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From technological advances to changes in the global economy, there are plenty of external forces transforming today’s world of work. Though many of the world’s leading economies now boast pro-business policies, and the rise of artificial intelligence, connectivity and other tools make it easier than ever to be productive, problems—from geopolitical conflicts to talent migration—remain. 

According to new research from Mercer, 73% of executives predict significant industry disruption in the next three years, up from just 26% in 2018. Yet, four out of five executives believe their company can lead the disruption in their industry. The key to staying ahead of the changes that loom? Preparation.

In its annual report, Mercer evaluated some of the biggest shifts and trends that are top of mind for CHROs today. Here’s what to be ready for:

1) Talent Migration Is Happening

The competition for talent is more fierce than ever, with talent leaving organizations to work for companies that offer better pay, use newer technology and promise improved work experiences. Yet only one in three HR managers rate their company’s ability to mitigate this talent migration risk as “very effective.” According to the report, this may be because HR teams don’t feel supported in their efforts to retain employees. Only 29% of them strongly agree that C-suite executives prioritize human capital risks and give them the resources needed—i.e., funds for raises, approval of rewards initiatives, etc—to retain them.

2) Workers Need—and Want—to Keep Learning 

Upskilling and reskilling are becoming increasingly important to CHROs, rising from ninth to third position on their agendas this year. To help close the skills gap created by the emergence of new technology, 51% work with their HR teams to develop a future-focused people strategy, 48% adapt job requirements based on new technologies and business objectives and 45% revise the workforce plan to close skills gaps via a combination of employee-directed learning, formal reskilling programs and informal hands-on learning.

Employees play a role in their own skill-boosting as well: 83% of workers see it as primarily their responsibility (rather than their company’s) to keep their skills up to date. Workers agreed that creative thinking and learning about technology are the two top skills that would help them stay competitive.

3) Your Workers Crave Flexibility—So They’re Going Freelance

In Mercer’s report, 54% of employees said managing their work-life balance is one of the top five things their company can do to help them thrive at work. What’s more, 82% of them say that they would be willing to consider working on a freelance basis. In general, the popularity of freelance work is rising—79% of executives expect that contingent and freelance workers will substantially replace full-time employees in the coming years. If you don’t want to lose your workers to the freelance economy, it’s time to give them the flexibility they desire. That means negotiable hours and the option to work remotely.

4) Diversity Is Important, but Still Lagging

This year, Mercer found that delivering on diversity promises was a top workforce concern for organizations, but not enough action has been taken. Only 22% of employees give their company an “A” grade for ensuring equity in pay and promotion decisions, for example. And while new technology such as AI may be promising, as companies turn to these tools to institute and automate hiring practices, it’s up to HR to ensure that AI-driven decisions are fair and do not institutionalize biases. Technology is only as unbiased and effective as the person who programmed it, the report explains.

5) In the Years to Come, HR Will Need to Transform Talent Experience

As the team that interacts with and reaches every individual in an organization, HR has the opportunity to shape organizational transformation efforts, especially when it comes to prioritizing talent experience and making their companies a better place to work. Yet, today, only two in five HR leaders participate in the idea generation stage of major change projects. One reason for this? Both the C-suite and HR are experiencing “change fatigue,” Mercer found.

This is a missed opportunity, given that three-quarters of organizations say they are still on the journey to providing a fully engaging, digital experience for employees. As of right now, only one in three HR leaders have “redesigning the employee experience through technology,” such as chatbots and other AI-powered tools that make work easier, on their to-do list for 2019. For CHROs, the key is to help their teams brush off any fatigue that may exist and generate excitement about improving the talent experience. After all, as experience improves, so will recruiting and retention efforts.

Photo: Creative Commons