I am joined today by Domenico Pinto. Dom is a work futurist, a professional event speaker, business consultant who has helped over 4, 000 working professionals, the founder of The Great Shift, a company that assists C-suite executives and companies create high-performance workplaces, and also the author of The Great Shift, a book about mindset, work-life balance, and the future of the workforce.
What is a work futurist?
At one of my speaking engagements, I got introduced as a work futurist and then suddenly it stuck and my staff loved it. So we started using it more. Overall, a work futurist is like any other futurist but the focus is purely on the work element of it. So anything in relation to how we’re going to work in the future in terms of organization, in terms of how we organize people, how we organize the workforce, how we organize organizational structures. All on these aspects, basically.
Do work futurists only consider remote work?
Yes and no. I’m more focused on the work in general. We are fully remote as an example. I advocate for remote work or hybrid. The key words for me are flexibility and freedom. People choose remote settings because of flexibility and the freedom, right? So in some areas, it might be, I want to travel more. I want to do that while I work and I want to take my work with me. In other areas, it might be, I just want to be more present in my parents’ life, my kids’ lives, my social circles. I have specific needs – maybe you have dogs and cats and other animals that you look after. Scheduling and a normal schedule might make it a bit of a problem. So when we talk about the future of work, I like to look at all aspects, not just the work, but of course, remote work in the last couple of years has been growing.
What is the future of work in an organization that still wants you to come into the office?
So when we look at traditional on-site workers, they’re people that go into the office every day or most days. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to be in the office from nine until six. Even five years ago, when I was working in Australia and we started working with some contacts and they implemented flexible working hours. That gave some of the flexibility to be able to come in the office or into the workshop late and others, the opportunities to come in early.
I remember this beautiful story where one manager got up a bit later and the daughter was was wondering why he was still there. He told her that he was going to work later that day. And his six-year-old daughter asked if it meant that they could have breakfast together that day, just like they do on the weekends. That was one of those aha moments where the penny dropped. So as a business result, however, the workshop was now open for 12 hours a day because a lot of people that were really happy to come in later, and there were a lot of people that were really happy to come in even earlier than before.
So from the work perspective that covered that aspect. But what it really means is to rethink how we do work and what’s needed to be done on site and what’s not needed to be done on site.
Even with one of my peers from university, I realized that only 20 percent of the tasks need to be done on-site perspective. So that means that even if you want to be 20 percent of the time in a five-day week, you’re looking at a one day a week that you’re needed. The task needs you to be in the office. Now you may choose to do that more often, but, either way, there’s a lot more flexibility and freedom that is given to people. We haven’t really capitalized on it yet.
You have Italian parents, you’re born and raised in Germany, you spent about ten years in Australia, you’re now living in Madeira – you’re pretty global. What has got you into the mindset of moving so frequently, and how has that led you to where you’re at today?
I was born in Germany, but for me, Germany was never the place. And when I was old enough, I started traveling. The first place I went to was England. It really got me hooked in terms of, wow, this is pretty different than in Germany or Italy. But what else is there? So I went and lived in Dubai, then Australia, then I came back to Europe.
I was traveling with my partner at the time of COVID and we just traveled around places that give us more flexibility. From there, somehow I realized that I wanted to see more before I settled down. I am a slow nomad. I have a base in Madeira where I spent most of my time, but I do roam around and my goal is to discover new places every year. This year, I’ve done four countries so far, and I really enjoy it, but also enjoy taking my time.
So I’m not a person that needs to travel all the time, but I travel quite frequently and I take breaks in the middle. And having this place in Madeira is idyllic, is nature driven, is a bit more relaxed, is a good balance to go and do a lot of speaking engagements.
Why is Germany not the best place to live?
There’s nothing wrong about Germany. It’s just, it’s not a match. I had my phase where I didn’t like Germany. Now I do, I just know it’s not for me. I have my siblings and parents there. They’re very happy there. I have friends and family basically. But I’m not one for cold weather, so that really gets to me and really changes my mood. And that already is a big one right there. The other part is I enjoy more of the Mediterranean or the South European lifestyle. And it’s also missing.
