Career Compass

The Future of Work with Dr. Di Ann Sanchez

Episode Summary

In this episode of Career Compass, co-hosts Demetrius Norman and Aly Sharp speak with Dr. Di Ann Sanchez about the future of work on topics including the 4-day work week, managerial practices, and motivations related to managing multiple generations in the workforce, as well as what employees should know in the continued evolution of how work gets done.

Episode Notes

In this episode of Career Compass, co-hosts Demetrius Norman and Aly Sharp speak with Dr. Di Ann Sanchez, SHRM-SCP, about the future of work on topics including the 4-day work week, managerial practices, and motivations related to managing multiple generations in the workforce, as well as what employees should know in the continued evolution of how work gets done.

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Episode transcript

Episode Transcription

Demetrius Norma...: Welcome back to season six of Career Compass, a podcast from SHRM and the SHRM Foundation. Career Compass prepares the future leaders today for better workplaces tomorrow.

Aly Sharp: As the voice of All Things Work, SHRM supports students and emerging professionals with advice, information, and resources for every step of your career.

Demetrius Norma...: Designed for the student or emerging professional, Career Compass delivers timely, relevant, and critical conversations about work to help you succeed in your career journey. Thank you for joining us for this episode. My name is Demetrius Norman, and I will serve as your co-host.

Aly Sharp: My name is Aly Sharp and I will also be your co-host. During this episode, we will explore the future of work, specifically thoughts around organizations shifting to a four-day work week, with companies seeking to help employees find the perfect harmony between their professional and personal lives. The future of work is the projection of how work, workers and workplaces will evolve in the years ahead. It's a topic that keeps many CEOs up at night as they make decisions that enable their organizations to thrive today while they prepare for the future. Who better to talk about this subject than Dr. Di Anne Sanchez? SHRM-SCP, SPHR, and Chief Exceptional Officer with Sanchez and Associates. Also, just so you know, this episode is valid for professional development credit or PDCs for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP and we'll provide the code later in the episode.

Demetrius Norma...: With that, let's get started. I'm so happy to be talking about this subject, Aly, and I have talked about this on a few occasions. Before we jump into today's conversation and introduce our guests for this episode, Aly, I want to put you on the spot. Tell our audience a little bit about your thoughts on the future of work and where you think we're headed in this shift to a new way of doing business.

Aly Sharp: Well, I'm sure everybody's probably getting tired of hearing of it, but I just recently-ish graduated, so truthfully, I entered right when we were shifting to more remote work, so that was already kind of an adjustment for me. I think as I progress in my career, I'm really looking forward to furthering the conversation on mental health in the workplace and diversity, equity and inclusion. Obviously these are all super important topics, but I think that as my generation becomes the leaders in the workplace, we're really going to start to see a big shift.

Demetrius Norma...: I agree, and it's something that you said that stuck out to me, which is the generational impact. I'm excited to hear just about not only how all of the generations, but specifically Gen Z will help to shape kind of the future of work and where we're headed from an organizational standpoint with how our workdays will be set up. We have a lot to talk about, and I certainly do not want to keep our very special guests waiting. Without further delay, I would like to introduce a person who is very dear to me, Dr. Di Anne Sanchez. Dr. Sanchez is the program manager at Amberton University, which is one of our academically aligned schools. They offer the master of Science and Human Resource Management. So for all of our students out there that are a part of our aligned programs, a shout-out to you.

Dr. Sanchez has also spoken at a lot of our SHRM national conferences, including talent management as well as national diversity and inclusion. I am excited to share that she will also be joining us at our national conference this year in Las Vegas, happening in June. We are excited to turn this over to Dr. Sanchez. Welcome, and thank you for agreeing to speak with us today.

Di Ann Sanchez: Well, thank you so much. I'm honored that you asked me and I'm glad to be here.

