The Born Digital Generation: Attracting the Leaders of the Future | Tim Minahan


Tim Minahan, EVP Strategy and CMO at Citrix argues that smart companies are getting creative about staffing models and thinking about the born digital generation to future-proof their business, here’s why.


tim minahan citrix

Tim Minahan

EVP Strategy and CMO at Citrix


Frank Cottle [00:00:17] Tim, welcome to the Future Work podcast, really excited to have you here today. I’m grateful to you for taking the time away from your busy work at Citrix to spend some time with us.  

Tim Minahan [00:00:31] Well, thanks for having me, Frank. I always enjoy the conversation.  

[00:00:36] For our guests out there today, I want to introduce Tim Minahan, the executive vice president of business strategy at Citrix, where he has a proactive role in helping to drive strategic initiatives and really the company’s overall business strategy. In addition, he leads operations of the company’s vision of securely delivering the world’s most important apps and data that enable people and businesses to work better.  

And Tim, I’ve had a personal experience with Citrix, I think 20 years. I mean, the very first some of the very first go to systems we were using to work remotely for ourselves. And we are a remote company globally. We’re all Citrix based. So, I have personal experience with what you guys do. And you are true leaders in this sector. What do you see going on in change, and how is it impacting people, not just technology? Because when we talk about remote work, everything we talk about have to say the people; forget the technology, the technology is just a tool the people must use. How is this impacting?  

Tim Minahan [00:02:02] Yeah, well, Frank, like you said, Citrix has been a pioneer in remote access and remote collaboration. We’ve been talking like you about the future of work for quite a while now. The thing is, with the global pandemic and this kind of unplanned work from home experiment, we’ve all been going through it for the past 15, 16 months.  

The future of work’s coming a heck of a lot faster than any of us probably even imagined. And companies now are really shining a light on not just digital transformation, but the role of employee experience. And a lot of the dialog is around where people work. Well, people go back to the office. Will they be hybrid? Will they be fully remote? But the real smart companies are also thinking about two other aspects of how work is changing. So, who does the work? If you think back pre pandemic, we were struggling with a major talent shortage, a shortage of ninety-five million medium to high skilled workers, the most acute talent crunch being in areas that are required to modernize and digitize your business, things like cloud and analytics and security. And those are still out there.  

Tim Minahan [00:03:15] So companies are beginning to say, hey, as we roll back, we know this remote work thing can work. Let’s just look at hiring talent around one of our work hubs. But let’s look at hiring talent where they want to live so we can reach talent, give them the tools they need to be productive and engage. But also, let’s look beyond that and think about not just hiring full time talent, but also looking at hiring contractors that have that expertise that I need to modernize my business. And then the third one, which I think could be a good topic for our dialog today, is the rethinking how people work, because in a distributed environment, there is a real opportunity or risk of a highly inequitable work environment. We were all remote. It was easy. We all had the same shared, same sized screen. We get our Zoom calls. We all had access to the same information in the same way.  

Tim Minahan [00:04:07] But as you rotate some people back to the office and some people remotely working on the same teams, there’s a real risk of people being isolated or not part of the not being in quote the room where it happens. And companies really need to think through that, both from a technology standpoint, how they’re going to enable a more equitable sharing of information and collaboration, but also policies and cultural norms to say it’s OK if someone’s in the room, in a conference room and someone’s three thousand miles away, let’s foster ways for them to collaborate better.  

Frank Cottle [00:04:39] Well, you know, it’s funny, you mentioned the room where it happens. So, you’re already showing some anachronisms there. And it’s really the place and the place, I think as we look forward, more and more is a digital environment as opposed to a physical environment and how to bring people together. And it was mentioned before we went on the air here, we were talking a little bit and I was mentioning going back into the late 80s and early 90s during the Clean Air Act, old telecom. Shooting days, like one of the biggest problems then is the same problem you’re facing now and it’s, gosh, if I’m not in the office, nobody sees me and I’m off the fast track, like my career might be threatened if I’m not in the middle of the action. And so, I think one of our challenges is to really change to your point about the people side of things, is to change our definition of what the action is. A little bit it is the is the action whose coolest in the conference room and takes the leadership role and something like that, or is the action about who’s the most productive or the most creative with their personal time and is able to share it on a global basis now, not just on a local basis with good teams that can work twenty four seven around the clock because of global structures as opposed to just nine to five with an hour of commuting on each end in a stinky train, right?  

