ME Biz Leaders Prioritize Employee Wellness Amid Automation

For Middle East business leaders, “significant digital disruption” continues to be on the anvil for the next three years. As executives focus on making their organizations ‘future-fit’, significant human capital risks, including the ability to close the skills gap and overcome employee change fatigue, can impede transformation progress.

According to Mercer’s 2019 Global Talent Trends study, addressing these concerns is paramount, given that only one in five executives rate their company’s ability to mitigate human capital risks as very effective.

Mercer’s study finds that job security is one of the top five reasons employees in the Middle East joined their company, and also one of the main reasons they stay. However, as today’s companies increasingly focus on digitization and automation, two in three employees are concerned that AI and automation will replace their job — one of the highest percentages by country in the study.

“An important factor that organizations often neglect is transparency in the workplace, especially during a time of uncertainty. Fostering a collaborative and open culture builds a sense of trust and security among the employees. Even though we are living in an automation age, human interaction remains key to maintaining and developing the wellbeing of employees. Finding the right balance between human interaction and automation will create the ideal work environment. In addition to providing the appropriate education among staff will rid any automation anxiety that may exist,” said Nuno Gomes, Principal, Career Business Leader of MENAT.

Mercer’s study identifies four top trends that leading companies are pursuing in 2019.

Aligning Work to Future Value
With 65 percent of companies in the Middle East planning to invest more in automation this year, AI and automation continue to transform the competitive landscape and reshape how work gets done. The climate of uncertainty is impacting Middle East-based employees as well, with almost three in five asking for more clearly defined responsibilities. Yet, job redesign is low on the C-suite agenda, with only one in six executives saying that redefining jobs would have a sizeable impact on the company’s business performance.

To address the challenges ahead, HR must take an integrated approach to people strategy and leverage the right talent analytics to inform decisions on the future size and shape of the organization — only one-third of companies have good insights into the business impact of their buy, build, borrow and automate strategies.

Building Brand Resonance
What matters to employees and job seekers is the way a company conducts business and upholds the values of its brand. In a social, transparent world, the lines are blurring between a company’s consumer brand and its talent value proposition (TVP). Successful companies ensure that their brand resonates with all workforce segments — 82 percent of high-growth organizations in the Middle East differentiate their TVP to different groups such as contingent workers, compared to 67 percent of modest growth companies.

An organization’s total rewards philosophy is one area where brand values can shine. Thriving employees are nearly two times more likely to work for a company that ensures equity in pay and promotion decisions (85% vs. 50%).

Curating the Work Experience
An effective and relevant day-to-day work experience is essential for retaining top talent. According to Mercer’s study, thriving employees are more times more likely to work for an organization that enables quick decision-making (90% vs. 75%) and twice as likely for one that provides tools and resources for them to do their job efficiently (91% vs. 38%).

Personalized and simplified professional development plans are an ask from employees – nearly half (49%) of employees want curated learning to help them evolve their skills and prepare for future jobs. Technology plays a critical role — high-growth firms in the Middle East are three times as likely to provide a fully digital employee experience, or close to it, as moderate-growth firms (56% vs 18%).

Delivering Talent Led Change
To ensure talent is at the center of change, HR should have a voice in business transformation. This year’s study found 56 percent of HR leaders in the Middle East are involved in planning the rollout of major change projects and 79 percent involved in executing those plans.

However, only one in three HR leaders participated in the idea generation stage of transformation initiatives. HR sees employee morale as a significant barrier to making changes stick. ‘Employee attrition’ is one of the top challenges in the year ahead.

Mercer’s 2019 Global Talent Trends study shares insights from over 7,300 senior business executives, HR leaders, and employees from nine key industries and 16 geographies around the world.

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