The emergence of the pandemic has exposed our vulnerabilities in more ways than one. Accelerating our journey towards a digital transformation is the only way to cope with the new normal. Trends suggest that technological expertise, though important, is not the only skill you will need to survive the post-COVID tsunami.
The world is changing at an accelerated pace. Digitization was always on the cards but in the post-COVID world, its adoption and acceptance has become absolutely imperative for survival.
No one can say what the world will look like in a couple of years, but what is certain is that a momentous transformation is inevitable; and a workforce that wants to thrive in the future has to adapt and align itself with new ways of thinking and working.
A decade back, a degree and moderate proficiency in a single technology stack was sufficient to ensure a productive career. But in the current world, success will belong to those who are committed to continuous learning and up-skilling.
Technology and frameworks are evolving at breakneck speed, and skills acquired even a year back are already obsolete. Agile ways of thinking and a flexible mind-set that is focused on growth will help to keep pace with the changing eco-system.
At the same time, just being technologically proficient will not help the millennial sustain a job. Along with gaining digital mastery one has to have proficiency in communication and social intelligence, resilience to change, and the ability to work in tune with a diverse group of people who share a common vision and goal.
So what will organizations look for when hiring in the new economy? Skills can and do expire, and they need people who can keep up with the times. Gartner surveyed over 800 HR leaders across industries and regions, and 68% of them felt that building critical skills and competencies would be on top of their priority list for 2021.
According to a McKinsey survey, these five skills will be a must-have for professionals who want to survive and succeed in the post-COVID hiring space.
Technology has transformed businesses, imbuing them with speed, dependability, security and enhanced value. Every business now understands the value of strengthening its customer base with the use of technology.
But to win the tech battle, every employee must have the capabilities to tap into the new technologies that have been made available to teams. Unless talent is also scaled and made available across the board, the strategy to win the tech battle will be lost.
The Future of Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum states that approximately 54 per cent of employees will require reskilling and upskilling by 2022, as their existing skillsets would have become outdated.
According to Strategy&, a part of the PWC network, companies around the globe are in a race to adopt new technologies to help them cope with the competition. The report states that there is a global trend to accelerate investment in technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and robotics.
The workforce of the future needs to keep learning and self-improving, adding to their repertoire the knowledge of new technology stacks and frameworks. The passion for continuous learning will help them connect with the vision of the company and move ahead with the rest.
Our learning from a very early age is geared towards enhancing our cognitive abilities. Cognition is our ability to gain, retain and analyse information and understand concepts. It builds in us reasoning and problem-solving skills.
Employees with high cognitive abilities are critical to help organizations navigate through turbulent times, deal with emerging challenges and think out of the box to foster innovation. As business models change and transform to fit the new normal, they must have the ability to assimilate themselves to the change and boost productivity.
The evolving workspace will require employees to make sense of a large number of things including the proverbial elephant in the room: ‘DATA’. Developing cognitive skills will help them to analyse data, recall conversations, numbers and goals and perform better at the workplace. Data science and analytics, which is the ability to use this data for business profits has long been among the most coveted skills in the technology landscape and has consistently topped emerging job trends statistics.
Higher cognitive abilities will help employees innovate and come up with insightful solutions and strategies that will help them to succeed through troubled markets. A Mercer | Mettl Talent Assessment Practices Report India shows that 53% of top companies have flagged cognitive ability as their primary focus area when it comes to hiring.
Many psychologists believe that the emotional quotient is more important than the intelligence quotient. People react in different ways to complexities and challenges, and feelings of loss of control, work anxiety, and thoughts of financial insecurity many be handled differently by employees.
While some may take these conflicting emotions in their stride, others may struggle with the emotional upheaval. Emotional skills are necessary to deal with ambiguous situations, align with change and transformation, and enhance communication and empathy.
A recent study found that about 82% of global companies deem it necessary to administer EQ tests for executive positions. 72% of these companies use the tests to gauge middle management talent, while 59% of companies give the tests to entry-level positions.
An employee with higher emotional skills can handle change better, and carry the entire team towards the goal. As your team grows, your ability to manage conflict, deal with different kinds of team members, and smooth out differences to ensure productivity will define your growth as a manager. So will your ability to deal with and empathise with team members from different geographies and cultures, even remotely, reflect on your own growth and credibility as an effective leader.
It takes strong leadership and organizational agility to respond to the increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environments that the pandemic has thrown up. The unprecedented, never-before seen levels of confusion and chaos across industries has put leaders on edge, and decision making has been difficult to say the least. To tide through the situation, organizations and management must set in place business continuity plans and deploy an agile change management approach.
Research by McKinsey and the Harvard Business School concluded that companies that had successfully adopted agile ways of working pre-COVID-19 performed better and were able to move beyond the crisis far more rapidly than those that had not. Agile organizations were already equipped with processes and structures to combat uncertainty, such as cross-functional teams, sprints and reviews and clarity on requirements, outputs and outcomes.
Employees of Agile organizations, already used to navigating change, were able to adjust faster, and with less emotional turmoil. Even when it came to individual teams within companies, the research found that business units that had gone agile before the pandemic performed better, scoring higher on operational performance, customer delight, and employee engagement.
Having many efficient agile teams across an enterprise, and empowering them with the tools and processes they need to stay ahead of the game, makes it possible for the entire organization to survive, get to the other side of the pandemic and thrive. With the world turning increasingly digital, online learning is the way forward—and more organizations are turning to virtual learning platforms to help their employees stay updated with new-gen skills.
The river birch tree is among the most resilient trees that is known to survive the roughest storms. How? Because it has a limb structure that bends and does not break. This allows it to withstand the gustiest of winds and the most torrential downpours. COVID has brought in winds of change and like the birch tree, the workforce needs to adapt and become resilient to tide through the aftershocks of the pandemic.
Resilient organizations are able to respond well to any crisis and quickly set in place recovery measures that are undertaken together with employees and stakeholders. The management should adapt to the shift in mindset that is necessitated by the changes, and must make a plan for navigation through the implications of the crisis. They should empower employees to survive and move past the uncertainties caused by unfolding circumstances.
Employees must be equipped to cope with the changing dynamics of the new-age workplace. They will need to operate remotely, collaborate across geographies, and adapt to innovation. They should be given the opportunity to re-skill and upskill in latest technologies to keep up with the evolving times.
Emotional stressors can be at an all-time high, and employees should have access to soft skills training that can help them to handle their situation with maturity and resilience. Some of the ways in which managers can help employees to stay on track are through frequent team huddles to increase collaboration and fuel motivation, and peer-to-peer knowledge transfer sessions between team members to inculcate a culture of support through trying times.
Even before the pandemic, the McKinsey Global Institute had reported that as many as 375 million workers—which roughly translates to 14 percent of the global workforce—would have to switch occupations in order to adapt, or acquire new skills in the next decade. There may be reversals but what sets apart a resilient employee from the rest is the ability to bounce back and work with renewed zeal towards the path to success.
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