Employee Relations

Flexibility and reskilling ‘top priorities’ for UK employers this year

According to Mercer’s latest report, world events, including protest against racial injustice, have also put the societal responsibilities and behaviour of companies into ‘sharp focus’

The financial impact and work-life disruption caused by the pandemic is leading UK employers to focus on “redefining” flexibility and reskilling to ensure a more resilient and agile business in the face of disruption, according to Mercer’s 2021 Global Talent Trends study.

It comes as the pandemic has driven a “fundamental shift” in the way companies operate, accelerating the need for an adaptable and agile workforce to drive business success. 

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According to Mercer’s survey, 93% of companies therefore cite skills development as their “key focus” in 2021. As the need to redeploy internal resources to meet demand soared in 2020, 40% of organisations said they also made it easier to share talent internally, with an additional 36% planning to do so this year. 

As remote working has become mainstream, more companies are also looking to reinvent flexibility for their workforce (64%), or do targeted workforce upskilling of critical talent pools (42%).

 Lisa Lyons, UK Workforce Transformation Leader at Mercer, said: “2020 significantly impacted the shape and design of the workplace with most companies now working towards adopting a more flexible business model to gain competitive advantage.

“Our research findings reinforce the importance of viewing work and people through a skills lens so that companies can act fast and flexibly in the face of disruption. Re-designing jobs in a way that prioritises skills over daily tasks means employers can also better support people in their careers.”

According to Mercer’s latest report, world events, including protest against racial injustice, have also put the societal responsibilities and behaviour of companies into “sharp focus”, leading employers to also prioritise diversity, equity and inclusion analytics and environment social and governance (ESG) practices.

Mercer added that a focus on creating better futures for people and organisations is now in “clear view”, with UK firms striving towards responsible business practices that are in the interests of employees, shareholders and wider society. 

Some 53% of UK organisations are now embedding ESG goals into their wider HR, while 51% of UK companies say they plan to improve analytics on pay equity in the year ahead

Increasingly UK organisations are including select ESG metrics (48%) into executives’ personal performance goals, while 81% of UK HR leaders say their company has continued or “stepped up the pace” towards an ESG and multi-stakeholder business approach, compared with two-thirds (66%) globally.

Lyons said: “For organisations to make impactful change, responsible business practices require deliberate thought and effort. In the current environment, firms need to lead with empathy and understand what issues matter to their employees. 

“Starting with purpose, ESG must be incorporated into the culture and strategy as a core element and not just as window dressing. To ensure lasting impact we need to change behaviours – through leadership mindsets, evolved decision making and embedding ESG within reward and incentives.” 

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