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 September 2021 tweet chat, highlighting some of the key themes discussed and insights shared.
All around the world, business and HR leaders are asking themselves the same question: how do we fit into the new future of work? While organizational change was already a critical priority before the pandemic, COVID-19 was an accelerator of that change and a reminder that the unexpected can arrive at our doorstep at any moment and there’s no time to wait.
But the nature of organizational change varies, and that’s because every company is at their own stage of the transformation journey. Whereas some may be looking to better understand what a “hybrid workplace” looks like, others are already relying on a dispersed pool of gig workers and looking to consolidate their talent pool. Every employer is facing their own new challenges as they look to unlock future growth opportunities, but one thing binds them all together: the need to remain people-centered in their transformation.
This shared need to put people first derives from the universal challenge of finding and retaining a future-ready workforce. From heavy industry conglomerates to consumer product retailers, every employer is in a competition for the skills that can help them succeed tomorrow. But to better understand why that is and how leaders can pursue a “people-shaped transformation”, we asked global experts and thought leaders to share their view of the journey. Below are some of the highlights of that discussion.
For as much as we like to image the future as a seamlessly digital, technology-driven utopia, the reality is that people continue to be the focal point of the future of work. Think about some of the most important tech trends happening in organizational transformation today – the rollout of digital benefits platforms, the integration of new HR IT solutions, the expansion of online learning & reskilling programs – all of these are digital solutions that focus on and further empower people.
It’s vital that leaders remember this as they guide their own organization’s change. Tamara McCleary shared this during our chat, noting that HR cannot lose track of the human end-users as they continually invest time and money into digital solutions. A well-planned transformation, as Ian Gertler noted, needs to balance tech with people, always bearing in mind that people are quick to abandon or dismiss technology that isn’t built with them in mind. Indeed, the success or failure of any transformation may rest more on the empathy and skills of the front line people managers who will need to oversee its adoption, per Carrie Maslen.
Workforce transformation needs a balance and commitment between tech and people. “Build it and they will come - use it - and succeed” is rare. Historically, introducing new platforms plateaus low without cohesive programs in place.
Another Workforce transformation challenge is managing your team through change. Be empathetic & transparent and guide them through the why and how.
So if the secret to a successful transformation rests in people, it’s vital that leaders stop looking to the outside world for turnkey solutions and begin looking in mirror. Mark Babbitt struck on this during our conversation, observing that too often leaders talk at stakeholders instead of with them. Even for those firms at the very beginning of their transformation, leaders must consider how they can bring their people into the future of work, not solve for how they’ll replace them with a future-ready version.
So if you’re looking to future-proof your workforce work, where do you begin? To start, leaders should embrace the new skills-based hiring model that Walter Jennings referenced. In doing so, employers should stop thinking about people as the unit of change, per Melissa Swift , and instead start looking about skills. Organizations can then think more freely about how to reconfigure for what’s needed, after which point they can remap people to those needs. Ravin Jesuthasan captured the same concept during our chat, describing skills as the new currency of work. Once employers are able to convert over to this new perspective, then they can get down to the real work.
Leaders must stop talking AT stakeholders. Instead, invite them into a conversation and talk WITH them. Where to start? Women. People of color. And anyone else not properly represented in the C-Suite and boardroom.
Skills-based hiring & development is new approach to getting the best from people.
Stop thinking about the person as the unit of change. Instead, think about the #skills needed to perform the #work, decoupled from any individual. This lens causes an organization to make every single talent decision differently and more rationally.
The currency of work is shifting from jobs to skills. Every element of the talent lifecycle needs to be recalibrated to this new currency including how talent is acquired, developed, rewarded and deployed.
If leaders are after people-centered transformations, then it’s important that they curate people-centered organizations. One of the most powerful tools in accomplishing this is culture, which as Lewis Garrad noted, impacts every part of how people interact with their work. By designing those interactions and making them as efficient as possible, employers care remove the pain points to the workday and allow their people to focus on what really matters: their work.
But creating (or maintaining) culture can be notoriously tricky, and it can be even more difficult to demonstrate the return on that investment. While there are any number of positive, demonstrable benefits to a strong company culture, Angela Maiers summed it up well by noting that the right culture can ensure employees feel like they really matter and drive them to further success. Once senior leaders get behind that effort, which Chris Edmonds rightfully pointed out as being critical, they can truly accelerate their transformation and unlock new opportunity in the future of work.
Culture is carried in the interactions people have with everything they bang into during the mid work day. Designing those interactions for the culture you want to create is key.
By creating a culture where every employee feels like they matter, and companies need to show it, not just say it. Tell your employees You Matter and then show it in your actions by supporting them and giving them what they need to be successful.
Senior leaders must drive change in order for it to take hold. Most senior leaders don’t know how to manage change. It can’t be delegated; it must be championed & modeled & coached & measured by senior leaders.