Demetrius Norma...: Dr. Sanchez, you've spoken on many platforms and participated in several studies and research around HR, so when we think about the future of work and your extensive background, can you tell our audience a little bit about what you've observed as it relates to the future of work and where you see the workforce heading as it relates to our emerging professionals?

Di Ann Sanchez: Yes, we've got a lot of changes that we've had in the last couple of years, and I love Aly's comment as being a Gen Z. Gen Zs are going to be 27% of the workplace by 2030, and Millennials will be almost 40% of the workplace by 2030. Combined, they will be taking over the workplace. You have to remember that the Gen Zs lived through and went to school during the pandemic, and largely most of them did not work. Their first job will be now and they're going to a workplace that's either hybrid or virtual and will probably not be in person. The future of work for employers is how do we engage our employees now?

That is very different than we used to be because we did it in person and more and more individuals do not want to come to work in person. They like the hybrid. In fact, Deloitte, Mackenzie, Harvard Business Review all published their 2023 future work studies, and they found that it's going to continue to face significant challenges, a competitive talent landscape, an exhausted workforce, competitive compensation benefits. They're going to want training and development, particularly around leadership, DEI as Aly mentioned, and companies are going to have pressure to control the cost, particularly amid looming economic downturn.

As you know, there has been studies about four days a week, which was done in Britain in combination with Boston College, and they did a four-day work week global nonprofit community study with 2,900 workers as well as 61 companies and they found that shorter hours and four days a week, their employees were less stressed and had better work-life balance. Companies did not find that they lost money. They didn't find that they had poor returns. In fact, they had employees report 71% of their employees were less burned out, 39% employees were less stressed, and 48% were more satisfied with their jobs than before the trial. I think this shows us that this is potentially a way we can go in the future of work, but I think it's going to be the Millennials and the Gen Zs who push for this kind of work environment.

Aly Sharp: As you just touched on that pilot trial with Boston College and the University of Cambridge, companies that participated could adopt different methods to meaningfully shorten their employees' work weeks from giving them one day off to reducing their working days in a year to average out 32 hours per week. But it had to ensure the employees still received 100% percent of their pay. Could you give us your perspective in the pros and cons of an organization moving in this direction?

Di Ann Sanchez: We've talked about mental wellness, mental health. I think we've got to go to a place where people can have a shorter work period, but still get the same amount of pay because it shares with that employee that your wellbeing is a human imperative. It's not financial, it's mental, it's physical, it's environmental and social awareness that we care about. Because I think at the pandemic, employees started to think, "Hey, it's about me now. I've given my soul to the company and I got laid off." Or I had to make a choice between staying home with my children and teaching them schooling online or go to work. There wasn't a lot of ability for our employees to feel that companies were taking care of them, and it wasn't company's fault. They had to do what they had to do, but coming back from the pandemic, and now that there's such a talent shortage, we should make sure they know that as employers, we care about their wellbeing as a human imperative.

Demetrius Norma...: One of the pieces that I want to go back to that you mentioned is the connection piece with Gen Z. I don't want to make this podcast about Gen Z alone because we have multiple generations in the workforce, but I too read that Harvard Business Review sub study, and within it listed the seven things that Gen Z would need to be successful in the workplace. One of them was connection and belonging. Within it, it carved out a study where it surveyed the respondents to ask about loneliness and connection and basically it was saying majority of the respondents, although they were connected via social media, via technology, they still felt lonely to some sense.

When we think about that and we think about the future of work and overall connection and what that means, and this isn't one of the questions that I sent to you, but I feel the need to ask, what advice would you give to older Millennials and some of the Boomers who are in the leadership roles as it relates to how they engage with Gen Z to make them feel connected and to kind of bring them in? When we think about the future of work? What advice would you give or what nuggets would you leave with those leaders?

