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Study: Executives Are Focused on Making Organizations 'Future-Fit'

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of executives predicted significant disruption in the next three years, up from 26 percent in 2018, according to Mercer's 2019 Global Talent Trends study. As executives focus on making their organizations "future-fit," significant human capital risks—including the ability to close the skills gap and overcome employee change fatigue—can impede transformation progress. Addressing these concerns is paramount, given that only one in three executives rate their company's ability to mitigate human capital risks as very effective.

"Over the last few years, organizations have moved from anticipation to action in preparing for the future of work. But they risk bewildering people with too much change, ignoring the values individuals admire and inundating them with endless process," said Ilya Bonic, president of Mercer's Career business.

In today's climate of uncertainty, employees seek stability. Mercer's study finds that job security is one of the top three reasons employees joined their company, and the main reason they stay. Yet one in three employees are concerned that AI and automation will replace their job. The way to help employees feel secure is to foster human connections. Thriving employees (those prospering in the areas of health, wealth, and career) are twice as likely to describe their role as "relationship focused" and their work environment as "collaborative."

"The future of work is about connectivity, creating a work environment that appeals to today's workforce by building a coherent sense of identity, sparking connections, and using data to personalize the experience," said Kate Bravery, Career Global Solutions leader at Mercer.

Mercer's study identifies four top trends that leading companies are pursuing in 2019:

  • Aligning Work to Future Value: AI and automation continue to transform the competitive landscape—60 percent of companies plan to automate more work in the next 12 months. At the same time, the C-suite names job redesign as the area of talent investment with the highest potential for return on investment, and 65 percent of employees are asking for more clearly defined responsibilities. The challenge for HR is to build an integrated people strategy (an approach deployed four times more frequently by high-growth companies) and leverage the right talent analytics to inform decisions on the future size and shape of the organization, yet only one-third of companies have good insights into the business impact of their buy, build, borrow and automate strategies. "The key is aligning jobs and people to where value is being created, and enabling a mechanism to reward future-fit skills and behaviors," said Bravery.
  • Building Brand Resonance: What matters to employees and job seekers is the way a company conducts business and upholds the values of its brand. In a social, transparent world, the lines are blurring between a company's consumer brand and its talent value proposition (TVP). Successful companies ensure that their brand resonates with all workforce segments—68 percent of high-growth organizations differentiate their TVP to different groups (such as contingent workers), compared to 47 percent of modest-growth companies. An organization's total rewards philosophy is one area where brand values can shine: Thriving employees are four times more likely to work for a company that ensures equity in pay and promotion decisions (78 percent vs. 18 percent).
  • Curating the Work Experience: An effective and relevant day-to-day work experience is essential for retaining top talent. According to Mercer's study, thriving employees are three times more likely to work for an organization that enables quick decision-making (81 percent vs. 26 percent) and that provides tools and resources for them to do their job efficiently (82 percent vs. 30 percent). Personalized and simplified professional development plans are an ask from employees—more than half (56 percent) of employees want curated learning to help them evolve their skills and prepare for future jobs. Technology plays a critical role—high-growth firms are twice as likely as moderate-growth firms to provide a fully digital experience for employees.
  • Delivering Talent-Led Change: To ensure talent is at the center of change, HR should have a voice in business transformation. This year's study found 61 percent of HR leaders involved in planning the rollout of major change projects and 54 percent involved in executing those plans. But, only two in five HR leaders participated in the idea-generation stage of transformation initiatives. HR sees employee morale as a significant barrier to making changes stick: "Employee attrition" and a "decline in employee trust" are two of the top challenges in the year ahead. "These findings point to the need for transformation efforts to focus on people-centered design and better talent metrics to understand how people are experiencing and embracing change," said Bonic.

Mercer's 2019 Global Talent Trends study shares insights from over 7,300 senior business executives, HR leaders and employees from nine key industries and 16 geographies around the world. To download the report, visit https://www.mercer.com/global-talent-trends.



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