Tim Minahan [00:06:23] Exactly. Exactly. And that’s why he recently did a did some research. And it was just featured in The Wall Street Journal last week. It’s why it was around it, buying strategies. What are business leaders and I.T. folks looking to invest in right now? And topping the list were these digital kind of collaboration tools. And second on the list was kind of a virtual secure virtual access to their applications, because to your point, the only constant is going to be that digital kind of Allwork.Space that you carry along with you for some days. You’ll be in the office, some days you’ll be at home. You need consistent access to your work resources, but you can’t be at home and not have access to a certain application or certain information. So folks need to solve that. Secondly, to your point, you need to foster more collaborative workspaces that gives everyone equal access to the status of a project or the dependencies in that project and shared whether you’re sitting in a conference room next to that person that you’re that’s part of your project team or whether you’ve got another member who’s three thousand miles away. And that’s what companies are really thinking through now.  

Tim Minahan [00:07:33] And I think you brought up a very astute point. They’re solving the here and now for their current workforce. But if they get this right, it gives them the flexibility and agility to adjust their work models as needed in the face of the next unfortunately inevitable unplanned event. Maybe it’s a hurricane like you’re talking about or something else where they need to shift work from one region to another. If they have this connective tissue of this digital workspace that everyone has access to those resources. If they can shift those workloads around the world, they can really drive a higher level of business continuity than they could have traditionally where certain work got done in one work hub and certain work got done in another.  

Frank Cottle [00:08:17] No, I really think I think you’re right. So much of our office environment is picked up from manufacturing. If you look revolutionary, leftovers, if you will. And thanks, Henry, for the work. Work for a while. And it still works in many concepts overall. But when you address the future of work, as you said, when I think about it, this isn’t some like, oh, in the future we’re going to see this. Well, yeah, it’s going to change, of course. But the future is this afternoon. Yes. It’s not like five years from now if we don’t address things in and look at the future as a real time structure as opposed to some mythical time out several years, then companies are going to miss what’s going on. So, I think the future is now. It is this afternoon. It’s not four years from now to set your strategic planning. This is my view. You’re the professional strategic planner, so you tell me. But it’s my view that we must be evolving continuously, not in chunks, because if we do it in chunks, by the time we’ve achieved that singular evolutionary step, we’re already going to be behind.  

Tim Minahan [00:09:47] Yeah, I fully agree with that. And whether they say they never waste a good crisis. Right. Winston Churchill, that now I think the smarter companies are taking that to heart. Right. They know they’re not rotating back to the way work was because it wasn’t it wasn’t effective. It wasn’t perfect. You had a lot of disengagement at work. You had a lot of challenges like we talked about with talent. And so they look at what with the pandemic did when we all went to work from home, as it proved both to employers and employees that, you know what, there is another model.  

Tim Minahan [00:10:22] Work can indeed happen outside the office. But making that successful, we also recognize that we need different tools, different policies, different cultural norms to foster and digital work environment that allows employees to be productive and creative and collaborate and still be engaged, even though they’re not sitting in the same building. Every day, every week, and you flash forward, the third thing is the role of technology has become even more important. We always knew it was important, but I think companies really kind of open their minds to the idea that, hey, the one constant norm is going to be the technology that provides that employee if they’re going to be working across all these different locations. And so, companies are trying to figure out that combination of the physical Allwork.Space, you know, what is the office going to look like? Are we going to have the big office in a metropolitan area or much smaller satellite offices closer to where the employees want to live and work, the digital workspace? What tools are we going to provide? How are we going to foster continuous access and secure access to the work, resources and employee needs? What kind of collaborative environments are we going to provide them? And then the culture, if you will, the policies and the like that make it OK if you’re not physically in the office, that you’re still part of the team, that you’re still working, you’re still productive and you’re still engaged.  

