Crises of 2020 accelerates ESG priorities and reinvention of flexibility for Australian companies


Australia, 9 February, 2021 – Seventy per cent of Australian organisations have continued or accelerated their environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments, according to Mercer’s Global Talent Trends 2021 study. The survey of HR leaders reveals that the crises and injustices of 2020 have spurred a renewed impetus for Australian companies to make progress on their ESG agenda as workforces demand action from their employers.


“Empathising and delivering on the needs of stakeholders beyond shareholders emerged as a key trend in 2020 – and will no doubt persist,” said Ephraim Patrick, Partner (People Strategy and Organisational Enablement) at Mercer.


“The catastrophic bushfires, global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement put a spotlight on an organisation’s responsibility beyond shareholder returns to the broader communities they serve. We anticipate workforces, as key stakeholders of organisations, will continue to hold their employers to account in 2021 on the issues of climate change, individuals’ health and financial wellbeing, gender equity and racial diversity,” he said.


More than one-third (35 per cent) of those businesses evolving their ESG practices are tying metrics to the obligations of their executives, as well as executive pay, in most instances. In the area of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, 42 per cent are planning to improve pay equity analytics in 2021. Companies, however, must get beyond metrics and analytics and put sustainable futures at the heart of their transformation agenda. 


“We know that a company’s values and, more specifically, action on ESG is critical to attracting talent and investors. Companies that don’t make meaningful progress in this area will pay the price, losing not only the trust in their brand but also the confidence in their ability to future-proof,” Mr Patrick said.


Mercer’s survey found that organisations are striving for “flexibility on steroids”, having learned the importance of flexibility as key to not only surviving but thriving through crises. 


“Flexibility isn’t just about where people are working. It’s also about what work people are doing. As we saw during the pandemic and will no doubt see in crises to come, the ability to quickly redeploy people to where they’re needed most, fill the skills gaps that are needed to for the future, and work in virtual teams, is critical to securing a company’s future,” said Mr Patrick.


Interestingly, more than one-third (34 per cent) of Australian companies are considering applying more flexibility in how they pay by using an approach where the demand for certain skills rather than jobs will determine remuneration. 


The report also revealed that Australian companies are lagging when it comes to meeting the needs of older, experienced workers via flexible career pathways. 


“The traditional concept of retirement is long gone and almost three-quarters of baby boomers globally plan to keep working past retirement. But, corporate Australia is not doing enough to support our retirees and pre-retirees with arrangements that suit their life stage,” said Mr Patrick.


“Four in five Australian organisations don’t offer phased retirement as an option to retain this vital cohort of workers. In addition to holding critical institutional knowledge, they are extremely valuable as mentors and foster collaboration, resilience and productivity.”







About Global Talent Trends study

The sixth edition of Mercer’s Global Talent Trends (2021) study shares insights from over 7,300 senior business executives, HR leaders and employees and, for the first time, has deep dive Companion Reports for 23 geographies, spanning 44 countries. To download the Global report, visit here. In conjunction, the Global Talent Trends 2020–2021 Local Companion Report – Australian edition shares insights from 78 Australian HR leaders to uncover their priorities for the year ahead. To download the Australian edition, visit here.



About Mercer

Mercer believes in building brighter futures by redefining the world of work, reshaping retirement and investment outcomes, and unlocking real health and well-being. Mercer’s more than 25,000 employees are based in 44 countries and the firm operates in over 130 countries. Mercer is a business of Marsh & McLennan (NYSE: MMC), the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people, with 76,000 colleagues and annual revenue of over USD $17 billion. Through its market-leading businesses including MarshGuy Carpenterand Oliver Wyman, Marsh & McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit Follow Mercer on Twitter or LinkedIn.