As organisations face a host of workforce challenges, executives in India Inc are prioritising workforce upskilling and reskilling, according to Mercer’s 2022 Global Talent Trends study. As per the study, India HR Inc this year is focusing on talent acquisition, employee engagement, employee sickness, and productivity.

It further highlights that difficulty hiring the right talent, at the right price, in time remains a top concern (71 per cent) in 2022. To navigate this, companies are reshaping talent strategies while focusing more on internal talent marketplaces and leveraging the gig economy (42 per cent).

“Companies advancing on this objective have been investing in targeted learning programs and offering internal gig experiences to bridge skill gaps. What they are grappling with, however, is to scale in a sustainable manner,” the report said. On the other hand, employees are struggling to find time to learn a new skill (36 per cent).

“Resetting the skills agenda to meet both current and future talent needs will ensure people are, and remain, employable. Harnessing AI and technology will be a critical factor in designing and driving skills-based talent practices at scale,” said Padma Ramanathan, Country Report Lead and Principal-Talent Advisory, Mercer.

“In an employee-centric labour market, where the majority of employees want choice, we are seeing organisations wanting to partner with employees to co-create work models based on where/when/how employees want to work and rethink pay and benefits strategies customised to target populations,” she added.

Key trends

According to the study, sustainability strategies and goals are a clear priority for India executives. Over one-third of employees said that they value organisation’s brand and reputation and equal career progression opportunities. For such employees it was the second-best reason for joining their current employer (after job security).

Further, employees want to work for organisations that reflect their personal values. 99 per cent of employees expect their employer to pursue a sustainability agenda, balancing financial results with social issues, diversity/equity, and environmental impact.

“Organisations that walk the talk on their core values — through company purpose, work standards, and investment strategies — will better relate with their stakeholders and be better positioned to deliver business,” the report said.

“In response, one clear shift is visible in moving from intent to action on DE&I – for example, accounting for diverse circumstances in redesigned policies or tailoring for a multi-generational workforce,” it further explained.

Further, 82 per cent of HR professionals are predicting higher than normal turnover this year — most notably with regard to younger workers and those in the digital space. “Relatable organisations see the value in ‘partnering’ over ‘leading’ as evidenced in evolving ‘return-to-work’ strategies,” it said.

Additionally, 74 per cent of employees said that they would join a company only if they can work remotely or in a hybrid engagement. For over half of HR leaders, flexibility is a key lever for sourcing, attracting, and retaining a diverse talent pool. A similar majority believed that they can build cultures and practices that are adaptive by design to cater to a flexible model.

“Respecting individual choice, and treating employees as equal stakeholders in designing work and workplace is at the heart of “working with the company. At the same time, ensuring employees feel the choice is fair and equitable to all workgroups will be key to success,” said Shanthi Naresh, Partner & India Career Business Leader, Mercer.

Employee focus

Organisations must also focus on nurturing well-being and enabling employees to thrive. “The pandemic exposed and worsened the health and wealth gaps for different populations, underscoring that accessibility and affordability of care are not enough,” it said.

About 85 per cent of respondents reported the risk of burnout at work in the next 12 months due to feeling insufficiently rewarded for efforts. However, three out of four employees said that they are thriving in their current role/organisation, primarily due to feeling valued, having meaningful work, and working in an organisation that supports a healthy lifestyle.

“Nurturing physical, mental, and financial well-being through benefits that matter and showing purpose in value proposition remain in focus. Executives agree that along with skills, well-being would deliver the biggest ROI,” it said.

Organisations must also focus on a ‘balanced’ future of work. “All of India Inc is prepped for enterprise-wide transformation. The pandemic with the acceleration of technologies, new work models, and ways of working has been an enabler but has also taken its toll through change fatigue and exhaustion. At the same time, employees are feeling optimistic about seeking a more balanced future of work,” the report said.

‘Lifestyle contract’

This includes a redesigned work schedule to allow time for family, hobbies, work, health, and learning even as working remains an important part of life (78 per cent). “Reshaping the experience of employees around what they are viewing and valuing as a “lifestyle contract” and redesigning HR and HR processes to cater to proposed interactions is important,” as per the study.

“The challenge is making progress while tackling differing views on the future of work. Companies that are advancing better are those reflecting their values more visibly, listening intently and working closely with multiple stakeholders, using data-driven decisions for action with empathy, and transforming in a manner, that is human, relatable, and ultimately sustainable,” Ramanathan said.

The seventh edition of Mercer’s Global Talent Trends Study is based on responses from nearly 11,000 C-suite executives, HR leaders, and employees representing 16 geographies and 13 industries.