“The brand and the company culture will be very important for the customers of tomorrow.” A conversation with Patrick Aertsen about the new ways of thinking and working, and the importance of corporate culture in the future.
You work for Living Tomorrow, a research-oriented company based in Brussels. It organises projects focussing on technical innovations we can expect to see in the near future. What do you think will be different from the way we work now in an office environment, if we look twenty, thirty years ahead?
I believe that more and more people will work from their home office, using Skype and digital connections such as a VR communication tool. That will be a totally different way of working. Because in ten years even the 9 to 5 work shift won’t exist anymore. Millennials will work when they want to. The employer will not look at the timeframe any more, only at how the work is done, and if it is good. That´s what will matter. Employers will have to manage the team spirit off-site in order to bring the staff together and strengthen the corporate culture. So, to get the best talent, they will strengthen their brand and that is the main thing that will keep the people together. In the future it will be all about being proud of the company you are working for, that means a total change in marketing.
Is the competitive advantage of the future having a good company culture?
Yes, I strongly believe in that. You are going to see this in all the different departments of a company. Marketing will have to change and focus on internal communication. Totally contrary to how they are doing it now. HR departments will look completely different, and their approach to people will be from a totally different point of view. It will be all about breathing company culture, about managing the space in various time frames, not from 9 to 5. Companies have to be aware that Millennials and next generations will not think the way our grandparents did.
How will we collaborate with externals such as clients? Do you expect to see any difference in contact with clients and external stakeholders in the future?
I believe that technology will have an influence on how we work and will help us do our work in a more efficient way. The contact with clients and stakeholders will become more and more influential. We will experience a comeback of personal contact and relationships. The relationship that you build with your clients and your stakeholders will become more significant. Human to Human. This is not only about your work relationships: even your relationships with friends will change like this, basically every relationship you build. Hospitality will be crucial. The client will be king again. But also the employees! In the future, you will only be able to find and keep good employees if you offer them a working environment in which they have everything they need.
What do you think the main goals will be for people to want to work for a company?
To have a good time. To have a good environment, to have good clients and colleagues. I think that will be the main reason that people choose a company. The second is, of course, salary – and the salary will be used to enjoy a good life. Not to buy houses, to own the biggest house or biggest car; I think the Millennials and generations after them will be even more down to earth than we are. And be happier with what they have. The most important thing for them will be to have good friendships, enough time to spend with their friends, to go to restaurants etc. That will be the main topic. Above all, they will want to share a good, deep spirit with nice colleagues, and flexible working times so they can enjoy them.
That´s a very human-centred look. How will the upcoming technology innovations change our lives?
It will change our lives deeply. Right now everybody is on their smartphone – I believe in 5 or 10 years we won´t have a smartphone anymore, it will be all in wearables. But the relationship between two people, going to a bar or restaurant, sitting down at a meeting table and talking to each other: this will become more and more important. The face-to-face meeting and conversation will be what it’s all about.
Will this really be face-to-face or virtual face-to-face with avatars that look like a real person?
For doing business with people and to catch up with one another it can be the way we are doing things now, through Skype etc., but I think the real working relationships with your colleagues and the company will have to be in person. That´s why, in the new way of working, one of the most essential tasks of the HR department will be to bring people together once in a while.
Do you think digitalisation and all the developments surrounding it will change the way we pay employees?
Not only that. In my point of view most people will be self-employed and everybody will have their own management company and just send a bill to the employer for the minutes they work. And I believe that we will pay our staff through a blockchain account, not a bank account. Blockchain will take the middle man out. We will not need banks any longer. We will have cloud accounts, where our employer might pay us in bitcoins. But unlike the United States, in Europe we will be facing huge problems regarding the administration. The entire tax system etc. needs to be rethought and simplified.
Coming back to company culture: it seems like there will be even more diversity in the future, in the way we live and how we work. In the future, customers will no longer be choosing just a single product, but rather the entire culture that a company stands for…
The brand and the culture will be very important for the customers of tomorrow! The customers of tomorrow will want transparency; they will want to know who made the product, what the company stands for, what values it has. They will want to have traceability, to know where the raw material comes from, which forest and so on. In Belgium over the last 5 years we have seen that people are buying more local. I believe that for Millennials local will be a major factor. Remember in the 80s we all wanted to have products and brands from the US, McDonalds etc. Now people want to have local food. So to continue to be successful as an entrepreneur stay tuned regarding the trends and developments around you – look at your customers but also at your employees!
Patrick Aertsen is Event & Catering Director at Living Tomorrow in Belgium. A place where new ideas for the future grow in collaboration with its partners, in so-called visionary groups. Aertsen is best known as the organiser of various big event projects. He launched the annual Studio54 event at Sportpaleis and is the founder of Zomerbar Bocadero at the Scheldekaai in Antwerp. He has also worked for HMCCP (Hotel Mececentive Contact & Consulting Partners) for the last 10 years.