Majority of Canadian employers expecting HR disruption ahead: study

Three-quarters (77 per cent) of Canadian executives predict significant disruption in human resources in the next three years, according to Mercer’s 2019 global talent trends study.

The study, which polled more than 7,300 senior business executives, HR leaders and employees from 16 countries, found this is higher than expectations from the U.S. (65 per cent) and globally (73 per cent). Addressing these concerns is important, the study noted, since only one in three participants rated their company’s ability to mitigate human capital risks as very effective.

Read: Well-being, technology among 2018 human resources trends: report

“Ongoing technological advances have moved organizations from anticipation to action in preparing for the future of work,” said Gordon Frost, partner and career business leader for Mercer Canada, in a press release. “But as companies transform their business models and strategies to realize the opportunities of the digital revolution, they risk ignoring the needs and desires of individuals and overwhelming them with too much change and process.”

Among employee respondents, job security is one of the top three reasons they joined their company and the main reason they stay. However, a quarter of Canadian employees are concerned artificial intelligence and automation will replace their job, compared to one in five employees in the U.S.

In Canada, thriving employees — those prospering in the areas of health, wealth and career — are twice as likely to describe their role as relationship-focused and three times as likely to call their work environment collaborative. “For employers to create a thriving workforce, they must tap into data to create personalized employee experiences while driving connectivity for employees,” said Frost.

The Mercer study identifies four top trends that leading companies are pursuing in 2019: aligning work to future value; building brand resonance; curating the work experience; and delivering talent-led change.

Read: Canadian HR functions unprepared for growth of AI, automation: survey

In terms of aligning work to future value, 53 per cent of HR leaders in Canada said they plan to invest more in automation this year. As well, while job design is high on executives’ agenda in the U.S., it’s a low priority for Canada’s C-suite, with only one in five executives saying that redefining jobs would have a sizeable impact on the company’s business performance.

“The key is aligning jobs and people to where value is being created and enabling a mechanism to reward future-fit skills and behaviours,” said Frost.

Looking at brand resonance, the study noted the lines are blurring between a company’s consumer brand and its value proposition for employees. It found successful companies ensure that their brand resonates with all workforce segments, with 56 per cent of high-growth organizations saying they differentiate their proposition to different groups, such as millennials versus baby boomers or full-time employees versus contingent workers. This compared to 47 per cent of modest-growth companies.

In Canada, thriving employees are 12-times more likely to work for a company that ensures equity in pay and promotion decisions — 71 per cent versus six per cent, and sufficiently higher than employees in the U.S., who are four-times more likely, according to the study.

Read: 82% of global employers planning to review pay equity, gender pay: survey

Also, thriving employees are four-times more likely to work for an organization that enables quick decision-making — 76 per cent versus 19 per cent — and nearly three-times more likely for one that provides tools and resources for them to do their job efficiently — 77 per cent versus 27 per cent.

The study also found employees are asking for personalized and simplified professional development plans. More than half (58 per cent) of study participants said they wanted curated learning to help them evolve their skills and prepare for future jobs. And while technology plays a critical role, only two per cent of Canadian respondents said they provide a fully digital experience for employees.

Half (51 per cent) of HR leaders in Canada said they’re involved in planning the rollout of major change projects and 45 per cent said they’re involved in executing those plans. But only one in three said they participated in the idea generation stage of transformation initiatives.

Study participants noted employee morale is a significant barrier to making changes stick, with employee attrition the top challenge cited for the year ahead, followed by change resistance and a decline in employee trust.

“These findings point to the need for transformation efforts to focus on people-centred design and better talent metrics to understand how people are experiencing and embracing change,” said Frost.

 Read: Wearable employee trackers raise issues around workplace morale, legality