Forbes’ inaugural list of 50 leaders, executives, thinkers and teams who are shaping the office of tomorrow, today.
hat are we really talking about when we talk about the “future of work”?
Nearly three years since the pandemic began, that phrase remains ubiquitous, signifying everything and nothing. It has become, yes, a lazy synonym for hybrid work, a catch-all stand-in for technologies like automation and AI, a branded calling card for workplace consultants trying to cash in on a disruptive moment. But it is also shorthand for the crucial conversations that must be had about creating opportunity for those who lack it, resolving persistent skills shortages, balancing flexibility with collaboration and addressing the burnout and mental health crises the last few years have wrought.
Our inaugural Future of Work 50 list highlights the executives, companies, thought leaders and innovators who are helping shape these conversations—or whose reach positions them to impact millions of workers. Some are high-profile CEOs leading billion-dollar companies whose technologies, philanthropic endeavors or work practices have made them a bellwether. (Read our Q&A with Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield about his own predictions on where work is headed, what he thinks of the metaverse and how he works now.)
Others are relatively unknown startup leaders inventing new tools, activists driving new policies or movements, researchers making sense of the changes taking place or talent leaders creating new work models—or making decisions that impact millions of employees. Amid the ongoing debate over the purpose of the office, others are designing workspaces that inject play or planet-friendly elements in hopes the office might actually become a destination again.
To create our list, we queried more than two dozen consultants, academics, analysts and executives—as well as tapping the minds of reporters and editors at Forbes—asking them who they feel has had an influence on the evolving world of work, particularly over the past couple of years. Who is creating innovative or useful tools? Which talent leaders have a perch to be influential or the scale to make an impact? Who are they reading or following—and whose ideas shape how we view work now? After getting nearly 200 nominations, we narrowed the list to 50, weighing impact, reach and creativity.
Such a list can never be complete or comprehensive. (Nor is it a ranking; names are listed alphabetically only.) Rather, it is eclectic by design—more art than science, sampling than catalog. Still, the 50 names or teams below offer a snapshot of this year’s powerful executives, creative thinkers and widely followed voices who are putting their stamp on the changing world of work.
—with Diane Brady, Alex Konrad, Emmy Lucas and Kristin Stoller
Incredible Health • Cofounder & CEO
In 2017, physician Abuzeid founded Incredible Health with chief technology officer Rome Portlock, creating what’s been called a “souped-up LinkedIn for nurses” amid a critical shortage of health care providers. The company uses machine learning and a proprietary algorithm to help hospitals match nurses to the best open permanent positions, flipping the hiring equation so hospitals pay to compete for nurses, who join for free. In August, the company raised an $80 million Series B funding round, making Abuzeid one of only a handful of Black female founders running companies that have been valued at more than $1 billion. Next, she wants to expand into hiring for other healthcare jobs.
Calendly • Founder & CEO
This calendar app started a Silicon Valley kerfuffle earlier this year about the power dynamics inherent in Awotona’s scheduling software: Is sending out the first link a display of power? But the Twitter debate led to tens of thousands of new users signing up, drawn by the popular app’s consumer-friendly design. Awotona isn’t stopping at easier meeting scheduling: He wants to help reshape how we work by making meetings run more efficiently, routing them to correct contacts at large companies and adding relevant documents to invites. In September, Calendly acquired Prelude, a recruiting platform that optimizes scheduling for interviewers and candidates, and launched Calendly Analytics, a dashboard for leaders that identifies popular meeting days or types.
Andrew Barnes & Charlotte Lockhart
4 Day Week Global • Cofounders
While worker burnout and a tight labor market prompted many companies to test shorter workweeks, 4 Day Week Global has helped give the concept global heft. The not-for-profit community began as an experiment at Barnes’ New Zealand-based estate planning firm, Perpetual Guardian, in 2018. Lockhart, his wife and cofounder, plays the role of visionary, talking with businesses and governments to get them onboard with trials that include a six-month pilot in the U.K. with more than 70 companies. She passed CEO duties in March to Joe O’Connor, who is coordinating pilots in the U.S., Ireland and Canada.
