Are we facing a jobless future, with artificial intelligence replacing the human mind? Some say yes, as AI can already now program itself in ways that humans can’t even understand, while others say no. Or at least not yet.

Among the more optimistic is Mercer. In its 2018 Global Talent Trends Study, Unlocking Growth in the Human Age, the HR consulting firm says companies still need people to harness the power of technology, and that human talent — rather than capital and technology — is now the key factor linking innovation, competitiveness, and growth.

“People, not robots or artificial intelligence software, will continue to brainstorm new ideas … and drive organizations to succeed,” states the report. “We have entered the Human Age.”

Now what?

To succeed and unlock growth, organizations must become “change agile,” the report says, with employees who are willing to embrace continuous change, master new technologies, grow with the organization, and commit to lifelong learning.

However, finding and keeping such employees isn’t easy, especially in sectors with significant skills shortages, so successful recruitment and retention also means that companies must give them what they want: work with a purpose and permanent flexibility.

Beyond this, says the report, companies they must also become “smart platforms” for matching skill supply with work demand and utilize technologies to augment the human experience.

Also worth noting …

The report, based on input from 800 executives, 1,800 HR professionals, and more than 5,000 employees from 44 countries, also included other findings and recommendations:

  • New work models include a more networked approach and more than half of survey respondents said that flatter structures will be the most critical change organizations can make over the next two years.
  • As new skill sets are in high demand but short supply, it won’t be possible to “buy” the talent needed in many areas. To meet this challenge, 85 percent of HR respondents advocate developing and promoting from within. However, only 15 percent of C-suite respondents believed this would make a significant difference.
  • Organizations are now in a “learn or die” environment. Employers must make relevant learning accessible and employees must utilize these opportunities. Solutions include open online courses and microlearning, as well as internal training.
  • Working at a job that has meaning and that aligns with one’s personal values helps employees to thrive, as does considering how they’ll add value going forward.
  • Employees want career movement and support, and will look elsewhere if they don’t get it. They also want to see more emphasis on physical, psychological, and financial wellness. With regard to the latter, many say they worry about their finances, but only a small portion of companies offer help with this.
  • To determine whether employees feel aligned with a company’s purpose, employers should analyze data from HRIS, social media, and sites like Glassdoor.
  • Employees want permanent flexibility (rather than ad hoc) to enable better control of their personal and professional lives. This can include both stable and on-demand flexibility.
  • Of employees who say they’re “thriving” at work, more than 70 percent say their employers offer flexible work options. Employees also say this helps support their physical and mental health, reduces stress, and increases productivity.
  • A flexible workforce can include a critical talent core supported by an elastic network of freelancers and contractors.
  • The platform economy is the next leap in talent management. This matches people to projects (skill supply to work demand) based on their interests and gives companies greater access to talent through a broader ecosystem.
  • Technology should augment the work experience. While companies must utilize the best and newest technologies to thrive, these must be paired with human judgement for maximum impact.