns and similarities within and across problems (pattern recognition), focus on the essential features of a problem while ignoring irrelevant details (abstraction), and assess the effectiveness and efficiency of their solutions (evaluation). 

These skills are invaluable in navigating an increasingly complex and technology-driven world, even as AI advances and automates certain aspects of programming.

7. Foundation for systems thinking

Learning to code also provides a strong foundation for systems thinking, which involves understanding how different components of a system interact and influence each other. Coding exercises, such as debugging and optimizing algorithms, help students anticipate unintended consequences and develop strategies for building more resilient and adaptable systems. By breaking down complex problems into manageable components, identifying patterns and relationships, and understanding the interconnectedness of different elements within a system, students develop a systems thinking mindset that is transferable across many domains, from software development to business management, public policy, and beyond.

8. Emerging technologies

Coding skills are not only relevant to AI but also to other emerging technologies such as AR, (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality), and MR (mixed reality). As these spatial computing technologies continue to advance and gain popularity, there will be an increasing demand for programmers and developers who can create immersive and interactive experiences. Students with coding skills will be well-positioned to contribute to the development of AR, VR, and MR applications, which have the potential to revolutionize various industries, including education, entertainment, healthcare, and more.

9. Data science and analysis

Coding skills are essential for data science and analysis, which play a critical role in today’s data-driven world. Every two days, we create as much data as was created since the dawn of humanity through 2003. That statistic alone should tell you that data science and data literacy are crucial skills. As organizations collect and process vast amounts of data, there is a growing need for professionals who can write code to clean, analyze, and derive insights from complex datasets. Those with coding skills can leverage powerful libraries and frameworks to manipulate and visualize data, build predictive models, and support data-driven decision-making. These skills are invaluable across all industries and functions, including business, retail, healthcare, entertainment, finance, and scientific research.

10. Responsible AI development

As AI-generated code becomes more advanced and widely used, it is crucial for people to understand the code they are working with to prevent unintended consequences. AI systems can sometimes “hallucinate,” generating code that seems plausible but may contain errors, vulnerabilities, or even malicious elements. Without a solid understanding of coding principles and best practices, people may inadvertently release software that is prone to hacks or behaves in unexpected ways. By learning to code, students can develop the skills necessary to critically evaluate AI-generated code, identify potential issues, and ensure the development of safe, secure, and ethical software.

11. Critical thinking skills

Learning to code teaches critical thinking in a different way than writing does. While both coding and writing require logical thinking and problem-solving skills, coding demands a more systematic, step-by-step approach to breaking down complex problems into smaller, manageable parts. Coding also requires students to anticipate and handle potential errors or edge cases, fostering a more rigorous and detail-oriented form of critical thinking. Moreover, coding encourages students to think algorithmically and develop efficient, optimized solutions to problems. These unique critical thinking skills are invaluable not only in programming but also in a wide range of fields and everyday life situations.

12. Tackling complex global challenges 

As we’ve established, learning to code equips students with computational thinking and systems thinking skills. These mindsets and skills are necessary to tackle the world’s most pressing problems. Trying to solve climate change? Tackling the impending water insecurity? Solving the problem of responsible AI implementation? All of the world’s most complex challenges require individuals who can break down problems, identify patterns, and develop innovative solutions. Coding provides a foundation for understanding and leveraging technology to address these challenges, enabling students to become active contributors to a better future.

13. Career opportunities

Even with AI improving rapidly, demand for programmers and software developers is still high. Having coding skills opens up a wide range of career opportunities and allows students to be active participants in shaping the future of technology.

While AI can automate certain aspects of programming and coding, it does not eliminate the need to learn these skills. Coding provides a foundation for understanding technology, develops valuable problem-solving and logical thinking skills, enables collaboration with AI, and opens up career opportunities. 

When the printing press was invented, scribes were not rendered obsolete but adapted to new roles as typographers and printers. The invention of the camera did not eliminate the need for artists but rather opened up new artistic possibilities and genres, such as photography and film. The introduction of the typewriter did not replace the need for writers but instead changed the way they worked and made the writing process more efficient. 

The advent of calculators and computers did not eliminate the need for mathematicians but rather allowed them to tackle more complex problems and develop new mathematical theories. When spreadsheets became commonplace, people theorized that accountants would become irrelevant but accountants simply shifted their work to other areas. The development of computer-aided design (CAD) software did not replace the need for architects and engineers but rather enhanced their ability to design and model complex structures. 

When AI started being used in radiology, people theorized that radiologists would no longer be needed — but instead of becoming obsolete, there is now a shortage of radiologists. In all of these cases, technologies changed how humans worked but did not eliminate the need for those functions. 

Similarly, rather than replacing the need for human coders, AI is likely to change the nature of programming work, requiring programmers to have coding skills and the ability to work effectively with AI tools.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Preparing for the future

In a world where AI can write essays, create art, and even compose music, it’s fair to wonder if learning to code is still worth it. But as I’ve discussed above, learning to code is absolutely still a worthwhile endeavor. Lest you think I’m not practicing what I preach, I’m actively learning Python for technical AI coding projects. 

As educators, we should integrate coding into our curriculum to prepare students for the future — less for the sake of coding and more for the mindset and frameworks that learning to code develops. This includes emphasizing problem decomposition, testing, debugging, and using AI as a copilot. In many ways, how AI is changing how we teach coding is the same as how AI is changing how we teach anything. We must move from teaching basic skills (in this case, syntax) to higher-order thinking. 

