Each month, Mercer brings together in-house experts and external thought leaders, subject matter experts and influencers for an online discussion of the most pressing issues in the future of work and health. The program is called #MercerChats and takes place entirely on Twitter, where individuals around the world engage with Mercer’s intellectual capital and other leading thought leadership to share insights and discuss the best solutions to help organizations thrive. Below is a summary of our January MegaChat tweet chat conducted during the 2020 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, highlighting some of the key themes discussed and the best insights shared. 


In 1994, Blockbuster was a $8.4 billion company. Every weekend, tens of thousands of people would flock to their neighborhood brick-and-mortar store to rent a VHS or DVD, and three days later those same people would return their movies (hopefully after rewinding!) to be rented again in perpetuity. It was a perfect business model. Or it was until Netflix arrived.


I don’t need to tell you the rest: declining rentals and bankruptcy filing for Blockbuster; the launch of streaming, binge watching, and industry domination for Netflix. Though you can debate whether this is an ode to tech or an elegy for retail, one theme is indisputably at the core of this story: innovation and digital experience.


This same lesson applies to the employment experience. As executives around the world spend millions of dollars on digital products, user experience, and innovation, many employees continue to operate in a rigid, legacy structure that prioritizes status quo and short-term success. This distinct choice that organizations make – to value the continuity and stability of what they know over the risk and potential of the new – limits their ability to evolve into high-performing, future-ready employers. So as all leadership looks to avoid becoming a future case study in the failure to innovate, there’s an important question to ask: are you a Blockbuster, or are you a Netflix? 


Making the Business Case(s)


There isn’t one business case for making innovation and digital experience core to your organization – there are dozens. From workforce engagement to talent acquisition to business development, the importance of modernizing your organization truly cannot be overstated.


But why now? Because the world is changing around you, and the new demographics of the talent pool and expansion of the gig economy and contract workers demand it. With the decentralization of teams and the blurring of what it means to be an “employee”, it’s more important than ever to develop a modern employment experience for your whole team and empowering them with the tools and resources they need. In an era where knowledge is power and efficiency is vital, a digital experience can ensure that every individual who works for you has the information they need when they need it.


Still need more? Consider what a digital employee experience can mean to your talent strategy. Whether you’re looking to attract or retain, motivate or encourage, empower or engage your employees, a digital experience is great way to get the most of your people. Today’s top talent is looking for an environment where they’re free to build something great, and wise employers are harnessing that potential by giving them a place to create.






What’s Holding You Back


If the business case for a more innovative, digitally-enabled organization is clear, the path to building one is not. That’s because there often is not just one obstacle standing in the way of you and your digital future. Instead, there can be dozens of hurdles – large and small – that must be overcome to unlock your organization’s potential.


In some organizations, the prospect of overhauling every employee touchpoint to a more modern solution is daunting enough to inspire paralysis. In others, the cost of upgrading complex HRIS systems and patching legacy programs can seem insurmountable. While these are all valid considerations, they lose sight of the most important question: can you afford to fall behind?


The key is not to be distracted by these individual tasks. They’re each individual battles, and you’re focused on winning the war. To do that, you need to identify the real barriers to progress, which are often less tangible. What key stakeholders are heavily invested in your existing, traditional framework, and how can you devise the digital transformation journey to ensure they’re along for the journey?




What Can Unlock Progress


If a digitally-enable future of work is your end goal (and it really should be), there are any number of ways to achieve it. That said, no path should overlook the primary focus of your digital transformation: your people. All the new tech and systems in the world won’t mean a thing if you don’t bring your talent along on the journey, so be sure that when you invest, you’re investing in them.


Start with upskilling and redeploying your talent. This is well worn advice that should be familiar in 2020, but that doesn’t make it any less critical. Mercer’s research shows that 78% of talent believes that they’re ready for new and expanded skills, but executives believe only 45% of the workforce can adapt to the new world of work. Closing this gap is top of mind for leadership around the world, and it should be yours too.


But reskilling is just the beginning. If your organization is really going to change, the real transformation needs to come from your culture. Whether through new incentive packages that encourage the fail-fast, experimental mindset that’s absolutely integral to fostering innovation or via new tools that enable better collaboration, a holistic and top-to-bottom change of perspective can help organizations redirect financial, emotional and mental resources to the real drivers of growth in the future of work.







In the end, if you want to become a digital, innovative company, you shouldn’t be consumed by outfitting your workspaces with new tech or hiring a team of experience designers for your workforce. The change comes from within, with strategic, sensible adjustments that let your workforce engage in the type of collaborative, innovative experiments that will define the future of work. If you want to explore this path, you should consider the following:


  • Resist the Complacency of Success: Failure is integral to growth, and success can distract you from the bigger gains that are available for the taking. Allow yourself and your team to fail as you look for new opportunities, and don’t forget that just because something is working doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.
  • Let Your People Guide You: No matter how brilliant or perceptive your leadership is, you’ll never be able to match the diversity of ideas and perspectives within your organization. That’s why it’s vital that you let ideas percolate within your organization and give them an opportunity to grow from the bottom-up.
  • Use Tech to Empower Innovation, Not Drive It: Tech can unlock a new world of potential, but it’s not going to pursue it. Don’t forget that people will ultimately determine how innovative your company is, so build a talent pool that’s not confined by the present. 
Danielle Guzman
Danielle Guzman

Global Head of Social Media