The Experience


The Experience



On April 25, 2018, business leaders from more than 66 organizations came together at Mercer’s second annual Synthesis Global Summit. Instead of a typical conference of listening to a turnstile of thought leaders, participants were immersed in human capital issues and encouraged to co-create solutions.


Synthesis focused on The Future of Work and five key themes:

  • Human Capital Risk Vs. Uncertainty.
  • Workforce for the Future
  • Customer & Employee of the Future
  • Multifaceted Workforce Strategy
  • Total Well-Being


Participants engaged with these themes through several lenses, from roleplaying decision making in our pod sessions to sharing new ideas with peers. By the end of Synthesis, participants had an action plan to take back to their organizations as well as a renewed sense of optimism and excitement for what the future holds.






An eye-opening, interactive experience that brought to life how work will be different in the not-so-distant future. Attendees were taken through pods, each one representing the five key topic areas that framed thinking throughout the day.


  • Human Capital Risk Vs. Uncertainty





    Risk and uncertainty are very different in character. Risk is measureable and concrete; organizations can appeal to history and relative frequency of outcomes in the past to anticipate – and mitigate against – what the future will hold. Uncertainty, by nature, is vague and unpredictable. However, if properly designed and implemented, strategic workforce planning can enable organizations to identify and manage human capital uncertainty more effectively.

  • Workforce for the Future






    With new technologies and advancements in robotics, traditional jobs are being reconfigured and new skills are becoming critical to success. Employee populations will need to change as organizations adjust business models to better align to future customer needs, technological and industry developments.


    To develop an effective workforce strategy, organizations must look across three interconnected dimensions: Size, Composition, Skill set/competencies .

  • Customer & Employee of the Future






    Meet Dawn – the employee and customer of the future. Six fundamental shifts in Dawn’s life practices bring to life and humanize the impact of a rapidly transitioning world – both inside and outside of the workplace. In a time of profound uncertainty, organizations that commit to being a step ahead of changing customer and employee demands will see considerable areas of opportunity.


  • Multifaceted Workforce Strategy





    Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is critical to any sustainable business model and strategy.  This should not be seen as a problem to be solved. Instead, it is one of the core solutions to the issue of skills scarcity and future skills. Organizations should approach D&I from a strategic view, use data to drive decisions and develop a business case– not just ticking a box– and highlight business advantages of D&I to leaders, making it a priority from the top.   


  • Total Well-Being





    Well-being in the 21st century extends beyond traditional definitions of employee benefits for physical health. Employers are increasingly looking for ways to better support the social, emotional and financial dimensions of their employees’ well-being, enabling them to bring their ‘whole selves’ to work.


    Well-being initiatives targeted to individual employee needs have been proven to have a direct positive impact on, engagement, productivity and connection with the organization. The employee experience is no longer a nice to have differentiator; it’s a must-have for retention. Mercer recommends that organizations consider the following four dimensions as they evolve their total wellbeing strategy.


    • Included: benefits that meet the needs of a diverse workforce and align with corporate values
    • Resilient: An open dialogue on mental health and a more engaged workforce
    • Informed: The role of technology to drive a healthier, happier and more engaged workforce
    •  Access: Disparities of healthcare access and delivery impacting the global workforce in different ways in different locations and personal situations






Leading business and talent experts, futurists and thought leaders shared their perspectives on the future direction of talent, innovation and business growth.


View highlights of the panel discussion.

  • Moderator: Pat Milligan

    Global Leader Multinational Client Group, Mercer

  • Travis Kistler

    Global Head, Business Performance & Planning Analytics, HSBC


    “Defining a culture… means effectively getting leaders aligned around the fact that we do want to be change agile. We want our grassroots, individual-contributor level to actually raise ideas and solutions that we can grab, highlight and bubble up, and then use those to better the organization.”


  • Sheila Lirio Marcelo

    Founder, Chairwoman and CEO,


    “It cannot just be care at headquarters. It cannot just be financial wellbeing that’s provided at headquarters at the top level of the executives. Because if you want true workforce development for the future of work and the gig economy, and you’re going to have people flexing in and out, you have to provide solutions far from headquarters.”


  • Ian Shea

    Founder and CEO, IM Human


    “If we can bring that understand of…how you show up matters, and if an environment can be supportive of that, you can expect to have astronomical benefits relative to profitability, engagement, loyalty, and…a sense of purpose.”


