"Organisations need to democratise their opportunities"

Jarvis: Empowering employees to go outside of their perceived limits is the way forward
Jarvis: Empowering employees to go outside of their perceived limits is the way forward

As Mercer’s Global Talent Trends research indicates, talent drain remains at an acute level right now, with 37% of UK employees stating that they plan to leave their organisation in the next 12 months.

It is not just two or three companies at a time seeing talent leave the organisation, it is hundreds.

Replacing that talent takes time and resources, meaning that organisations can lose out on opportunities, productivity and growth. Talent drain can result in a loss of human capital, reduced innovation and a decline in growth. Its impact can be felt in affected teams, too. Losing someone from a high-performing team can be detrimental to a team’s morale as well as its performance.

One of the many proactive strategies that companies can adopt to stem the outward flow of talent is known as the democratisation of opportunity. This is the process of making opportunities and resources accessible and available to a wider range of individuals, regardless of their background, social status or other limiting factors.

Read more: Why the time is right to democratise coaching

The concept emphasises the importance of providing everyone with a fair chance to succeed and thrive, regardless of their socioeconomic status or other disadvantages they may face. By promoting equal opportunities, democratisation of opportunity seeks to create a more inclusive and just organisation.

With many organisations realising the future of work is skills-based, democratisation of opportunity empowers individuals to go outside of their perceived limits and explore opportunities across the organisation that ordinarily, they may not consider.

Through programmes like continuous learning and skills development, project and gig structures, progression and promotion, successful organisations that have implemented democratised opportunities have reduced attrition, increased learning and delivered millions of pounds worth of increased productivity, as well as reduced workforce costs.

By empowering leaders to create a culture of inclusivity and equal opportunity, foster diversity and inclusion in talent acquisition and development, and provide development opportunities for all employees, we can certainly transform workforces.

But there needs to be a robust framework and support from the entire organisation to engineer that transformation. It requires enablers for change.

Read more: Developing sophisticated talent strategies

Achieving that includes building a transparent and merit-based performance management system, empowering employee ownership of careers and skills, promoting continuous learning and skill development, and encouraging a growth mindset alongside a culture of continuous learning. Mentorship and sponsorship programmes for underrepresented groups are also essential to achieve success.

Work needs to be designed in a way that democratises opportunities and accelerates skills acquisition. Technology can be leveraged for accessible and personalised learning programmes, ensuring the entire workforce has clear and consistent access to opportunities.

Finally, organisations must track their progress, so that they can implement changes to the direction of travel, if needed. Establishing key performance indicators to track progress in talent retention and development, and conducting regular employee surveys and feedback mechanisms, will lead to better, data-driven decisions to continuously improve the democratisation of opportunity.

Organisations need to use every strategy to retain and develop their talent. Creating a democratic work environment, where all employees have every opportunity to thrive and grow, delivers the skills that organisations need, preparing them for the future.

Maura Jarvis is transformation leader, UK for the consultancy firm Mercer

This article was published in the March/April 2024 edition of HR magazine. Subscribe today to get our latest articles delivered to your desk.