Frank Cottle [00:11:52] Well, you know, so much of the office environment that we’ve seen were almost part of branding strategies. Look at what Apple and Google and different companies would look like. You reference. Thank you, Henry Ford. Look at what the old manufacturing companies have done that have been historically very successful.  

Frank Cottle [00:12:16] They built monuments to themselves physically to prove that their brand had stability. And all you must do is drive around Manhattan or fly around Manhattan’s better and see all the buildings with somebody’s name on it. OK, and so that is going to change the companies having physical monuments to themselves as a place where they bring everyone in to work. That’s done. That gets done. It’s just done. Period time, it’s over. And so, a restructuring of a core brand values of companies has to be part of this to say really what’s most important in the way we present ourselves to our customers and the way we service those customers. And if you think about it, we did a study back in seventy-nine or eighty. When we first started our company, we hired some marketing company to tell us, you know, all the things we needed to know about building business centers or what we’re executive suites back in seventy-nine eighty we started, and they made a simple statement that has not changed today. Just oh people would rather be five minutes from their office and 30 minutes from school. They have their office, five minutes from their home and thirty minutes from their clients rather than have their own office, five minutes from their clients and thirty minutes from their home. Pretty basic stuff, right? But when you think about what we’re talking about today, it’s the same thing. People want to work where they work and go home, grab a sandwich for lunch. They don’t want to have to commute an hour, hour and a half, particularly on public transportation, which we don’t trust anymore. Right. To get to a job that isolates them from their family lives from their whole purpose for working, and.  

Tim Minahan [00:14:22] That’s the big shift we’ve seen and unfortunately, in some areas, the hour, an hour and a half with the light commute, we just conducted a survey here at Citrix that were entitled Born Digital.  

Tim Minahan [00:14:35] So those workers born after nineteen ninety-seven, the Millennials and the Gen Z, where we surveyed over two thousand knowledge workers in that group and over a thousand business leaders in ten different countries. And it certainly has shown that this work group, a group of the workforce that constitutes the single largest number of employees who tend to have the skills that you need to modernize your business, don’t want to go back to full time work. In fact, nine out of nine out of 10 of those born digital employees don’t want to return full time to the office for their work post pandemic, and they prefer a hybrid model. Over half want to remain working from home most or all the time. And that’s a big disconnect right now between what the leaders we said who said, hey, 60 percent almost believe that the younger workers will want to spend most of all or all their time working in the office. And that’s just one aspect. That’s where aspect, the how they work is different to the number one thing that they prioritize as far as what they look for in a job and an employer is autonomy to work the way that they can work best because not everyone works best sitting in a shared collaborative workspace. Some folks need peace of mind.  

Frank Cottle [00:16:03] It’s funny, on the autonomy issue, we give a little speech when we hire anybody. It doesn’t matter who it is. It could be a front level receptionist who’s going to be sitting at a desk in the office greeting people, or it can be a senior executive. And this little speech says, OK, here’s the deal. Here’s what we will fire you for. If you are unable or unwilling to make your own decisions right, we will fire you for not making your own decisions and people go, whoa, wait a second. Well, who’s my boss? It doesn’t matter. You have to make your own decision. And I think your comment about autonomy comes into that.  

[00:16:54] People must get comfortable with making their own decisions. And what we found in this pandemic, in this experiment, as you’ve called it, is that people are very good at making their own decisions. And now they don’t want to get back into this rote structured model, and it’s not just a physical model, it’s the management model of saying, you know, for 18 months or maybe for twenty-four months, depending. You told me to take care of mom, take care of business, man. Take care of it. Get it done. And I did. So now tell me how to cross the T’s and dot the I’s. So, there’s a lot of that going on, not just the physicality. And I think, again, it all comes down to not technology and not office space and this and that, but it comes down to how do you employ people? In such a way, they have a satisfactory work environment that they’re really saying, I’m doing what I want to do and yet still have a premium and contribute to the whole interest that you can have people be too independent and it never streams in. So, they’re just aware that the challenge is in all the studies that you’ve done around your born digital, I think you by the way, could you dig into that a little bit more? Because no one else in the country knows the world has done what you guys have done in that regard?  