  • Renee McGowan

    Global Leader of Individual Wealth, Mercer


    “Financial insecurity is pervasive around the world. In every single country, there was growing levels of financial insecurity amongst individuals, and they’re insecure about their financial circumstances today. They’re also highly insecure about their ability to live longer and to live well, and we’re simply not going to be able to avoid that or brush that under carpet. We’re going to need to deal with that head on.”


  • Richard Smith-Bingham

    Director, Global Risk Centre, MMC


    “Companies can’t stop global risks, nor can they hold them at bay. However, business and HR leaders can do three things: focus on emerging threats; sharpen responsiveness with better contingency planning; and strengthen their sense of stewardship.”


  • Laurie Weisberg

    Chief Revenue Officer, Thrive Global


    “[Employees] don’t want companies that are going to work them to the bone. They’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. It’s a shift in culture. It’s not something that you can do overnight, but it’s something that the companies that are interested in attracting and retaining talent have to change – and they have to change now.”





View highlights from our dynamic panel of executives and experts discussing the short- and long-term implications of Brexit.

  • Moderator: Martine Ferland

    President, EuroPac and Co-President, Health, Mercer


    “Tightness of labor, the need to invest in new skills and also to reeducate the workforce will require us to look at different incentives and different tax breaks – in order to support where we need to go as an economy.”


  • Gary Simmons

    Partner and Client Manager, Mercer


    “We have a very interesting – and rapid – movement towards automation, machine learning, and robotization of jobs, which can, in a way, ease workforce pressure. At the same time,  you need a different set of skills to program these machines in order for them to work- and it’s very difficult and rare to find these skills.”


  • Emma Ross Thomas

    London Bureau Chief, Bloomberg


    “Unfortunately… companies are planning for the worst, but this uncertainty is not going to go away until at least December 2020, and some people are even talking about transition being extended beyond that date. So, there’s…no visibility at all when it comes to the immigration policy.”


  • Lord Chris Holmes of Richmond MBE

    Chair, Global Disability Innovation Hub Chancellor, BPP University


    “Brexit has opened up a lot of discussions which have been allowed to be shut down, ignored, be in the shadows, in the margins, and certainly the disability employment gap has been one of those issues for far too long. If there was true equality of opportunity in Britain, there would be … 2 million more disabled people in work. So, whether it’s a disabled person, an older worker, whoever from wherever, how we need to look at this is simply as a question of talent and addressing the fundamental point that talent is everywhere and opportunity isn’t. And for organizations, there’s a role for all of us… We need to look harder, and we need to look further for that talent and fundamentally reimagine what format talent comes in.”


  • Arndt Ellinghorst

    Senior Managing Director, Head of Global Automotive Research, Evercore ISI


    “In the auto industry, new investment into machine and tooling has come down by about 50%...Companies don’t want to invest, because there is big, big uncertainty. So that is a big worry.”






During this session, we used interactive full- and small-group dialogues to crowdsource, reframe and prioritize the most pressing questions of talent leaders today for each of our five topic areas from the Immersive Gallery:


  • Human Capital Risk Vs. Uncertainty



    1. Is there a risk profile for your organizations and other skills required to embrace R/U?
    2. How do we frame R/U as a strategic issue not just focused on danger but opportunity as well, and engage with relevant internal stakeholders (risk, finance, etc.)
    3. What is the role of quantification and how do we leverage tech and data to get the right insights for business leaders to drive positive business outcomes?


  • Workforce for the Future



    1. What is our future business model and how does this influence our sourcing and operating model talent ecosystem?
    2. How do we decide on skills for the future and re-skilling?
    3. How does the value proposition need to change to cover a broad talent ecosystem?


  • Customer & Employee of the Future



    1. What are the implications for skills and training at work? How to ensure sustainability?
    2. How do you “future fit” your organization and how quickly do you move?
    3. How do we ensure employees experience balance + flexibility in an always “on” world?


  • Multifaceted Workforce Strategy



    1. What do we want and need our diversity to look like, by when and why?
    2. How do we create a culture and environment where differences are valued and leveraged?
    3. How do we help each individual leader and manager understand their business case, and own the delivery of it?


  • Total Well-Being



    1. Can you create a robust business case by focusing more on “doing the right thing” rather than return on investment data?
    2. How do we create a culture to embrace wellbeing while balancing the needs and engagement of various stakeholders?
    3. How do you define and implement wellbeing globally while dealing with country specific issues, market readiness, vendor support and role of the government? 






Participants chose one area from the morning’s future gallery to revisit and further explore how this topic manifests and applies to their organization. They leveraged the Framestorming questions to dive deeper into strategic planning to address their chosen topic. This allows organizations to build an implementation plan that tackles the challenges of today and the future.





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