Each month, Mercer brings together in-house experts, employee advocates and external thought leaders for an online discussion of the most pressing issues. The program is called #MercerChats and takes place entirely on Twitter, where individuals around the world engage with Mercer’s intellectual capital and other leading thought leadership to share insights and discuss the best solutions to help organizations thrive. Below is a summary of our February 2021 tweet chat, highlighting some of the key themes discussed and insights shared.

How many data points do you need to create a trend? Three? More? If we’re talking about business in 2020, you can set the threshold as high as you want, because it’s clear that change is definitely in the air. What’s less clear is how far the changes to the way we work will go, and how we will return to the workplace after the pandemic has passed.

 

That makes 2021 a fascinating time for business and talent management. After 12 months of chaotic reshuffling, now we can see which changes take root and which were simply stop-gap solutions to help organizations and employee endure the crisis. So whether you’re preparing for a gradual return to the workplace or you’ve cancelled your lease in favor of a new remote model, the months ahead are likely to determine your talent and workforce strategy for years to come.

 

Recognizing that this is a pivotal moment for employers around the world, we gathered some leading voices on the future of work and organizational transformation to discuss the pace of change and the key human resources trends in 2021. Below are some highlights from our discussion, as well as key steps that top employers can take now to prepare for the toughest challenges of tomorrow.

Hybrid Work Requires Flexible Organizations

Much has been made about the shift to remote, flexible and hybrid work. From adopting irregular work hours to implementing new HR tech, employers have spent the last 12 months rethinking how they can provide what their people need in our new world of work. And for the most part, the results have been phenomenal. As Carrie Maslen pointed out, the rapid adoption of flexible working has been one of the few silver linings from the past year, and it’s opened up the workforce to new and undertapped labor pools.

 

But how have they changed themselves to fit this new dynamic? Marcia Robinson noted that as companies embrace the new working dynamic, they’ll need to retool their own systems, processes, and structures for a hybrid, flexible future. Doing so not only helps avoid the “toxic productivity” that Patricia Schouker spoke to during our chat, it allows for employers to capitalize on the new efficiencies of a remote workforce and unlock new growth centers. There are so many avenues for growth and expansion, but Andrew Spence put it simply when he pointed out that as the location of our work changes, the way we manage and organize it requires rethinking as well. 

A silver lining from 2020: the rapid adoption of #flexibleworking.

Opens the talent pool to those needing flexibility & let's you access the right skills no matter where the individual is located

Carrie Maslen

 

Hopefully 2021 will have employees feeling more settled, less frustrated by the stresses of being in flux. Companies will have to settle into — are we really embracing virtual or still just making do?

Marcia F Robinson

 

Making sure that the phenomenon of ‘toxic productivity’ does not sour the move to remote working. Let's think in terms of competencies over processes and use technology and our human skills to the best possible advantage.

Patricia Schouker

 

Although the location of work has changed for many, the management of that work has stayed pretty much in the same hierarchical structures. We need to have another look at work/org design!

Andrew Spence

New World, New Skills

No matter how you look at it, the shift to a new model of work requires a shift in skills as well. Where some employers may suddenly find themselves in need of expanded IT and digital communications teams, others might be struggling to help their workforce adapt to their remote, disconnected workplace. This change is sure to be different for each organization, but every employer should be aware of what a more flexible future of work requires of their people.

 

As business and HR leaders consider the new skills gap, it’s important to recognize that it impacts all segments of the workforce. Whether you’re just starting your career or you’re already in the C-suite, time management and organizational skills have become more critical than ever, as both Isil Cayirli Ketencie and Cecilia Giordano noted, but the shift to remote work affects more than just productivity. In a decentralized workplace, human skills like empathy, patience and team-building become all the more valuable, per Will Ferguson, and managers in particular face new challenges in building and maintaining teams across the digital divide. Walter Jennings shared that this makes exceptional communication skills indispensable to leadership, and it puts greater pressure on organizations to empower their people with the types of new and innovative platforms that Emily Klein spoke to during our chat. This is all a steady reminder that as the world becomes more digital, human skills become more vital than ever. 

Problem solving and self-management skills are going to top the agenda, critical and analytical thinking and hunger for learning will be most in demand.

Isil Cayirli Ketencie

 

A.4.: Employees need to develop:

-Deep Work

-Manage of Time

-Organize and Prioritize Work

-Cultivate Growth Mindset

#MercerChats

#futureofwork

Cecilia Giordano

 

There are a few skills, broadly defined, that are becoming musts, including:

a) patience and resilience.

b) adaptability to new technology.

c) team- and community-building.

d) finding, and adapting, to ever-changing work-life balance/integration.

Will Ferguson

 

A4) Most in-demand skill? #Communication. Great leaders are always exceptional in-person communicators. But do you give good #email? How's your @WhatsApp or @WeChatApp? #Tweet me. Maybe we all just need to slow down...

Walter Jennings

 

The ability to lead and manage high performing distributed teams is a top skill and requirement for managers and leaders in 2021 and beyond. Investing in the best digital platforms to enable collaboration and work from any where will attract top talent.

Emily Klein

Capturing Culture

If employers have any secret weapon in combat these challenges, it is culture. The glue that binds and the secret sauce that makes good organizations great, culture is what HR works so hard to build and could not afford to lose during the turmoil of the pandemic. But Mark Babbitt was right to point out that even if culture has been a strength in the past, 2021 may require companies to rethink and reimagine what it will mean moving forward.

 

Although it’s always been hard to define, culture comes down to the right alchemy of benefits, communications and policies. Every one of these areas is subject to change in 2021, with Lewis Garrad noting that the blurring of work and private life means that many employees will look for greater support from their employer. This is a natural next step in the employment relationship, and it’s to an organization’s benefit to take up the challenge and meet their people’s needs. Amisha Gandhi shared that by doing so employers can empower their employees to be successful, creating a firm foundation for talent retention and organizational success. But ultimately the success of any company culture comes down to trust, as Tamara McCleary shared, and it’s those employers who build it that will be prepared for the unforeseen challenges of the future.

In 2021, companies must be open to reinvention of their company cultures. Nothing will ever go back to the way it was – nor should it.

Mark Babbitt

 

#MercerChats #FutureOfWork A7. Work and other parts of life blur together more than ever now. If flexible working becomes a reality - then people will look for much more holistic support from their employer

Lewis Garrad

 

A7: It’s not just about employee retention, companies need to provide support vs. benefits. Empower your employees to be successful: At @tipalti we actually offer every employee coaching service, for their needs. #EmployeeEmpowerment

Amisha Gandhi

 

Successful remote work and flexible working programs are dependent on trust between managers and the workforce. Managers must develop leadership and trust in their employees, and employees need to deliver consistent results.

Tamara McCleary

Danielle Guzman
Danielle Guzman

Global Head of Social Media