This year’s Global Trends study by Mercer gathered input from 800 business executives, 1,800 HR professionals, and 5,000+ employees. Looking at trends across a broad spectrum of industries, the Mercer study gathers the views of 7,600+ voices in 21 industries and 44 countries around the world to try and guide you through the Future of Work.

The comprehensive report lists 5 key areas of focus as we move in to what Mercer calls ‘The Human Age’ covering:

  • Change @ Speed
  • Working with Purpose
  • Permanent Flexibility
  • Platform for Talent
  • Digital from the Inside out

With the ‘Future of Work’ trending as the latest buzz term when it comes to talking about digital transformation, the Mercer report provides valuable insight into the key concerns of both business leaders and individuals as we enter (or some would argue we continue to be in) a period of rapid change and disruption. One central theme running throughout, however is that:

Human talent, rather than capital and technology, is the key factor linking innovation, competitiveness, and growth in the 21st century”.

It is the focus on human talent in particular which makes this an interesting study. The report focuses on how people will play the key role in technological advancement and change, over focusing on technology itself, which is refreshing when the common dialog is ‘AI will replace your job’.  But within this people-first perspective, is a very real need for change in the way business manages the relationship between project, technology and talent – with change being seen as something that is continuously happening rather than a step-process.  Indeed one line which stuck out for me was how “in a world of continual change, transformation will never feel complete”.

Flexibiliy in work is identified as an important factor for employees and workers:

“In exchange for committing to ongoing professional evolution, employees want flexibility in how where and when they work. They want their careers to conform to their personal lives, not the other way around.”

And it’s this need for flexibility which has helped drive a huge surge in the number of people working freelance or contracting over recent years, something we touched on in a blog earlier this year.  Workers are becoming more specialised in their skill sets, and digitalisation and project-based working removes the need for them to be committed to one organisation long term.

From a client side, the report identifies that:

“The ability to change, and change quickly, is emerging as a differentiating organizational competency”.

This is something which has been at the heart of many of our projects here at RPS, by working with clients to take ownership of project delivery in key areas, we can quickly deploy a team of specialists to effect change and ensure a business keeps up with digital transformation.

It’s clear that this ‘Platform’ approach to talent is a solution which is more suited to the digital age over a traditional ‘HR Pipeline’ approach. Indeed one of the key questions the report asks when looking at talent models is:

“When do we borrow not buy?”

Before going on to say:

“HR leaders are building concentric circles of talent, with two in five planning to borrow more talent in the next 112 months. HR reports that they have more task- and project-based work and are more ready to parcel this out to free agents.”

“Perceptions are changing among workers, too, as 78% of full-time and part-time employees say they would consider working as a freelancer”.

As innovators of providing platform solutions to help our clients not only ‘borrow’ the talent they need, but also transfer the delivery risk in the process, it’s interesting to see how bigger business may have to begin to adapt to these trends and the shift that will come with it.

After all, the ‘Future of Work’ is already here.

You can read the full Mercer report here.

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