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    Tim Minahan [00:18:28] Yeah, certainly. And I think it does break down along that kind of where who and how like where work gets done. Like I just said, nine out of 10.  

    Tim Minahan [00:18:35] You want that flexibility to work in a more hybrid environment or the over half want the predominant place of where they work to be to be remote. They understand that there’s value in coming together, but for a purpose, to have a purpose, to collaborate with my teammates around planning or the like. And I want to come together for that. I have a purpose to meet with clients and partners or I have a purpose candidly, just to build those social bonds and come together for that. But I don’t necessarily need to punch a virtual clock. So, there’s that one. The second one is around. We talk about the WHO and that’s more around workforce strategy. A lot of a lot of workers have gone to become freelancers throughout this pandemic, wanting to choose the jobs they take and who they take them with more than having a certain badge at a certain company. And then the last the how they work. We talked about autonomy and what they prioritize. That surprised me that that came to the top of the list above compensation, above strong, invisible leadership. But I think the last part is on how they work is and I recognize this this myself, I might look younger than I am, but I have a lot younger workers working on my team in the way they communicate. Right. They’re communicating an instant message, apps like Slack and WhatsApp and they bring that into the workplace. Yet our research found that while over 80 percent of this born digital group of workers, the single largest group of the workforce, is communicating and prefers to communicate this way, share things in short, burst with certain teams or groups. Only twenty six percent of business leaders like using these apps for work.  

    Tim Minahan [00:20:25] And so there’s that disconnect. You’ve got to meet them where they are, not just in where they want to work or who does the work and what capacity, but also how they want to work and what allows them to be productive and creative and innovative and bring value to the company.  

    Frank Cottle [00:20:41] But, you know, you referenced earlier contractors being able to get the best people for the job. And so all of a sudden now we’re dealing with time and distance. And if half of your team or if your team is scattered all over, I know my morning this morning started in the Middle East and now I’m working my way with the sun towards the west. And I started in a time zone that was 11 hours different than my current time zone. And I will end up this afternoon maybe in Sydney, which is tomorrow. So a lot of.  

    Tim Minahan [00:21:32] 4 Different clients, though, I would imagine too, right?  

    Frank Cottle [00:21:35] Different clients, different project. The point is more and more companies are working like that with their distributed workforces. OK, so the tools that you use to create a singular culture for not just a successful product project, but creating a singular culture is critically important. When you’re crossing time zones, when you’re crossing national cultures, when you’re crossing multiple economies, a political environment, etc., as you move around to these various contract structures, that that’s a critical thing. But I know we’ve always been a global company, and by having people in different we’re operating in 54 countries and by having people in different parts of the world. There’s a lot of discussion today about diversity for all variety of types of diversity. But we’ve always believed, and I think this plays to your contractor issue, too, that are differences that we learned from each other by having offices in different places as opposed centralized made us much stronger and much more agile as a company.  

    Frank Cottle [00:22:56] As a company.  And so how do you see that playing with today’s world overall?  

