With growth of AI, employers focus on human skills

HR more confident hiring from outside than reskilling existing employees: Survey

With growth of AI, employers focus on human skills
Employees are seeking control of their personal and professional lives, with more than half asking for more flexible work options, according to Mercer’s 2018 Global Talent Trends Study – Unlocking Growth in the Human Age. REUTERS/Stefanie Loos

After years of talking about disruption, executives are determined to turn talk into action — 93 per cent of Canadian companies have innovation on their core agenda this year and 96 per cent are planning organization design changes.

At the same time, employees are seeking control of their personal and professional lives, with more than half asking for more flexible work options, according to Mercer’s 2018 Global Talent Trends Study – Unlocking Growth in the Human Age.

“This year, we saw palpable excitement from executives about shifting to the new world of work. They are pursuing an agenda of continuous evolution — rather than episodic transformation — to remain competitive,” said Ilya Bonic, president of Mercer’s career business. “They recognize that it’s the combination of human skills plus advanced digital technology that will drive their business forward.”

“Organizations are accelerating their transformation efforts as they prepare for the future of work, and the importance of putting people at the heart of change makes HR pivotal to these efforts,” said Gordon Frost, partner and career business leader at Mercer Canada. “But HR leaders are facing more pressure now than ever before due to a significant scarcity in talent. The time is now for government, employers and employees to work together to create and drive the workforce for the future.”

In pursuit of new technologies, executives must focus on the “human operating system” to power their organization, said Mercer’s study, which identified five workforce trends for 2018:

Change@speed: How companies prepare for the future of work depends on the degree of disruption anticipated. Those expecting the most disruption are working agility into their model and placing bets on flatter, more networked structures (32 per cent are forming more centralized work teams).

Placing power in the hands of individuals makes it critical to build capacity and readiness early. However, HR leaders in Canada feel less prepared to reskill existing employees (47 per cent are confident that they can do this well) than to hire from the outside (63 per cent).

As more than half (54 per cent) of executives predict at least one in five roles in their organization will cease to exist in the next five years, being prepared for job displacement and reskilling is critical for organizational survival, found the survey of more than 7,600 senior business executives, HR leaders, and employees from 44 countries.

Yet, only 44 per cent of companies are increasing access to online learning courses and even fewer (26 per cent) are actively rotating talent within the business.

Working with purpose: Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of thriving employees in Canada, those who feel fulfilled personally and professionally, say their company has a strong sense of purpose, said Mercer.

To find purpose, employees crave movement, learning, and experimentation. If not received, they will look for it elsewhere — 33 per cent of those who are satisfied in their current job still plan to leave due to a perceived lack of career opportunity.

In addition to purpose, the new value proposition includes health and financial wellbeing. Employees on average spend six work hours per week worrying about financial matters. Yet only 26 per cent of companies have policies in place to address financial health.
Fairness in rewards and succession practices are also top of mind — only 49 per cent of employees say their company ensures equity in pay and promotion decisions.

Permanent flexibility: Employees want more flexible work options, and organizations are listening — 84 per cent of executives view flexible working as a core part of their value proposition.

Only six per cent of HR consider themselves industry leaders when it comes to enabling flexibility and 44 per cent of employees fear that choosing flexible work arrangements will impact their promotion prospects.

“The lack of flexible work arrangements hurts women and older workers disproportionally, leading to absenteeism, lower energy levels, and burnout,” said Bonic. “As the skills gap widens and human competencies become more important, making sure that a diverse pool of talent can participate in the workforce at all life stages is both a business and a societal imperative.”

Platform for talent: Given 89 per cent of Canadian executives expect an increase in the competition for talent, organizations realize they must expand their talent ecosystem and update their HR models for a digital age.

Two in five companies plan to “borrow” more talent in 2018 and 77 per cent of employees would consider working on a freelance basis.

“Gaining greater access to talent through a broader ecosystem is part of the solution. Companies also need to deploy talent faster and with precision to unlock the potential of their workforce,” said Kate Bravery, global practices leader in Mercer’s career business.

“Adopting a platform mentality to talent requires a radical mindset shift, embracing the notion that talent can be accessed for the benefit of all rather than ‘owned’ by one manager, department, function, or even organization.”

Digital from the inside out: Despite improvement over last year, companies lag on delivering a consumer-grade experience — only 16 per cent consider themselves a digital organization today. While 64 per cent of employees say that state-of-the-art tools are important for success, less than half (48 per cent) say they have the digital tools necessary to do their job and only 36 per cent have digital interactions with HR.

Business leaders are confident in HR’s ability to be a strategic partner in setting the course for the future, with 70 per cent of executives in Canada reporting that HR aligns people strategy with the strategic priorities of the business.

The study can be found at Mercer.

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