Students, embrace the challenge of learning to code, learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. 

And to anyone reading this, recognize the importance of coding skills in today’s digital world and take steps to learn — and you’ll develop new ways of thinking that will help you become better problem solvers. 

Together, we can foster a generation of creative, critical thinkers who are equipped to navigate and shape the future.​​ 


Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

Yolanda is also a Founding Board Member of the Hawai’i Center for AI (HCAI), a non-profit organization. HCAI envisions a future in which all of Hawaiʻi’s residents have access to AI technology that effectively and safely serves their individual and collective well-being. Hawai’i Center for AI promotes the beneficial use of AI to empower individuals, communities, and industries throughout Hawai’i. We are committed to understanding the ways AI will help grow the state’s economy, help our institutions evolve, and transform our society. Through collaboration, education, and service, we drive research, innovation, and community partnerships to build a sustainable, prosperous, and policy-driven future for Hawai’i.

Why Students Still Need to Learn to Write in the Age of AI

In an era where machines can write your emails and papers for you, why should students still learn to write?

Yes, generative AI has gotten pretty good at natural language generation. In fact, studies have shown that people tend to prefer AI-generated writing!  Personally, I find off-the-shelf AI-generated writing to be too flowery and kind of stale. But in many cases – especially for lower-skilled writers – AI  pumps out pretty decent written content. 

But I firmly believe that students still need to learn and develop writing skills. 

Here are 9 reasons why:

1. Clear thinking 

Clear writing is a reflection of clear thinking. When someone isn’t able to express their thoughts clearly, I question the depth and clarity of their understanding. The process of writing helps students organize thoughts, identify gaps in their understanding, and think more critically about complex ideas. By learning to write clearly, students learn to think logically, express their ideas coherently, and make well-reasoned arguments. This skill is invaluable in everyday life (not just in school). Thinking clearly and making informed decisions are important in everything we do..

2. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills

Writing is a powerful way to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. When writing, we have to analyze information, evaluate arguments, and make informed judgments. This process helps develop the ability to think critically about complex issues, consider multiple perspectives, and construct logical, well-reasoned arguments. In addition, writing often requires students to break down complex problems into manageable pieces, devise creative solutions, and communicate their ideas effectively. These skills are essential skills for tackling complex problems in a world of accelerated change.

3. Creativity and originality

From the earliest days of humanity, we’ve been creative. Humans have been creating songs, stories, dance, art, and more since the time of cave-dwelling. Creativity and storytelling are core to who we are as human beings. 

Human writers bring unique perspectives, experiences, and creativity to their writing, producing original content that goes beyond what AI can currently generate based off of patterns and prediction. I think of the richness of the human experience and what will be lost if humans forget how to use their own words and ideas to express themselves. While I believe the future is a world where humans are augmented by AI, it’s imperative we don’t fully outsource writing and other art forms.

4. Effective communication

Writing is a fundamental form of communication that enables everyone to express their ideas, thoughts, and feelings in a clear and compelling manner. Whether crafting an essay, composing an email, or creating a report, writing helps students develop the ability to convey complex information in a way that is easily understood by others. This skill is essential in personal and professional contexts, where the ability to communicate effectively can be the difference between success and failure. Yes, AI-generated writing can help with this. But students still need to learn what makes communication effective. And the best way to learn that is to do it themselves. 

5. Personal and professional growth

Writing is a skill that requires continuous practice and refinement. Engaging in the writing process helps students develop their voice, style, and confidence as writers. Finding your voice can play a big role in personal and professional growth.

6. Human connection

Writing is often a deeply personal and emotional act. Human-written content can forge connections, evoke empathy, and inspire others in ways that AI-generated text may struggle to replicate. Writing is powerful. Again, while I believe AI-enhanced humans are the future, we cannot fully outsource writing and other art forms that allow us to connect with each other. 

7. Developing empathy and understanding

Writing encourages students to explore and understand diverse perspectives. This teaches empathy and open-mindedness. Fiction has been shown to improve empathy and to increase helpful behaviors. By engaging in writing, students become better people and citizens. They develop a deeper appreciation for the complexity of human experiences and learn to value diverse voices.

8. Inspiring innovation

The awe-inspiring, futuristic worlds imagined by science fiction writers have frequently sparked the curiosity and ambition of scientists, leading to the development of groundbreaking technologies. Star Trek and the Jetsons have inspired the creation of cell phones, laptops, and home cleaning robots. I’ve always loved historical fiction and science fiction. But even I remember being an undergrad at MIT and being astonished by how deeply passionate my classmates were about science fiction. Writing is so powerful that it can literally lead to the future – by inspiring and driving innovation across various fields.

9. Collaboration with AI 

Finally, I’ll address the elephant in the room. Yes, the future is a world where writers use AI to craft better writing. Paradoxically, that makes it more important to be a better writer. Confused?

As AI writing tools become more common, students who have strong writing skills can better collaborate with and guide these tools. As AI thought leader Ethan Mollick wrote in Co-intelligence, writers are often the best at working with AI to create writing. They can provide the necessary context, specify requirements, and edit AI-generated content to ensure it meets their intended purpose and audience. 

Because generative AI currently creates writing by guessing what the next probable word is, it often creates generic, inaccurate, one-dimensional text. Writers who can describe the effects they want the words to create are able to use AI to create more powerful prose. With their editing skills, good writers are able to guide the AI to improve their writing. And those who are familiar with a variety of different tones and styles can use that knowledge to prompt the AI more effectively.

