Loyola Magazine

Navigating the new world of work

Loyola faculty and alumni explore how today’s workplace is evolving, how some of these changes reflect ideals and values that the Society of Jesus has embraced for generations, and how Loyola’s Jesuit, liberal arts education is positioning them for this dynamic time

On a crisp Friday in November, 24 students in Loyola’s Women in Tech Club boarded a train at Baltimore’s Penn Station to travel to New York City. The day trip to visit Cisco, J.P. Morgan, and PwC was focused on financial technology—and was the brainchild of Paul Tallon, Ph.D., professor of information systems. These programs, called career treks and run through Loyola’s Rizzo Career Center, often in partnership with faculty—serve multiple purposes.

Today, these trips have become especially important: students need to see firsthand what today’s working world is like.

“One of the reasons we are doing this is to expose students to workplace culture," says Christina Spearman, Ed.D., assistant vice president for career development. “We encourage them to ask who is present in the space, what does the workplace look like, how are employees using technology, and how does collaboration happen.”

Ready or Not, It’s a New World of Work

As today’s students prepare to graduate and launch their careers, they will be entering a new world of work that has been shaped by the pandemic. It’s a world that even professionals with many more years of experience are still learning to navigate.

Technology has altered the role of office space, changing the ways that employees collaborate and communicate. Many employees are seeking better work-life balance and flexibility, and employers are striving to respond. Connection among colleagues in the workplace might look different—but often with renewed importance. And employees want to know that the work they are doing is making a difference.

As students graduate into this world of work—and other alumni are experiencing the changes throughout their workplaces—how well has their Loyola education prepared them for what they are encountering?

Loyola magazine turned to faculty and alumni who are experts in this topic to explore how today’s workplace is evolving, how some of these changes reflect ideals and values that the Society of Jesus has embraced for generations, and how Loyola’s Jesuit, liberal arts education is positioning them for this dynamic time.

Illustration of a woman using a phone and leaning against a giant phone

The Impact of Technology

Many of the changes we see today came as a result of the technology forced abruptly on the working world—including education—during the pandemic. Although many of those tools were new to many, they already existed. They just hadn’t been adopted widely.

“Video conferencing, like Zoom, would’ve become the norm eventually without the pandemic,” says Matthew Helminiak, affiliate instructor of management and organizations in Loyola’s Sellinger School of Business and Management. “The pandemic forced users to adopt it faster than they normally would have.”

Since those early days of the pandemic, technology has only continued to evolve—and that brings opportunity to the world of work. Rory O’Gallagher, ’17, is excited about the ways AI can automate certain processes—and free employees up for the all-important human aspects of their jobs.

“The more technology advances, the more you need to be able to think critically and ethically—because these decisions are going to have broader ramifications,” says O’Gallagher, a senior behavioral scientist at GE HealthCare who majored in psychology at Loyola. “It’s not AI that’s going to take your job. It’s somebody who knows how to use it really well who is going to take your job.”

That’s where the human skills acquired through a Jesuit, liberal arts education might be especially important. After all, in this world, a human-centric approach is more crucial than ever, says Kristin McCallum Reisinger, ’01.

“Gen Alpha is going to be the first generation coming into the workforce that grew up with social media their whole lives—and they’re coming up with a lot more anxiety,” says Reisinger, who studied psychology and business at Loyola and is now the senior manager of talent and organizational development at DuPont. “Coupled with using machines to help us do our work, more than ever we need managers who are really human and who really care.”

What Success Looks Like

The working world has always needed managers who care about their employees, but in this evolving environment, that takes on renewed importance. Many managers are recognizing that work-life balance—in the form of taking care of the whole person, or cura personalis—does not just contribute to employee satisfaction. It can be key to organizational success.

Hiring managers are seeing the benefit of recognizing employees’ unique needs and skills and tailoring jobs accordingly, rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, says Jill Davis Macauley, ’06. The chief operating officer of Behavioral Essentials sees how this personalized, empowering approach leads to greater efficiency.

Macauley, who studied psychology and political science at Loyola, is also finding that many employees are more likely to ask for help.

“There’s more acceptance to what would have historically been written off as ‘Oh, you just need to work harder,’” she says. “It’s this understanding that we, as people, might need different tools.”

Illustration of a man using an online chat platform

Remote versus In-Person Work

When considering new positions, many people are motivated by the option to work at least partially remotely. Even years after workplaces reopened during COVID, many employers are still trying to strike the right balance between in-person office time and remote and at-home work.

Many studies show that employees working remotely—even part of the time—are more productive, taking fewer breaks during the day and accomplishing more. Some experts say the crux of the issue, though, is not as much productivity but employee satisfaction. A 2023 study by Tracking Happiness showed that the ability to work from home increased employee happiness by as much as 20% and that employee happiness decreased as their commuting time increased.

Regardless of where employees work, this era has raised awareness among employers—and employees themselves—to consider the impact of their work arrangements on their mental health. The pandemic also heightened awareness of the value of a healthy work-life balance.

Many college students experienced periods of depression and anxiety during the pandemic. They are expecting professors and future employers to understand the need for time away from work—and they may be more likely to prioritize self-care.

“I think it reflects the increased awareness of the importance of psychological factors,” says Rachel Grover, Ph.D., professor of psychology. “To these students, cura personalis means understanding that work-life balance and self-identity are larger than your career.”

