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Firms risk alienating staff with disruption plans

Organisations mustn't overlook their people when undergoing changes to prepare for the future of work, according to research from Mercer

Its Global Talents Trends 2019 study found that nearly three-quarters (71%) of UK executives predict significant disruption in the next three years, compared to 23% in 2018.

But 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 delay transformation progress, the research warned. Addressing these concerns is paramount given that less than one in three (29%) of executives rate their company’s ability to mitigate human capital risks as very effective, it stated.

In today’s uncertain economic climate employees seek stability, the research found. Job security was revealed to be the top reason employees in the UK join a company, and also the main reason they stay. Yet close to one in three are concerned that AI and automation will replace their job (28%), with 66% of companies planning to automate more work in the next 12 months.

Ilya Bonic, president of Mercer’s career business, said that employers risk not taking employees with them during a transformation. “Over the past 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,” she said.

Mercer's study found that 62% of UK HR leaders are involved in planning the rollout of major change projects and 44% in executing those plans. But only one in three (31%) participated in the idea generation stage of transformation initiatives, it found.

“These findings point to the need for transformation efforts to focus on people-centred design and better talent metrics to understand how people are experiencing and embracing change,” said Bonic.

The research also found that around two-thirds (62%) of employees wanted curated learning to help them evolve their skills and prepare for future jobs.

It found that high-performing employees are nearly four times more likely to work for an organisation that enables quick decision-making (68% vs. 18%) and seven times more likely for one that provides tools and resources for them to do their job efficiently (69% vs. 9%); and that high-growth firms are three times as likely as moderate-growth firms to provide a fully digital experience for employees.

Kate Bravery, partner and global practices leader for Mercer's career business, said that organisations should focus on developing well-connected workforces. “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,” she said.

Mercer's Global Talent Trends 2019 study surveyed more than 7,300 C-suite executives, HR leaders, and employees from nine industry sectors and 16 geographies around the world.