Salesforce • Cofounder, Co-CEO & Chair
From his early boosting of tech apprenticeships to his efforts to close internal pay gaps and outspokenness on social issues, Benioff has long been a much-followed voice regarding the world of work. Earlier this year, Salesforce opened its Trailblazer Ranch to employees—a modern interpretation of General Electric’s Crotonville campus, which is now being sold—to bring employees together for leadership training, wellness and connecting with colleagues. After being approached by Stewart Butterfield and Salesforce executive Bret Taylor (now Benioff’s co-CEO), he purchased Slack, which he’s called the “central nervous system” of many companies, for $27.7 billion last year, its largest ever software acquisition.
Multiverse • Founder & CEO
Blair, the son of former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, landed $220 million in funding in June to help expand his apprenticeship startup in the U.S. He is already working with brands like Verizon, Cisco and American Express to launch programs that bring in workers without college degrees for formal in-house training. While apprenticeships have long been deployed on an experimental basis in white collar workforces, Blair wants to help them scale. Multiverse adds access to coaches, online communities for young apprentices and a plug-and-play curriculum for key job areas like software engineering, digital marketing and project management.
Stanford University • Professor of Economics
Bloom, an economist who has studied management practices and work-from-home policies for years, suddenly found his research in high demand during the pandemic. Together with academics from ITAM in Mexico and the University of Chicago, he now publishes a monthly update on work-from-home practices and workers’ attitudes towards remote work. Along with generating among the most widely cited and respected data on the subject, Bloom estimates he’s advised or made presentations at perhaps 500 organizations since the pandemic began. “This is the largest single change to hit labor and property markets for maybe 50 years and understanding is critical to helping firms, organizations and policy,” Bloom said in an email.
Baxter Box & Amber Venz Box
LTK • Cofounders
Social media “influencers” are increasingly making content creation their full-time jobs, and social commerce company LTK has helped them monetize it since the beginning. Venz Box cofounded LTK alongside her husband in 2011; backed by a $300-million SoftBank stake, the platform lets selected influencers create virtual storefronts where they get a chunk of sales from items they sell. Retailers set the commission rate. LTK, which doubled its employee headcount to 670 in 2022, drives more than $3 billion in annual company sales via its 200,000 creators. “It’s important for [creators] to have a place engineered for their successful outcomes,” Venz Box told Forbes in September.
Upwork • President & CEO
Brown stepped up to run the freelance platform just as COVID was on the cusp of becoming a worldwide pandemic. That spurred demand from both employers and workers eager to have more flexibility and control over their work. But the former McKinsey consultant, who spent part of her childhood in Nepal, knows that Upwork, a freelance platform giant, is only as strong as the value it creates for stakeholders. That means more resources for freelancers, more investments in marginalized groups and more marketing—most recently in the form of a corpse singing “the old way of working is deader than me.”
HubSpot • Chief People Officer
When it came to paying employees who decided to move elsewhere amid the shift to hybrid work, Burke kept it simple: Keep pay based on rates in one “anchor” city for each country. In the U.S., for example, that’s New York, even if employees work in Birmingham. Her background in marketing and communications shows: Burke is “masterful” at engaging with employees on social, says one H.R. recruiter; “she uses social and particularly LinkedIn unlike any [chief people officer] who comes to mind.” Other remote work experts applaud her transparency on HubSpot’s hybrid approach, saying she’s been “great about learning out loud and sharing their lessons with the world.”
Slack • Cofounder & CEO
The cofounder of the popular messaging tool relocated from San Francisco to Aspen during the pandemic, skiing 76 days in one season, a move that made clear hybrid work was here to stay. Since the company was acquired by Salesforce last year, Butterfield has doubled down on giving teams new ways to communicate—expanding into audio and video and a new collaborative “surface” tool, Canvas. The research consortium that Slack founded, Future Forum, has become an influential source of information about remote work habits and sentiment. Read more on Butterfield’s thoughts about the future of work here.
Guild • Cofounder & CEO
As a tight labor market has made more employers eager to reskill workers—and provide benefits to retain them—Carlson, whose family has been active in Colorado politics and education circles, has drawn more funding, including $175 million in June, for her platform, which she cofounded in 2015 to bridge education and work gaps for adult students. Rather than workers paying tuition upfront and getting reimbursed, in Guild’s model employers pay tuition directly to higher ed partners, who typically pay Guild as students progress. More than 5 million employees had access to Guild’s platform through their employer over the past year.
