Skip to content

Future of Talent: The Workplace of the Future Prioritizes People

Report by Heidi Gilman Bennett

To predict the future of work, what is more effective than gazing into a crystal ball? Hearing insights directly from Lily Garcia Walton, who has been successfully leading Charlottesville-based Silverchair through massive change.

On March 20, the third Future of Talent event hosted by the Charlottesville Office of Economic Development and the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce focused on “Reinvention.” How can employers adapt and thrive in the face of economic uncertainty and disruptive forces such as remote work & emerging AI technology?

True to her “Chief People Officer” title, Walton puts people in the center of all organizational decision-making. Over three decades, Silverchair has evolved from packaging medical textbooks to digital scholarly research, and from once-new CDs and hyperlinks to a full-featured digital publishing platform. As impressive as the company’s evolution has been, the fundamental rethinking of how Silverchair employees “work” is equally if not more impressive and considered central to their success.

Key Takeaways on the Future of Work

Hybrid Work Norms

In 2020, closely following its expansion into the Hardware Store historic building, Silverchair transitioned abruptly to all-virtual by necessity. The company now remains a fully-hybrid workplace with highly-productive and satisfied employees. Walton described a robust employee engagement process that led to seven canonized work norms.

Walton’s advice: “Say it, write it down, make it official.” And, like the historic building that now houses a co-working space, “be willing to rip anything out and redo it” while keeping “people at the center of the story” as your “north star.”


Thriving organizations depend on employees who work with a strong “sense of purpose”. Walton explains, “creating a sense of purpose at work involves aligning individual talents and passions with meaningful, impactful work.” A strengths-based approach to performance management helps Silverchair achieve greater engagement and retention. Similarly, cultivating your own career resilience means knowing & being faithful to your strengths and your “why” or personal motivations.

Disruptive Technologies

Walton explains, “AI is not coming for your job. A person who knows how to use AI is coming for your job.” Silverchair has taken an agile approach to each new tech hurdle, allowing the workforce to scale up by encouraging play and experimentation. HR leaders can identify internal evangelists who are excited about AI to be “pioneers” who “find and blaze trailheads”, providing structure and guidance to others.

Silverchair’s recently-minted fifth value is “Innovate with Purpose and Adaptability”, which sums up their approach to AI… keep a mindset of curiosity, take tangible steps to build fluency with the tool, cultivate learning pathways, and celebrate the contributions of employees who push boundaries with purpose.

The video recording on this page of Lily's ideas- and solutions-rich presentation is well-worth a listen for local business leaders. For a 3-minute preview, check out the NBC29 Community Conversation with Lily Garcia Walton.

Another series of Future of Talent events is in the works for Fall 2024.

With questions about the Future of Talent, or to learn more about the City of Charlottesville’s programs to support hiring and training for qualifying businesses, contact Jenny Biche, Workforce Development Program Manager: