Future proofing human resources - Mercer Australia

Bridging the gap between perceptions and expectations

There is a significant gap between how employers are planning to develop talent and how employees view an effective workplace, according to recent Mercer research. Bridging this gap in perceptions and expectations will be key to ‘future proofing’ Human Resources, writes Talent Strategy Practice Leader, Ephraim Spehrer-Patrick.

Disruption through technology, greater sophistication in hiring for best fit, and a more demanding employee population - these are the key trends radically redefining how workforce talent is managed, developed, and incentivized. How organisations respond will directly influence what level of business growth they achieve in a fast-changing world marked by significant disruption.

There is no question that the focus for most organisations this year is on building rather than buying talent – 82% of companies say they plan to develop and promote from within. However, what we found was that most employees believe their companies are not doing enough today to keep their skills relevant and a high proportion (1 in 3) are thinking of leaving their organisation based on Mercer’s 2016 Global Talent Trends Study.

What Do Employees Want?

When we asked employees about the ONE THING that would most improve their work situation, they were three times more likely to name “more or better development” than any other choice. Unfortunately they also said, they would rate their managers a ‘C’ grade or below in relation to their ability to coach and develop them.

This is a worrying disconnect, especially since many employers expressed confidence in filling critical roles internally, but acknowledged that they might not have the tools and infrastructure to do this with precision.

What Should Employers Do?

The most successful employers will be those implementing talent strategies that engage, inspire, and retain employees of different skills, experiences, genders, ages, races, and backgrounds.

Although many organisations have indeed sought to develop diverse workforces, the findings released earlier this year suggest that many are not perceived to be ‘walking the talk’ as far as employees are concerned. This is highlighted in the data indicating that while 73% of companies are working towards diverse leadership teams, only 54% of employees believe their organisation have effective programmes in place to do so.

To bridge the gap between the views of employees and employers and take their job into a future where they have relevance and a role to play, substantial HR and people management efforts will be required. These changes must lead to improved capabilities around talent attraction, enhanced managerial capabilities to deliver a compelling career proposition, and proficiency in workforce analytics for a data-driven approach to managing talent flows.

Where To Start

The study identified five priorities for organisations in 2016:

  1. Build diverse talent pools
  2. Embrace the new work equation
  3. Architect compelling careers
  4. Simplify talent processes
  5. Redefine the value of HR

While these priorities are consistent across organisations and regions, they are viewed differently by employees and employers.

In Australia, for example, big data management and disruptive technology is a trend influencing the people agenda, more so than in any other region.  According to the study, it’s one of the three top trends influencing Australian employers’ talent plans in 2016, as local companies strive to grow domestically and expanding regionally. Additionally, more than three-quarters (79%) of employers in Australia are focused on developing local leaders in emerging economies, compared to 62% globally. Yet transparency with pay is an area of contention, with 81% of organisations reporting they are transparent compared while just 58% of employees who think the same.

Organisations have put investments in HR Technology ahead of HR Skill Development. In fact more than half of organisations plan to make changes to their HR Technology in the next 12 months, while only 36% plan to invest in HR training and development. Only 13% of companies currently have a curriculum for developing HR professionals, while 42% report gaps in their HR skills, but have yet to begin planning for how to address them.

Clearly there is a disconnect between companies’ aims and their actions. The three key takeaways are:

1. Organisations need to build a talent mind-set within their leadership teams while focusing on nurturing diversity of thinking and critical capabilities

2. Build agility into the workforce structure and design of roles to remain competitive and attractive in the new ‘era of the individual’

3. Workforce Planning and Analytics is the key to changing the current perception of HR and to elevate the people agenda to be at the heart of strategy execution.

Mercer’s full report can be downloaded here

Ephraim Spehrer-Patrick is Mercer’s Talent Strategy Practice Leader based in the Pacific.

“Organisations need to face the fact that rising competition for talent from emerging economies and talent scarcity are the two most important workforce trends now impacting business. They have the power to control these trends by leveraging the third most important trend - an increasingly diverse labour pool.”

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