Brian Baker, partner and U.S. Digital Workforce leader for Mercer, is familiar with the view that companies are not fully prepared for the future of work. He has heard the concerns that the human resources function is not always a full-fledged partner in strategy and decision-making.


However, Baker has a somewhat different perspective. “From my vantage point, we see a lot of traction and a lot of excitement about the future,” he said. “Companies are engaged in imagining the future. We are having some extensive discussions about it. But right now, there is a lack of action when it comes to building workforces for the future."


The primary challenge, Baker said, is that many organizations are not sure how to get started. They lack an implementation plan. He often advises a three-step process for getting organized and taking action.


Workforce of the Future:
Closing The Preparedness Gap

Get the results from Bloomberg’s latest future of work survey to learn what HR leaders need to do to get their organizations ready.

“Companies are engaged in imagining the future. But right now, there is a lack of action when it comes to building workforces for that future.” – Brian Baker, US Digital Workforce Leader, Mercer

Step One: Align your business leadership on a vision for the future workforce.


Help the leadership team align around a shared vision defined by the organization’s strategy. “Leaders need to agree to a vision of the future,” Baker said. “It’s critical that all the leaders are backing up that vision, and it’s essential that everyone on the team is engaged in the process—no one can opt out.”


Step Two: Take an “X-ray” of the organization’s current workforce.


“Get an accurate picture of the skills you have now, and based on your business strategy, figure out where you think you need to be in three to five years—what your organization will need to look like and the skills you must have,” he said. He recommends applying data models and advanced analytics to make this prediction. “This X-ray shouldn’t just be limited to skills, but also to gaining other strategic insights around the external labor market, internal talent mobility and other key elements needed for success, like change readiness, a culture of feedback and coaching, etc.”


Step Three: Get your HR team ready to lead the change.


Help ensure the HR team is positioned to help the organization deliver the business outcomes it is striving for—that it has the authority and influence to help move an organization from its current to its future state.


“I know there is a perception that HR is not a true strategic partner, that it doesn’t have a seat at the table or isn’t ready to be in that position,” Baker said. “We think that’s not right. We think HR is ready to have a seat at the table. We see it at Mercer’s clients—leaders who are leading massive HR transformations into digital enterprises. And those are often being led by the chief people officer.


“Here’s how we think about it: It’s not about having a seat at the table, it’s about having a voice of influence, and the accountability for designing what the future workforce will look like for that company. That means giving HR the capacity to better understand the talent and skills that they will need for the future, and the technical skills to operationalize it.”


Ultimately, Baker said, “It’s a human-led, technology-enabled workforce strategy that will lead to success.”


Learn more about what HR can do to take the lead in building a workforce for the future.


This content is featured in the Bloomberg Next report: Workforce of the Future: More is Needed to Close the Preparedness Gap (December 2018). Access the PDF here.