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Talent Development Leader

Pacesetters Get Ahead and Stay Ahead

TD leaders who want to set, rather than follow, trends can pick up tips from this report.


Mon Jun 12 2023

Pacesetters Get Ahead and Stay Ahead

Approximately one in 10 companies not only consistently outpaces its industry peers but also widens the gap between itself and its peers at an accelerated pace, according to The Seven Winning Strategies of Pacesetter Organizations. The report reveals new research from the Josh Bersin Company as part of its Global Workforce Intelligence Project. Per the GWI Project, such companies are known as pacesetters.

“The pacesetters, through their own innovation, experimentation, and research, are simply operating at a different level,” says Josh Bersin.


Using Eightfold.ai’s extensive talent intelligence database combined with The Josh Bersin Company’s global HR leadership insights to understand jobs, job roles, skills, and career pathways, the GWI Project identified four trends consistently found in pacesetter organizations.

  • They demonstrate high-financial growth, revenue, profitability, assets, and market value.

  • They employ industry leaders recognized for their market success and who often possess distinctions or industry-specific awards.

  • They are award-winning talent magnets. For example, pacesetters typically have high Glassdoor ratings and are recipients of at least one Best Workplaces Award.

  • They exhibit the highest levels of maturity in implementing systemic HR practices.

“Pacesetters are better at transforming themselves and have superior talent practices. They are constantly sensing what’s happening in the market and then break transformation into small iterative steps,” says Kathi Enderes, senior vice president of research and global industry analyst at The Josh Bersin Company.

Researchers working on the GWI Project detail seven common traits and behaviors among pacesetters:

  • Focusing on automation and self-service for front-office roles

  • Prioritizing technology and transformation roles at an equal level to operation roles

  • Implementing a globally integrated, systemic HR operating model

  • Investing in cutting-edge skills in areas of technology and transformation

  • Valuing talent and prioritizing mobility, retention, and reskilling

  • Redesigning jobs and employment models to adapt for the future

  • Cooperating across the C-suite

Talent development leaders who want to help their organizations become pacesetters should focus their efforts on the following three of the behaviors and strategies.

Value talent. The report authors note that with US unemployment rates at a 53-year low of 3.4 percent, “pacesetters don’t rely on an empty talent pool to ‘fish’ for candidates.” Instead, pacesetters focus on internal mobility, not just external recruiting. Case in point: NewYork-Presbyterian strove toward an ambitious goal of 60 percent of all hires being internal.


“Reskilling employees into needed roles and skills is another powerful way to resolve skills gaps,” the report states. For instance, at Bon Secours Mercy and AdventHealth, data-informed career pathways help to develop more clinical staff and transition nonclinical people into nursing positions.

Likewise, pacesetters invest time and effort in the retention of the workforce, allowing for more flexible work arrangements and finding fresh ways to improve the employee experience. For example, P&G, UBS, Nestlé, Citigroup, L’Oréal, and BNY Mellon have adopted either flexible or hybrid work plans built around their workers’ needs and requirements.

Redesign jobs and employment models to adapt for the future. The Josh Bersin Company forecasts that employers can remedy the nursing gap of 2.1 million nurses through redesigning 40 percent of those jobs—which is exactly what pacesetter companies are doing.

For example, Mercy Health uses Mercy Works on Demand, an app that enables staff nurses to pivot to internal gig positions to increase flexibility while also meeting patient demands. The app draws on insights regarding skills, certifications, and capabilities of nurses within the organization, enabling Mercy to create and support work assignments in a modular way. For instance, the app may categorize nursing roles by specific skills, combined with a breakdown of other components such as individual shifts.

Cooperate across the C-suite. Pacesetters coordinate growth targets, market shifts, and customer needs, enabling the chief information officer, chief HR officer, and chief operations officer to collaborate in developing an integrated people strategy. The report explains that the CIO examines how every dollar spent on IT can support talent and productivity; the CHRO focuses on an HR operating model that continuously improves retention, engagement, and the organization’s leadership bench; and the COO provides leadership for process simplification and task automation, which can influence future skill and talent needs.


Stella Ioannidou, director of research and Global Workforce Intelligence Project leader at The Josh Bersin Company, concludes: “There are multiple ways to thrive, even within the same industry. The ability to examine the organization as a system and carve out a holistic and customized approach appears to be the one trait that is common to all pacesetters.”

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