The mid-market is thriving in the United States with nearly 200,000 businesses employing approximately 47.9 million people. Mid-market organizations tend to be healthy—recording consistent revenue and job growth, prompting continued acceleration of innovation and new processes, and more importantly, challenging the way they are accustomed to working.
However, amidst the stimuli, mid-market leaders express concerns about everything from compliance to ever-present workforce demands. Often overwhelmed and under resourced, mid-market HR teams may struggle to strike a balance between keeping up with change and managing the daily operations of doing business. That said, do the big HR trends and challenges facing your organization differ from those of larger companies?
Not at all!
Our ongoing research shows that mid-market HR leaders face similar challenges, as compared with their much larger counterparts. What often sets them apart is the degree to which they prioritize and remedy the most pressing issues. To help you in guiding your organization to craft a “right-size” approach to addressing key HR challenges, we have recently published research focused on the following topics.
- Increasing overall talent management maturity to achieve stronger business and talent outcomes. Lean mid-market organizations tell us that they are focused on daily survival. In fact, some mid-market HR teams report spending most of their days “putting out fires”—rather than concentrating on bigger picture opportunities. In this study, we focus on why your teams should consider reprioritizing talent management, despite the increased workload, with guidance on how this can be achieved.
- Understanding the importance of talent strategies as a key differentiator for success. This series of reports explores ways that a business-aligned talent strategy can help your organization to decide where—and where not—to make key talent investments to effectively address changing workforce needs.
- Fostering a culture that thrives on growth to pave the way for the next generation of leaders. As mid-market leaders take on increasing challenges, focusing on developing themselves may be sorely neglected. This study provides an overview of leadership maturity in the mid-market—and starts a conversation about the importance of offering the right organizational context to support growth initiatives.
This mid-market research is just the beginning.
During the coming year, we look forward to exploring four additional key topics which we believe can help your teams in continuing the quest to reignite the effectiveness of HR and to support the betterment of your teams:
- Rethinking the approach to talent Identification, attraction, and hiring
- Promoting diversity and inclusion (D&I)
- Getting started with people analytics
- Reimagining HR to better foster the employee experience
We discuss each of these topics in turn in the following sections.
Topic 1: Rethinking the Approach to Talent Identification, Attraction & Hiring
As mentioned previously, the mid-market workforce is growing. Unsurprisingly, the talent marketplace is extremely competitive and many candidates currently enjoy the luxury of being highly selective when considering employment options. With a sometimes less-than-recognizable employment brand and often coupled with a lack of dedicated talent acquisition resources, mid-market organizations may find themselves on the losing side of the “war for talent.” How can your organization compete?
You and other business leaders should identify and develop talent who are naturally curious. Such candidates should be eager for fresh projects and willing to accept the challenge of working in an organization that is smaller, as well as having processes which are often ambiguous, making the case for rethinking talent acquisition a business imperative.
With this 2017 research, we plan to explore innovative approaches that mid-market talent acquisition teams can leverage “to up their recruitment game.” We also intend to look at practical candidate attraction strategies that can lead to the development of robust candidate pools, and examine ways your organization can design programs that attract and retain a multigenerational workforce.
Topic 2: Promoting Diversity & Inclusion
Overall, our research has found that mid-market organizations lack strategies for diversity and inclusion (D&I), and very few are focused on attracting people from diverse backgrounds. Simply investing in ad-hoc programs to promote diversity initiatives may no longer suffice to help in fostering a lasting culture of D&I. Extending beyond the numbers of diverse employees, D&I means developing new perspectives in your organization and promoting an environment that thrives on celebrating the different dynamics which live within your company’s culture.
In our High-Impact Diversity and Inclusion study (slated for next summer), we plan to center on the state of D&I in the mid-market. With data-driven insights and calls to action, this research can help your organization in thinking about your D&I brands, internally and externally, for the talent and consumer marketplaces. We also intend to explore ways your company can create the right blend of programs and experiences to maximize value to the organization and, most importantly, achieving this with limited resources.
Topic 3: Getting Started with People Analytics
Many organizations today leverage more technology than ever before—and may find themselves with an overwhelming wealth of data. But for mid-market organizations, access to technology and the resulting profusion of data may come at a steep price; often ill-prepared to recognize the impact of technology, many mid-market firms may lack a general understanding of the demonstrated benefits of people analytics. Teams already struggle to attract talent; finding data-savvy employees to help dissect and translate data into actionable information may prove even more daunting.
Why should this matter to you? At the very least, your company should begin to track some basic people analytics (e.g., engagement and retention data) and transform the way you use insights derived from that data. Despite a growing awareness of the effectiveness of analytics and the newness of it to so many firms, transforming to an analytics-based enterprise is challenging. You should first determine what type of analytics you need to address your critical workforce issues. Establishing baseline capabilities within HR teams in order to truly unlock the value of people analytics should come as an added benefit—when you can get that far.
Next summer, our High-Impact People Analytics research will “connect the dots” for mid-market organizations trying to use data to inform actions. By leveraging data and insights more effectively, your teams could be better prepared to make well-informed decisions, spot employee trends, and develop predictive insights for a competitive business advantage.
Topic 4: Reimagining HR to Better Foster Employee Experience
Over the past year, we have been hearing from you that mid-market organizations are now in the midst of transforming their HR functions. Once seen as “reactive survivalists,” many mid-market HR teams are endeavoring to become strategic and differentiated.
Transformation, however welcome, may be overwhelming—especially for smaller HR teams. Even while evolving, teams typically continue to focus on typical operational duties and cannot always prioritize change initiatives. The good news is that many mid-market HR teams are already thinking differently about the way they work, as well as how their brand is perceived within the organization. However, our most recent talent management and leadership research tells us that mid-market HR teams still may have some work to do in supporting the major workforce changes which may be on the horizon, while at the same time delivering a highly engaging employee experience.
With our upcoming High-Impact HR research, we hope to inspire you to seek out solutions that make sense for your organization, given the size and structure of your teams. Next fall, we plan to publish research that explores the options for mid-market HR teams to continue their transformational journey, including introducing new ideas for actions stemming from our upcoming High-Impact HR study.
With so many opportunities on the horizon, mid-market HR teams may be very busy. For many, becoming used to a new way of working could mean abandoning what feels comfortable—and stepping out of your comfort zone.
We look forward to providing you with the research and associated tools to help you and your teams in crafting new processes and cultural norms that enable workforce growth initiatives. The trends we plan to explore and the opportunities for quick actions may require a shift in mindset for mid-market HR teams, but can help to build a solid foundation for improving talent and business outcomes in the years ahead.
As always, I would like to hear from you! If you have success stories—or are in the midst of a transformation and want to share your thoughts, please reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, please join the Bersin Research Exchange: Data in, insights out! Share your leading practices and receive research-based rewards such as reports, diagnostics, and white papers. Register now: http://tinyurl.com/BREMidmkt
 Bersin by Deloitte defines “mid-market” as private or public organizations that employ between 1,001 and 5,000 persons.
 “3Q 2016 Middle Market Indicator,” National Center for the Middle Market, n.d., http://middlemarketcenter.org/Media/Documents/MiddleMarketIndicators/2016-Q3/FullReport/NCMM_MMI_Q3_2016_FINAL_web.pdf?utm_term=NCMM_MMI_Q3_2016_FINAL_web.pdf&utm_campaign=Middle%20Market%20Outlook%20Improves%20in%203Q%202016&utm_content=email&utm_source=Act-On+Software&utm_medium=email.