SU lens on Talent Trends Report: Part 2

This is the second article in a two-part series, as I shine a Self unLimited lens on the contents of the Annual Global Talent Trends Report (2020) published by Mercer. Read Part 1.


It’s great to have research to signal what talent trends are taking place and what responses might be appropriate to such trends. What is often missing is the Employee voice about what an Employee would like to consider and do when enacting their personal agency. It is a core tenet of the Self unLimited idea that you are the sovereign of your workscape – you decide what information to pay attention to and how you want to be influenced by that information.

So here’s some more food for thought in response to the broad findings of the Mercer report.


C. The speed of changes – externally and in how organisations operate

From the report: “Executives are swiftly adopting future of work strategies to compete and stay relevant, while preparing to face a very likely economic downturn. If macroeconomic conditions continue to turn unfavorable, companies plan to double down on strategic partnerships (40%), use more variable talent pools (39%) and invest in automation (34%). These strategies will speed up the changes we’re seeing and in how we trade goods and services, operate our businesses and connect with one another.”


Implications for Employees with a Self unLimited orientation

  • How good are your relationships skills? You probably maintain reasonable relationships with people within your organisation. The need now is to be able to create and maintain relationships that cross organisational boundaries. The solutions for sustainable changes lie not with a single organisation but within value chains and sectors. It’s time to reach out and build rapport with others for strengthening those ties and getting access to diverse insight.
  • What skills and tools do you use to connect with others? Are these current and relevant to a work context? For the connections you make within an organisation, the organisation will likely provide tools and provide training in associated skills. Some organisations are getting onboard with digital transformation that includes adopting contemporary collaboration and communication practices. If your current organisation isn’t, then you can still do things to upskill for yourself. One way is to get involved with professional groups, in a volunteer capacity, and play with different, often free tools.
  • Do you have talents and skills that are not well known but are relevant? Do you have experiences and tools that you’ve been using outside your current organisation or something from the past that could be more valuable now? How do you bring these to the attention of your organisation? You are much more than the work you currently do. It can be easy to lose sight of this when you are focused on the day-to-day realities of your current job. Take some time out to reflect on the moments and highlights of your past experience. Open your eyes to the emergent possibilities around you – there maybe opportunities coming your way all the time, but you’ve simply not had the attention capacity to see them or consider them.
  • How do you present yourself in a new light when others have a limited view of who you are and what you can do? It’s time to write yourself a new self-introduction and even a new resume. Don’t start by ‘Save As’ on the old versions. If you seek to have others see you in a new light, then you must start be seeing yourself anew. Start with a blank sheet of paper. Get your thoughts going by thinking about what limits you have broken past in the last five years, and how these can be used as a starting place to redefining your current vocational self-portrait.
  • Do you know what abilities you have or could get that sit well aside automation capabilities? These capabilities may be to be part of automation, or to supplement it with the things that require human intelligence. The valuable things that you can bring as a human are soft skills (e.g. emotional intelligence and interpersonal relationships) and thinking skills (e.g. reasoning, imagining, etc). Such skills are not gained simply by attending training courses. They become well developed by taking action, and learning from what happened. It can be very useful to do this learning with support, like a mentor or coach to whom you can bring real-life situations and explore your reactions and resolutions.


D. The value and role of empathy in the workplace

A strong conclusion: “Thriving employees are twice as likely to work for an organization that effectively balances EQ and IQ in decision-making — something less than half of companies get right today. Moving the needle on this agenda means putting human and economic metrics side by side, caring enough to place responsibility for long-term futures above short-term gains, and creating space for people to be their whole selves. This is empathy, and it is needed for winning in an evolving world.”


Implications for Employees with a Self unLimited orientation

  • Do you feel like you get to be your whole self in your work? More importantly, is this a condition you have set for your workscape (as part of your Reign and Rules responsibilities)? It should not be assumed that all employees want to be their whole self in their work. Though much advice to HR assumes this is a homogenous organisational requirement, rather than a heterogenous requirement. Start by developing your own perspective about what parts of self you wish to bring to work, and which you don’t. There can be risk and reward for your choices – try some experiments to test the waters in your organisation about what you want, and how it the organisation responds to this.
  • What does empathy look like to you? Is everybody talking about the same thing when they talk about empathy? It’s a tricky concept and often confused with sympathy, and often associated with the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.) Which is wrong on both counts. I like George Bernard Shaw’s reframing: Don’t do until others as you would have them do unto you, their tastes might not be the same. Be curious – start noticing what others say and do, that seems odd to you. Chances are, it seems odd, because it’s not what you would do or prefer – and this is a great place to develop a fresh sense of empathy.
  • How do you have empathy for the people you work for? Who are in leadership above? If you’ve never been a leader of people before, or run a business, you can have little basis for knowing or even imagining what these people care about or what concerns them. They are your fellow employees, even though they have a different role. How could you see them in a different, potentially collegial light? Be curious; ask questions. Think of yourself like a detective on the hunt for information so you can form an opinion on ‘a person of interest’.
  • How do they have empathy for you? Organisations can tend to have ‘uniform’ approaches to how they express their interest, concern or appreciation for employees. If you feel there is low empathy – is it that the employer has no capacity for empathy, or that they are limited in their imagination to know about empathy as it would apply to you? Does it matter to you that you are understood? What would you like to do about a situation where you feel there is low or no true empathy? It can be challenging to have empathy for others, when you don’t feel you have been the recipient of an empathic understanding. In leading yourself, you may have to take the first step. Think of a small step you could make today to express to someone in authority, about the realities of your employee experience as you perceive it. When done respectfully with an intention for making things better, your perspective has the power to change things.

There’s much more to the report than I’ve covered here, why not check it out for yourself and determine what might be valuable for an employee perspective as organisations plan to change. Exercise your Reign responsibility as you think about how your values and intentions interact with these research insights.



Helen Palmer, Founder of Self unLimited, has not followed a traditional path in her ‘career’, nor does she intend to. It’s been her personal experience that she’s made plans, then life happened and things went in a direction that wasn’t anticipated. As a consequence she’s fascinated by the emergent and serendipitous approach to life and work. She thinks about ways to help others navigate the future of work, given the ambiguous possibilities and opportunities if there is courage to take that journey. And for good measure, she likes to inject humour and originality into her work.


(Amended) Photo by Van Tay Media on Unsplash