In short, good writers are better at reviewing, editing, and adapting AI-generated text to fit specific needs or preferences.

Writing in the Age of AI

While AI can assist with writing tasks, it does not eliminate the need for students to learn and develop their writing skills. The process of writing fosters critical thinking, creativity, effective communication, personal growth, empathy, and the ability to inspire innovation. 

Rather than replacing human writers, AI writing tools are changing the nature of writing work, requiring students to have both strong writing skills and the ability to collaborate with AI.

As is true of many aspects of life, process is equally important as outcome. In teaching writing, process is more important than outcome.


Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

Yolanda is also a Founding Board Member of the Hawai’i Center for AI (HCAI), a non-profit organization. HCAI envisions a future in which all of Hawaiʻi’s residents have access to AI technology that effectively and safely serves their individual and collective well-being. Hawai’i Center for AI promotes the beneficial use of AI to empower individuals, communities, and industries throughout Hawai’i. We are committed to understanding the ways AI will help grow the state’s economy, help our institutions evolve, and transform our society. Through collaboration, education, and service, we drive research, innovation, and community partnerships to build a sustainable, prosperous, and policy-driven future for Hawai’i.

Transforming Tomorrow: Harnessing the Future of Work

By Yolanda Lau

The future of work unfolds with boundless potential and transformative opportunities awaiting. As we stand on the cusp of exponential change, a new era emerges in which the skills imperative for success diverge from those of the 20th century. The rise of automation, artificial intelligence, and the gig economy is changing how we work. To thrive, companies and individuals must be proactive in preparing themselves for the future of work.

Embracing Automation

The rise of automation is one of the most significant changes in the future of work. Automation encompasses various technological advancements aimed at reducing or replacing human labor with machinery or software — and is expected to reshape almost every industry. Many low-skilled jobs, such as assembly line work or data entry, will likely be automated, leading to a transformation in job roles and skill requirements. Automation isn’t about replacing humans entirely — instead, it’s about augmenting human capabilities and efficiency. Companies must invest in training and development programs to ensure their employees have the skills required to adapt to this evolving landscape. While automation may displace some jobs, it will also create new opportunities for those who can design, build, and manage automated systems.

Integrating Artificial Intelligence

In tandem with automation, artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the future of work. AI technologies — including machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, and robotics — are increasingly integrated into various aspects of business operations. While many fear that AI will lead to widespread job loss, the reality is more nuanced. AI has the potential to enhance productivity, streamline processes, and unlock new possibilities. However, individuals who resist or fail to adapt to AI may find themselves at a disadvantage in the job market. Companies must invest in AI education and training to empower their workforce to leverage AI technologies effectively. Every senior executive should be thinking, “How can my team use AI to augment themselves?” By embracing and integrating AI, companies can gain a competitive edge and drive innovation in the evolving landscape of work.

Navigating the Gig Economy

Simultaneously, the gig economy continues to grow, redefining traditional notions of employment. More people are taking side gigs, to hedge against potential layoffs and to sharpen and learn new skills. And more individuals are gravitating towards freelance or contract engagements, thanks to the rise of online platforms facilitating flexible work arrangements. To adapt, companies must embrace the liquid workforce — and learn to cultivate and work with a virtual talent bench engaged in project-based work.

Shifting towards Project-Based Work

The future of work will also see a shift towards project-based work. This trend is driven by the need for agility — and for organizations to constantly be responsive to changing market conditions. Project-based work allows companies to quickly assemble a team of experts with the necessary skills to complete a specific project, rather than maintaining a large permanent workforce. Companies must invest in project management and collaboration tools — and create a documentation-first culture — to ensure that their employees and contract workers can work effectively in project-based teams.

Cultivating Skills and Adaptability

To prepare for the future of work, companies must be proactive in developing their employees’ skills and abilities. This can be achieved through a variety of methods, such as on-the-job training, online courses, and formal education programs. Companies must also invest in leadership and management development programs to ensure their employees have the leadership skills required to succeed in a rapidly changing workplace.

Individual Agency in Career Development

Individuals must take ownership of their career development and professional growth — honing their skills through lifelong learning and side gigs. By actively cultivating adaptability and resilience, individuals can position themselves as indispensable assets in the dynamic landscape of the future workplace. Individuals must also be proactive in building their personal brand and cultivating professional networks. Today, everyone is a brand — and individuals must curate their online presence and narrative to authentically reflect their values, expertise, and aspirations. Doing this stratgeically can help find uncover new opportunities. When combined with a strong network of weak ties, individuals can leverage diverse connections to achieve their career goals.

The Imperative of Work-Life Fit

The future of work is also likely to see a greater emphasis on work-life balance, or as I prefer to call it, work-life fit. We’re already seeing this with some countries exploring a four-day work week and others have made it illegal for companies to contact employees outside of the workday. Executives, policymakers, and workers are realizing that work-life fit is essential for both individual well-being and organizational success. Companies must adopt flexible work arrangements, offering employees the ability to work from home or on flexible schedules. They must also invest in creating a workplace where mindfulness, compassion, and grace are commonplace.

Take Action to Transform Your Future

The future of work is here — and it’s teeming with promise and transformation. The time for action is now. Whether you’re a company leader or an individual contributor, the future of work awaits. Embrace change, augment yourself, invest in growth, and seize every opportunity that comes your way. Together, we can shape a future where innovation thrives, and success knows no bounds. The journey starts today — let’s make it count.


Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

How To Give Feedback To Freelancers, Contractors, And Remote Workers

Communication is key to building strong working relationships, whether with employees or with freelancers. While most organizations have built-in methods and procedures for giving feedback to employees, such as regular 1:1 meetings, I’ve found that many companies lack processes for giving feedback to freelancers, contractors, or other members of their virtual talent bench. Given that working with freelancers tends to be temporary, it’s too easy to skip over providing feedback to your liquid workforce.

Understand When To Give Feedback

During each project, review the scope of work frequently to make sure milestones are met. If your freelancers or consultants are falling flat, say so. Most freelancers crave feedback, as they know feedback helps them improve their work product and increases the likelihood of a successful outcome for both parties. If they’re providing valuable contributions, be sure to thank them.

At the end of each project, spend some time going over what went well during the engagement and also what could have been improved. These retrospective meetings help ensure future engagements run smoothly.

Whenever possible, critique in private and praise in public. No one likes to be publicly called out for failures or mistakes. Critique publicly, and you’re likely to be met with defensiveness. This should go without saying, but if you’re in a bad mood, give yourself some time to clear your head — when giving feedback while upset, your tone will likely make more of an impact than the actual content of the message.

Set Expectations

The first step in giving feedback to your freelancers, contractors, and other remote workers is setting expectations. Make sure you’ve got a clear scope of work with detailed milestones and timelines. The scope should be detailed enough so that all parties understand what is expected and when items are due.

Once you’re ready to give feedback, Daniel Coyle, author of several books on talent, suggests starting each feedback conversation with one magical 19-word phrase: “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations, and I know that you can reach them.”

This statement helps your freelancers, contractors, and virtual talent bench — and even your employees — feel valued and connected to your business.

Skip The Compliment Sandwich

In my career advising startup founders and small business owners, I’ve known all too many managers whose preferred method of providing feedback was the compliment sandwich. This is when you sandwich a negative piece of feedback between two positive pieces. The idea is that you don’t want to get anyone down and that focusing on the positive helps blunt the negative.

I’ve found that the feedback sandwich both undermines the constructive (negative) feedback being conveyed while also making people suspicious of positive feedback. Instead, follow these steps to give clear, concise, specific, and constructive feedback after asking for permission.

Ask For Permission

Before you start with Coyle’s magical 19 words, ask for permission to have a feedback conversation. This can, and should, be as simple as asking a question like: Do you have 20 minutes to talk about X? If the answer is yes, then you can move on to those magical 19 words. If the answer is no, then ask when a good time to talk about X is and schedule a time on the calendar. Asking for permission allows the person to prepare mentally for receiving feedback, making the conversation more likely to lead to actionable results.

Start With Statements, Then Ask Questions

Start by stating what you observed, what impact it did or could have, and then ask questions. Try to be objective and refrain from judging or inferring what happened, giving the freelancer, consultant, or contractor time and space to explain. For example: I noticed X, and that could have impacted Y, and I was hoping you could give me your thoughts. This framing can help you uncover additional issues that you may have overlooked. In addition, asking questions can encourage self-reflection — allowing the freelancer, consultant, or contractor to come up with creative solutions for addressing your concerns. Make sure you listen to what they have to say.

Be Specific And Clear

Be specific with your critique as well as your praise. The more specific your feedback, the more likely it is to be actionable and useful. Aim for concise clarity — using too many words to blunt the emotional impact of negative feedback will make your message fuzzy. Be intentional with your words and tone. Avoid overgeneralizing, being judgmental, or making assumptions about intent. When providing negative feedback, make sure the conversation ends with clearly defined next steps for improvement — this is what separates criticism from constructive feedback.

Don’t shy away from giving negative feedback, but strive to give positive feedback more often. Increasing the ratio of positive to negative feedback creates a culture where feedback is valued, not feared. When giving positive feedback, do so with explicit information about what was done well — this helps to reinforce positive behavior. In contrast, vague positive feedback simply makes the receiver feel good.

Ask For Feedback

If you don’t ask for feedback, you’re unlikely to get it. Don’t forget to also ask for feedback from your freelancers, consultants, and independent contractors. Being external to your organization gives them a valuable vantage point. Their outside perspective can help them notice things that employees might miss. In addition, working with many clients means that your liquid workforce may have gleaned insights from working with similar organizations. Prioritize asking for feedback, as this builds the relationships you have with your virtual talent bench. When they start to see you as a partner — and not just a client — they’ll be more likely to make time for your projects.

Create A Culture Of Feedback

Providing candid, thoughtful, and positive feedback is essential to building strong relationships. Plus, having two-way feedback loops builds trust. Creating a culture of feedback generates a high-performing culture, boosting your team’s performance.

Start taking your relationships with freelancers, contractors, and remote workers to the next level.

This article was originally published in Forbes.


Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

Let’s Go Liquid: One Million Liquid Businesses

www.goliquid.io

Today, we launched a new website for Liquid, the operating system for agile businesses. I’m so excited to share what we’ve been working on, and so proud of how far we’ve come from when we first started our consulting firm together many years ago.

With that in mind, I wanted to share some thoughts on our vision for Liquid and the future of work, how we got here, and why I believe we’re building something important.

