In our “Leading Through Disruption” series, Mercer has explored how high-performing technology enterprises have successfully responded to the rise of exponential technologies, pervasive digitalization and accelerated growth. These forces of disruption are upending business models and transforming how work gets done, leading to profound shifts inside an organization. To thrive in the new normal, HR leaders need to revisit employee strategies with the evolving business construct in mind. They need to deliver an innovation agenda.


Mercer’s latest paper, Building an Innovation-driven Tech Workplace (ITW)  lays out the key differentiators that separate the fastest growing, innovative, people-oriented technology organizations from the rest. As bidding wars for technology talent heat up across industries and around the world, retaining the best and the brightest will get more difficult — creating a compelling employee experience is fundamental to business success.


First, we look at what makes ITWs unique. These organizations are powering through tremendous velocity and complexity of change in their business footprint and product roadmaps; however, they are the most sought-after employers for the most innovative technology talent — the product manager, the cybersecurity experts, the machine-learning engineers and the data scientists. Every technology employer aspires to be like them, and technology talent loves them. What do they do differently? This report summarizes our insights from our research study, which included a survey of over 260 technology companies and interviews with 25 industry executives.

It is no secret that people leaders in the tech industry are struggling to deliver the right balance of cultural context and HR programs to attract and retain the most innovative talent in the industry. Investments in narrow initiatives branded as employee experience deliver much less than promised to employees, and companies struggle to attract and retain innovative talent. There is increased interest in creating a unique employee experience that fosters innovation and collaboration while attracting and retaining the best tech talent in the business.


The good news is that significant data are available on workforce availability and preferences, and HR leaders are strongly aligned with their business counterparts on the critical importance of employee experience. The innovation era will reward those who can take a people-first, data-driven approach to talent strategies and build workplaces that enable collaboration, autonomy and experimentation. When delivered in step with business priorities, technology investments and workforce preferences, these differentiated people practices act as a “force multiplier” for innovation.



Here are the key actions ITWs take — in five focus areas — that differentiate them from the competition and make them magnets for top talent.


Our research also cast light on the evolving role of HR in the tech workplace. To build an innovation-driven workplace, HR leaders, like their business counterparts, are being called on to deliver an innovation agenda — a people strategy that delivers differentiated employee experience, “on demand” people and digital capabilities, and data-driven optimization.


Notably, several ITWs have positioned business leaders in CHRO roles over the past few years. Supported by strong center of excellence (COE) leaders, these ITW CHROs are driving change in step with the rest of the business, shoring up digital capabilities in the HR teams and fostering new ways of engaging employees.


Most ITW CHROs have begun to reinvent the HR operating model, placing “small bets” as they develop innovative employee and business services. HR leaders in ITWs have also built compelling employee experience journeys for their workforce and balanced softer aspects — such as psychological safety, inclusion and flexibility — with concrete wealth creation and rewards for their top engineering talent.


As exponential technologies advance and mature. Tomorrow’s leading technology companies will win by leveraging innovation-driven workplaces. Read Mercer’s Innovation-driven Tech Workplaces (ITW) Study 2019, and consider how you can apply these insights in your unique organizational context to thrive in the innovation era.


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