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The Great Resignation & The Future Of Work: Anil Dharni Of Sense On How Employers and Employees Are Reworking Work Together

An Interview with Karen Mangia

Extended workforce — more reliance on contingent labor/temp workers to supplement and augment the workforce.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Anil Dharni.

Anil Dharni is the CEO and co-founder of Sense. Sense empowers fast growing companies to simplify and personalize recruiting through AI-driven talent engagement. Sense has raised over $90M led by SoftBank, Accel, and Google Ventures. Before founding Sense, Anil was co-founder and COO at Funzio, which was acquired by GREE in 2012 for $210M, where Anil continued his work as COO. Prior to Funzio, Anil led Product and Design at the third largest Social Networking company, hi5. Anil has an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Engineering and a Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.

I grew up as an army kid so the only constant in my childhood was change. I believe this has served me well in my professional and personal life as I have learned to be extremely adaptable in any situation, I handle change very well.

What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

The workplace and workforce are undergoing tremendous changes as a result of the pandemic and what I believe we will see (and continue to see) in the future are the following:

  • Robots are coming, it’s inevitable.
  • Wage growth will continue in sectors that have human-facing and service-based work where relationships and human touch are important.
  • Remote and hybrid workforces are here to stay in certain vectors/industries.
  • Remote work will continue to enable companies to tap into a more diverse pool of candidates. For example, people with handicaps have seen a bump given more ADA compliant opportunities.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

I truly believe that investing in the company to build a strong company culture is the backbone of any great organization. A few specific areas that I feel are the most important to foster in a company culture, and what we value at Sense, are investing in career growth, having flexibility and adaptability and investing in infrastructure to support working parents — they have been the hardest hit during the pandemic.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

Currently, 50% of the workforce is made up of millennials and Gen Z, so employers need to lean into what this generation is demanding of it’s workplace. They are more focused on work that is meaningful and a large priority is on flexibility in the way they work (it’s not a 9–5). Some ways employers can address the shifting demands in the workplace are with transparency and equity: everything is online and public (salaries) and fairness and equity is key. Also, employers need to provide more real-time feedback: an annual review isn’t enough. Lastly, invest in upskilling and reskilling the workforce — companies need to audit their workforce skill sets and identify gaps and then re-skilling workers based on the skills they will need in the future.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

This “Working From Home” experiment was prevalent in the knowledge work space, but we’re forgetting the essential care and front-line workers who have no choice but to show up at their workplace. According to Indeed, 25% of knowledge work job postings are flexible, only 2% of non-knowledge work job listings are flexible and in some ways this gap only exacerbates the inequity issue. We need to think more holistically and find an equitable way for the labor force as a whole, as the future of work is shifting.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

We’re seeing that the pandemic hit less-educated workers, black women and older workers the hardest. We need to make our work policies more flexible and aligned so we can welcome back these segments who have less resources and support. Additionally, tackling the issue of family support in a meaningful way. We need to have universal policies on supporting working mothers, compensating for daycare and making it more feasible and less stressful for working families. What also ties in to supporting the family is investing in schools and education to ensure schools stay open and are reliable pillars of society.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

There is much to be optimistic about in the future of work, the workforce is changing — and change is good. In my opinion, one of the most exciting things is the shift we are seeing in the bargaining power between employers and employees, especially in the lower wage part of the market. Those are the workers in the service oriented industries who have been fighting for better wages, working conditions and treatment from employers for decades. Matching employee expectations and closing the gap between employers and employees — the pandemic has forced long overdue conversations and changes on this front.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

According to an HBR survey 76% of employees have reported at least one symptom related to mental health. Employees are finding it hard to juggle between work and personal life especially in an environment where we are “always on” which has fueled the “Great Resignation” effect. Now, companies are forced to try to figure out how to best support employees when faced with a situation like their manager suddenly resigning. Additionally, more companies are evaluating and implementing wellness programs that support employee mental health.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

As the workplace continues to evolve, it’s imperative that companies are evolving with the needs/wants of the workforce. There are several areas leadership should focus on to ensure their culture is aligned with the current demands, including: helping employees separate work from home, embodying an empathic leadership team that focuses on listening and transparency DEI practices (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) and lastly, focus on retention and keeping existing employees fulfilled.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

  1. Remote or hybrid work will remain for a certain percentage of all jobs — whether it is proactively enforced by an employer or happens more organically — like tapping into outsourced knowledge jobs in more affordable locations in the EU, Latin America and/or India.
  2. Wage increases especially in low-wage jobs and for people with only high school diplomas. There will be a deeper focus on culture, employee experience, voice of the employee, and overall employee well being.
  3. “Always-on” culture — as the lines between work and life get blurred with remote/hybrid work, companies have to dial back and proactively reduce the expectations that employees need to be on 24/7. Executives are now starting to announce that they are taking time off or going on vacations to signal to their employees that it’s ok to take time off.
  4. Extended workforce — more reliance on contingent labor/temp workers to supplement and augment the workforce.
  5. Accelerated adoption of automation and AI in places like grocery stores, warehouses, manufacturing plants, call centers, etc. Companies will also look to add automation and AI in functions like HR, Finance and Accounting.

What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

“Life is not a zero sum game.” There’s a philosophy of thinking of a win-win solution, where a rising tide lifts all boats. In short, I believe that winning as a team matters, life is not an individual sport and it’s important to root for other people’s success.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why?

Jerry Seinfield. He offers an interesting perspective on not taking life too seriously and finding joys in the smallest experiences.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anildharni/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sense_hq

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.

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