- Spotlight - News

Karen Roelandts of Elior North America On The Top Five Trends To Watch In The Future Of Work

Source: Karen Roelandts of Elior North America On The Top Five Trends To Watch In The Future Of Work
Medium, January 18, 2024


The growth of employers' role in helping workers skill up for the roles they want. We'll be watching to see what type of roles people start to gravitate toward and how employers can provide the right skills and experience to make sure that they're prepared for that. 

There have been major disruptions in recent years that promise to change the very nature of work. From ongoing shifts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the impacts caused by automation, and other possible disruptions to the status quo, many wonder what the future holds in terms of employment. For example, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that automation will eliminate 73 million jobs by 2030.

To address this open question, we reached out to successful leaders in business, government, and labor, as well as thought leaders about the future of work to glean their insights and predictions on the future of work and the workplace 
As a part of this interview series called "Preparing For The Future Of Work'; we had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Roelandts 

Karen Roelandts is the Executive Vice President of Human Resources at Eli or North America. Roelandts helps strengthen the foundation of the culture at Elior North America based on inclusion, accountability, servant leadership, and professional growth opportunities and ensures Elior North America's 16k employees remain engaged while maintaining a positive and healthy work environment.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?

My career started in the HR department of a national non-profit medical organization, and I later moved into a for-profit organization. This was a drastic transition, as I had moved from a company whose mission statement was helping others to a company whose mission statement was to grow EBITA every year. In these roles, I had the opportunity to experience both sides of corporate America, and it helped shape the way I think about work and what I do. A few years later, l moved into hospitality - initially in the hotel industry, and now with my current role at Elior North America. l fell in love with hospitality - it's flexible, exciting, service-oriented, and constantly changing. Joining Elior was a nice fit for me because it was a company that was growing, thus allowing freedom to build and establish programs and processes. 

What do you expect to be the major disruptions for employers in the next 10-15 years? How should employers pivot to adapt to these disruptions?

One would be shifts in the generational workforce and how that will impact employee needs. We have five generations currently working for us right now, and it's fascinating trying to find a balance and value for every type of employee. Each generation has very different views on work and career, different expectations on the involvement and engagement with their focusing on how to work in a multi-generation environment, and how to respect and support each other in every way we can. l believe things are going to continue to change as our older workforce retires and as younger generations enter the workforce with new and different expectations of their employer and unique types of careers.

A second hot topic that is a daily discussion these days is AL We are already seeing use with ChatGPT, more smart automation, and uses in most things we do. How we communicate and collect information is being reimagined every day, so it is absolutely going to change how people work, what skills people need, and how we conduct everyday business. It's imperative that employers are prepared for a future workforce that incorporates Al in their daily work and business model. This includes properly preparing employees to navigate these changes within your work environment.

A third disruptor will be continued discussions on climate change and our global ecosystem. Regardless of personal positions on climate change, the expectations and impacts on businesses will force changes in supply chains and work habits, resulting in the continuous need for businesses to adapt

The choice as to whether or not a young person should pursue a college degree was once a "no-brainer". But with the existence of many high-profile millionaires (and billionaires) who did not earn degrees, as well as the fact that many graduates are saddled with crushing student loan debt and unable to find jobs it has become a much more complex question. What advice would you give to young adults considering whether or not to go to college?

College is a personal decision to be weighed carefully. For some, adventuring into the workforce, apprenticeship, military, or other venture, provides immediate hands-on learning, experiences, and work readiness. For others, a two- or four-year college or university can serve as preparation for a wide range of professional careers. It requires research and discussions with school staff, family, and students to decide what works best for each person. There is always an option to go back to school later in life, which many people opt for these days. Businesses are starting to offer opportunities to learn on the job, and that is a consideration for students as well.

Despite the doom and gloom predictions, there are, and likely still will be, jobs available. How do you see job seekers having to change their approaches to finding not only employment but employment that fits their talents and interests?

There are many opportunities for people to search for jobs due to the multitude of different platforms available. I always recommend talking to people you know and seeing what platforms they're on, such as Linkedin or Indeed. Do some basic job searches without seeking just one specific platform. You'll be surprised at how many different ways you can go about finding new job opportunities, such as via Google search or CareerBuilder The other way, of course, is networking. It continues to be one of the best ways to hear first hand about openings in the market, the environment and culture of a company, and what others know about a business. It also allows you to hear others' careerjourneys and the path they took in their own journey. Joining local affiliations of groups within your career interest can also be a rich source for finding job opportunities.

The statistics of artificial intelligence and automation eliminating millions ofjobs appear frightening to some. For example, Walmart aims to eliminate cashiers altogether and Domino's is instituting pizza delivery via driverless vehicles. How should people plan their careers such that they can hedge their bets against being replaced by automation or robots?

Al will change how people work, but l think we're a while away from AI replacing certain roles. It's important to be flexible and adaptable in trying to work in different ways so you can prepare yourself accordingly for future work changes. Continue to understand the work around you and learn new skills that can add value to a job role.

Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?

