CEO Spotlight

How Working Nation perfected the ART of purpose

Arthur Bilger, Founder and CEO of Working Nation
Arthur Bilger, Founder and CEO of Working Nation

As someone constantly interviewing people around the globe, in an effort to understand how values can shape nations societies and organizations, I am often struck by the stories of certain leaders who are strongly guided by purpose and meaning. Arthur Bilger, Founder and CEO of Working Nation, is one of those leaders. Someone other CEOs can learn from, as they seek to lead by values in a similar way.

Art Bilger sends Victor Frankl’s, Man in Search of Meaning, to everyone he meets, because he stands for people being purposeful and fulfilled in their work and meaningful life.  Bilger has found his meaning – and that is to give other’s meaning in their lives.  

Eight years ago, at a Deutsche Bank dinner, Bilger brought one of the most critical issue in the next 25 years up to Larry Summers: the inevitable problem of Structural Unemployment and the fact that some concrete solutions must be found. As he was departing this dinner he was chased down by top fund managers and others, who could see his point and vision with horrifying clarity.  A world of unemployment is the world their children will inherit.   

Why is Bilger motivated by this topic to work tirelessly for this cause? He gives the credit to his own parents, and from what he and his two younger sisters learned about work ethic and passion for work. His mother was a middle school librarian, and his father rose from being an accountant to a CEO of a large firm, and when he recommended Bilger as a runner for a small but prominent brokerage firm, Bilger returned to school and knew he wanted to work on Wall Street. The guidance counselor at school suggested Wharton Business School and Bilger did not have to hear it twice to take the necessary steps.  During his career as an Investment Banker to Venture Capital and then the Media World his eyes were opened to how fast technology is changing the world.

The convergence of four variables means youth are not equipped for the future of work: the rise of globalization, the steep change in technology, the longevity of labour and broken education system. We can see jobs disappearing as we see the expansion of driverless vehicles, white collar jobs disappearing with the efficiency of technology, and in EdTech those outside of their education years (30s-60s for example) are having to be re-educated and re-skilled.

The Slope of the Curve of changing jobs measured against time, has never been so steep, and the pandemic has only increased the gradient. Key areas of work have been identified.  The growth in data and analytics has led to the need for community colleges to retrain people in this sphere. Green jobs, is one of the fastest area of growth, and we are seeing funding for such jobs state by state.  Health care vacancies are increasing as the elderly population increases and we see a growth in telemedicine. When combined with education, we can see the Not For Profit Sector rising as potentially the largest employer in the country.   Last but not least, DEI (Diversity, Equality and Inclusion) has become a critical issue. 

This is why the focus of ‘WorkingNation’ is to expose the hard truths about the looming unemployment crisis and bring the country together to create and amplify solutions for a changing economy. We cannot let this opportunity to survive and then thrive just disappear.

Working Nation was officially set up in September 2016 as a not-for-profit media company that provides content and storytelling to explain this situation, in the form of video stories, town hall events, journalism and podcasts.  They are deeply engaged in three board audiences, and partner with multiple institutions. Audiences include those that can make a change and/or write a cheque, those who are working on an employment solution, and the younger or older person seeking work.

Standing firmly for the link between employment and the purpose of life, it is hard not to stand with Bilger and have your $1 give the value of $5 to the next generation – in the bid to avoid further decline, inequality and frustration within our society.

Bilger is a true example of values playing out in his career and for me, someone other leaders can look to emulate.

Written by Dr. Mandeep Rai.

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Dr. Mandeep Rai
Dr. Mandeep Rai is the Author of The Values Compass: What 101 Countries Teach Us About Purpose, Life and Leadership. She is a global authority on values, working with companies, institutions, and individuals around the world. She has travelled to more than 150 countries and reported as a journalist for the BBC World Service and Reuters, amongst others. Dr. Mandeep Rai is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or connect on LinkedIn.