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Revealed: Top priorities for UK’s future-focused employers

By Dawn Gibson

Nine out of ten companies cite skills development as their key focus for 2021, as the pandemic highlights the need for workforces to become more resilient and agile.

That is one of the key findings of Mercer’s 2021 Global Talent Trends study, which shows how employers are rapidly adapting their priorities during a fundamental shift in the way companies operate. Other top priorities cited in the research include:

  • > Re-thinking of workforce flexibility
  • > Better diversity and inclusion analytics
  • > Improving pay equity, and
  • > Increased focus on environment social and governance (ESG) practices.

Re-skilling and reinventing flexibility

According to the study, a whopping 93% of companies plan to focus on employee skills this year. As well, 64% of companies seek to reinvent flexibility for their workforce and 42% plan to conduct targeted upskilling of critical talent pools. As the need to redeploy internal resources to meet demand soared in 2020, 40% of organisations made it easier to share talent internally, with an additional 36% planning to do so this year.

Lisa Lyons, UK Workforce Transformation Leader at Mercer, said the findings reinforce the importance of viewing work and people through a skills lens so companies can be fast and flexible in the face of disruption. “Introducing an agile career framework, a consistent skills taxonomy and an internal talent marketplace will be critical success factors in increasing organisational resilience for the year ahead and beyond,” she said.

Pay equity and executive accountability 

With the Black Lives Matter movement as the catalyst, UK organisations are becoming increasingly vocal about improving diversity and inclusion (D&I) as well as proving corporate responsibility.

According to the Mercer report, 51% of UK companies plan to improve analytics on pay equity in the year ahead and 48% are including select ESG metrics in executives’ personal performance goals.

A total of 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, while 56% of UK organisations plan to improve physical wellbeing and health analytics.

Top tech trends for employers

The study coincides with new analysis by Guidant Global of key talent tech trends to emerge as a result of the pandemic. According to Guidant, the six top tech trends for 2021 and beyond are:

- Continued evolution of remote testing and assessment: While testing and assessment tools have been around for some time, adapting these for a remote environment without impacting cultural fit identification, diversity numbers or the assessment of soft and transferrable skills is key.

- Increased investment in direct sourcing and freelance marketplace technology: As efficiency and cost-saving remain high priorities, more employers want to leverage existing freelance contacts and build a bank of pre-identified candidates to engage quickly when required.

Data ownership shifting to the individual: With the accelerated pace of change in the contingent workforce, the traditional method of companies owning a worker’s personal identifiable information (PII) is no longer viable, according to Guidant. Instead, a shift has already begun where blockchain technology is being utilised to store compliance and vetting information, granting full ownership of this data to the individual.

- The continued rise of automation: The growth of automation will likely be fast-tracked this year as repetitive and data-driven tasks are re-allocated to tech and software.

- The rise of the ‘citizen developer’: Business users with no coding experience are using tech tools to personalise and adapt systems and processes related to their role, without the reliance on IT departments.

- Employers to better harness the power of data and analytics: More organisations will use data to be predictive and give a more detailed look into the ‘why’, not just the ‘what’.

“Better use of tech tools to ensure continuity, support and provide better insights for decision making, improve efficiencies, and reduce tactical work will deliver high-value engagement activity, strategic guidance, and improved relationship building,” said Simon Blockley, CEO of Guidant Global. “We certainly expect to see an uptick in talent tech investment in 2021 and beyond”.

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