Shifting from role-based work to project-based work

For years, I had seen my friends — fellow MIT alums — leaving their careers behind because they couldn’t find a way to make work fit into their lives. Whether it was making more time for their children or parents (or not wanting to be tied to a job and an office), highly educated women were leaving the workforce in droves. I had long found project-based work to be a means of finding work-life fit and I wanted to build a way to make it easier for anyone to do project-based work. And as a long-time consultant, I had seen for myself how tapping into on-demand talent enable businesses to scale quickly and efficiently. I realized project-based work was a win-win for all parties involved.

Project-based work and the future of work

I’ve been a big proponent of project-based work as a critical component of the future of work. Project-based work allows small business owners, entrepreneurs, creators, and enterprises to grow and scale their businesses while also expanding opportunities to bring in diverse talent. Working with on-demand talent is a good business decision for agile businesses. On the talent side, project-based work is a means to find work-life fit, particularly for lifelong learners eager to strengthen and develop their capabilities.

Starting FlexTeam

It was with that goal in mind that I co-founded FlexTeam — we wanted to build a world where previously sidelined professionals could engage in challenging, meaningful work when it fit into their lives. In addition, we envisioned a world where anyone could build an agile business, bringing on just-in-time talent to complete only the specific work that needed to be done.

Building FlexTeam’s platform

As we built FlexTeam, we initially used half a dozen different platforms to get signatures, manage contracts, agree to scopes of work, make payments, etc. We realized a tech platform was needed to manage this. Bringing on a CTO, we built an operating system for our modern consulting firm. Our proprietary platform allowed us to vet, onboard, manage, and pay FlexTeam’s consultants, while also enabling our clients to approve scopes of work, communicate with our team, and make payments.

Going Liquid

Liquid @ Techstars LA

FlexTeam grew to over 700+ independent contractors working on strategy projects with hundreds of clients, from SMBs to Fortune 500 companies. But we realized that to accelerate our vision for the future — to help more businesses Go Liquid — we needed to reduce the friction for every business to work with on-demand talent.

We saw several main trends: workforce was becoming more flexible and global and agile companies succeed by tapping into the best non full-time workers. But working with on-demand talent can be really difficult because it’s not a regular recurring expense like payroll — and there are additional compliance issues and challenges with controlling costs / work.

So we created and spun out Liquid — joined Techstars LA, and raised venture capital. Today, the Liquid platform streamlines the way a business’ finance, operations and talent management teams work with its vendor and supplier networks in the U.S. and abroad. We simplify contracting and global payments while ensuring financial controls and compliance.

The Future of Work

It’s widely accepted that COVID-19 has accelerated the shift to the future of work. In 2020 alone, wages and workforce participation of independent workers rose by 33%. In 2021, we’ve seen the “ Great Resignation” / “ Big Quit” — which has led to further growth in the percentage of independent workers — and businesses becoming more comfortable with remote work, asynchronous work, hybrid work, and project-based work.

While others talk about the future of work being remote, I believe it’s much bigger than that. The future of work is about everyone and every business working together in a way that works for all parties involved. It’s a distributed hybrid world where some folks will remain employees, but more and more people will become independent contractors — some working through agencies, and others working directly with companies (with some growing to build their own agency and hiring their own subcontractors). The companies that thrive in the future of work are those that Go Liquid, embracing on-demand talent and virtual talent benches.

Liquid and the Future of Work

At Liquid, we are building the operating system for agile businesses to enable everyone and every business to succeed in the future of work — project-centric contracting, work orders, purchase orders, and payments for agile businesses and their global vendor networks. In addition, our platform allows businesses to quickly understand and control their variable non-employee costs. We want to help every company Go Liquid, and we want to make it easier for people to Go Liquid.

Every day, I wake up excited to build Liquid because I know we are changing how work gets done; we are building the future of work. I love our hectic startup life (for example, I previously led Marketing for Liquid on an interim basis) but I primarily spend my days leading Customer Experience and Customer Success at Liquid. With a consulting background and experience as a trusted advisor, I’m thrilled to be building this critical (and growing) department. I love partnering with startup founders, finance leaders, HR leaders, COOs, Chiefs of Staff, and other operations leaders to help them scale their businesses while saving them (and their teams) time and money. It’s been a joy to connect with our customers and ensure they are getting exactly what they need from our platform. I’ve seen our customers take their businesses from idea to Series A and from seed to Series B — and I love knowing that our platform has supported their rapid agile growth.

Today, hundreds of businesses spanning marketing agencies, startups, production companies, social enterprises, and SMBs are using our platform. These businesses use Liquid to contract, onboard, manage, and pay their on-demand talent and vendors in the U.S. and in 175+ countries across the globe. Thousands more are #GoingLiquid and engaging the liquid workforce in ever growing numbers. In just the last year, Liquid has securely processed millions of dollars in global payments. Our customers love our platform, rave about our helpful customer support team, and rely on Liquid on a daily basis. Liquid is becoming the operating system for agile businesses.

And we’re just getting started.

If you’re as excited as I am about what we’re building and our vision for the future, read more from our CEO. Then, visit our new website (www.goliquid.io) to learn more about Going Liquid or subscribe to our newsletter to follow our journey.

Are you ready to Go Liquid?


Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.


FlexTeam  is  a mission-based micro-consulting firm, co-founded by Yolanda Lau in 2015, that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors. FlexTeam’s most requested projects are competitor / market research, financial models, and investor decks. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.

Embrace Lifelong Learning To Thrive In The Future Of Work

In the future of work, the critical skills for success are increasingly soft skills like emotional intelligence, adaptability, and resilience. Success in the future of work requires becoming a lifelong learner. The world is changing faster than ever, and only through lifelong learning will we have the capability to adapt along with it.

