… Meaning matters- People seek meaningful work and a mission that inspires them in their career. In my opinion, it’s on the company and employer to be clear about their mission and to find the right people that can be inspired by it and see how their responsibilities will serve both that mission and their personal career goals. To retain and engage your workforce, you need to help them connect their work with their sense of purpose.

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 Ciara Lakhani.

Ciara currently serves as the Chief People Officer at Dashlane, an app helping everyone easily log in to the accounts they need — anytime, anywhere. Dashlane is an employee-choice-led hybrid workplace, maintaining offices in Paris, New York and Lisbon. Ciara started with Dashlane in New York and moved to Paris during the pandemic in 2020. Previously, she led the People function at Compass while it scaled from 84 to over 400 employees before its IPO. She had her first People start-up role in 2003, but spent 6 years with large global teams at GE in between. Ciara studied Psychology at SUNY Geneseo and has a MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

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.

As the oldest of three, I naturally gravitated towards helping others. At Dashlane, I put in place a lot of processes to support how people get things done and I realize I liked to create process even as a child. I apologize to my younger brothers, for whom I photocopied worksheets about how they should approach their daily homework– including a section for daily feedback on how they did it — because this was probably too much.

My love for process documentation explains a lot about the job I do today — leading a People function at a fast-growing technology company. I guide employees at all levels, including decision makers, to quickly help them understand company protocols.

Another life experience that has shaped who I am today is being the first generation in my family to attend college. Neither of my parents went to college — and from a young age, I’ve always been curious to learn more about business, how goals are achieved and how people succeed. Now, as a member of Dashlane’s executive team, I have a clear understanding of the business, the people and the goals — and I’d like to thank my curiosity for that.

Let’s zoom out. 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?

Historically, even experts don’t predict the future very well. But I’m happy to give it a try:

What will be the same:

  • I believe many people will still be working in a hybrid work model and we’ll still be trying to find ways to make that more efficient while honoring peoples’ personal preferences and needs

What will be new or different:

  • I’m going to come back to that shortly. For now, I’ll give just one: virtual intelligence will be the most important factor in peoples’ ability to work together successfully.

We talk about this in our guide to hybrid work which we recently open-sourced.

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?

I believe this will vary. We already see more and more employers willing to offer surprising new perks in order to attract candidates. In my opinion, the best strategy is to be clear on your values– and operate in a way that reflects those values– know your leverage as an employer and understand the needs of the people who work for you so those needs can be met. Throughout this process, you want to be as open-minded, flexible and creative as possible. Doing so will give you the best chance of discovering something that meets the needs of both sides.

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?

There are many societal changes that need to take place for everyone to have an equal chance to thrive. Business leaders need to understand and believe that they’re capable of making an impact. We, as business leaders, need to continue to challenge ourselves and our organizations to dismantle the lack of diversity across companies and corporations. As employers, we need to push back on societal norms that may be restricting the talent pool. A successful organization is diverse and includes people from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. A company that is diverse is successful in my mind

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

While the pandemic is something none of us would have wished on the world, a lot of the workplace trends it accelerated are positive. For example, increased flexibility of where and how people work and more thought and action around equitable pay. And while these recent trends are challenging for many employers to adapt to quickly, I do believe that in order to be successful, employers will need to adapt. We want people to be engaged and happy at work. As a lot of data analysis has shown that these types of perks and policies are what will make a company successful.

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?

I’m really pleased to see employers being open to removing the stigma around discussing mental health at work and offering mental health benefits. We offer comprehensive mental health support and counseling globally and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. You can read more about Dashlane’s reasons for prioritizing mental health benefits here.

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?

I think the most important message is that we cannot take peoples’ engagement and hard work for granted and we cannot assume that we’ll return to a pre-pandemic work world. We need to listen to what people truly want and need and find ways to make that work for the business needs. I believe the development of company culture will be more and more organically derived, contributed to by every member of the organization.

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

  • Equitable pay is the foundation, but pay is not enough. Leading HR analyst Josh Bersin has research coming out that underscores this.
  • Personalization — the pandemic accelerated the demand for personalization of the work experience. Some people want to work from home, some from the office, some from a beach town once in a while. Some want more schedule flexibility for family or other personal responsibilities. Even down to things like how people learn- some people want to watch a recording on 1.5 speed, others want to talk to people live, and others want to read and not have to watch or read a video.
  • Meaning matters- People seek meaningful work and a mission that inspires them in their career. In my opinion, it’s on the company and employer to be clear about their mission and to find the right people that can be inspired by it and see how their responsibilities will serve both that mission and their personal career goals. As McKinsey shares, to retain and engage your workforce, you need to help them connect their work with their sense of purpose.
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging — Pressure will intensify, and rightly, to continuously raise the bar to do our part in dismantling privilege. You can read more about Dashlane’s journey with DEIB here.
  • Employee advocacy will continue- From articles about employee advocacy inside tech companies like Google, to even studies such as this one, people are going to continue to push for the changes they want to see in the workforce to management. Push back from the workforce can be difficult to deal with, but it’s a reality we have to embrace if we want to cultivate successful workplaces.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

“I know what I have given you. I do not know what you have received.” attributed to writer Antonio Porchia. It’s a quote I read in the lovely A Word A Day newsletter (thank you Anu Garg for curating so many amazing quotes). Both personally and professionally, this quote reminds me that everyone experiences reality differently and we have to keep an open mind when working with different people.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. 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? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

I’ve been thinking for days and can’t come up with one person in particular which I think underscores my experience that I love to learn from a wide variety of people, experts and non-experts, in as diverse a range as possible.

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?

I’m most active on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ciaralakhani/ and in the Amplify community where I volunteer as a Community Catalyst to share People practices.

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