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Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

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“Eliminating the part of the labor force that will do dull, dirty, and dangerous work will not create sustainable jobs for others.”


Katherine Jones is Partner and Director of Talent Research at Mercer. She was previously VP, Human Capital Management Technology Research at Bersin by Deloitte. Katherine will be speaking at HR Tech World in London on March 21st and 22nd this year. Get your tickets here!

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: It feels like diversity and inclusion are finally finding some maturity. What trends are you seeing? Are we really moving on from targeting certain demographics to a system based on opportunity for all?

Katherine Jones, Partner, Mercer: Interestingly, some of the global view of diversity and inclusion based on the findings of Mercer’s 2017 Global Talent Trends Study were surprising.

For companies reviewing their pay policies for gender bias and the like, it seems like it may be an area of investment for the C-Suite. However, it appears not to be. Only one-third of executives globally saw an increasingly diverse talent pool as a major business impact on their organization over the next couple of years.

And only 14% saw advancing the D&I agenda as an area of talent investment over that time period – though it was higher in the UK (26%).

Executives in France demonstrated the least interest, where 2% favored advancing such an agenda. When executives compared themselves to their peers in terms of D&I, the majority felt they were about the same—only 28% (37% in the UK) felt they outshone their industry peers in their diversity and inclusion efforts.

On the other hand, 43% HR professionals worldwide consider an increasingly diverse talent pool as most impactful in the years ahead, and 31% thought immigration one of the most important social issues.

Almost two-thirds (63%) agree that their talent review processes effectively address the needs of their diverse and minority employees today.

Employees tended to see their companies as promoting diversity – 60% of employees globally thought so; employees in India and the US were more inclined to agree overall.

Fifty-six percent of employees globally felt their companies were inclusive, with the highest levels of agreement in India and China. It appears that support drops for specific populations:  fewer thought that women, older workers, and least of all, disabled workers were supported in their workplaces.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What are the profound myths around the future of work going into 2017 that you wish people didn’t believe?

Katherine Jones, Partner, Mercer:

Myth 1: A regressive view of what constitutes sustainable job creation.

Short-term jobs are not the answer. Eliminating the part of the labor force that will do dull, dirty, and dangerous work will not create sustainable jobs for others.

Decreasing educational preparedness for highly-skilled jobs is a plan doomed for failure.

Leaders need to understand the long-term repercussions to the economy as a whole when making these short-sighted decisions.

Myth 2: Technology will eat your lunch.

In some areas it might—and should.

Robots never get sleepy or sore doing repetitive, boring tasks. Let them do it. Let’s employ people where people have skills that machines don’t currently have—empathy to aid the sick or elderly, or ability to patiently help children learn to read.

Myth 3: Machine thinking can think instead of me.

Predictive mechanisms in HR technology today may seem like they can hire, promote, screen out, or fire people today better than people can.

While the algorithmic capability may be in the software, it is incumbent on HR professionals to take the time to understand those algorithms.

What data in my system are they drawing on? Does it make sense for our organization?

Furthermore, HR needs to be able to recognize when errors occur and not solely rely on the calculations, predictions, and recommendations that software makes without understanding on what basis those recommendations were made.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: HR’s out of sync with the C-Suite, says your latest research. We’ve been saying this for years. Why is it so hard to create alignment?

Katherine Jones, Partner, Mercer: Despite the improvement of process management capabilities available through today’s HCM technology, much of HR is still bogged down in tactical, reiterative tasks.

The thinking of HR professionals has changed little year over year, thus, they are failing to see—hence plan for—the changes in business structures that their executives are moving toward.

HR is more likely to focus on internal workforce development, while their executives foresee more hiring from external sources rather than internal promotions.

Concomitantly, HR does not see the scarcity of talent at the same level of concern as their C-suite, who sees a future dearth in leadership talent in the future. There is even a disconnect in how HR and executives view their companies’ value propositions (though in this case HR is more aligned with the employee view.)

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Your latest research suggests employees are pleased with the level of development they received in the past year. This is great news. But is it a fluctuation or indicative of a shift in attitudes towards learning?

Katherine Jones, Partner, Mercer: In 2016, employees echoed the comments we often hear from millennials—they sought more avenues for learning, development, and opportunities to progress.

In fact, according to Mercer’s survey, that year only one-quarter of employees felt their organizations provided them with coaching and developmental opportunities.

While to a certain extent this is still true of the 5,446 employees participating in our 2017 survey , over half (55%) indicated that they had received developmental opportunities, 46% stated they wanted the same degree of coaching and development in the future rather than more, and 4% wanted less coaching and development activity on the job.

There are a couple possibilities for this shift. Reinstitution of funds for corporate training programs that had their budgets slashed in the recession has led to invigorated efforts in training and development.

The recent emphasis on coaching as a complement to performance reviews creates more learning opportunities for employees.

In addition, perhaps it is a response by HR to previous employee demand. HR may have led the way to new programs as a means to both better retain individuals and grow their internal workforce for the skill sets perceived as needed in the future.

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Jamie Lawrence

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