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Do HR leaders feel prepared to reskill employees?

Businesses are taking steps to embrace innovation but are held back by skills and lack of digital tools

Many HR leaders feel unprepared to reskill existing employees in the face of flatter, more digitally-orientated organisations, Mercer's 2018 Global Trends Survey has revealed.

It found that only 57% are confident that they can do this well. It also found that, while employees cited state-of-the-art tools as important for success, only 40% said they have the digital tools necessary to do their job. Just 36% have digital interactions with HR.

The research also found that only 25% of employers consider themselves digital organisations.

There were signs that businesses are taking steps to embrace innovation, however. The survey found that 96% of UK companies have innovation on their core agenda this year, and 92% are planning organisation design changes.

The report looked into the key drivers in the future of work and identified a number of critical areas in technology, working patterns, and talent.

Organisations expecting the most disruption were working towards flatter, more networked structures, with 25% forming more holacratic work teams.

Mercer found that business leaders are confident in HR’s ability to be a strategic partner in setting the course for the future, with 69% of executives reporting that HR aligns people strategies with the priorities of the business.

It found that 92% of executives in the UK expect competition for talent to intensify. One in three (34%) employers said they plan to 'borrow' more talent in 2018, while 75% of employees said they would consider working on a freelance basis.

“Gaining greater access to talent through a broader ecosystem is part of the solution," said Kate Bravery, global practices leader in Mercer’s Career business. "Companies also need to deploy talent faster and with precision to unlock the potential of their workforce.

“Adopting a platform mentality to talent requires a radical mindset shift; embracing the notion that talent can be accessed for the benefit of all rather than ‘owned’ by one manager, department, function, or even organisation."

Employers are also offering workers more flexibility, with 77% of executives viewing flexible working as a core part of their value proposition. However, only 6% of HR professionals consider themselves industry leaders when it comes to enabling flexibility, and 42% of employees fear that choosing flexible work arrangements will affect their promotion prospects.

The report also explored purpose, and found that of those who felt fulfilled personally and professionally, 78% said that they felt their company had a strong sense of purpose. Meanwhile, 39% of UK employees satisfied in their current job still plan to leave because of a perceived lack of career opportunity.

When it came to health and wellbeing, employees spend on average seven work hours per week worrying about financial matters, according to the research. Yet only 26% of companies have policies in place to address financial health.

“Organisations that help employees worry less about basic security needs and invest more energy in their career aspirations will be rewarded with a workforce that has more pride, passion, and purpose,” said Ilya Bonic, senior partner and president of Mercer's Career business.

Mercer’s study gathered insights from 7,600 senior business executives, HR leaders, and employees from 21 industries and 44 countries.