And I really like to be near the sea, so that would only lead to North Germany, which is very cold and doesn’t work for me. In terms of entrepreneurship and mindset, it’s more aligned to other countries.
What is the entrepreneurship mindset like in the Mediterranean countries?
You cannot generalize about all Mediterranean countries, but there is one element of making it work and all countries have different problems.
So when I was in Germany, for example, starting a company is seen as something really difficult and almost really bad and it’s going to be so complex. Rather go and work for the government. When you look at it from a perspective of South Europe, it’s more connected to achieving something, creating something and creating freedom for yourself. So those perspectives are really very different.
In South European context, you see more of, let’s just try this and do this, right? And you see less of that in countries like Germany, where you are more used to having this big proof of concept. And also sometimes I felt like it took a longer time in a German context to be taken serious rather than in other parts of the world where people will support you differently.
We are more at ease with giving you a shot and recommending you but in a German context, it’s like, okay, let’s wait for six months first and go from there. But I say that with obviously the biggest caveat being, I haven’t lived in Germany for a long time, even though I started a business seven years ago and did it for a few years in Germany. That might be very specific to the area I’m in. If you go to areas like Berlin, they’re very different and much more entrepreneurial and much more tech-focused. It depends on the spots you’re in.
Can a digital nomad settle down?
What I learned from life is never to say never. This is the irony. I left Dubai at the time. My partner wasn’t in love with it. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t like some of the social-commercial elements, but one of the biggest things that there was no pathway to citizenship. And when I left it and eventually moved to Germany first, but then Australia. I spent nine years there spending quite a lot of time and resources on becoming a citizen or becoming a permanent resident and that never happened. And by the time I left Dubai, I was offered a pathway to citizenship. So I thought Australia was going to be my last move and it didn’t happen.
Now I’m much more relaxed with it. So I do really enjoy it here in Madeira. I have a network – it’s a beautiful, curated nomad community. I have my local connections, I have many friends, I have everything I desire from that perspective here, but I also know that things can change pretty quickly.
Does a European passport give a lot of mobility?
I’m definitely grateful for it. I’m very lucky to have it. It makes things a lot easier, not only in Europe, but in general. It gives you a lot of mobility.
What got you into speaking? Is that something you were always doing?
Believe it or not, I used to be a catastrophe at public speaking. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone worse than me. When I was in university, I had all these ways to get me through speaking and presentations and a lot of help from a lot of people. But eventually I realized that I needed to get good at it and I really worked quite hard on it. It started when I was in Australia when I started doing a lot of facilitation. And what I realized is that in order to shift people’s mindsets and in order to shift companies, culture, and how people operate, I had to talk to them. If you have to talk to them, you want to make the biggest impact you can, and you don’t want to leave anything to chance. So that was where it all started. And then from there, it was a lot of work going into it. Why later it became such a big thing is more connected to my personal why which is creating better tomorrows. I’m just one person, but with public speaking, you can reach more people and for free as well. When you do things like a podcast, it’s accessible to a lot of people. Speaking at conferences, on a podcast, on panels and online reaches a lot more people than I could otherwise.
Is there a big knowledge gap on the future of work?
I would say yes. The gap is not necessarily in the information, but how the information is translated into actual data for the business. So if we say people prefer to work remote, that’s one thing. But if you present the data that basically anyone who’s a high performer has a choice, to pick remote work, even though we might be spending 80 percent of the time on one location, what it basically means is that if we are focused on offering the job only on site, we just filled it out with 80% of the applicants. And what it also means is that we’re retaining the 20% that are probably not the best targets and the best applicants. So my work in some ways is also to translate this into information. And if you’re fine as a business to have only the worst applicants – the 20% applicants, and develop, it’s fine. But it’s always like we’ve become really bad at translating that data and that information into data that you can use for your business or for yourself. So I think that’s where the biggest gap still is.
What specific pushback is there when trying to communicate work-related data?
