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Big workplace change ahead, Mercer exec tells Forum

Leslie Mays

Disruptive forces are creating transforming the retail and consumer goods workplace, Mercer Partner Leslie Mays told more than 300 industry executives at the NEW Executive Leaders Forum 2017, August 2 in Santa Barbara.

Addressing “The Talent Opportunity,” Mays outlined trends that will affect who works for the industry, how they work and what they will expect from an employer. May said:

  • By 2020 more than one-third of the core skills that will be required to compete don’t even exist yet. There will be large pockets of talent scarcity. “We don’t even know what they are yet,” Mays said. “Twenty-five percent of skills we use today will be completely obsolete. What does that mean for our education system, our companies, our careers?”
  • Changes in socio-demographics will impact what people want in an employer, career paths and how long employees work. Mays cited factors like increased longevity, advances in fertility, changing caregiving roles, workforce participation, free agency and changes in the digital social world.
  • As more people work for many different organizations, companies will see changes in corporate culture, the benefits workers want, how works gets done. “What does this mean in terms of belonging to an organization?”

Mercer’s 2017 Global Talent Trends study of more than 400 executives and 5,400 employees found three issues “keeping executives up at night”: The impact of technology on work, an aging workforce and talent scarcity.

“The talent [senior leaders] need for tomorrow will be very different from today,” Mays said. “The impact on semi-skilled roles, white-collar roles and support functions [will be] huge. They are not confident they can build [the necessary talent] from within.”

The Mercer report says widespread changes will happen quickly, especially in four major areas:

Growth by design. Ninety-three percent of executives surveyed are planning to redesign their organizations in the next two years, moving support functions to shared services; flattening their organization by eliminating roles, functions and departments; and developing project-based and other special projects.

A shift in values. Executives need to think about what would make a positive impact on the workplace. Ninety-eight percent of employees told Mercer they want recognition and to be rewarded for more than just financial contributions to the organization.

“Workplace for me.” More than 60 percent of employees want more flexible work arrangements, which is a big pain point for employers, Mays said. “One in three employees who requested flexibility were turned down.”

The quest of insight. An empowered workforce has to have good data to drive decision making. “Marketing data leads to business transformation and expansion,” Mays said. “The same notion has to be applied to people data today.”