The modern-day workforce will always have the option to work from home to an extent. Working from home has been quickly ingrained for many, and COVID forced the changefaster than business is used to changing. Working from home allows flexibility and freedom that many crave and/or need to manage their hectic lives, and this flexibility has quickly become a benefit for many who are given the option. We see many in the recruiting marketplace looking only for remote roles, so it has become an expectation for some. What that quick and extreme COVID shift also did, though, was to leave many feeling isolated at home. Therefore, we will probably continue to see a shift back to the office, perhaps not full-time, but part-time. This will allow for the personal connection many have started asking for with their peers, managers, employees, and customers (as applicable). At Elior, we've tried to make sure that we have physical spaces where people can connect and have in-person meetings as needed.

What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?

Businesses need to have the patience and the understanding for flexibility in how and when employees work. It is a give-and-take approach with employees and employers to ensure needs are met on both sides, and this sentiment is growing stronger with the new generations entering the workforce. ln addition, the concept of customer service continues to change as society adapts to cultural changes, work habits changes, consumer demand preference changes, and technology changes. Take the restaurant industry for example; I often hear friends and family talk about experiences while dining out and how customer service and the overall dining experience is not what it used to be five years ago. Well, the world changed drastically within the last five years, and options that were not often used, or reserved for special occasions (think DoorDash, grocery store delivery, even Amazon), are mainstream now. The way we digest and consume food, materials, and products has changed, so customer service has to adapt as well. Former waitstaff roles are now driving roles, and personalized service is replaced with drop-and go service. Society will have to continue to evolve expectations as the business evolves to support the ever growing and constant changes that technology and globalization demands are forcing onto mainstream business

What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employers to accept? What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employees to accept?

For employers, continuing to be comfortable with supporting work life balance, understanding what that means to the workforce, and thinking ahead to the next generational trends and needs will need to be a keen focus. There has to be more of a give-and take - don't expect longevity in a role, but rather expect people who are looking for constant movement, change, and a sense of community. Also, the up-and-coming workforce is looking for "What are we doing for the greater good?" rather than just, "What are we doing for me?

For employees, understanding that you may not get the same perks you or others once had. As the workforce changes, so will benefits and perks. There may be some dissatisfaction in the older generations as things begin to look different, recognition looks different, and the value of loyalty looks different. As more technology is introduced into roles, some may struggle with this.

Helping different generations adapt to the changes will be important for business now and in the future.

Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

What keeps me optimistic is people. Change is hard, and the world is ever­ changing, but people are magnificent - full of resiliency and passion, and they will continue to transition with the changes ahead. So even on the hardest days and times when people struggle, in the end, we're all in this together, and you see that renected in the workforce, and in human nature. A sense of community is happening more. And through all these changes, continuing to have people around you who support you is important, and I see that more and more every day. It is beautiful and remains such a light of optimism.

Historically, major disruptions to the status quo in employment, particularly disruptions that result in fewer jobs, are temporary with new jobs replacing the jobs lost. Unfortunately, there has often been a gap between job losses and the growth of new jobs. What do you think we can do to reduce the length of this gap?

We're seeing more of a 'gig jobs' concept and the spiking of temp labor. Flexibility is so important for people now. For some, a 9-5 is just not reasonable anymore. There are always going to be fluctuations in the needs of the workforce, so having options like a gig workforce and temp work will be opportunities that aid that need.

What are your Top 5 Trends To Watch In the Future of Work?"

The continuing evolution of how we work every day is going to be a top trend. Consider how we do work, how we show up for work, and how we find value in our work.

The growth of employers' role in helping workers skill up for the roles they want. We'll be watching to see what type of roles people start to gravitate toward and how employers can provide the right skills and experience to make sure that they're prepared for that.

The increasing need for a sense of purpose and community at work. We will closely watch how that develops and what that is going to look like in corporate America.

Al's impact on the workplace. We will closely watch how AI impacts the next step for not only remote work, but front-line work, and how far its effects can reach. The advancement of AI is not to be ignored or taken lightly.

Increased number and speed of mergers and acquisitions. As we continue to become more globalized, and we're reaching outside of our borders for products, workers, and ideas, we're going to start to become more and more reliant on international ideas.

Can you please give us your favorite "Life Lesson Quote"? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?

I'm a big fan of 'The Road Not Taken,' by Robert Frost. Every day we wake up with choices, and each choice shapes who we are. It is a collection of these small choices that shape us and teach us lessons with perspective and hindsight. You can certainly follow others and do what's comfortable, or you can take the other road and make yourself a little uncomfortable, grow, push, and stretch yourself a little more. I always push myself and others toward that road less traveled.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this ifwe tag them.

I would Jove to sit down and have a discussion with Martin Luther King, Jr. His life story, his accomplishments, his influence. and his drive are inspiring. He was a fascinating individual, and to spend time with him, and understand how he viewed the world and his role in it, would have been simply life-changing.


I will hope for the best but owing largely because he's been dead since April 4, 1968, I would be shocked to learn that he is still reading our magazine.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.