General Catalyst • Chairman and Managing Director
Some CEOs spend their retirement doing little more than playing golf and joining boards. Former American Express CEO Chenault not only cofounded OneTen, a coalition of top CEOs connecting Black workers without four-year degrees to well-paying jobs, but serves as chairman and managing director at General Catalyst. The VC firm has invested in education platform Guild, apprenticeship startup Multiverse and talent management firm Eightfold.ai. With OneTen cofounder and former Merck CEO Ken Frazier, Chenault has also rallied corporate leaders to publicly oppose restrictive voting bills, raising expectations among executives about the power of speaking out.
Airbnb • Cofounder & CEO
Many companies have announced “work from anywhere” policies, but few drew the buzz that Chesky’s did when it was announced in April. Hailed as influential for its clear approach, the policy allows workers to spend up to 90 days a year in one of more than 170 countries and move anywhere in their home country without reduced pay. Noted for his transparent approach to layoffs at the start of the pandemic, when business dropped 80% within weeks, Chesky’s company is now partnering with local governments to create digital information hubs about issues like visa requirements for digital nomads to help make remote work easier.
Anthill • Cofounder & CEO
Clauson’s startup, Anthill, gives “deskless workers,” such as warehouse or manufacturing line employees who don’t have easy access to corporate email or intranets, access to company software and tools via text messaging. It uses machine learning to help workers quickly access information about everything from health care plan details to whether they can switch shifts with a coworker. Clauson, who met cofounder Young-Jae Kim as a graduate student, won the “future of work” category at the South by Southwest conference’s 2022 pitch contest and has north of $7 million in seed funding from investors.
Andy Cohen & Diane Hoskins
Gensler • Co-CEOs
Hoskins and Cohen have led the world’s largest architecture firm for 17 years, giving them an outsized impact in shaping how workspaces get redesigned in a new era of hybrid work. These days, Gensler’s some 7,000 employees are working on assignments ranging from a sustainable mass-timber office in Austin for developer Related Companies to Marriott International’s new Maryland headquarters, which includes an 11,000 square-foot childcare center for employees’ kids. Gensler is also the architect behind the new Delta Air Lines terminal at LaGuardia, a major upgrade for any business traveler who’s tried to work in the airport’s much-maligned former space.
UiPath • Cofounder & Co-CEO
Along with being a leader in robotic process automation, Dines is a voracious reader of fiction who believes bots can perform boring jobs like invoice processing that free people up to do more engaging activities. As companies increasingly deal with labor shortages and an aging workforce, automating more tasks through companies like UiPath will also become increasingly critical. The Romanian cofounder and CEO, who has partnered with Microsoft to build new automation experiences and integrated technologies, promotes the positive applications of AI in a world that often views them with fear.
Atlassian • Cofounder & Co-CEO
Australian software billionaire Farquhar went head-to-head with Elon Musk about his return-to-office edict, tweeting it “feels like something out of the 1950s” and then briefly adding a banner on Atlassian’s career page welcoming Tesla employees who might be curious about its policies. But unlike other companies who boast about flexibility, Atlassian backed it up with numbers, sharing in April that almost 300 employees have moved to a new country since it launched its “Team Anywhere” program; today, nearly 40% of global staff live more than two hours from one of its offices. Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said hearing about Atlassian’s approach to remote work for top executives helped influence his move to Aspen.
Citigroup • CEO
The first woman to run a major Wall Street bank, Fraser made Citigroup one of the first to commit to hybrid schedules for many workers at a time when peers were advocating a full return. In that announcement, Fraser launched “Zoom-Free Fridays” and emphasized the need for “healthy work boundaries” in an industry not known for them. She also leads one of first big companies to say it would cover travel costs for employees who need to go out of state for an abortion, facing backlash from Texas legislators, and with head of H.R. Sara Wechter, has expanded diversity representation goals and recently committed to putting salary ranges in all U.S. job postings.
Envoy • Founder & CEO
As founder and CEO, Gadea’s philosophy is simple: “Magic happens when people are together.” Created as a platform to help companies improve front-desk tasks that range from interacting with visitors to managing deliveries, Envoy is evolving to help companies use data to better cluster people in a flexible office environment. Its latest tool, announced in September, is Envoy Connect, which enables multi-tenant buildings to more efficiently pool their services and available space. Gadea, whom Google hired as a software engineer at the age of 17, argues that “the future of work is a people problem—a people-together problem.”
