Mercer Promotes Possibility of the New Empowered Workforce
May 21, 2011

Less than a week after attending ADP’s industry analyst day, I flew to Washington, D.C., to attend Mercer’s analyst forum, which gave me a chance to compare another human resources juggernaut. While ADP is known primarily for payroll and business process outsourcing, Mercer is known for HR consulting and benefits outsourcing. Mercer is not as big as ADP, with $3.5 billion in annual revenue and over 27,000 customers, most of which are large multinational and midmarket companies, servicing over 4.2 million employees. But it is just as influential because of the global benchmark research and market data it provides to clients.

 The day included an overview of the Mercer business, including global outsourcing and consulting on retirement, health and benefits, talent and rewards, and institutional investments; I talked with a few of the company’s health and benefits outsourcing and consulting customers who validated the quality of work. Mercer also is helping companies navigate the coming healthcare reform (from an HR point of view, the 2014 changeover is right around the corner), and it does extensive research on the current state of human capital management and workforce planning in organizations around the world.

But what I found most interesting was Mercer’s product development work as it relates to workforce planning – the goal is to enable organizations to ensure access to talent for future business needs, and that includes all potential talent sources internal and external (full-time and part-time, temp, contingent, virtual, partnerships and others).

 Compared to ADP’s clearly defined HCM products, mobile solutions and workforce analytics, Mercer’s foray into similar development territory is not as far along. Although promising, its product portfolio at this point seems more convoluted and less integrated. I did not have an opportunity to look at Mercer’s Human Capital Connect, a partnership with Peopleclick Authoria. Human Capital Connect combines Mercer’s content and consulting practices with the technology offerings of Peopleclick Authoria.

Mercer’s Information Product Solutions (IPS) provides compensation and benefits benchmarking data, software and tools to help manage HR processes such as compensation analysis and workforce planning, and it supports services for transactional HR activities such as data manipulation and market pricing. IPS has conducted more than 700 benchmarking surveys in more than 100 places worldwide, focusing on global mobility, metrics and analytics.

 Mercer ORC Worldwide is the global mobility product, and it offers tools for a world where workforce mobility has become one of primary keys to growth and success. For example, the Global HRMonitor is a Web-based application that supports users in managing expatriate employee compensation worldwide. ExpatMonitor is a complementary expatriate compensation calculation management tool. And MercerPassport is a Web-based tool that helps expats and their families prepare for, navigate and settle in their new home country. It’s also used by business travelers and short-term assignees.

Ultimately the product that attracted most of my attention, due to the workforce analytics benchmark research we’ve done  recently and use for educating HR and business, was Mercer WIN, which provides organizational benchmarked data, workforce analytics and planning. Company executives pitched it as a one-stop shop for HR professionals to access all data, intellectual capital and decision support tools offered by IPS (both Mercer’s and other market intelligence sources). It contains data compiled from over 20 million employees in more than 8,000 organizations and includes input from HR professionals and consultants around the globe. Unfortunately we didn’t get a hands-on demonstration because of technical difficulties and had to settle for a series of screen shots highlighting the user experience; how information is displayed; how users can evaluate market competitiveness; and how users can personalize their analysis through custom markets and peer groups. The benchmark data can help companies compare themselves to equivalent organizations, providing details on mobility, compensation and benefits as well as HC metrics that are available by geography, sector, size of company and other views. Currently only companies participating in the benchmark research project get access to WIN; Mercer plans to offer access to nonparticipating companies eventually but at triple the cost.

This kind of global benchmark data is critical for companies in today’s competitive business environments. But in order for WIN and similar externally data-driven tools and resources to be of value for workplace planning, immediate and long-term, organizations must be able to aggregate and analyze their own internal data and metrics across all lines of business to understand what talent they need where, when and why. As I’ve said before, the increased complexity of HR administration for a worldwide contingent and virtual workforce requires organizations to take account of the diversity of each country’s workplace cultures and regulatory ideologies. They need analytics software that is easy to deploy and use to help them manage workforce data effectively and to develop insights into their talent management and enterprise workforce planning. Mercer provides the external comprehensive HR benchmarking data, but providing internal workforce analytics and planning is still a ways out and according to its own roadmap won’t be ready until 2013 at the earliest.

Getting WIN right will be a necessity for Mercer to succeed in providing clients the macro and micro lenses they’ll need to align future talent with business strategy. One of the Mercer execs kept challenging us all through the day to do more research and analysis on workforce planning since the company and its customers are spending more time and money on just that. Well, next on my HCM research agenda is workforce planning, which is part of what I call next-generation workforce management. I’ll explain what that means in a future post.


Team - Ventana Research


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