Even as competition for talent intensifies and traditional business models are being rapidly disrupted by technology and socio-demographic shifts, many human resources professionals are still taking an evolutionary approach to their talent strategies, a recent study on global talent trends by HR consultancy Mercer warned.

The findings of the study, published on March 21, are based on the survey responses of more than 1,700 HR professionals, 5,400 employees, and 400 business executives from 37 countries and 20 industry sectors. When asked about their top priorities for 2017, the leading responses among the HR professionals surveyed were attracting top talent externally (44%), developing leaders for succession (41%), identifying high potentials (37%), and building skills across the workforce (37%).

Researchers pointed out that while these priorities reflect the desire to evolve employee capabilities, they may not align with executives’ goals for more substantial workplace change. They noted, for example, that business executives appear to be more concerned about talent scarcity than HR professionals, with 43% of business executives saying they expect a significant increase in competition, compared to 34% of HR professionals.

While 70% of HR professionals said they feel confident about the talent management processes they have in place, significant shares of employees reported that they are still looking elsewhere for new opportunities, with 34% saying they plan to leave their current role in the next 12 months, even though they are satisfied in their job.

In addition, researchers cautioned that HR professionals may be missing opportunities to leverage the issues that employees say are important to them. For example, even though 61% of the employees ranked their health as more important than their wealth or career, and 47% indicated that they expect their workplace to become more focused on employee health in the next few years, health and well-being ranked second-to-last on the HR professionals’ list of top talent management priorities this year.

Researchers also emphasized that flexible work arrangements are important to employees, with more than half reporting that both their direct manager (61%) and company leaders (57%) are supportive of flexibility. Nevertheless, 56% of employees said they want more flexible work options, and 50% said they are concerned that working remotely or part-time could adversely affect their promotional opportunities. And while more than three-quarters (77%) of the full-time employees surveyed said they would consider working on a contingent or contract basis, the study found that neither business executives nor HR leaders indicated that they expect the “gig economy” to have a major impact on their business in the next two years.

In addition, the results showed that HR professionals are lagging behind the expectations of both executive leadership and employees in adopting new technologies. Whereas 61% of business executives said they believe technology at work is the workforce trend likely to have the most impact on their organization in the next two years, less than half (49%) of HR professionals agreed.

From Benefit Trends Newsletter, Volume 60, Issue 4

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