Amazon • SVP, People eXperience and Technology
As the head of human resources at Amazon—which had more than 1.6 million workers at the end of 2021 and could soon displace Walmart as the country’s largest employer—Galetti has overseen a massive expansion of employees at the mega employer and a tech-enabled approach to hiring and H.R. that allowed it to scale. Yet that scale has also had road bumps: Media reports have scrutinized ways its H.R. systems have been strained by growth, and the company faces ongoing unionization efforts, with workers citing pay and safety. Still, decisions made by Galetti, who said last year the company would expand a 2019 reskilling investment to $1.2 billion and 300,000 workers, have an enormous ripple effect, given the vast scale of Amazon’s reach.
Eightfold.ai • Cofounder & CEO
Garg and his cofounder, chief technology officer Varun Kacholia, have a slew of patents, research citations and machine learning experience to their name (Kacholia formerly led the news feed team at Facebook and YouTube’s search and recommendations team). They’re now putting that to work on recruiting, retention and skills mapping, using artificial intelligence and deep learning to discover the innate and adjacent skills people have—even those not listed on a resume or known to the company—and match them to available jobs. Eightfold recently partnered with New York state’s Department of Labor to expand its Virtual Career Center to use artificial intelligence to match job seekers’ skills with opportunities.
McKinsey & Co • Chief People Officer
George, a longtime partner in the firm’s operations practice who worked on supply chain issues and manufacturing performance, is now trying to optimize McKinsey’s own people operations. At a time when the elite consulting firm has faced external scrutiny and increasing competition for young talent, George, together with global managing partner Bob Sternfels, is making substantial changes, replacing the firm’s famous case-style interviews with game-based assessments for many candidates, doubling the number of places from which it recruits from 700 in 2020 to 1400 (its 2026 goal is 5,000) and scaling support for apprenticeships and bootcamps at a place long known for its Ivy League degrees.
Google • Chief Marketing Officer, Americas region & Founder, Grow with Google
In 2017, Gevelber founded Grow with Google, the company’s unit that oversees its Career Certificates program, to help people without college degrees build tech skills. The courses, in subjects like data analytics or IT support, cost $39 a month via Coursera. In 2021, Google made the certificates free for all community colleges to add at no cost, and in May, said it would cover costs for up to 500 workers at any U.S. business. More recently, Google added “industry specialization” courses from schools like Columbia University and University of Michigan. “What we’re trying to do is make great jobs accessible to more people,” Gevelber told Forbes this summer.
The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania • Professor of Management & Psychology; Bestselling author
In every generation, there is an academic who captures the zeitgeist in a way that resonates with a wide audience and drives change. Grant is such a figure, a bestselling author and organizational psychologist who has studied the science behind generosity, motivation, purpose and grief. Perhaps driven by his research on giving, Grant can seem ubiquitous—advising the latest work-related startup, partnering with former Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg or writing articles about topics like languishing. Do we need Grant to tell us people work harder when they feel valued? No. But by backing it up with data, he drives home the power of connecting as human beings.
Conviction • Founder
For nine years, Guo made the future of work a key investment focus at venture capital firm Greylock Partners. In September, she doubled down on that bet when launching her own firm, Conviction Partners, where she plans to focus on early stage artificial intelligence startups. Among her initial investments: Cleo, a company providing caregiver support for working families; CoRise, a professional growth training platform; Mystery, a work event organizer; and Remotion, a lightweight virtual office for remote teams. Utmost, a gig economy app she championed at Greylock, was recently acquired by extended workforce manager Beeline.
Kleiner Perkins • Partner
As a leader of VC firm Kleiner Perkins, Hamid has prioritized investing in software that changes how workers collaborate. Along with being an early investor in Box and Slack before joining his current firm, his design software bet, Figma, recently entered into an agreement to be acquired by Adobe for $20 billion. Other investments include online document maker Coda and Glean, a tool that can search across knowledge bases to surface relevant information. For Hamid, who grew up in Germany, part of the motivation is finding tools that help people “work to live, not live to work:” “How do you meet and work more efficiently, so you can spend your time with your family and friends?”
Vinay Hiremath (r) & Joe Thomas (l)
Loom • Cofounder & Chief Technology Officer; Cofounder & CEO
After nearly three years of too many meetings-that-could-have-been-an-email, “asynchronous” has become a major buzzword in the world of work. In 2015, Loom cofounders—and Forbes 30 Under 30 alums—Thomas and Hiremath were early players in letting people capture and send short video messages without having to be in a video call simultaneously. (A third cofounder, Shahed Khan, remains an adviser.) While Slack and Microsoft have incorporated short video clip messages in their products, and Loom has other competitors, it’s also built a big base: The brand says it has more than 200,000 enterprise clients. One CHRO says it has “fundamentally changed how I communicate with my team.”
