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The culture of agility and staying ahead

Companies that empower their workforce – by helping them plan for the unknown, mitigate risk ‘and thrive at work – will be more successful in building a responsive ‘and successful organisation.


As competition for talent continues to rise ‘and business models are disrupted by technology ‘and socio-demographic shifts, organisations are still taking an evolutionary approach to their talent strategies in the face of revolutionary changes. According to Mercer’s 2017 Global Talent Trends Study, nearly all organisations globally (93 per cent) report they are planning to redesign their structure in the next two years.

“In an age where digitisation, robotics, ‘and artificial intelligence are wreaking havoc with traditional business models, it is easy for executives to focus on superior technology as the solution to ensuring the competitiveness of their organisations ‘and to overlook the human element,” said Ilya Bonic, President of Mercer’s Career business. “Growth rests on engaging ‘and empowering today’s workforce in ways that we are just beginning to uncover. It takes employees armed with the right skills ‘and opportunities to develop innovative solutions to advance the business ‘and themselves.”

HR leaders top priorities

Most notably, despite organisations’ plans to transform, HR leaders do not have organisation or job redesign on their list of priorities for 2017. In fact, the top priorities of HR leaders – specifically developing leaders for succession, optimising performance management, supporting employees’ career growth ‘and attracting top talent externally – reflect the priority of evolving employee capabilities, but may not align with executive’s goals for more substantial workplace change.

Additionally, while HR leaders express confidence in the talent management processes they have in place (68 per cent), employees are still looking elsewhere for new opportunities. Slightly more than one-third (37 per cent) of employees say they plan to leave their current role in the next 12 months, even though they are satisfied in their jobs.

Equally concerning is that those employees not planning to leave their current roles report they are less “energised” in terms of bringing their authentic selves to work ‘and therefore, less likely to thrive in a collaborative ‘and innovative workplace. Moreover, business executives view talent scarcity more acutely than HR professionals; with all executives surveyed (100 per cent) expecting a significant increase in competition compared to just one in five HR professionals.

“Organisations need to prioritise a culture of agility to stay ahead of rapidly changing market trends,” said Kate Bravery, Global Leader for Mercer’s Career business. “Those employers that empower their workforce – by helping them plan for the unknown, mitigate risk, ‘and thrive at work – will be more successful in building a responsive ‘and successful organisation.”

What is not on the HR agenda for 2017 demonstrates misalignment ‘and perhaps missed opportunities to leverage what employees report as important:

Health over wealth

Despite nearly half (45 per cent) of employees in South Africa ranking their health as more important than their wealth or career, ‘and 47 per cent indicating they expect their workplace to become more focused on employee health in the next few years, health ‘and wellbeing still ranked in the bottom half on HR leaders’ list of top talent management priorities this year.

“Navigating the changing talent ecosystem by redesigning future roles ‘and supporting employees’ health ‘and wealth needs is already becoming a market differentiator,” said Bonic.

Wealth over career

The majority (97 per cent) of employees reported that they want to be recognised ‘and rewarded for contributions beyond the organisation’s financial results ‘and activity metrics. Although less than one half (43 per cent) of employees think their company does this well, fair ‘and competitive compensation still ranked in the top three when asked what would make a positive impact on their work situation. Yet, rewards ranked in the lower half of priorities for HR leaders.

A relevant experience

Beyond flexibility, personalisation is essential for creating an experience that resonates with employees. Less than half (41 per cent) of employees say their company underst ‘ands their unique interests ‘and skills, while 73 per cent want their company to increase this underst ‘anding ‘and help them invest in themselves.

“Employees are increasingly bringing a consumer expectation to the workplace since it is how they engage in almost every aspect of their lives,” said Ms. Bravery. “It creates an authentic environment in which employees can excel. When done right, it does not feel like personalisation – it just feels like a great experience.”

Digital divide

Aspects of technology also show HR is lagging expectations of both executive leadership ‘and employees. Business executives (60 per cent) believe technology at work, including automation, robotics, machine learning, ‘and wearables, is the workforce trend likely to have the most impact on their organisations in the next two years. Yet, less than half (42 per cent) of HR professionals agree.

For employees, it is even more basic:  one in four organisations surveyed in South Africa say they do not provide a digital experience for employees when interacting with HR.

“Despite the desire to cling to more traditional methods, the l ‘andscape for the workplace, the workforce, ‘and the future of work are changing too quickly ‘and drastically to do so,” said Bravery. “To stay competitive, it is imperative that business executives ‘and HR leaders collaborate ‘and that organisations take new approaches to how employees access knowledge, adapt to technology, manage, communicate, ‘and leverage their careers.”

Stacy Bronstein is in charge of media relations at Mercer, a global consulting company in talent, health, retirement ‘and investments. It has more than 20,000 employees that are based in 43 countries. The firm operates in over 140 countries.


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