April 24, 2018

India, Mumbai

Mercer’s new Global Talent Trends Study identifies the top five workforce trends for 2018


After years of talking about disruption, executives are determined to turn talk into action. According to Mercer’s 2018 Global Talent Trends Study – Unlocking Growth in the Human Age, 98% of companies in India have innovation on their core agenda this year and all are planning organization design changes. At the same time, employees are seeking control of their personal and professional lives, with more than half asking for more flexible work options. As the ability to change becomes a key differentiator for success in a competitive global climate, the challenge for organizations is to bring their people along on the journey, especially as among the top asks from employees is for leaders who set clear direction.

“This year we saw palpable excitement from executives about shifting to the new world of work. They are pursuing an agenda of continuous evolution – rather than episodic transformation – to remain competitive,” said Ilya Bonic, President of Mercer’s Career business. “They recognize that it’s the combination of human skills plus advanced digital technology that will drive their business forward.”

In pursuit of new technologies, executives must focus on the “human operating system” to power their organization. Mercer’s study identified five workforce trends for 2018: Change@Speed, Working with Purpose, Permanent Flexibility, Platform for Talent, and Digital from the Inside Out.

Change@Speed: How companies prepare for the future of work depends on the degree of disruption anticipated. Those expecting the most disruption are working agility into their model and placing bets on flatter, more networked structures (42% are forming more holacratic work teams). Placing power in the hands of individuals makes it critical to build capacity and readiness early, something Indian HR leaders feel confident about. However, HR leaders feel slightly less prepared to reskill existing employees (80% are confident that they can do this well) than to hire from the outside (84%). As 30% of executives predict at least two in five roles in their organization will cease to exist in the next five years, being prepared for job displacement and reskilling is critical for organizational survival. Yet, only 46% of companies in India are increasing access to online learning courses and even fewer (33%) are actively rotating talent within the business.

Working with Purpose: Three-quarters (75%) of thriving employees globally, those who feel fulfilled personally and professionally, say their company has a strong sense of purpose. To find purpose, employees crave movement, learning, and experimentation. If not received, they will look for it elsewhere – over half (53%) of Indian employees satisfied in their current job still plan to leave due to a perceived lack of career opportunity, compared to 39% globally. “Creating a holistic career framework outlining core technical and behavioral capabilities that are required now and in the near future, and continuously updating these capabilities, is something a lot of Indian organizations have been placing their bets on” says Shanthi Naresh, India Business Leader, Careers. “Career frameworks are a great tool for providing a roadmap for talent hiring, learning, and growth, and communicating with employees” she adds. In addition to purpose, the new value proposition includes health and financial wellbeing. Employees on average spend 13 work hours per week worrying about financial matters, one of the highest amounts in our survey, yet only 29% of companies have policies in place to address financial health. Encouragingly, however, 77% of employees say their company ensures equity in pay and promotion decisions, the highest country score in our study. “Organizations that help employees worry less about basic security needs and invest more energy on their career aspirations will be rewarded with a workforce that has more pride, passion, and purpose,” said Mr. Bonic.

Permanent Flexibility: Individuals are vocal in their expectations of work arrangements that put them in control of their personal and professional lives. Employees want more flexible work options, and organizations are listening – 92% of executives view flexible working as a core part of their value proposition. Only 3% of executives consider themselves industry leaders when it comes to enabling flexibility and 35% of employees fear that choosing flexible work arrangements will impact their promotion prospects. “The lack of flexible work arrangements hurts women and older workers disproportionally, leading to absenteeism, lower energy levels, and burnout,” said Mr. Bonic. “As the skills gap widens and human competencies become more important, making sure that a diverse pool of talent can participate in the workforce at all life stages is both a business and a societal imperative.”

Platform for Talent: Given 96% of executives expect an increase in the competition for talent, organizations realize they must expand their talent ecosystem and update their HR models for a digital age. The time is now – over half (57%) of companies in India plan to “borrow” more talent in 2018 and 79% of employees would consider working on a freelance basis. “A successful talent strategy should take an inclusive view of talent supply pools including freelancers, returnees, retirees, veterans etc. And once hired, talent should be seen as the organization’s asset, freely movable to where it is needed most”, says Shanthi.  Executives agree, reporting that improving the ability to move jobs to people and people to jobs is one of the talent investments that would have the most impact on business performance this year.

Digital from the Inside Out: Indian companies are the most ahead on delivering a consumer-grade experience for employees, with 32% considering themselves a digital organization today – the highest of any market, compared to a global average of 15%. Some 73% of employees say that state-of-the-art tools are important for success, and encouragingly 77% say they have the digital tools necessary to do their job. Indian employees’ digital interactions with HR are the highest reported in the study at 66%. Business leaders are confident in HR’s ability to be a strategic partner in setting the course for the future, with 82% of executives reporting that HR aligns people strategy with the strategic priorities of the business.

Mercer’s study shares insights from over 7,600 senior business executives, HR leaders, and employees from 21 industries and 44 countries around the world. The report assesses the new drivers of the future of work, identifies critical disconnects concerning change, and makes powerful recommendations to capture growth in 2018.

For more information or to request the full 2018 Global Talent Trends Study, visit

About Mercer

Mercer delivers advice and technology-driven solutions that help organizations meet the health, wealth and career needs of a changing workforce. Mercer’s more than 22,000 employees are based in 44 countries and the firm operates in over 130 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), the leading global professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people. With nearly 65,000 colleagues and annual revenue over $14 billion, Marsh & McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. Marsh & McLennan Companies is also the parent company of Marsh,which advises individual and commercial clients of all sizes on insurance broking and innovative risk management solutions; Guy Carpenter, which develops advanced risk, reinsurance and capital strategies that help clients grow profitably and pursue emerging opportunities; and Oliver Wyman, which serves as a critical strategic, economic and brand advisor to private sector and governmental clients. For more information, visit . Follow Mercer on Twitter @MercerInIndia