Microsoft • EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer
As Nadella’s partner in reshaping Microsoft’s culture, Hogan leads human resources for the tech giant and has helped transform it into a talent bellwether. In June, for example, Microsoft was seen as being at the vanguard when it promised to put pay ranges in all job postings, even in places where it’s not yet mandated by law. The company also said it was removing noncompete clauses from U.S. employee agreements. A former software developer and McKinsey consultant, Hogan took an untraditional path to the H.R. role. She has also been a convener of her peers, initiating Microsoft’s CHRO Summit in 2019.
Dropbox • Cofounder & CEO
Houston and his team were early adopters of a “Virtual First” approach that made clear employees should work virtually most of the time and only gather if events meet certain criteria, like socializing for happy hours or collaborating to brainstorm. To emphasize the point, Dropbox redesigned and renamed its offices “studios” to encourage in-person gatherings that have a purpose. Virtual meetings and desk work is required during “core collaboration hours” (typically 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pacific), freeing up time for heads-down work and personal needs—giving employees more power over when they work, not just where. Annual $7,000 work from home stipends can be spent on things like childcare or ergonomic chairs.
Bjarke Ingels Group • Founding Partner
From Google’s “dragonscale” eco-friendly headquarters to a Copenhagen clean energy plant with a roof-top ski slope and climbing-wall facade, Ingels brings a playful sense of purpose to urban design. The Danish architect’s philosophy of “pragmatic utopian architecture” and “hedonistic sustainability” has made BIG a leader with clients seeking to delight and do good. That includes creating the pleasures of home in office space through “a string of pearls of outdoor terraces,” a neuroscience center that “unzips the typical hospital corridor” with design inspired by brain morphology and a UN-backed floating city in South Korea. Ingel’s goal? Collaborate in creating not just cool creations but a plan for the planet.
Spotter • Head of Creator Community
Founded in 2019, Spotter offers YouTubers large sums of capital upfront to buy the rights to their back catalogs of video content. The goal is to help creators scale their social media business, create new content and offer a financing solution in an industry where paychecks can be inconsistent. As head of the company’s creator community, Khan provides partnership and business development advice to content creators. Prior to Spotter, Khan worked at YouTube for six years as a partner manager and Meta for two.
IBM • SVP, Chief Human Resources Officer
Described by one future of work expert as the “gold standard” for upskilling and reskilling employees, IBM is continuing its efforts on apprenticeships, training and removing degree requirements under LaMoreaux’s leadership. Currently, some 50% of IBM’s U.S. jobs do not require a four-year degree, and LaMoreaux is working to increase the number of jobs globally that don’t mandate diplomas. To avoid biases toward degrees, managers can’t conduct interviews or post jobs unless they’re certified in IBM training that reinforces skills.
State Sen. Monique Limón (D)
California • Legislator
Inspired by Colorado’s pay transparency law, Limón sponsored a bill requiring companies with 15 or more employees to disclose pay ranges in job ads in California. Limón worked with state colleagues and advocates such as the California Employment Lawyers Association; the law goes into effect in January 2023, just two months after New York City’s law that recently took effect. California’s huge size could make it a tipping point for pay transparency in job ads. “She was just an incredible champion for getting this done,” says Mariko Yoshihara, legislative counsel and policy director at CELA. The law also requires companies with more than 100 employees to report wage data by race, ethnicity and sex.
Airtable • Cofounder & CEO
Tech entrepreneur Howie Liu taught himself to code by age 13. With Andrew Ofstad and Emmett Nicholas, he launched Airtable in 2013 to create spreadsheets that have the power of databases. Now, more than 300,000 organizations ranging from Amazon to sole proprietorships use it to create apps, share data and connect workflows. As one future of work expert explains, “it was built from the ground up to take something that in your head might have been a spreadsheet and make it visual, shareable and dynamic.” For Liu, the goal is to not just to enhance productivity, but democratize how software is created and data gets deployed.
