CPP Investments' CEO on Why Embracing ''FATE' is the Future of Work

CPP Investments released a perspective comment from its President and CEO, John Graham, on how the future of work means embracing 'FATE':

The global workplace is on the cusp of a new era. Some of the forces behind this revolution—digital technology, shifting demographics, and new beliefs around inclusion and equity—have been building for years. The pandemic provided the spark leading to fundamental changes in how we think about work, and how, where, and when we do it. The health and safety of our colleagues remain our top priority. COVID-19 remains a serious health risk, with new hot spots and variants continuing to emerge. Vaccines continue to be the most effective way to protect our communities and colleagues from the spread of COVID-19. That’s why we implemented a mandatory vaccine policy, in jurisdictions where we can do so, for anyone entering a CPP Investments workplace or event. In addition, we’ve distributed COVID screening kits for colleagues to use before coming into the office and outlined new hygiene, physical distancing, and contact-tracing protocols.

CPP Investments is approaching this new era, and the changes ahead, with a view to being flexible, ambitious, trustworthy, and empathetic (FATE). We expect a period of experimentation as we continue to manage COVID risks and scale up office attendance. By embracing FATE, we will adopt a hybrid-flexible model that enables us to maintain the increased levels of productivity we experienced while working from home and gain back some of the enterprise benefits of working together, including opportunities for mentoring and more frequent and organic connections across departments.


When the pandemic began, we had a vivid lesson in how resourceful, dedicated, and resilient our team members are. We scaled up from nine to 1,900 global “offices” in a matter of days. A virtual environment creates greater flexibility for colleagues to complete professional and personal tasks. Looking ahead, we expect our departments to develop their own plans on how to balance working on-site and remotely. Some will divide the time by task, with more time on-site for activities like onboarding new employees or formal training. Others will adopt a rhythm of three days on-site and two days at home. Each team will come up with its own plan—and then iterate from there as they see what works and what needs to evolve.


In the spirit of our organization’s guiding principles—integrity, partnership, and high performance—we aspire to be even stronger as an organization coming out of the pandemic. We learned that we can function effectively and be more inclusive under new conditions. Virtual engagement helped create a similar environment for colleagues on all continents. As an example, our virtual town halls provided all colleagues with the same experience to hear directly from the senior management team and ask questions about important developments.


We attribute our successful pivot from in-person to remote work to our talented professionals. Technology is a mere enabler that allowed them to continue to perform and manage their responsibilities despite our uncertain environment. At CPP Investments, we recognize and reward people based on merit and performance—measured by the outcomes achieved. During the pandemic, we launched a location-flexible work program that enables our colleagues, where permitted, to work from a jurisdiction that is different from their home office for up to six months. As we consider the future of work, we plan to continue offering such programs as part of our hybrid-flexible model.


We also recognize that our people have been under tremendous stress, so we provide new levels of support with physical and mental health professionals on-site or on call and services including counseling support. We schedule regular “unplugged days” where colleagues globally turn off their devices and engage in the activities that recharge them physically, mentally, and emotionally.

We’re serious about this new flexible paradigm in ways large and small. In fact, many of our senior leaders have added this line to their email signatures: “While it suits me to send an email now, a response or action is not expected outside of your own flex work hours.”

Perhaps the most important job of a CEO is to create the conditions that enable colleagues to excel. At CPP Investments we believe that by embracing FATE we can do just that, until the new way we work is no longer called “hybrid-flexible” but just simply work.

This article was originally published by The Milken Institute’s Power of Ideas collection on October 6, 2021. View the original article here.

This is an excellent comment which I think strikes all the right points.

It's been a while since I last spoke to John but I remember telling him that I feel there's a secular shift going on in real estate.  

John and other CEOs have been telling me privately that flexibility is the key and that in a post-pandemic world, they see a hybrid model as the new normal.

Will it be three days a week in the office, or just two days? Or no days?

I cannot answer these questions but I've been very clear that flexibility is they key to attracting and retaining a competent, loyal and talented workforce.

John takes it a step further, 'FATE' is the key: Flexibility, Ambition, Trust and Empathy.

All are critical elements but I want to focus on that last one, empathy.

The pandemic has stressed people, it has profoundly altered the way we interact and while life is getting back to normal, there's still a lot of uneasiness, fear of unknown and anxiety.

All this is understandable, people are stressed enough with life, add a pandemic to the mix and stress levels go through the roof.

That's why I believe we need to start with empathy first, understand that while the pandemic has hit everyone, not everyone responds the same way and some people are dealing with a lot more stress than others.

Empathy also teaches us to respect what we don't know. For example, maybe your co-worker is struggling with a mental illness, maybe they were diagnosed with cancer, maybe they secretly are struggling with Crohn's disease, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, MS, Parkinson's, heart disease or maybe they are having marital problems or are struggling with something else.

The primacy of empathy is based exactly on this basic notion: we don't know what problems others around us are confronting in their daily lives and the pandemic has only exacerbated these problems. 

But there's another aspect to empathy I want to bring to your attention.

It comes in hiring practices and how to create a truly diverse and inclusive workplace where individuals can thrive no matter their gender, age, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disability.

All this to say, I welcome CPP Investments and other organizations who embrace FATE and I look forward to the day when FATE permeates all workplaces, bolstering them in ways we have not been able to imagine. 

The future of work is now. Learn to embrace FATE or risk being left behind.

That's all from me, I kept it short and sweet today and thank John Graham for sharing his perspectives.

Below, as more Americans get vaccinated, workers and companies are figuring out what post-pandemic work life will look like -- and how it may change permanently. PBS NewsHour's Paul Solman has the story as part of his series, "Making Sense." (June, 2021)