Di Ann Sanchez: Well, Demetrius, you are talking my game here. My PhD was about generations in the workplace and so I love talking about generations. Let me give you a perspective and then I'll dive deeper into your question. Boomers are the parents of Millennials and so overprotective, baby on board stickers, helmets on their heads with bicycle lane and had them in drama and ballet and soccer, and they were pretty much managed. Well, the parents of Gen Zs are the Xers and the Xers were pretty independent, and they wanted their children to be independent. These Gen Zers are amazing. They will talk more. They want to meet in person. They will stand up for their rights. If they don't like their compensation, they're going to go into your office and tell you, "I don't like my compensation." Where a millennial would not have probably done that and we joke their parents would've shown up at your place of work.

These Gen Zers are very independent. They're very socially minded. The importance of ESG is critical to them. Environmental, social, and governance. They believe that they want to go to work for a company that's environmental, social and has governance. It's because they saw what has happened in the last 20 years. We've had more consternation, more sexual harassment in the workplace, more global warming. They've seen so much and their parents, being cautious and independent and outspoken, these Gen Zs are modeling that and they're a big population, so they're going to continue to grow in the workplace. Your question about tips for them is teach them skills, and I'm talking power skills. We hire for technical skills, but we fire for soft skills. Power skills, I never liked the word soft skills, we've now changed the nomenclature to power skills and Harvard Business Review, they came out with these human skills that are now the new hard skills, I call them power skills, is communication, customer service, leadership, attention to detail, collaboration, personal learning, achievement focus, cultural and social intelligence, DEI sensitivity.

Those aren't technical skills. Those are power skills. If Boomers and Xers and Millennials can wrap their head around the power skills that are necessary at their workplace to be successful at their workplace, then what power skills do they need, and then you hire to that. Because you can teach the technical skills, but it's harder to teach the power skills.

Demetrius Norma...: Yes, yes, and I love that because it provides a holistic approach because we're teaching them not only about communication, but about feedback, and we're also empowering them to tell us the best way to engage with them. I love that. I love that and that's kind of the tip that we would leave.

Di Ann Sanchez: You have to remember that Gen Zs, most of them didn't have interaction in college because it was during the pandemic. They didn't get that communication skills, that kind of thing that you get at college where you talk to each other, you have leadership opportunities, you work in collaboration. Many of them didn't do that because they were not in college campuses. They're starving for it. They are starving for it. They want to know. I mean, they're go-getters. I'm telling you. This new generation is going to change the workplace.

Demetrius Norma...: Dr. Sanchez, thank you for beautifully answering Aly's question. There's one follow-up that I have. Initially I was going to ask you which generation will the four-day work week resonate with the most? But I actually want to shift that to ask you what industry do you think will drive the change to us moving to a four-day work week? Is it going to be tech? Is it going to be government? Who do you think will be the driver for us to shift and move to that new work model?

Di Ann Sanchez: It's going to be healthcare, because as veterans and as Boomers get older, the Boomers were a huge population that we're going to need more hospitals, more senior citizen places. Of course, they're living longer, but as they get older and older, they're going to need nurses and doctors to take care of them. We are trying to encourage younger people to go into STEM with AI and the medical profession. But right now, they can't get nurses. I mean, I recruit for nurses, I know, and a nurse won't talk to me unless it's three days a week and it's over a hundred thousand dollars and he or she wants four days off, and they'll work three 12s or three 22s, so three 12s, but they won't talk to me unless it's that and 401K and benefits.

It's going to be healthcare. It's going to be also in those places that tech, but predominantly in the AI space. That's also going to drive the workplace. But it's going to be the Millennials and the Gen Zs who drive it because they're going to reshape the workplace as we know it, because the workplace that we saw five years ago is no longer existent. It was what the traditionals came back after World War II and instituted these organizational structures that very much look like the military because that's what they knew. Now the pandemic forever changed organizations. It's going to be the Millennials and the Gen Zs, and it's going to primarily be in AI and healthcare first.

Aly Sharp: That's really interesting. I never thought of that. I mean, it makes total sense though, because everyone needs a nurse and they could easily just be like, "No, you won't pay me enough. No, you won't work with my schedule."