    Tim Minahan [00:23:04] Yeah, it’s a great question. I’ll answer it in two different angles. First, on the on the diversity and inclusion part, we have certain customers Teleperformance, a big BPO provider. There’s another high-tech manufacturer that are saying, hey, this remote work experiment we went through has proven that work can be done outside the office, we can use the same technologies and the same policies and approaches now to reach new talent, not just outside of commuting distance from our from our office, but reach new talent and skills that are much more diverse. And so they’re reaching into building, staffing and hiring folks in inner cities like Detroit, for example, to bring that diversity and inclusion into their strategy. So that’s one aspect that we’ve kind of liberated that opportunity. Whereas before maybe you didn’t have as diverse a pool in the city or location where you had your work hub. And now that doesn’t matter. Now, on the other side, to your point around freelancers and contractors, as I said, a large traunch almost going to get my numbers right. Somewhere between two and two and a half million US workers alone transition to become freelance workers during the pandemic, just adding to the to the rolls. And what companies have realized is a lot of these same technologies and approaches they’ve used for remote work allows them to tap into those skill sets even on a temporary basis. And so, with Citrix, that means they come to us to use our digital Allwork.Space technologies or our virtual desktop technologies to onboard these folks to give them access to the work resources on a temporary basis or on a project basis without necessarily giving them a laptop or full access to their networks and the like.  

    Tim Minahan [00:24:52] And I’ll close out with this. We have a close partner. You may have heard of uptalk. This is a marketplace for freelance workers. And they came to us a few years ago and said, hey, we were the leader. People come to us because we have all these skilled workers. But there’s this last mile after we connect the client with talent, they’re like, oh, no. Now I’ve what do I do? I’ve got to give them access to my systems. I’ve got to give them access to a laptop. And instead, they’re like, hey, why don’t we just use this digital workspace to only give them access to the components of certain apps, certain information, certain collaborative spaces, and then we can turn that off just as easily so we don’t need to buy them a new laptop or ship them a device. We could do this remotely and so allows much more agility and flexibility in your staffing models.  

    Frank Cottle [00:25:41] Well, you know, it’s funny. My wife’s law firm uses your virtual desktop model, and the good news is it’s very effective. The bad news is she works everywhere.  

    Frank Cottle [00:25:56] That’s true! 

    Frank Cottle [00:25:59] I don’t have a problem with it. But I think that is critically important and using up work as a good example of a company that most of us should be familiar with if we’re not. So, if you’re not figuring out. But that whole model of new independent contractors, freelancers that are coming along, combined with the fact that most major companies included are hiring contractors permanently. Those contractors from we’ve seen what we’ve seen in our business doing, working with legal services companies are all now forming professional entities, doing just fine or Frank, you hired Frank LLC. OK, and so there’s a whole movement there to professionalize the contracting model into micro businesses that have a higher sense of responsibility and all of that.  

    Frank Cottle [00:27:01] So it’s going to be interesting to watch what’s going on. You guys are looking forward not just to the next six months or 12 months. It’s not like how do I restart my hybrid? You can go way forward about what do you see in 10 years? Your 20/35 project.  

    Tim Minahan [00:27:23] Exactly. We have a project work twenty, thirty-five where we partnered with certain researchers, academia, some governmental entities and even some clients to say, hey, what is work going to look like in 15 years. Now we did this through the course of twenty nineteen, not expecting twenty would turn out as it is, but we wanted to look out on the horizon and say what are the right, the skills, the organizational design, the technologies, the policies we need to put in place to be competitive in that environment. And there were a number of different things, some of which we’re already seeing this emergence of, I would call it, somewhat of the virtual enterprise in which employees are getting much more creative in their staffing models and blending full time employees with contractors to be able to always tap into the best skills on demand and be able to turn those down when they’re not needed anymore. Much more agility in their in their operating models.  

    Tim Minahan [00:28:23] But the other interesting thing certainly is around the role of technology and specifically this idea, the augmented worker, who we’re already seeing. So, a lot of these things are going to be very, very prevalent in the future. But they’re beginning to show up today, right? Sitting AI or machine learning next to a call center agent or a bank loan officer and being able to elevate their skill set, being able to take care of the know the tactical menial tasks so that they can be more focused on the client needs and provide a better service.  