I wouldn’t say pushback. It’s just, we never have those conversations. We rarely have those conversations on a pure data driven approach. So I’ll give you an example. I’ve chosen fully remote work for myself. I prefer being in an office with people. But I don’t want to go back to what I had before where five days a week I was in someone’s office and I was working there. Because at the end of the day, my private life and my relationship suffered. I remember my last gigs in Australia just before COVID when I was constantly on the road and I used to spend something like 20-22 days out of my home and in Airbnbs and hotels. Yeah, it was great from a work perspective, but from a personal perspective, that’s not there. So, it’s not a coincidence that consultants, coaches, business coaches very often have lonely lives, divorces and broken or compromised relationships because of just this.
Very few present the facts and have the conversation in a human way where you can really understand the other side and connect with it.
Is it easier to monitor project-based on site or remotely?
This is one of those common questions and debates. I can look back at my experience. I used to work in an office setting up to eight years ago. Even when I started, I worked from a coworking space. There there used to be a lot of people that I would see on a daily basis but I knew very little about. When I relate to it back to now, where I’ve been operating in a remote setting for many years now, some of the team members and collaborators that I’ve been working with for the last five years, I know them pretty well. And I’ve never met them in person partly because of the logistical part of it and COVID. I’ve met most of my collaborators, but some of them, I still haven’t because of COVID and pregnancies and all of the other things. I know when they’re working and they know when we’re working almost more than when I was in an office setting, because when you’re in an office setting, you can be tempted to think that someone is working because you see them on a computer. You see them doing things. You see them physically at the desk, but that actually has nothing to do with output. When you’re in a remote setting because you don’t see them working, it almost makes it easier to assess whether they are working or not.
But here’s the other element of it, and this is where some of that gap comes in. The knowledge gap we’re talking about before, most of the leaders in organizations and managers have never been trained into how to lead remote teams. We’ve almost been expected to get up to speed and learn how to do that. So very often they just don’t have the knowledge and therefore we’re missing the mark on that. It’s not even their fault. We’re just expecting them that they had to turn their lives around, especially if you look at middle managers who are some of the busiest people in organizations. Now, on top of the 12 hour days, you also have to learn how to work remotely. And it’s like, how are you going to do that?
How do you promote camaraderie in remote teams?
You can find ways to do that. Most of the companies and entrepreneurs I work with, do retreats for their staff – internal retreats. They meet regularly. I do the same in terms of meeting regularly with some of my team members. So you can create it that way. I know some remote teams that I work with that are more connected than most organizations that I’ve worked with in the face-to-face setting. One of the big misconceptions is that remote means we’re never going to meet. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. There might be a possibility that some people will never meet, but it’s not a default thing. This company that I’ve done some coaching before is one of those great examples. They don’t only meet regularly in teams and as a whole company and all of that, but people will literally get together and travel together as a team. So like, hey, we have a retreat. Is anyone interested in working and traveling together?
The company doesn’t have needed to facilitate that. If you look at it, it’s almost like you go back 20 years in companies where you have a great culture and great environment, people would meet after work, right? It’s the same concept. We are people and we’re driven to be able to connect with people. I remember one of the earliest examples of a great culture and a great customer centricity was Zappos. And one of their metrics on hiring people was, would you go out with that person for a beer? Now, I have no doubt that if Zappos was a completely remote company at the time, then the results would be very similar. So people that are serious about creating company culture are not restricted by things being remote.
What does Domenico Pinto do in Albania?
I became a fan of Albania when I was invited to a festival last year. It was the first Digital Nomad Festival, which I knew very little about. Some of my connections suggested me as a speaker, and I ended up going there. And I really liked it. I’ve been going back and forth since. I’ve had various meetings with people at federal or state level, municipality as well. And we’ve been involved into advising and consulting on the visa – giving some feedback on different parts to the government agencies that we’re putting together the visas for the digital nomads. A lot of those suggestions were also implemented, which is great to see.
What I really like about the environment there is that they’re very open and they have this drive to be the best. When I met the Minister of Entrepreneurship, she asked me about the best digital normal visa out there. Then she said: How do we beat them?
It wasn’t like, can we match them? It’s like, how do we do one better than that? And that’s part of what I’ve been doing there. I do a lot of volunteering and on top of that, we’re now collaborating with some coworking spaces. We started doing some workshops there as well.
