Companies Should be “Future-Fit” in the Age of Business Disruption: Study

February 27, 20199:35 am
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With more business disruption expected, making organisations “future-fit” is top of mind, according to recent Mercer study.

According to Mercer’s 2019 Global Talent Trends study, nearly all (94 percent) of executives in Singapore predict significant disruption in the next three years, compared to 25 percent in 2018. As executives focus on making their organisations “future-fit”, significant human capital risks – including the ability to close the skills gap and overcome employee change fatigue – can impede transformation progress. Addressing these concerns is paramount, given that less than half of executives rate their company’s ability to mitigate human capital risks as very effective.

“Over the last few years, organisations have moved from anticipation to action in preparing for the future of work. But they risk bewildering people with too much change, ignoring the values individuals admire, and inundating them with endless process,” said Ilya Bonic, President of Mercer’s Career business.

In today’s climate of uncertainty, employees seek stability. Mercer’s study finds that job security is one of the top three reasons employees in Singapore joined, and stay at, their company. Yet, one in two employees are concerned that AI and automation will replace their job. The way to help employees feel secure is to foster human connections. Thriving employees (those prospering in the areas of health, wealth, and career) are three times as likely to describe their role as “relationship-focused” and twice as likely to describe their work environment as “collaborative.”

“The future of work is about connectivity, creating a work environment that appeals to today’s workforce by building a coherent sense of identity, sparking connections, and using data to personalise the experience,” said Kate Bravery, Career Global Solutions Leader at Mercer.

Mercer’s study identifies four top trends that leading companies are pursuing in 2019: Aligning Work to Future Value, Building Brand Resonance, Curating the Work Experience, and Delivering Talent-led Change.

Aligning Work to Future Value. With 59 percent of companies in Singapore planning to invest more in automation this year, AI and automation continue to transform the competitive landscape and reshape how work gets done. The climate of uncertainty is impacting Singapore-based employees as well, with two-thirds asking for more clearly defined responsibilities. Yet, job redesign is low on the C-suite agenda, with only one in six executives in Singapore saying that redefining jobs would have a sizeable impact on the company’s business performance. To address the challenges ahead, HR must take an integrated approach to people strategy and leverage the right talent analytics to inform decisions on the future size and shape of the organisation – yet less than one-third of companies have good insights into the business impact of their buy, build, borrow, and automate strategies. “If we just look at technology in isolation, we are looking at an incomplete picture. We need to take a holistic view – be clear about what work is to be done in a job, how the work is to be done, the most suitable technology to introduce into a job, and the skills needed to operate the technology to do the work. If we introduce technology blindly into a job, productivity may, in fact, take a hit,” said Sean Tan, HR Transformation Leader at Mercer Singapore. “The key is aligning jobs and people to where value is being created, and enabling a mechanism to reward future-fit skills and behaviors,” said Ms. Bravery.

Building Brand Resonance. What matters to employees and job seekers is the way a company conducts business and upholds the values of its brand. In a social, transparent world, the lines are blurring between a company’s consumer brand and its talent value proposition (TVP). Successful companies ensure that their brand resonates with all workforce segments – 68 percent of high-growth organisations globally differentiate their TVP to different groups (such as contingent workers), compared to 47 percent of modest-growth companies, and organisations in Singapore are on the same journey with nearly two-thirds of all companies already doing this. An organisation’s total rewards philosophy is one area where brand values can shine: Thriving employees are four times more likely to work for a company that ensures equity in pay and promotion decisions (74 percent vs. 18 percent).

Curating the Work Experience. An effective and relevant day-to-day work experience is essential for retaining top talent. According to Mercer’s study, thriving employees are two times more likely to work for an organisation that enables quick decision-making (80 percent vs. 41 percent) and nearly three times more likely for one that provides tools and resources for them to do their job efficiently (80 percent vs. 30 percent). Personalised and simplified professional development plans are an ask from employees – half (50 percent) of employees want curated learning to help them evolve their skills and prepare for future jobs. Technology plays a critical role – high-growth firms in Singapore are twice as likely to provide a fully digital employee experience, or close to it, as moderate-growth firms (65 percent vs 30 percent).

Delivering Talent-led Change. To ensure talent is at the center of change, HR should have a voice in business transformation. This year’s study found 64 percent of HR leaders in Singapore are involved in executing major change projects, but only half (54 percent) participated in the idea generation stage of transformation initiatives. HR sees employee morale as a significant barrier to making changes stick: “Employee attrition” and a “decline in employee trust” are two of the top five challenges in the year ahead. “These findings point to the need for transformation efforts to focus on people-centered design and better talent metrics to understand how people are experiencing and embracing change,” said Mr. Bonic.

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