Few issues are more important to a business than preparing its workforce for the future, and none are more challenging. Preparedness requires strategic focus, cross-functional collaboration, a deep understanding of emerging technology, and a vision for talent development.


A Bloomberg study conducted in September 2018 asked 300 business leaders across HR, IT, Finance, Operations, and Strategy if they were meeting these challenges, and where they might need to strengthen efforts to fully prepare for the future of work.


The survey identified several immediate issues with potentially serious consequences for business.


  1. A majority of respondents said their company doesn’t have a formal strategy in place to specifically address the future of work.
  2. Human resource departments are playing a limited role in planning and decision-making.
  3. Only companies considered high-tech are keeping up with and embracing the rapid pace of change.

Workforce of the Future: More is Needed to Close the Preparedness Gap

These issues put at risk the long-term health of organizations that are not actively preparing. Right now, most companies are focused on current, rather than future, talent needs. For workforce issues, though, the future is fast approaching, and all companies should be making preparedness a priority.


Download the PDF of the full report or read on for a summary of the highlights.


The Preparedness Gap: 63% of organizations reported having no specific strategy to prepare for the future of work


Only about one-third of respondents said their companies have a formal workforce preparation strategy, and a notable proportion (28%) are only just beginning to discuss the topic with senior leadership. Furthermore, only about half feel their company is ready to incorporate new technologies that will emerge in the next five years.



HR’s Limited Role: Only 41% of HR professionals reported being involved in their organization’s technology roll-out and integration with the workforce


Human resource professionals largely remain in their traditional roles of recruiting and workforce development rather than taking the lead in setting future strategy and decision-making when it comes to technology and automation, and how they are rolled out in the workforce. IT usually taking responsibility for those decisions with significant input from finance, strategy, and operations.



Tech Sector Takes the Lead: 52% of High-tech companies reported having a specific strategy to prepare for the future of work


Meanwhile, only 21% of companies across other industries said they have a specific strategy. High-tech companies are the most forward-leaning in thinking about the future of work. In fact, they are on top of all the key readiness elements, from collaboration to adapting to change and disruption to anticipating the impact of emerging technologies on their people and market position.




How Do You Get Your Organization Ready for the Future of Work?


All companies can take a cue from the tech industry to recognize that the future of work is now. Winning companies are already solving a number of key workforce issues, so firms without a strategy risk falling behind. So what can you do to get started? Through work with clients, we have determined three key steps you can take to starting your journey towards a workforce for the future on the right foot.


  1. Align Your Business. In order for the plan to work, all of your business leaders need to agree on a shared vision. Align your workforce strategy with your business strategy, and get all your leaders to work together to create the change that will help you succeed in the future of work. “Leaders need to agree to a vision of the future for their business and their workforce,” says Brian Baker, US Digital Workforce leader at Mercer. “It’s critical that all of the organization’s leaders are backing up that vision and are engaged in the process—no one can opt out.”
  2. “X-Ray” Your Workforce. Use data and analytics to gain strategic insights on your current workforce, the external labor market, internal talent mobility and more. This will help you identify the skills gaps and critical roles you need today in a workforce built for tomorrow.  “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,” says Baker.
  3. Get HR Ready To Lead. Increase the impact that HR can have by giving them the skills, authority and influence they need to lead your future of work strategy. “It’s not about having a seat at the table,” says Baker. “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.”


Ready to get started? Mercer has been ranked as the #1 HR consulting firm in the US for 16 consecutive years by career intelligence site Vault and is well-positioned to help you build your workforce for the future. Contact us to connect with a consultant today.




Download the Whitepaper – Workforce of the Future: More is Needed to Close the Preparedness Gap


Want more of the detailed findings from Bloomberg’s Future of Work survey?

Check out the full report here (PDF).