Di Ann Sanchez: Oh, trust me, I recruit them. Aly, it is the hardest recruiting job I've ever had.

Demetrius Norma...: Wow.

Aly Sharp: Because they know exactly what they want, and id you don't check all their boxes, they'll find someone that does.

Di Ann Sanchez: Oh, absolutely. That's why our senior citizen communities where you have elder care facilities, you can barely get a nurse there because they want them five days a week and they won't go. Those centers are having to re-look at their organizational structure and their schedule in order to get qualified nurses, physical therapists, doctors to be able to get to those centers and help elders.

Aly Sharp: I think that the shift, not only to four days, but even with hours, I'm a morning person and I know that about myself. I am much more productive between seven and nine instead of four to five or four to six. But there are some people who are night owls and they like to work later in the day, but because we have this corporate structure of nine to five, eight to four, whatever it is, it's forcing everyone to be productive when their brain might not already be productive.

Di Ann Sanchez: Well, Aly, I love Chick-fil-A.

Aly Sharp: And you always want it on Sunday.

Di Ann Sanchez: But now Chick-fil-A allows their workers the ability to work 13, 14 hours, three consecutive days with full-time pay and it has resulted in an increased employee retention. It was also a great retention anyway, because they were off on Sundays and they pay awesome, and they have great benefits, and they have that flexible ability like you are talking about, "Hey, I'm great in the morning, let me come in at four in the morning and work till noon or whatever." But the full-timers, they're allowing three days a week.

Aly Sharp: Not for me, but good for them. I would need a nap halfway through.

Di Ann Sanchez: That's right.

Aly Sharp: We briefly touched base on SHRM's anniversary while we were getting ready to start the show, so we're going to stay on that theme with this next question. In celebration of 75 years, our theme is driving historic change in the world of work. What are some things we should plan to see in the future of work?

Di Ann Sanchez: Well, SHRM did an awesome state of the workplace report. It was the 2022-2023 report, and they've highlighted some things that HR professionals had said were going to be the future of work. I'll just tell you the top five challenges is trying to maintain employee morale and engagement. I think the hybrid system and the total virtual is going to be very challenging and so companies are hiring culture managers. Culture managers or culture engagement managers or individuals ... their sole job is to maintain connections with employees who are hybrid or totally virtual and connect with them in a personal level and try to form groups around certain employees, keeping the socializing going so that there's not what we call proximity bias, which is, "Oh, you come to work, I'm going to promote you." That's the new bias that we talk about, proximity bias.

Retaining top talent. If people don't like the workplace or the work, they're going to go someplace else and finding and recruiting talent with necessary skills, I talked about power skills, finding ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency. You'll see many companies eliminating the performance review management system because it was born out of, I told you, those traditionals who had come from World War II, the military is the one that developed the performance review system, so they implemented it. Well, that is not working in today's environment. More and more companies like Yahoo and Microsoft, they've eliminated the performance management system and they've gone into what we call check-ins once a month, no longer once a year or twice a year. It's once a month you meet with your employees and you ask three questions: What's going well, what's not going well, and how can I help you?

That's it. That's easy. Instead of doing a four-page document. You're going to see the [inaudible] performance management systems and developing leaders, people leaders. We've got to get those Millennials and Gen Zs, the training that I had, that Boomers had, that even Gen Xers had on leadership, and we've got to do that. If we don't do that, then it's going to be hard for them. Not impossible, but more difficult for them to lead our organizations into the future.

Demetrius Norma...: I love that. I love that. I love the piece, especially about the performance review. Funny. If I can share a little bit about just how my work week goes. My boss, we have morning check-ins with her as a group for about 30 minutes, and then she has a touch base schedule with each of us that lasts about an hour where we are able to talk about anything that we need to talk about. I think that gets to the connection, the engagement when we talk about the future of work. So that that's all good stuff and just hearing that.