And I was involved in creating the first digital nomad village in Vlorë last year. We had a run over the winter season as well, a pop up, and it really gave us a bit of an understanding of where Albania is and what is needed to make it a successful destination for nomads in a sustainable and long-term way.
What is a digital nomad village?
A digital nomad village is a center for nomads to come, mingle, connect, and have a bit of a sense of belonging, have a community, have a point to go to. I like to think of it as in the old movies with the nomads or the cowboys traveling and they get to the village and there’s the bar. It’s the one house. The central place where everything happens and you can get, figure out everything that needs to happen from there.
Is the life of a digital nomad stressful?
It’s very exhausting. I don’t think you can be having a digital nomad lifestyle for a long time in a sustainable way, moving and moving and moving. Some might be able to do that. If you can, kudos! But for me, it’s too exhausting.
When I have my regular lifestyle I can look after my health and wellbeing. I also have a responsibility towards my clients. I coach them remotely. It’s my job to make sure that I am at the best of my performance level, because that’s basically the high performance part of my world that I need to look after myself and looking after the space I work in is also an element. So for me, it is very, very important to find stability in the coaching environment I have.
What is The Great Shift?
The idea of The Great Shift was starting it as a collective, as a community, and I founded it to be able to channel and to create more frameworks that we give back. And then the main focus is on shifting: shifting mindsets, shifting workplaces to more contemporary places, finding better ways of working. That was the whole concept behind it. In a nutshell, the aim is to always work with people, put people first and put them in a position to be high-performance employees, collaborators or founders – it doesn’t really matter how you define people, but it’s that people equation that we look into and we work with.
Who uses the services of The Great Shift?
Over time, we’ve shifted towards smaller and smaller, medium businesses and startups. In the past, I also worked with very large organizations. But now what I find is that a lot of aspirational leaders are changing the way we work. They are usually more in the early stages of the business, or they are established small and medium business and they want to take them to a different level and want to find that human part of it. At the moment, I am working fully remote and I’m working with clients fully remote. So we’ve got companies that are in the tech space, in the banking and financial services sector, the retreat sector, mindfulness meditation providers, universities, municipalities and governments, marketing agencies, etc. It’s very varied in that perspective. We have specific coaches in the team that are very focused on one sector or the other. And when we get to those areas, we have more specific coaches that are focused on one area only.
What is The Great Shift book about?
We have a couple of frameworks that we work with. The principal framework is the B4P, which is the business for people, profits, planet, and purpose, and where the ideal concept is to find a balance between them. In a very old concept, you wouldn’t have all four of them ticked off, or very rarely you would. I haven’t seen a company which is like a hundred years old used to do this, but maybe I’m wrong. So I’ll say rarely, but I’ll give you an example. Mining can be good for people because it creates jobs in remote areas. It can be bad for the planet because you’re now mining resources and potentially you’re polluting the environment. You can look at other sectors, you can look at not-for-profits as an example, they can be amazing from a purpose perspective, but even those ones could be bad for people because people in charities are almost more likely to get into burnout than the corporate world, where everyone is trying to do their best and helping as much as possible.
So the way we saw it is to find balance between them. In our concept those four P’s are working in unison and basically while you make profit, you’re also helping the world and you keep the planet in a better place and people at the center as well.
So finding a different way of operating a way that those four things are aligned, and then next to it, we have two more frameworks that are used a lot. One is our work-life tree and one is our change wheel. So the change wheel really talks about how to facilitate change in organizations. It’s a simple tool that we can use to assess where you are. And when the work-life tree is a bit more inspirational, it talks about how an organization is built on the people. So we’re looking at going from the roots to the fruits and what needs to be in place and how that works.
How can you solve the problem of not hitting the four P’s from the B4P framework?
