The Great Resignation & The Future Of Work: Noel Edlin Of Edlin Gallagher Huie + Blum On How Employers and Employees Are Reworking Work Together

On Behalf of | May 3, 2022 | News

An Interview with Karen Mangia

Originally published on medium.com.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Noel Edlin.

Noel Edlin is the managing partner at Edlin Gallagher Huie + Blum, a law firm of trial specialists with offices in downtown San Francisco and Los Angeles. Noel works with clients throughout the U.S. on high-stakes environmental, toxic tort, product liability, and trucking and commercial auto cases. During his past four decades of practicing law Noel has successfully tried numerous cases to verdict and achieved hundreds of favorable settlements for his clients.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.

I think from a very young age as a kid moving to Hawaii and being raised by a single mom, I was aware of how important it is to adapt to the many changes fate throws your way. This lesson was later reinforced when we moved to Northern California and she married my step-dad. Adaptability is in my DNA and has helped me immensely as a trial lawyer because you often need to switch gears as you work through the evidence. And it also comes in handy as managing partner of a law firm where I need to quickly find solutions for obstacles as they arise.

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

Now that we have proven how productive we can be working remotely in a pandemic, I think employers are more open to the idea of giving employees more options for achieving work-life balance. In the legal profession, we will continue to need a certain amount of in-person interaction, so we will still need office space for face-to-face collaboration. This is also important because the isolation of quarantine took its toll on the mental health of those who prefer to be in a group setting. The bottom line is that flexible work arrangements are here to stay. The biggest shifts in how we work will come in the form of new technologies like people analytics that help business leaders make better decisions and more sophisticated DEI capabilities that empower us to create more diverse teams to drive innovation.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

One of the best ways you can protect your organization from future threats is by working with employment lawyers to establish sound workplace policies and compliance materials. I think it’s also critically important to invest in technology that increases your efficiency and minimizes human error.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

We are already seeing a huge gap now with the Great Resignation. Candidates believe that they have more negotiating power than ever before given the increase in open positions. We are witnessing a trend among associates fresh out of law school who are seeking salaries on a par with much more experienced attorneys. While I admire their moxie, it would upset the balance of our entire HR ecosystem if we started compensating first-year associates at the same level as six-year associates. It’s also important for these newly minted lawyers to know that salary is only one part of the overall picture when it comes to job satisfaction. While larger firms may be able to lure young associates with bigger salaries, we offer a much higher quality of life with a lower annual billable hour requirement, more attractive benefits packages, and lots of opportunities to try cases. More importantly, we put diversity, equity, and inclusion at the forefront of everything we do, so if you are a young associate who wants to try cases at a dynamic and diverse firm, EGHB is a great place to call home. I also think we are in a bubble and the pendulum will swing the other way to bring salary negotiations back down to Earth.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

Being forced to work from home inspired many of us to think about new ways of managing our time and our overall wellbeing. And the data demonstrate how much more productive we can be without the time suck of a commute or constant distractions in an office setting. However, I do think a certain amount of in-person interaction is important for strengthening professional bonds and to foster more creative collaboration. Zoom meetings are effective only up to a point and can make people feel more anxious than doing business on a phone call or in a face-to-face meeting. I guess what I am trying to say is that the future of work is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. We need to be flexible to accommodate different modes of working and personal preferences . . . within reason.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

One of the ways we can foster a more inclusive workplace is by normalizing the activities we do throughout the workweek to support our loved ones and take care of our mental health. I have noticed the growing trend on LinkedIn, for example, of professionals posting stories about ducking out of work to see their kid in a play or taking 30 minutes during lunch to meditate that emphasize this message. But there are caveats. People need to use good judgment in what and how they share such updates with their professional networks.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

I am endlessly inspired by young lawyers who work hard to learn the basics of our profession. Writing, research, taking great depositions, issue-spotting — these skills form the foundation for what makes a great lawyer. Once these are established, it’s exciting to see young attorneys bring other skills — such as technology and social media know-how — to the table. Learning how to do marketing and business development is also important. When I see newer associates in our firm making progress in all of these areas, it gives me great hope for the kind of work people in our industry will be doing in the years to come.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

I’ve been reading about this issue a lot and know that some large companies are contemplating big moves like the four-day work week. In legal services, this really isn’t an option because we have a duty to be there for our clients when they need us. Therefore, we look at other ways of helping our attorneys and staff members achieve optimal mental health, including a very attractive benefits package.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Great Resignation because we have seen a disconnect between candidates’ salary expectations and the competitive compensation packages we are offering based on market data. I’ve had a gut feeling that something was off, and the pendulum would soon swing in the opposite direction. After reading an interesting article by Paul Krugman who contends that the data do not support the Great Resignation narrative, I am starting to consider this issue from a new frame of mind. I think he’s right that it’s more accurate to call what’s happening a reshuffling, given the tight labor market. However, putting workplace trends aside, architects of corporate culture should always put people first and build diversity, equity, and inclusion into their foundations.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

  1. Embracing DEI — Organizations that build diversity, equity, and inclusion into their DNA will attract and retain top talent and beat their competition through the more innovative approaches that are only possible when diverse teams of professionals collaborate to solve problems.
  2. Looking Out for Employees’ Wellbeing — If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we have a responsibility to one another and need to look out for each other. Perks are great. But you also need to demonstrate your concern for and interest in the people on your team by carving out time to check in by phone and in person. Taking people to lunch and sending flowers or gifts to mark special events is important and something people remember fondly.
  3. Promoting a Growth Mindset — By praising and rewarding good job performance, we can keep talented people on our team, which translates into stronger culture, higher productivity, and increased revenue.
  4. Offering remote/hybrid work options — Even though it’s safe to return to working in an office environment, we are still providing several of our employees with options to work remotely or do some combination of in-office and at-home work based on the feedback we solicited through a series of surveys.
  5. Cultivating Soft Skills — One of the biggest mistakes business leaders can make is to ignore soft skills. As we use more automation and the world becomes more baffling, we need more professionals in the workplace who have empathy, active listening skills, and a desire to provide excellent customer service internally and externally.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

I can’t help overusing it because I love it so much: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” This is probably the closest thing I have to a mantra. Throughout my career I have taken many calculated risks and tackled projects I wasn’t sure I could handle, knowing I would figure out a way to solve the problem and make it work.

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, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

Adm. James G. Stavridis, USN (Ret.) is someone I admire for a host of reasons. His service in the United States Navy, and his academic career — which includes earning a PhD., from Tufts University, make him an excellent source of knowledge and inspiration on historical, social and leadership issues.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

I welcome readers to reach out to me via LinkedIn or to visit our website at eghblaw.com.

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.