Facing a future filled with uncertainty, businesses know they need to transform but building the workforce required to  realise that goal is an ongoing challenge.

According to Mercer’s Talent Trends Global Report, when it comes innovation, 96 per cent of companies are planning organisation redesign, yet only 18 per cent consider themselves change agile.

In the company’s latest report, Fault Lines, Opportunity and Risk for Today’s Workforce Leaders, the authors write, “Business models are increasingly about innovation and leveraging partnerships across the value chain.

“Organisations are more focused on cross-functional collaboration and less on hierarchical decision-making. And strategy development cycles are shorter, with zero-based budgeting increasingly the norm.”

The report was gathered from 37 in-depth, qualitative, one-on-one interviews between Mercer leaders and business and HR leaders in multiple industries and sectors across Australia.

In Australia, 95 per cent of companies were aware of initiatives implemented by their businesses that help create or maintain an agile workforce with 64 per cent saying they have policies in place about hiring digital nomads/contractors or offshore labour.

Ephraim Patrick, practice leader for talent strategy and organisation at Mercer says while there is a need to pursue extreme short-term agility and flexibility, leaders need to also be more long-term in their thinking, to have a more secure bedrock upon which agility can thrive.

“Social, political and economic forces are combining to shape a world that is impossible to predict. It’s exciting, but also extremely challenging. The goal for businesses is to react quickly in ways that give them best position to take advantage of the growth that lies in the new world ahead.”

One of the interviewees adds, “I think there are untapped opportunities in accessing different pools of talent in our workforce ecosystems. The industrial age model of a job being nine to five, Monday to Friday, regular business hours and so on, is becoming increasingly irrelevant.”

When it comes to innovation, 89 per cent of organisations in this study said they are hiring people with the drive and capability to find new or better ways of doing things.

Most of them classed themselves as just ‘middle of the road’ in terms of the sophistication of their talent acquisition, with only 50 per cent rating their company a 3 out of 5 on the sophistication scale.

One company said, “In some cases, we don’t want applicants to have industry background, because we want them to look at things differently.”

“We have questions around continuous improvement, business improvement and leading through ambiguity. We have a series of psychometric testing tools that provide us with useful insights.”

The Gig Economy

Gig work is impacting the majority of businesses and industries and expect to see this type of employment increase in the future but unsure on the form it will take.

The report adds gig work is not a new phenomenon and it is important for business and HR leaders to shape a constructive and more mature collective narrative around workforce arrangements for the future including related risks and opportunities.

According to the study, more than three quarters of workforce leaders have seen younger workers deprived of an opportunity to advance because of longer tenured staff.

With 25 per cent of leaders saying they saw an instance where older employees had been pushed out of the workforce to create space for younger people.

Patrick says, “Age diversity in the workplace is growing and will continue to do so.

“However to bridge this gap it’s vital that business leaders understand the generational challenges and build strategies to address the competing needs of retaining the value of mature workers versus helping younger workers access opportunities.”

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