Aly Sharp: I mean, really you're just like ... the state of the workforce report is basically just talking about me, I'd like to say. I'm super humble about that, apparently.

Di Ann Sanchez: Oh, yeah. PEW came out with a study about Gen Zs, and I'll tell you a little bit about them. They look forward more towards flexible working schedules, which you said, they're more vocal regarding remote work and hybrid, which I spoke about, 18% of Gen Zs report having anxiety disorder or depression, which we need mental health benefits for sure, and here's what they're most concerned about; social issues. 44% of Gen Zs said they were concerned about climate change, the highest percentage on any issue. 43% are concerned about racism. 41% are concerned about gun violence. 40% are concerned about police brutality, and 38% are worried about pollution. If the companies they're working for aren't concerned with what they're concerned about or show any kind of concern, they're going to go someplace else and find a company that does.

Demetrius Norma...: I just want to pause for a second to take care of a couple of housekeeping items. For those of you who are listening to this podcast who are seeking professional development credit, just so you know, this program is valid for .5 PDCs, for the SHRM-CP or the SHRM-SCP. The code to redeem your PDCs is 23 dash the number seven, the letter Z, the letter R, the number two, the number seven. Again, that is 23-7, the letter Z, the letter R, the number two and seven. Please note that this code will expire May 10th, 2024.

Aly Sharp: Speaking of PDCs, one place to earn 28 PDCs while networking with your peers, connecting with mentors, and expanding your HR knowledge is at SHRM 23, taking place June 11th through 14th. The SHRM annual conference and expo, which has drawn more than 20,000 attendees in the past, is a can't miss experience for any current or emerging HR professional. You can register now to take part in a curated student experience featuring career focus programming and discounted member pricing at just $425. If you can't make it to Las Vegas but still want to attend, virtual passes are available for $275. For more information, please visit, and the link will be in the description of the podcast.

Demetrius Norma...: Now, Dr. Sanchez, as we wrap up today's podcast, I just want to say thank you for all of your comments and the great conversation around the future of work. One parting note, if there is any advice that you'd like to leave for students and/or emerging professionals who may tune in to this podcast, what piece of advice or parting tip would you leave for them?

Di Ann Sanchez: Well, I would tell y'all, find a mentor, find a human resources professional mentor. If you see somebody that you want to emulate or you see somebody that you saw at a conference, go up and ask them, "Hey, may I talk to you about your profession?" I'm telling ya, they're willing to talk to you about their profession. I mean, I've gotten asked, "Will you be my mentor?" Yeah, once a month we get on a Zoom. It's easy. Tell me about your career. Where do you want to go? What is it? What are you doing? People want to give back, at least in my generation, I won't tell you what generation I am, but my generation, we want to give back to our profession, and the only way we can is to nurture those younger students and emerging professionals. Don't be afraid to ask because I'm sure everyone you will ask will be willing to do so.

Demetrius Norma...: Thank you so much. Thank you so much.

Aly Sharp: With that, we're going to bring this episode of Career Compass to a close. We'd like to thank SHRM and the SHRM Foundation for providing us with this platform, but more importantly, we'd like to thank you all for joining us and hope you stay with us throughout the season as we discuss more topics like this episode.

Demetrius Norma...: For more exclusive content, resources, and tools to help you succeed in your career, consider joining SHRM as a student member. You can visit us at to learn more about being a part of a community of nearly 325,000 members in 165 countries. SHRM impacts the lives of more than 235 million workers and families globally.

Aly Sharp: If you like what you heard, follow and subscribe to Career Compass on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you listen to your podcast. If you have a topic you think we should cover or a guest we should talk to, we'd love to hear it. You can email us at

Demetrius Norma...: Lastly, are you looking for more work and career related podcasts? Check out All Things Work and Honest HR at Thank you again for listening, and we'll catch you on the next episode of Career Compass.