Here are 11 strategies to develop a habit of lifelong learning.

1. Ask why.

Think back to when you were a child. Chances are you drove your parents a little crazy with all of your questions. Be like a child and always ask why — question everything. But be open to changing your mind. Seek out counter opinions and acknowledge alternative viewpoints — and you’ll learn more from these perspectives and push yourself further.

2. Learn to love challenges.

Challenges stimulate learning and bring a sense of fulfillment. I love challenges and welcome struggles and obstacles as the things most worth doing are often hard. Without challenges, we stagnate. While challenges and bumps in the road can be uncomfortable, these opportunities are the ones from which you will learn the most. Get ready to take risks by setting stretch goals for yourself. A willingness to take risks doesn’t mean you need to take on every challenge — it’s about taking measured risks that push you beyond your current limits.

3. Embrace failure.

Failing is something you do because you’re pushing yourself to do more. Every failure is an opportunity to learn. Don’t be ashamed or afraid of failure. You likely aren’t challenging yourself if you haven’t failed some of the time. I’ve found that failure has frequently been my best teacher, and my successes are a result of growth and learning from past failures and mistakes. Embrace failure and mistakes as opportunities to integrate valuable feedback and information. After all, as Albert Einstein once said, “Failure is success in progress.”

4. Practice mindfulness.

I’ve found that mindfulness is an essential soft skill to learn as it amplifies your other soft skills. Mindfulness can boost your mental agility, self-awareness, and resilience. Plus, taking a mindful brain break can boost your productivity and effectiveness while increasing the “divergent thinking” that results in new ideas. A plethora of apps and programs, such as Headspace, Yoga Ed., and Calm can help you practice mindfulness and build this essential lifelong learning skill.

5. School is only the beginning.

School should function to build a foundation for lifelong learning. Lifelong learners realize that learning doesn’t stop when school ends. Never stop seeking opportunities to learn, prioritizing both surface learning and deep learning. While surface learning is quick and easy, deep learning takes more effort. Both are valuable.

Coursera, Udemy, and EdX are great for consuming content. Cohort-based courses like Maven, On Deck, and Ascend take learning to the next level by bringing together groups of learners.

6. Be open to feedback.

Be proactive about asking for feedback. Surround yourself with mentors, personal advisors, and coaches and be willing to ask for help. I’ve found that having a community and network of peers and advisors has been essential in not only solving day-to-day problems or identifying new opportunities, but also in fueling my personal development. Frequent feedback has helped me to continually grow personally and professionally.

7. Become a polymath.

In the past, it paid to be a specialist — to accumulate as much knowledge as possible in only one area. But in the future of work, polymaths and expert generalists have the advantage. Developing deep knowledge in multiple areas, ideally with cross-disciplinary awareness, makes it easier to uncover unexpected connections and convergences. In a world where data is everywhere, pattern recognition and intuitive thinking have become more important than ever. Being an expert generalist or polymath requires continuous education — lifelong learning.

8. Teaching brings mastery.

In my experience, teaching brings mastery. I’ve been a teacher or teaching assistant for everything from entrepreneurship to ESL, citizenship to physics, biology to coding, sustainability to app building — each teaching opportunity was a window to deepen my understanding. Answering questions on the fly is the quickest way to test your knowledge and learn what you don’t know. Having spent my career advising entrepreneurs and small business owners, I’ve constantly been learning as I teach. I love it when I get to tell a founder, “I don’t know,” as it gives me something to learn.

9. Stay curious.

Talk to strangers. Be present in conversations and look for things that stimulate your curiosity. Pull on those threads and be open to learning from strangers. Follow your curiosity, and you never know where it will lead you. Sign up for that yoga teacher certification course, take that cooking class, try out a new sport, go for that art class. You need to keep that sense of wonder you had as a child to spark inquiry and continual exploration. This curiosity and openness will fuel your lifelong learning.

10. Prioritize process over goals.

Life is not about completing a series of goals. Most of us have had long and winding career paths, which didn’t necessarily make sense at the moment. When you prioritize the process of learning over the goals of completing the class or diploma, you’ll open yourself to new opportunities. Changing your mindset gives you the flexibility to follow your curiosity and may lead to opportunities you would never have otherwise thought of.

11. Give yourself the gift of grace.

But give yourself the gift of grace. It’s okay if you don’t know something. Embrace this as a challenge and as an opportunity to learn something new. It’s also okay to sprint and rest. In fact, giving yourself breaks is the best way to recharge and nurture curiosity. Breaks give your brain space to integrate your learning, developing connections between seemingly unrelated areas.

Become A Lifelong Learner

Lifelong learning isn’t just about preparing for the future of work. Lifelong learning also brings joy and a deep sense of empowerment and fulfillment — making life more meaningful. Grow and succeed professionally and personally by embracing lifelong learning.

This article was originally published in Forbes.


Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

Five Strategies For Building A Virtual Talent Bench

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated a shift to remote and hybrid work while also increasing the number of independent workers. The future of work is now. As companies become more comfortable with building and integrating on-demand workers into their talent strategy, more companies are realizing the value of building a virtual talent bench.

What is a virtual talent bench?

A virtual talent bench is a pool of freelancers, independent contractors, vendors, and small agencies that you’ve sourced, vetted, and are ready to work with. Having a virtual talent bench allows your team to quickly staff projects as needed, particularly as work shifts from being role-based to project-based.