Changing Nature of Work

John Michel, Ph.D., has written in depth about leadership behaviors in the changing workforce. Every semester, the Busch Faculty Scholar and associate professor of management requires students in his Organization Behavior class to complete a semester-long project about changes in the workplace.

“I want students looking at the people perspective of the changing nature of work,” Michel says.

A recurring theme Michel and his students have found is that burnout was a direct result of isolation from working remotely. They also found that many employees are lonelier now than ever before.

“Working fully remote makes it difficult to build a rich company culture,” Michel says. “Enhanced social isolation created by working remotely can also take a toll on mental health.”

Michel believes a mix of in-person and remote work delivers the best results and working conditions.

Cura personalis would look very different fully remote and wouldn’t have that extra special touch,” says Michel, a contributing author for The Cambridge Handbook of the Changing Nature of Work. “Research shows people should go into the office for the equivalent of about two to three days a week for problem-solving and creating an effective culture.”

Grover’s concern is that time spent in the office helps foster incidental social interactions that help build social skills and deepen connections. Those interactions are much rarer when working remotely.

“Building independent skills happens in the workplace for younger people in their 20s,” she says. “That’s when most employees establish social connections."

The More Things Change...

Finding creative ways to connect during the early days of the pandemic was its own challenge—and opportunity. Joseph Ganem, Ph.D., professor of physics, recalls conducting experiments by Zoom and then sending students into virtual breakout rooms to discuss them.

Even with all the changes in the world since then, Ganem feels a liberal arts education in today’s fast-paced and quickly changing world is more valuable than ever.

“Understanding is more important than knowing, and providing meaning and motivation is more important particularly for leadership,” he says. “We’re teaching people to learn, lead, and serve in a world that’s quickly changing daily in front of our own eyes.”

As the workplace continues to evolve, Loyola alumni may be especially well-positioned to handle these changing needs thanks to the benefits of a Jesuit, liberal arts education.

“A broad liberal arts education that’s grounded in ethics helps develop the skills required in a world where we have to collaborate across specialties more than ever,” explains Jim Dickinson, ’01, who studied psychology and writing at Loyola and now works as chief talent officer for SC&H Group. “Loyola students tend to have a high degree of emotional intelligence. They know how to build trusting relationships that allow them and their teammates to work through stressful situations and challenges.”

Humanities for the Win

Natalie Cori, ’18—who studied biopsychology and is now a manager of the Global Talent Management CoE at PepsiCo—agrees. “Looking back, it’s obvious how my humanities coursework provided an opportunity to develop critical thinking and communication skills that I may not have learned if I only took classes directly related to my major,” she says.

A broader education that prepares graduates for multiple paths may serve them especially well in a time when there is a recognition that careers are more fluid than ever.

“There’s no longer a linear career ladder that you can expect to tick up every couple years,” Reisinger says, describing it more as a “rock wall.” “Sometimes you have to step sideways or even downwards in order to get up, and you may end up in a completely different direction from where you started. Resilience and agility are the most important traits anyone can bring with them to the workplace today.”

Enter the Class of 2024

The seniors who will graduate from Loyola this May missed out on their high school graduation in the spring of 2020. That fall, they started their college education with a virtual semester. They connected with faculty over Zoom, making new friends from their bedrooms and basements, trying to find their footing in the darkest days of the pandemic.

This class has leaned into their college experience, making the most of their time at Loyola. They have much to bring to this evolving world of work—including their resilience, adaptability, and desire for connection.

As Spearman sees the seniors navigating their next steps, she is confident that their Loyola education has positioned them to be ready for the changes that still lie ahead.

“The changing world of work is focused on transferable skills and learning how to learn, which is what we do best in the liberal arts,” she says. “It means our graduates are prepared to meet new challenges and use their critical thinking skills to succeed in dynamic environments.”

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Motivated by Mission

Embracing the Mission Is a Key Factor in Current Employee Satisfaction

Traditionally, employees seek jobs for one of three reasons: experience, pay, or purpose. In today’s world, however, the distribution of those reasons might be shifting.

“There is open discussion in corporate America about how to connect employees to purpose, and we weren’t having those discussions 10 years ago,” says Kristin McCallum Reisinger, ’01. “Employees want to understand what the organization is doing to support the world: How is it being sustainable? What’s its take on diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice?”

In today’s world of work, helping employees identify with their employers’ mission is critical. Research conducted by McKinsey in 2021 showed that nearly half of the employees surveyed were reevaluating the type of work they did in light of the pandemic.

Jill Davis Macauley, ’06, chief operating officer of Behavioral Essentials, is seeing a similar trend, particularly with younger generations. “They want their work to help make the world a better place,” she says. “Lining a boss’s pockets isn’t a motivator.”

Just as employees need to understand the mission and purpose of their employer, employers benefit from understanding what matters most to their employees. Working more intentionally to understand colleagues—along with their needs and goals—strengthens an organization.

Jim Dickinson, ’01, chief talent officer for SC&H Group, says it’s important for employees to recognize how to marry their goals with the goals of the organization. And management plays a key role in making that happen. “The challenge is for leadership to figure out how to get results by genuinely getting to know and aligning with employee motivations,” he says.

Photos designed by Malia Leary using stock illustrations