    Tim Minahan [00:29:00] And so I think we’re going to see this massive elevation of skill set. And I’ll give you I’ll give an example of one of our own customers is using that city National Bank out of Florida and they’re using our Allwork.Space and they’ve built these across application workflows using our tools called we call them micro apps that reached into their CRM system, their loan system in the like. And they did it just before the pandemic, but it allowed them to go fully remote and process years’ worth of loans in the first six months of the pandemic by guiding those loan officers to the next logical step and not only allowing them to be more efficient, but literally elevating the skill set of every loan officer to perform like their best loan officer in this type of augmented worker, I think is one of the more intriguing things that seems to be on the forefront of how people are viewing this future of work.  

    Frank Cottle [00:30:00] Well, yeah, what you’re really talking about is a mental cyborg in many respects, where you are augmenting the worker with a lot of additional layers of intelligence. On the one hand. On the other hand, what we’re seeing is. Small businesses have a hard time connecting all these dots. They don’t have the resources. And so, while we’re in the virtual office business that this is our core business, remote working in virtual office and we are actually in the position now of creating a virtual office manager. Someone who can take the family client and connect all those dots together for now and the augmentation is a human resource as opposed to who understands all the ties to these this technology, as opposed to purely a technology resource.  

    Frank Cottle [00:31:02] So much of business is done by small companies, not just by large companies.  

    Tim Minahan [00:31:09] And I think that’s an excellent example. People use the word cyborg, but people are afraid that A.I. and the bots are going to take their jobs and there may be a certain category of jobs that can’t be automated. But for the most part, it’s creating new jobs. You have a new role you just created to be able to connect those dots, right. You have people that need to build those algorithms into, you know, into the machine learning or AI engines if people that need to provide security around that or other things. So there’s going to be data scientist, right. There’s going to be a whole emergence of entirely new roles to knit this together, certainly for the small businesses, but literally for every organization.  

    Frank Cottle [00:31:54] I really believe you’re right. We’re running out of time here. Give us one parting shot, something amazing. I put you on the spot without it. Sorry, but what’s the one thing that you think is going to have the most impact on the future of work in the next five years?  

    Tim Minahan [00:32:17] Yes, certainly, I think it is the combination of the things that we talked about, the big thing, the Big Medhat thing is that the social contract between employer and employee has been kind of inverted, where employees now feel empowered to work, where they want, how they want, with whom they want. And the smart employers need to be thinking about this born digital generation who’s today the single biggest portion of the workforce that has the modern skills that you need. That is going to be your leaders of tomorrow. You need to be building to make sure that you’re attracting them by having this flexible work models, the right collaborative tools and technologies to allow them to be successful, the right purpose for them, for them wanting to work there and ensure that you’re retaining them by creating a highly collaborative work environment and you’re making sure that they’re engaged no matter where they’re working.  

    Tim Minahan [00:33:31] So removing that caste system or whether you’re in an office worker or a remote worker, all of us are workers driving towards a common purpose. And so I think that’s the big shift. We’ve seen that that employer employee contract is changing, and the smart employers are getting on board and making sure that they’re becoming the preferred place to work in this new war for talent.  

    Frank Cottle [00:33:58] No, I think that that that’s right. And what it is, it shifts the dialog. So much of the future of work has been talking about offices, clean desks, trains, commuting technology. And it’s really the future work is about the people. It’s about how do we want to work and how can we choose to be the most productive. Find joy in all of that, because that’s what’s going to bring us to the next level. And I’m not going to go all hippie on you. But it really is coming down to that. I think people are recognizing that more and more the future of work is not about remote, it’s not about hybridized. Those things are all just tools. The future work is the people in the way we choose to lead our lives and work and be with our families fully, fully agree. So, let’s leave it on that. And Tim, I want to thank you so much. You’ve been very gracious with your time and grateful to you. And to Citrix is a fabulous company and wonderful, wonderful experience as well for dedicating your time to our audience. And we’re very grateful to you for that.  

    Tim Minahan [00:35:18] Appreciate it. Appreciate the dialog. Thank you.  

    Frank Cottle [00:35:21] Take care.  

    Tim Minahan [00:35:23] Bye. Now,  

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