Handshake • Cofounder & CEO
As a student at little-known Michigan Technological University, Lord discovered the glaring inequality in career opportunities he saw compared with students at well-known or Ivy League institutions. So, along with students Ben Christensen and Scott Ringwelski, he created college recruiting marketplace Handshake to level the playing field. His goal: Transforming how Gen Z gets hired, giving students from all backgrounds and income levels an opportunity for a shot at jobs with America’s biggest employers. Handshake partners with employers and colleges, who each may pay a fee to use the platform for job postings and recruiting. Today, it’s used by more than 750,000 employers, 1,400 schools and 10 million students and alumni.
Unilever • Global Future of Work Director
Lynagh has led Unilever’s U-Work program since it was piloted in the U.K. in 2019, giving employees flexibility associated with contract roles—but benefits akin to permanent jobs. With a monthly retainer and modified perks such as healthcare and retirement, employees apply to work on projects. Although the original idea came from thinking about how to support older workers, Lynagh says Unilever quickly recognized its appeal to all ages. “This gives them an alternative to leaving, an alternative to taking their chances in the gig economy,” says Lynagh, as well as helping Unilever. “We know them and they know us. That means they hit the ground running.”
Walmart • EVP, Chief People Officer
Morris, who joined Walmart in early 2020 after a long career at Adobe, now leads human resources for the largest private employer in the U.S., making decisions that impact more than two million employees globally. Even if it has further to go, Walmart has seen criticism of its labor practices fade as the retailer raised wages and expanded training, and Morris has accelerated those efforts. Under her watch, the retailer has launched a global upskilling academy and added fertility benefits for workers while expanding education reimbursements, evolving them toward more tech-driven skills and bringing more HBCUs into its talent pipeline.
GitLab • Head of Remote
Murph has been a pioneer of and advocate for the title “head of remote,” a role that has grown during the pandemic as companies try to coordinate the new and increasingly complex needs—from communications and human resources to real estate and IT—of remote and hybrid workforces. The former tech editor and communications adviser works at software firm GitLab, which has been all-remote since 2011. He authored the company’s “Remote Playbook,” a handbook that codifies GitLab’s practices and is available publicly online; it has been downloaded more than 150,000 times, according to Murph.
Microsoft • CEO & Chair
Since becoming CEO in 2014, Nadella has led Microsoft’s successful transformations via cloud computing, mobile, and AI – all while fostering a culture in which employees shift from being “know-it-alls” to “learn-it-alls.” Whether acquiring market leaders like LinkedIn or launching tools like Teams or Places, Nadella positioned Microsoft for a world where hybrid work is here to stay. The company’s proprietary research also now offers some of the freshest insights on the future of work, from the downsides of managers’ productivity paranoia to what it means to work a “triple-peak day.” Nadella also wrote his own book about his quest to rediscover the soul of Microsoft.
Stephanie Nadi Olson
We Are Rosie • Founder & CEO
Olson, whose father was raised in a refugee camp in Palestine, founded We Are Rosie in 2018 after a career in high-tech sales and advertising left her struggling to balance work and motherhood. Her startup, which matches independent marketing professionals with long- and short-term corporate projects, adds another platform to the gig economy, but Olson has also rethought how her internal team works. In 2020, she switched from unlimited vacation to a policy that requires it: Employees must take five days off per quarter or risk losing their full bonus. “Having that forcing mechanism and tying it to pay certainly helps with a very quick change,” Olson told Forbes earlier this year.
Harvard Business School • Professor of Business Administration, Senior Associate Dean
Neeley, named as one of Thinkers50’s top management thinkers in 2021, has spoken to or worked with some 200 companies since the start of the pandemic. But the Harvard Business School professor, who formerly worked at Lucent Technologies, has been advising leaders about the future of work for years. The author of books about remote work and having a digital mindset, Neeley points out “the future is here.” As she told Forbes: “The days of linear change that are grounded in time and activities and change efforts–those are gone. We’re in the exponential age.”
Earthseed • Founder & Principal
Two years ago, Ozoma and a colleague publicly accused Pinterest of racism. An act that could have been career suicide instead sparked an apology and a movement to protect tech workers who speak out about harassment and discrimination. The Yale-educated policy specialist has since championed California’s Silenced No More Act, a 2021 law that bans employers from using NDAs to silence workers, created the Tech Worker Handbook to give people tools to stand against workplace mistreatment and worked on shareholder proposals pushing companies to assess risks of concealmeant clauses. “The future of work to me really is a conversation about the future of workers,” Ozoma told Forbes.
