C-Suite executives believe AI is key to increased productivity, yet most workforces are not ready to transform, according to Mercer’s 2024 Global Talent Trends Study

Drawing on insights from over 12,000 C-suite executives, HR leaders, employees, and investors globally, the research reveals actions employers are taking to thrive in this new era.

Mercer, a business of Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC), today released its 2024 Global Talent Trends Study. Drawing on insights from over 12,000 C-suite executives, HR leaders, employees and investors globally, the research reveals actions employers are taking to thrive in this new era.

“This year’s findings highlight staggering shifts at work,” said Pat Tomlinson, President, Mercer. “They point to a notable divergence between the views of the C-Suite and HR on what will carry business forward in 2024, and a lag in employees’ views on the impact of technology. As we usher in an age of human-machine teaming, organizations need to place people at the heart of transformation.”

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) viewed as key to increasing productivity

The rapid growth in generative AI capabilities has raised hopes for workforce productivity gains, with 40% of executives predicting AI will deliver gains of more than 30%. Yet, three in five (58%) believe tech is advancing faster than their firms can retrain workers, and less than half (47%) believe they can meet this year’s demand with their current talent model.

“Raising productivity through AI is top of mind for executives but the answer does not lie in technology alone. Greater workforce productivity requires intentional, human-centric work design,” said Kate Bravery, Mercer’s Global Talent Advisory Leader and author of the study. “Leading companies recognize that AI is just part of the equation. They are taking a holistic view to address drains on productivity and deliver greater agility through new models of human-machine teaming.”

There are challenges in finding a sustainable path to the future of work. Three in four (74%) executives are concerned about their talent’s ability to pivot and less than a third (28%) of HR leaders are very confident they can make human-machine teaming a success. Key to greater agility is embracing skills-powered talent models, something high-growth companies have already mastered.

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“This year’s findings highlight staggering shifts at work”

Employee trust has declined across the board

In 2023, trust in employers fell from an all-time high in 2022 – a red flag, since the research shows that trust has a major impact on employees’ energy, sense of thriving and intent to stay. Those who trust their employers to do the right thing for them and society are twice as likely to say they are thriving, with a strong sense of purpose, belonging and feeling valued.

Nearly half of employees say they want to work for an organization they can be proud of, and some companies are responding by prioritizing sustainability efforts and “Good Work” principles. Given that fair pay (34%) and development opportunities (28%) are key drivers of workers’ intent to stay this year, employers are incentivized to make faster progress on pay equity, transparency and equitable access to career opportunities in the year ahead.

Globally, employees are clear that a sense of belonging helps them thrive, but only 39% of HR leaders say women and minorities are well represented on their organization’s leadership team and just 18% say that recent diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts have increased retention of key diversity groups. Three in four employees (76%) have witnessed age discrimination. As these challenges compound with ongoing skills shortages, greater attention around inclusion and meeting employees’ needs will help all employees thrive.

Resilience will be vital in the coming years

Recent investments in risk mitigation have paid off, with 64% of executives saying their business can withstand unforeseen challenges, up from 40% two years ago. Near-term concerns, such as inflation, heavily influence executives’ three-year plans, however longer-term risks, such as cyber and climate, may not be getting the necessary attention they deserve.

Building individual resilience is just as vital as enterprise resilience, with four out of five (82%) employees concerned that they will burn out this year. Redesigning work for employee well-being is critical to mitigating this risk, with 51% of high-growth companies (with revenue growth of 10% or more in 2023) having already done so, compared to just 39% of their lower-growth peers.

Employee experience is a top priority

Over half of executives (58%) worry that their company is not doing enough to inspire workers to adopt new technologies, and two-thirds (67%) of HR leaders shared concerns that they implemented new technology solutions without transforming work. Employee experience is HR’s top priority this year; a worthy focus given thriving employees are 2.6 times more likely to say that their employer designs work experiences that bring out their best.

HR plays a critical role in making work better for all, but there is an increased imperative for HR to work in tandem with risk and digital leaders to usher in the necessary change at the pace required. To meet organizational and employee expectations, 96% of companies are planning some HR functional redesign this year, focused on delivering across silos and leading digital ways of working.

Investors value engaged workforces

This year, for the first time Mercer gathered input from asset managers on how an organization’s talent strategy impacts their investment decisions. Nearly nine out of ten (89%) see workforce engagement as a key driver of company performance, and 84% consider a “churn-and-burn” approach to be damaging to business value. Investors also say that fostering a climate of trust and fairness is the most important factor in building true, sustainable value over the next five years.

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