#MercerChats Rewind: Building a Sustainable Post-COVID Future of Work

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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 November 2020 tweet chat, highlighting some of the key themes discussed and insights shared.

One of my favorite writers once quipped that “if you want to make God laugh, try putting a 3-year-old to bed in a hotel room where there are other people still awake.” As a mother, I can relate to this feeling of futility, but it also springs to mind any time we discuss how organizations can plan for the future. Just think of all the well-laid plans we had for 2020, all of which had to be redesigned by the end of Q1. And while it’s fair to say that we (hopefully) will never see an event as disruptive as COVID-19, I still can’t help but hear an omnipotent chuckle anytime I see someone planning too far ahead.

And so, if organizations must prepare for what’s ahead, it’s vital that they embrace the lessons of the last 10+ months. In today’s agile business landscape, future-readiness is less about planning and more about preparation, and every organization needs to consider what it means for them to adapt and thrive in a digital ecosystem. Whether you’re resetting for the future of work or bracing for the great acceleration, every leader around the world should be asking themselves the same question: “What can I do today to better prepare me for tomorrow?”

We posed this question (and a few others) to some of the world’s leading social media voices on digital transformation and the future of work, and the answers we received tell the story of a rapidly changing landscape where human resources and business leaders are constantly challenged to innovate and pioneer new solutions for novel problems. I’ve collected a few select quotes and takeaways from our conversation below. 

New Workplaces

One of the most profound differences between the working world we left behind in 2019 and the one we’ll inhabit after COVID-19 concerns the workplace. From the dawn of industry to the last days before quarantine, the global economy has largely been structured around physical spaces where organizations could congregate to complete their work. Fast forward just a few months, and that dynamic is forever changed.

That may be just fine with many employees, as Emily Klein pointed out during our chat, as many have already begun adapting to our new virtual workplaces. But this doesn’t mean leaders can sit back and relax, because with this shift comes a reimagining of the entire employee experience. Something as fundamental as “How do I measure contribution?” is suddenly called into question, as Shawn Murphy observed, and Kate Bravery reminded us that all of these changes are taking place in the midst of the AI and automation revolution. To meet this challenge, organizations need to embrace the change journey and create Amisha Gandhi’s atmosphere of innovation.

“Employees are co-creating the workplace of the future, answering the question: what are we coming back to the office for?”
Emily Klein
“A shift away from time=productive to outcome=productive will be a better measure of contribution.”
Shawn Murphy
“You create the workforce that will drive your business for the long-term, create an atmosphere of innovation and develop true employee engagement and advocacy.
Amisha Gandhi
“My hope is with AI and Automation doing the lifting and new ways of working and co-living, we should have more time and more energy to all be our creative best!”
Kate Bravery

 

New Jobs

If change is a new constant, then learning needs to be as well. The best thing leaders can do to build a future-ready organization is build a future-ready workforce, which means building a culture of learning. As Lewis Garrad shared, “every organization needs people who can remix and rebalance their skills throughout their career.” This requires workforce buy-in, and Walter Jennings shared that building one requires leaders to demonstrate the value of reskilling and the benefit to both the organization and the individual.

One thing is for certain, though. In a business landscape as fast moving as today’s (not to mention tomorrow’s) learning and education programs must constantly be refreshed to keep pace. This requires agility from employers, as Tamara McCleary pointed out, ensuring that they are constantly reevaluating the tools and techniques they’re giving to their people to help them succeed. 

“As jobs change so quickly, every organization needs people who can remix and rebalance their skills throughout their career.”
Lewis Garrad
“Individuals cope better with change if they are clear about the value it brings.”
Walter Jennings
“Companies need employees to be agile and up to date on the tools for their jobs. Lifelong learning is required to keep pace in today's world.”
Tamara McCleary

 

New Faces

COVID wasn’t the only thing to happen in 2020, as the individuals and organizations around the world are reprioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in our workplaces and across societies as a whole. Any plans for the future of work would be incomplete if they didn’t account for diversity, and while it would seem that most leaders agree it is a requirement, per Jen Merrick, few have a plan in place to make it a reality.

Many of our #MercerChats participants touched on this during our conversation, pointing out that human resources has an important role to play in building stronger, more diverse organizations. As it turns out, the pandemic could help accelerate these efforts, as Ravi Kumar S shared. By decentralizing workplaces and pushing employers toward more flexible working, organizations are opening new doors for underrepresented communities. This is the first step in a long journey, but Dr. Marcia F. Robinson pointed out that by simply casting a wider net for talent, organizations are better positioned to build the diverse, resilient, learning organizations that are needed for the future of work. 

“Inclusion begins with who gets hired. If we are real about building learning organizations then we would be casting a wider net to recruit for potential.”
Dr. Marcia F Robinson
“Our research shows 81% of organizations say they are focused on DEI, but only 42% have a documented multiyear strategy.”
Jen Merrick
“One upside of the pandemic and remote work is that we are able to hire from previously overlooked talent pools.”
Ravi Kumar S

The #MercerChats Twitter chat series starts up again in January 2021, with our next live event on Tuesday January 26 from 8AM EDT to 11AM EDT. We’re starting the year with our annual mega chat where we’ll tackle three big topics, bringing together dozens of leading voices from across the globe. Follow the #MercerChats hashtag on Twitter and LinkedIn for more details on the #MercerChats series, and we look forward to seeing you in 2021! 

Danielle Guzman
by Danielle Guzman

Global Head of Social Media