Each month, Mercer brings together in-house subject matter experts, employee advocates and external thought leaders for an online discussion of the most pressing issues. The program is called #MercerChats, where we invite individuals from around the world to share their insights and perspective during a Twitter-based tweet chat and a follow-up LinkedIn Audio event. Below is Part I of the summary of our January 2023 events, centered around the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.

Wherever you’re reading this, odds are that your working life has dramatically changed over the last 36 months. Whether you work on the trading floor in Kuala Lumpur or you’re in a home office in Vancouver, the where, how and why you work has dramatically changed.

Some of those changes are subtle (think, flexible or hybrid work schedules), while others are causing corporate leaders to throw out their playbooks and reconsider how their organizations should engage with talent, clients and the communities around them in the future of work.

But where did these changes come from, and where are they being felt most acutely? This was top of mind for global business and political leaders when they convened in Davos earlier this year for the 2023 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, and we wanted to bring that discussion to our community on social media via our #MercerChats tweet chat and #MercerAudio LinkedIn Audio programs. Below are some highlights from those conversations, including insights from our outstanding panel of subject matter experts, thought leaders and influencers.

New working models

What worked yesterday will not work tomorrow. That was one of the key takeaways from both of our events, and it’s clear why. After months of lockdown during the pandemic and years of talent reshuffling, employers around the world are thinking differently about how they want to build for the future of work. For some this may mean a simple adjustment to programs and policies, while for others it could constitute an organizational transformation to who, how and where they do work.

It’s this second scenario that most intrigued our panelists, with many noting that the shift to remote work during the early days of COVID-19 has sparked more profound changes. Organizations have realized that flexibility opens doors for new talent, but they’re also coming to recognize that there’s more to flexibility than flexible hours. 

By embracing flexibility and putting more focus on their people, organizations have found that they’re able to build a more attractive, relatable organization for talent. Practically, this requires both HR and business leaders to become active listeners to what their workforce wants. What do they expect? What motivates them? How can employers create environments where they’ll thrive? By creating an organization that supports their people – and treats them like people – leaders can harness and build off of their energy to propel their organization into the future of work. 

New social contract

As employers begin to reimagine every part of the work experience, employees are also rethinking what they want from that work experience. This two-way reset calls for a new social contract between organizations and talent, and as many of our panelists shared, this process is already underway.

Under this new framework, employees are no longer happy to maximize their pay from a single employer. Instead, talent is free to seek out meaningful work and projects that are relevant to their career, and that may mean they jump freely from organization to organization or become more selective in choosing the organizations they work with. 

While this may sound like a shift in the power dynamic in workers’ favor, top employers shouldn’t be concerned by this new social contract. Instead, they should view it as an opportunity upon which they should seize, as many of our panelists shared.

Organizations that offer a clear value proposition, make it easy for talent to flow to work, and build a positive culture of success should thrive in this environment. Future-focused leaders should reframe their thinking to consider how they can create an ecosystem where talented people can prosper, where they can find meaningful and impactful work, and where they can be fully supported and empowered.

New ESG Considerations

The great reboot isn’t just about what’s happening inside of organizations; it extends to how individuals and organizations think about themselves as actors on the global stage and potential agents of change. This shift was certainly brought accelerate by the current cultural, social, and political moment, but it also aligns with a decades-long growth in environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations for employers.

That focus on ESG is only growing, and many of our panelists noted the rise in sustainability-minded businesses as a key topic of conversation in Davos. Organizations are increasingly going beyond lip service and PR-driven green initiatives to foster more sustainable business practices, and it’s benefiting their talent strategy as well as the planet. By demonstrating a sense of corporate responsibility and citizenships, companies can foster a stronger employment brand and build a more sustainable business and talent model as well.

Of course, no people discussion would be meaningful without accounting for actual people, which is why diversity, inclusion and equity are also a growing priority. Terms like “talent” and “workforce” can often obscure the humans that make up organizations, but progressive employers are making a point to look deeper into their people strategies to make sure every individual is given a chance to thrive.

By prioritizing DEI programs, employers can remove barriers or chokepoints to advancement in their organization and further liberate talent to provide their best to the organization in return. In a future of work marked by increasing competition for talent, this is an advantage not to be ignored or squandered.

Danielle Guzman
Danielle Guzman

Global Head of Social Media

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