Building the workplace of the future


What is top of mind for corporate leaders around the globe? They think about the future and how they will create—and help their organization transition to—a digital workplace.  Already, many companies are introducing new technologies to enhance processes and better enable individuals and teams to deliver to their customers, whether internal or external. Specifically, CEOs are striving to evolve their workforce to stay competitive in a world moving rapidly down the path of digitization.

With digitization as a focal point of the modern corporate strategy, Mercer’s 2017 Global Talent Trends research found that only 7% of executives globally consider their organization to be digital. At the same time, the research revealed that executives view technological disruption and enablement as the trend likely to have the most critical impact on their organization over the next two years. Still, most admit that they are not doing enough to be proactive in addressing the challenges of technology or in realizing its benefits. For a successful shift to a digital working environment, CEOs and HR professionals must share the same priorities to stay ahead of the ever-changing digital world around them.

While CEOs see digital transformation as an urgent matter, HR departments have been slower to move it up on their to-do list. But HR is beginning to prioritize digitization now in response to employers’ needs and demands. Consumer ideology is infiltrating the workplace as employees’ experiences outside of the office impact their needs and expectations at work. This consumer mentality demands new technology that is faster, customizable, and digital.

As organizations prepare to move to digital systems, HR departments must take advantage of new technologies and claim their territory, defining how HR will play a leading role in the organization’s overall business strategy. For example, digital technology suites like Workday enable more employee self-service, freeing up an organization’s HR professionals to be strategic and forward-looking in a way that helps the organization compete.

Why Digitize?

It is a matter of survival. To remain competitive and continue to exist, let alone grow, organizations need to migrate to a digital future. No business or sector is immune to the threat of disruption. Digital technologies enable better reach to customers, create more efficient processes, and fuel growth in ways that traditional business models struggle to emulate. However, technology alone does not guarantee success in digital transformation. Companies need a culture that enables agility with the right people who have the right capabilities and are engaged to the extent that they will adopt and effectively apply the technology. HR has a critical role to play across this spectrum of people needs.

Increasingly, an employer’s digital strategy and brand will become an important part of the employee value proposition. Employees are seeking ways to “make work work” for their individual circumstances. Mercer’s 2017 Global Talent Trends identified what employees want: more flexible work options, speed in decision making, understanding of their unique skills, and active support of innovation. A digital work environment makes it easier to deliver on each of these priorities.

Perhaps the most important reason for organizations to embark on a path to digitization is to help address the societal challenge of technology disrupting jobs. In its Future of Jobs Report, the World Economic Forum predicted that 35% of core skills will change over a five-year period to 2020. Skills instability will be high for all industries regardless of employment outlook—more jobs destroyed than new ones created. By planning for and being transparent about a digital future, employers can prepare the workforce for the exact skill requirements of tomorrow. They can help employees develop capabilities that will contribute to both the organization’s future success and individuals’ future relevance in the workforce.

Bridging the Gap

There is a sense of urgency among CEOs to digitize the workplace for organizations to compete effectively in their industry. Research shows, however, that there is a wide gap between what is top of mind for CEOs and the themes on which HR professionals are focused. The reality is that people strategy is a foundational requirement for the success of any digital change. The people element of the workplace is the domain of HR, so it is critical to bridge this gap in priorities. Digitizing the workplace is no longer a “nice to have” feature in HR; it is a “need to have” for organizations to continue to compete in their industry.

This article was originally published in

Ilya Bonic
by Ilya Bonic

President, Career, and Head of Strategy at Mercer

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