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 a summary of our November 2022 events, highlighting some of the key themes discussed and insights shared.
Ask any actuary: risk is all around us. From product breakage to brand reputation to cybersecurity, every business operates under the specter of risk every day, but too often they overlook one of the greatest threats to their business: people risk. Encompassing everything from workforce wellbeing to talent retention, people risk captures a broad category of talent-related factors that could undermine business continuity, and that list of people risks grows longer every day.
Never was this more evident than during the pandemic, when the need to quarantine forced businesses to reevaluate what constitutes “business critical” and recognize the invaluable nature of their workforce. First as they looked to safeguard their people’s health and safety, and later as they looked to engage and retain their workforce as a strategic business asset, leaders came to realize that the availability, health and engagement of their people are vital to their business’ resilience and long-term success.
We’ve always recognized this truth, but in light of the heightened awareness, we hosted a wide-ranging discussion into the constantly evolving world of people risks and health trends as part of our monthly tweet chat series, #MercerChats, on Twitter. Additionally, we hosted a special post-event recap on LinkedIn’s new LinkedIn Audio platform for organizations, where six of our featured panelists offered further insights to nearly 800 attendees. Below are some of the top insights that emerged from our conversations.
Just as every day brings new opportunities, every day brings new people risks. While HR and risk management professionals may have always accepted this, the past 3 years have been a stark reminder and wake up call for leaders across organizations. From the obvious health and safety concerns that came with the COVID-19 pandemic to the downstream labor market challenges like high turnover and quiet quitting, organizations are more alert than ever to the shifting people risks that can undermine the future success of their business.
So what are the looming risks that are most threatening to tomorrow’s organizations? Unsurprisingly, health and wellbeing remain primary concerns, with Walter Jennings sharing during our chat how the rising awareness of mental health concerns exposed a long-standing but under-recognized crisis facing employers. Relatedly, Matt Duffy pointed out how the pandemic illuminated the yawning gaps in healthcare coverage around the world, and how many employers were caught on the back foot as they tried to support and retain their workforce. While this has prompted a wholesale transformation of the healthcare system that Jola Burnett described – think digital health solutions, telemedicine, personalized benefits, etc. – these changes come with new cybersecurity and data privacy concerns, as Donna K Lencki shared. So while it’s clear that employers are looking to address risks as they arise, it’s just as important that they continually reevaluate the landscape for new exposures and threats.
The mental health challenge will only increase: Pandemic, politics, the economy, inflation. And access to mental health care is constrained - lack of times, therapists, treatments.— Walter Jennings
During the pandemic, we witnessed the impact of health coverage gaps; for example, people not having coverage for basic primary or preventive care. This really grabbed attention of most senior executives.— Matt Duffy
Cybersecurity and data privacy represent the number one people risk and the changing nature of work— Donna K Lencki
We are at the very beginning of the healthcare transformation. The digitization of healthcare will democratize access. It will offer personalized benefits & care for specific needs. This will improve patient experience and #health outcomes, while mitigating cost— Jola Burnett
For employers to rise to the challenge of these new risks, they may need to reconsider how they confront them. Just as they had to evolve and transform to maintain business operations through the pandemic, they’ll need to restack and refit their HR and risk management teams to address new people risks. Luckily, in many cases these changes should complement the ongoing digital transformation work already taking place in most organizations.
For instance, just as the race for talent has given HR leaders a greater seat at the table for strategic decision-making, the pandemic revealed that people risks can critically damage business operations and value. Alvin Foo pointed this out, noting that organizations need to reframe their thinking of HR from a service to a strategic function if they hope to manage that risk and achieve business resilience. This also means finding opportunity for greater partnership, as Tamara McCleary suggested, whether by creating cross-functional teams or formal processes for collaboration to ensure people risks are properly valued and considered in organizational policy. In any event, employers would be wise to invest in mitigating people risks now, because as Amy Laverock shared during our chat, threats to workforce and business resilience are only growing. Left unattended, there’s no telling how they could undermine your business in the future of work.
The pandemic provides an opportunity for HR to accelerate its shift from a service to a strategic function, helping to shape a more dynamic organization that is ready to achieve business resilience in the future— Alvin Foo
It's all about teamwork when it comes to a partnership between #HR and #RiskManagement. Both areas within an organization need each other. Creating cross functional teams is just one way to build greater resilience.— Tamara McCleary
Inflation is impacting benefit costs, mental health & retention. The optimist in me is hoping this is a blip; but demographics shows us that labor shortages are long term. It’s so critical to have benefits that support both EEs and ERs.— Amy Laverock