Making organizations ‘future fit’-Mercer

Nicol Mullins, Principal Leader – Career Business at Mercer South Africa

Mercer’s 2019 Global Talent Trends study identifies four top trends shaping the future of work 

According to Mercer’s 2019 Global Talent Trends study, over three-quarters (78%) of executives in South Africa predict significant disruption in the next three years, compared to 28% in 2018. 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-quarter of executives rate their company’s ability to mitigate human capital risks as very effective.

“In recent years, organizations have shifted towards actively laying the groundwork for the future of their businesses. However, they also risk confusing people with a lot of changes, brushing aside core principals people admire and overwhelming them with different procedures,” said Nicol Mullins, Principal Leader – Career Business at Mercer South Africa.

In today’s climate of uncertainty, employees seek stability. Mercer’s study finds that job security is the top reason employees in South Africa joined their company, and the main reason they stay. Yet, one in two 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 work environment as “collaborative.”

“Connectivity is not only vital in building an environment for today’s workforce to thrive, but it is also important for the future of work. The experience is then personalized through the use of data,” said Mullins.

Mercer’s study identifies four top trends that leading companies are pursuing in 2019: Aligning Work to Future Value, Building Brand Resonance, Curating the Work Experience, and Delivering Talent-led Change.

Aligning Work to Future Value. AI and automation continue to transform the competitive landscape – 53% of companies in South Africa 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 60% of employees prefer more clearly defined responsibilities. The challenge for HR is to build an integrated people strategy (an approach already deployed by 26% of South Africa’s high-growth companies, compared to none of the moderate-growth firms) and leverage the right talent analytics to inform decisions on the future size and shape of the organization – yet only one in five 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 Ms. 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 (such as contingent workers) – something two in five companies in South Africa are already on the journey to doing by tailoring their TVP to different groups. An organization’s total rewards philosophy is one area where brand values can shine: Thriving employees are seven times more likely to work for a company that ensures equity in pay and promotion decisions (75% vs. 10%).

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 in South Africa are two times more likely to work for an organization that enables quick decision-making (80% vs. 37%) and that provides tools and resources for them to do their job efficiently (82% vs. 43%). Personalized career planning information is particularly important- 79% of employees state that having adequate access to career path information and options is critical to their success. Technology plays a pivotal role here – high-growth firms in South Africa are three times more likely to be already providing employees with a fully digital experience, or be close to doing so, as moderate-growth firms.

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% of HR leaders in South Africa involved in executing major change projects. But, only one in three HR leaders participated in the idea generation stage of transformation initiatives. HR sees employee morale as a significant barrier to making changes stick: “Two of the top five challenges in the coming years include “change resistance” and a “decline in employee trust.” Both factors emphasize the need for a more people focused design, alongside ways to better understand how people receive change,” concluded Mullins.