Why relatable organisations are thriving 

Author: Maura Jarvis, Transformation Leader, Mercer

Figure out how to work with your employees on new ways of working, and it’ll be worth it, Mercer’s Global Talent Trends Study 2022 shows.

London, 01 September 2022 – While the direct impact of COVID-19 on our lives has diminished, its effects on our working lives are far from over. People’s experiences during the pandemic have brought about fundamental changes in their values, and these are underpinning structural shifts in the world of work.

What do these shifts look like? Future-fit organisations have adapted to become more people-centric and relatable. They are introducing ways of working that help their people thrive. And they are focusing on empathy, making measurable progress against goals that are relevant to all their stakeholders, speaking up for the values they stand for, and reflecting those of their communities.

The journey to become more relatable will not be a simple, straightforward transformation. Businesses in the UK face disruptive factors from soaring inflation rates and industrial action to rising vacancies and fluctuating hybrid working models. But our research has shown that businesses succeeding in this environment are delivering on a new vision for work.

We’ve identified five key drivers to get you there:

1. Reset for relevance: Build resilience: lead with values and adaptability

Changes in lifestyle priorities plus talent shortages in the UK make it critical that employers heed the concerns and values of their workforces. People want to work for organisations that reflect their values – authentically.

Obvious examples of value-driven priorities are diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues. Gender pay gaps are already widely recognised, but stakeholders are pressing for broader definitions of DEI to address inconsistencies in race and ethnicity, age and disability.

These value-driven trends also feed through into wider environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations. Almost 90% of UK employees expect their employer to follow a sustainability agenda, yet only 16% of UK company leaders stated that employee expectations help drive ESG commitments, suggesting that leaders could do more to recognise employees’ input and influence in driving a sustainability strategy.

If businesses are to become more relatable to their employees, they need to reflect the values of those employees and involve them in developing adaptive business practices.

2. Work in partnership: Create equitable, rewarding partnerships

Working from home during lockdown has opened up a range of remote and hybrid work opportunities, as well as gig and contract work. These more flexible models of employment enable businesses to partner with their workforces, rather than merely leading them.

Our survey found that UK businesses and employees are more likely to favour hybrid and remote working models than their global counterparts, flagging a key opportunity for UK firms to attract and retain international talent.

There is less appetite for gig and contract work among UK businesses than globally. Loss of a guaranteed stable income and benefits are key factors, signaling the importance of financial security to employees in the current high-inflation environment. Perhaps it’san opportunity for businesses to consider how to partner with contingent workers in a way that provides the flexibility and financial security they need.

3. Deliver on total wellbeing: Nurture a healthy workforce through meaningful benefits

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of wellbeing, focusing on emotional, social and financial health considerations as well as a work-life balance that suits the individual.

Almost 40% of UK leaders believe that delivering on total wellbeing will result in significant returns over the next two years and more than 40% of UK HR professionals say improving their total rewards packages is a priority for 2022.

By using data to understand employees’ wants and needs, employers are increasingly thinking about ways of offering benefits targeted to the specific requirements of different groups, providing more tailored packages.

4. Build for employability: Address future workforce needs by building skills

Organisations need to be able to tap into the right skills if they are to transform. But there is little agreement on the role of automation in transformation, or what it might mean for the workforces of the future. Less than a fifth of UK business leaders believe automation will drive talent decisions, yet almost 70% of UK employees trust that they will learn the skills they need if their job changes because of AI or automation. Leaders and employees will need to align on what automation might mean for employee skills and employability and how to take action.

40% of leaders believe money spent on workforce upskilling or reskilling will deliver the single biggest return on investment in the next two years and agree that it’s important to provide the workforce with these opportunities. But organisations should think carefully about whether they are channeling their resources into building the right skillsets for the future.

5. Harness collective energy: Unlock potential through human-centred work environments

The return to office working is a controversial topic in the UK, with some businesses requiring full-time office hours and others selling office space and hiring remote-first workers.

Our survey shows similarly split opinions on the way forward. While three fifths of leaders believe top talent will not return to office working, only 42% of HR professionals see flexible working as a core requirement of talent mobility plans.

At the same time, we’re seeing that the pandemic has sapped people’s energy reserves, with UK employees reporting the lowest energy levels across all the countries taking part in the survey. Redesigning work to be more meaningful, collaborative and inclusive should be a priority for businesses wanting to boost workforce energy and dynamism.

Despite the existence of these risks and uncertainties, there’s cause for optimism: our research confirms that the world of work is becoming more people-centred – and relatable organisations are leading the way.

Read more about the risks and opportunities of becoming a more relatable organisation by downloading our UK executive summary, and see the full survey results by downloading the detailed global report.

Mercer is a strategic partner at the CBI’s Future of Work conference, 13 September.