Why should you build a virtual talent bench?

Building a virtual talent bench makes it easier to deploy independent workers to work on critical special projects quickly. By creating your own in-house virtual talent bench, you’ll save time and money by reducing the time to find and onboard talent — and save fees you may have paid to sourcing agencies.

In addition, building a virtual talent bench well before engagement allows businesses to properly qualify, vet, and onboard talent. Having advised startups for most of my career, I’ve seen many companies bring on talent without formal contracts or vetting simply because of an eagerness to get to work. Without sufficient vetting and executing appropriate contracts before onboarding talent, companies open themselves up to worker misclassification risk and intellectual property issues.

Now that we’ve established the importance of building a virtual talent bench, here are five strategies for building your pipeline.

1. Start by assessing skills gaps.

Start by assessing the skills of your employees against the work you do and may do in the future. You’ll likely find areas where additional resources, specialized skills, or expert advice could be helpful from time to time. Once you have a sense of what kinds of people you need on your virtual talent bench, you’ll be able to start looking for and recruiting the external talent you need.

2. Identify experts and other independent contractors.

There are many ways to find experts, consultants, and other independent contractors, but I’ve found that trusted referrals are the best way to fill your virtual talent bench. Ask your existing virtual talent to refer other freelancers and independent contractors to you, and ask your network to share their trusted talent with you. Freelancer marketplaces like UpWork or Catalant are also another source of virtual talent if you’re having difficulty sourcing referrals. Or, if you are open to establishing a relationship with a company with a deep bench, consulting firms like Business Talent Group or our own firm, FlexTeam, are built on virtual talent benches so that companies don’t have to build their own roster of talent.

3. Develop processes to vet and onboard talent.

Once you’ve identified talent, it’s important to make sure they’re vetted. Check references, run background checks and make sure they are seasoned independent professionals. Then, when you’re ready to onboard your virtual talent, create a standardized onboarding process that makes it easy for your company and your talent to work together. Using automated and electronic onboarding processes makes it easier to ensure all the proper contracts and tax forms are signed quickly and stored safely. Vendor management systems can help you manage all onboarding, contracts, and payments for your virtual talent bench.

4. Develop relationships and prioritize communication.

Working with a virtual talent bench can be transactional, if you choose. But you’ll likely find that building relationships with your virtual talent bench improves outcomes. Not only does relationship building make it more likely that your virtual talent will want to work with you in the future, but it also makes each project run more smoothly. Make sure you’ve documented and communicated best practices and expectations to your virtual talent. Communicate frequently and clearly, both during projects and outside of projects. Engaging your virtual talent bench even when they aren’t actively working with you helps keep you top of mind — making it more likely that your virtual talent will choose to work with you when the time is right.

5. Create procedures for providing feedback and assessing performance.

Providing feedback to your virtual talent during each project is critical to building strong partnerships. Start by creating a procedure to assess performance and give feedback. Make sure all employees who have interacted with your virtual talent bench are asked to provide feedback. If appropriate, ask your virtual talent to provide feedback on the other individual freelancers or consultants they may have interacted with during projects at your company. In addition, store the feedback in your virtual talent bench database for future reference. This information should provide you with actionable insights to help improve future engagements.

Be sure to compile the feedback to share with your virtual talent. I’ve found that freelancers and consultants are eager for feedback, excited to learn, and keen to build new skills.

Transition to a blended workforce.

To successfully compete, companies need to be agile and have workforces that can flex to meet a variety of challenges and opportunities. With a virtual talent bench, your company will have a flexible, blended workforce. That workforce will be able to quickly tackle problems and take on new opportunities. Are you ready to start building your virtual talent bench?

This article was originally published in Forbes.


Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

Remote Work: Creating A Documentation-First Culture

Before the pandemic, the growth of remote work was already a significant workforce trend as part of the future of work — remote work options increased threefold from 1996 to 2016. After the experiences of the last year, this trend has only accelerated. My current team is fully remote (with a mix of employees, independent contractors, agencies, and freelancers), and I’ve learned that one of the keys to success with remote workforce management is documentation. Whether your company is considering an entirely remote workforce or a hybrid workforce, it’s critical to be a documentation-first company.

Benefits Of A Remote Or Hybrid Workforce

Hiring remote workers, including freelancers or independent contractors, has many different benefits for your firm. One of these benefits is cost savings, with a reduction in onsite operations costs. Even more importantly, your company has access to a much larger talent pool with the removal of geographic obstacles to hiring. And remote workers can be even more productive than onsite workers. A study published in Harvard Business Review found that work-from-anywhere arrangements were even more productive than traditional work-from-home policies. And in a recent PwC survey of U.S. executives, 83% of employers reported that their companies found success with shifting to remote work.

Remote work arrangements benefit the company and the worker — increasing the attractiveness of working for your company not only for potential new hires but also for retaining existing employees. A Gallup survey found that 54% of office workers would leave their current job for one that offers flexible work.

Challenges Of A Remote Or Hybrid Workforce

But engaging a remote workforce does also create challenges. Managing benefits can become more complicated for your HR team, and communication can be a critical issue with the potential for not enough communication and/or remote employees feeling left out or excluded. Plus, building and maintaining your company culture takes more thought and dedicated effort and programs with a dispersed workforce. One of the ways to overcome these challenges is with a documentation mindset.