One of the areas could be that they literally don’t have a purpose. So let’s work on that front first.Or if it’s there, it’s not being elaborated. It’s not actually been integrated in all aspects. Usually companies don’t struggle on all four of them at the same time, but there’s always one area that is more challenged. And 80% of the time, that’s the people side of it. So people are usually overworked, underpaid, unengaged, burnt out, they’re not put in the place to be a player, so not performing well. So we would usually work there. Nine out of ten times, we start with leadership. It is our trunk of our work-life tree and usually spreads across everywhere. I’ve rarely seen really advanced leadership and lack of the other elements. So usually we start there, we start training people, individuals or organizations. And from there it triggers down into creating better teams and better environments and better experiences for people. And once that is fixed and usually already takes care of profits and then we want to tweak it and make it even better. We want to look at the impact on the planet. We want to look at how those profits are used and we want to look at how we integrate purpose into it as well.
This is where the lack of knowledge that we talked about at the very beginning comes into play. So what do we know? We know that companies that are more defined on their purpose, attract stuff easier and attract the right kind of stuff that is aligned to their business purpose.
We know that these employees are usually higher performers than other employees, right? The earlier you can get this clarified and defined, the better. What else do we know? We know that those companies are also more profitable than others. They’re more focused, they achieve their targets quicker, they’re easier to sell, and they have a higher customer retention and higher customer loyalty. And again, they also attract the customers that are more aligned with their vision. And as a result of that, they’re also more or less likely to drop out.
So if you look at purely from a talent perspective, yes, now what else do we know? We also know that it’s a lot more difficult today than in the past to hide. So almost any company I work with has a purpose statement. Now, I can be in a room with 10 people and ask them, what is your purpose as a business? And I will usually get eight different answers. So I know right now already that the purpose is there on the brochure, on a piece of paper, but it’s not really lived. Now, if I’m an applicant, I can do the same thing. I can ask you specific questions about it. And if the the answer I get is different than what’s stated there, I know, okay, this is probably full of crap. So it’s a lot more difficult from that perspective to gain access to the right talent. Or even if you do, it will end up costing you more and be less effective because if your recruiter has to work twice as hard to find the right people for your business, that’s also a cost. If instead of finding 300 people that are happy to apply for your job, you only find 10, it usually means that you have to be much more competitive with those 10 people.
How is talent used in geo arbitrage?
There was this great example during COVID. It was a manufacturing company doing furniture in remote Germany, somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
And one of those founders had this revelation that most of the jobs that we have here, we don’t need people to be here all the time. And he switched as a trial to fully remote. And these are positions like marketing and, admin and HR and sales (most of the sales didn’t happen in the showroom, it happened remotely anyway – so remote sales). And suddenly he was overwhelmed with applications. So when you look at talent, we don’t even know what talent is out there worldwide. And geo arbitrage fixes that. The other part of element might also be that you’re more likely to retain high-valued staff members by offering the opportunity to work from a different location at times. I’ll give you an example. I had a fantastic time in Australia, but for me, Australia at the moment is a little bit out of question because it’s so far away and I love the fact that now I’m so close to my family. So it’s great weather, great people, the salaries are very high, competitive, there are great jobs out there, but I wouldn’t consider it if I have to be there full time. And that’s just one example, which is personal to me, but there are so many more that are applicable to it. I’ve been blessed to spend some time in Portugal, I’ve spent some time now in Albania. There is so much talent in these two countries alone that are very accessible at normal rates for the rest of the European Union. And how they are ready to rock and super dedicated to the jobs.
You can look at it as a potential savings for your business. But you can also look at it as an opportunity to get even better timing than before, because if you’re paying top dollar salaries, you know, you’d be competitive with the rest of the world. So you now got access to the best of the best worldwide, not only in your country.
The insight has been just wonderful. So I appreciate you walking us through everything that you do and all your experiences. I always wrap up with two questions, the first of which is, if you could give one piece of advice from all of your life experiences, what would it be?
One piece of advice would be to really find a way to combine passion and work. I don’t mind working and I don’t mind working my whole life, so I don’t want to retire, for example, but I can only do that if I find something that I enjoy doing every day. So finding that optimum is a good challenge to solve.
Where can people find you if they want to get in touch with you?
The most active social media platform for me is LinkedIn. I share posts there regularly. I’ve been less active the last couple of weeks, but there’s a reason for that which you might find out soon. And then I do have a personal website and there’s a company website.
Dom, thank you so much for your time, and it was a pleasure having you on.