BetterUp • Cofounder & CEO
If you’re looking to become a better leader, getting advice from Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, or Adam Grant isn’t a bad way to go. Those are two of the high-wattage names Robichaux has recruited to lend expertise to BetterUp, a platform that aims to bring executive coaching to the masses. “To lead at scale, you have to manage your own psychology,” says Robichaux. “That is a two-person job, in my experience.” Launched in 2013, it now claims to be the world’s largest virtual coaching network, offering support in 64 languages. “Business is one of the only endeavors of elite performance where we feel that we have to go it alone,” says Robichaux.
Radical Candor • Author & Cofounder
Scott is the workplace guru who keeps cultures from being too nice, preaching a philosophy of “radical candor” that has made her an influential author, advisor, coach and entrepreneur. Her advice on how to be more direct and efficient has resonated with companies like Dropbox and Twitter, where she has consulted as an executive coach. A former member of the faculty at Apple University and, before that, an executive at AdSense, YouTube and DoubleClick teams at Google, Scott brings a Silicon Valley mindset to her consulting. She also managed a pediatric clinic in Kosovo and started a diamond factory in Moscow.
Burning Glass Institute • President
The former CEO of Emsi Burning Glass, now called Lightcast, earlier this year founded the nonprofit Burning Glass Institute. Sigelman’s data-driven research tracks metrics such as worker mobility, skills and opportunity—working with business school researchers and naming names in his reports. In February, for instance, the Institute revealed which tech sector companies have the lowest percentage of IT job postings that require college degrees (IBM and Accenture were lowest). And its recent American Opportunity Index, funded by the Schultz Family Foundation, acts as a scorecard of which employers offer the most advancement opportunities for workers (AT&T came out on top).
Amazon Labor Union • Founder & President
Dubbed the “tip of the spear” of America’s resurgent labor movement by one H.R. expert, Smalls is the man who took on Amazon—and won. In early 2020, Smalls was fired after he organized a walkout at an Amazon fulfillment center on Staten Island to protest COVID safety protocols. (The company has said he violated quarantine guidelines.) He launched a push to unionize; that facility became Amazon’s first unionized workplace in the U.S. Workers in Albany recently voted against joining the Amazon Labor Union, where Smalls is president, but his initial win could help shift some power to Amazon’s more than one million workers.
KKR • Co-head of the Americas Private Equity
Stavros wrote his Harvard Business School thesis on employee ownership and then put it into practice at an unexpected place: Private equity giant KKR, where he’s championed sharing equity with hourly employees such as assembly line workers and truck drivers to help boost productivity and profitability. One example: In August, KKR sold Minnesota Rubber and Plastics to Swedish company Trelleborg for $950 million; the firm’s 1,500 employees will receive between three months and two years of pay, depending on tenure. This year, Stavros founded Ownership Works, a nonprofit aimed at broadening equity ownership; already, some 20 private-equity firms have committed to ownership programs in at least three companies by 2024.
Accenture • CEO & Chair
With more than 720,000 employees, Sweet leads what’s likely the largest private-sector employer of knowledge workers in the U.S. Even so, only 43% of Accenture’s IT jobs require college degrees, down from 54% in 2017, according to the Burning Glass Institute. About one-fifth of U.S. entry-level hires come through its paid apprenticeship programs aimed at giving underserved individuals access to digital economy jobs. Sweet has also been a leader on initiatives to get CEOs involved in helping displaced refugees, and Accenture is a metaverse pioneer, with 150,000 workers who went through orientation on its virtual “Nth Floor.”
Chobani • Founder & CEO
As part of a continued push by the Tent Partnership for Refugees, a non-profit Ulukaya founded, nearly four dozen major corporations recently committed to hiring more than 22,000 refugees in the U.S. over the next three years. The Chobani founder has long hired refugees to work in his factories—even coming under fire amid the 2016 election for it. Though Chobani cited “current market conditions” in September for why it withdrew plans to go public, workers stand to gain when it does: In 2016, Ulukaya said he was granting employee equity, sharing ownership with workers.
Zoom • Founder & CEO
The company he founded in 2011 became synonymous with video conferencing during the pandemic, making Yuan a billionaire and brand ambassador for remote work. While competition from players like Microsoft, Google and Slack has dampened enthusiasm for his stock, it’s also spurring innovation that could expand Zoom’s reach into the enterprise. Being the go-to for online meetings remains a powerful perch in a world that’s now wedded to hybrid work.
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