Going Beyond Onboarding

It’s common for companies to have a standardized onboarding process to complete and collect all the necessary forms, like W-2s for employees or W-9s for freelancers. A digital onboarding process makes it easy to assemble and organize all the required forms quickly. But when you have remote workers, it’s critical to go beyond the documents and deliver a comprehensive onboarding experience. After all, a 2018 survey found that 93% of employers concur that a good onboarding experience is critical to retaining workers.

You need a documentation-first mindset when engaging a remote workforce. Think about how you translate an onsite onboarding experience to a digital experience. How do you bring your company’s culture to life? How do you make your company’s resources and tools easily accessible and understood? What training do you need to provide?

Preparing and regularly updating documentation in advance is critical to success as you scale your remote workforce. This shouldn’t be an ad hoc exercise, but rather something that your company regularly dedicates time to create, maintain, and improve.

Increasing Knowledge Sharing

With my remote team, I’ve found that documenting our processes and best practices is essential to our success in working well together, regardless of location. Fostering knowledge sharing through “living” documents increases our ability to collaborate effectively and for employees and freelancers to quickly help with new projects or contribute impactful ideas. And one of the most important areas to document is related to communication.

Make sure that your employees and contractors have a dedicated place for communication. For example, we’ve defined Slack channels for a variety of topics and projects, as well as for sharing FAQs. We also have documented details like tips for communication styles, expectations for communication content and frequency for project updates, who to connect with for different types of questions, and more. Effective, two-way communication is even more essential when working with a remote team.

Plus, with a documentation-first approach, it’s much easier to shift to a project-based work model. Moving from a role-based to a project-based organization increases the speed and agility of your business. This type of organization is only effective with robust processes and communication.

Embrace The Remote Workforce

It’s time to embrace new models of work and grow your remote workforce. Hiring remote employees, freelancers and contractors strengthens your talent pool and helps make your company more agile. With a documentation-first mindset, your company can smoothly transition to a remote or hybrid workforce. And that mindset will also help you take a more agile and project-based approach to plan and execute initiatives. Get ready to thrive in the future of work by becoming a documentation-first company and growing your remote team.

This article was originally published in Forbes.


Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

How Organizations Can Become Project-Based In The Future Of Work

The nature of work is changing: Companies are increasingly thinking of work as project-based rather than role-based. We’re moving toward a project-based economy, and this shift toward the future of work is accelerating due to the pandemic. The more you can think of work as project-based versus role-based, the more agile your team and organization will be.

What Is Project-Based Work?

Project-based work has clear goals, milestones, and deliverables, and a defined start and end date. Projects may take hours or months or longer — the duration varies with every project and business need. But the work is aligned against business needs and objectives, not specific roles.

The Benefits Of Project-Based Work

As business leaders, we all want our teams to be agile and nimble, and embracing a project-based work mindset helps you increase speed and agility. A recent MIT and Deloitte report found that executives are increasingly thinking of their workforce as an ecosystem — drawing on the diverse skill sets of their universes of full-time workers and freelancers to meet business challenges.

With a project-based approach, you can innovate faster, quickly pulling skills internally and externally as needed. You can also operate more efficiently, dialing up and down skill-based resources by drawing on your workforce ecosystem.

How To Shift From A Role-Based To A Project-Based Organization

So, increasing agility, innovating more quickly, operating more efficiently, etc. — it all sounds ideal, but how do you evolve from a traditional, role-based organization to one that is project-based? There are a few critical steps to support success in this journey.

1. Change work definitions: First, you have to redefine the work. And this is an ongoing effort, not a one-time fix. Consider your immediate, short-term, and long-term objectives. How do you define these objectives in terms of projects? What skill sets do these projects need? Consider how your current workforce maps against these opportunities. Which skills do you need to source from freelancers and contractors? By developing what Deloitte calls “an adaptable network of teams,” you can build the flexible organization you need. Using a consulting firm that is experienced in project-based work can help you shift away from role-based work.

2. Focus on planning: For this model to work well, you must put an ongoing emphasis on planning. One of the advantages of working with on-demand talent is that you can pull in resources at short notice. However, when shifting to an overall project-based work approach, you need to plan ahead and have a project road map. Your road map will continually evolve to adapt to business strategy and needs, but you should always be thinking about the next project(s), particularly for your full-time employees.

3. Evaluate your processes: A flexible, on-demand workforce will not function well without robust processes and communications. The probability of redundancies, missed handoffs and other unforced errors will only increase when some or most of the team delivering the work includes freelancers, contractors, and consultants. Also, consider how you can improve the connections and communications with your team.

4. Build your talent bench: As you map the skills of your full-time employees against project-based work, you’ll find areas where you may need additional resources or different skill sets. Developing a bench of external talent makes it easy to pull in the right skill sets when and where you need them. I’ve shared my tips for building and integrating your on-demand workforce — this advice can help you scale your flexible workforce.

5. Hire and train for critical thinking skills: Soft skills, like adaptability and self-motivation, are essential in the future of work. Critical thinking is one of the keys to success with project-based work. Asking the right questions is critical. Employees and freelancers need to ensure they have the right level of clarity and detail so costs and effectiveness aren’t compromised.

Project-Based Work Is The Future Of Work

Not only how we work is shifting toward project-based work, but also how we hire team members and promote our own experiences. In the future of work, roles and buzzword-filled online profiles will become less important while project-based identities become more meaningful.

A project-based work model can help your team be more nimble and innovative. It’s time to start thinking about your team’s skill ecosystem and how you can organize and deliver in a project-based environment.

This article was originally published in Forbes.


Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.