The term “unprecedented times” has been used a lot over the last few months to describe the current pandemic. But many businesses are starting to think about the implications of these “unprecedented times” from another, more forward-looking angle.
Whilst having always been sought-after, some skills have significantly gained importance over the past weeks as companies seek to embrace change and build more resilient, adaptable, and agile workforces.
Given lockdown and social distancing restrictions are starting to lift and many businesses are beginning to navigate their pathway back to normality – or, at least a “new normal” – here is a list of the top skills and traits employers will be focusing on when recruiting during and post-COVID-19.
Flexibility and agility
When advertising for roles, companies should always create job descriptions that accurately describe typical daily tasks and goals. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has highlighted the need for employees at all levels to be comfortable with change, as well as possess the ability to remain agile and flexible during challenging and changing times.
For example, as the economy continues to experience new pressures over the coming months, workers who can think on their feet will be highly sought-after to help companies pivot their strategies towards alternative markets and products. And, with often fewer staff in certain workforces, these same flexible, agile employees are likely to be recognised for their willingness to perform tasks outside their usual role.
Similarly, it’ll be important for senior leaders to demonstrate they can navigate businesses through the headwinds of volatile markets, which may variously entail quickly switching from strategic growth priorities to managing cashflow and costs much more closely in response to both evolving consumer and client needs as well as the wider post-pandemic environment.
Aptitude for technology
Many companies have been prioritising digital transformation initiatives for a long time, but there’s no doubt COVID-19 has sped up progress across many organisations when it comes to implementing new technologies, shifting attitudes, and learning new skills.
With the aim of investing in and advancing remote working capabilities, companies will need to engage the right tech talent who can identify the tech tools and security measures most suitable for the business. Meanwhile, familiarity with tools such as teleconferencing, collaboration platforms, filesharing, remote learning and the ability to organise and deliver virtual events will no longer be optional for some, but essential for everyone in an organisation.
Literacy in analytics and data insights
Moving into the future, the ability to extract and use insights from analytics tools will be important for everyone in an organisation, not just tech professionals. This is because all divisions within a company will likely be required to leverage the vast amounts of information available to predict and plan for changing market conditions that specifically impact them.
Most importantly, companies with a broad spectrum of employees who can not only gain and understand raw insights, but also apply their individual skillsets and qualities to make better, faster and more informed business decisions will be better positioned to maintain their competitive edge.
Ability to manage stress and maintain a positive mindset
It could be described as a vicious cycle: When times are challenging at work; employees can experience excessive stress and have negative thoughts. But stress and negativity are often associated with reduced productivity and efficiency which can make challenges harder to overcome.
Employees who can manage stress well and stay positive in the face of adversity have become increasingly important for companies as they plan to overcome the hurdles and unpredictability of a post-COVID-19 economy.
As governments plan the way out of COVID-19 related restrictions, companies and their workforces will need to adapt their operations to align and comply with these evolving measures and regulations. As goal posts continue to shift, employers will be focusing on talent who can leverage their creativity and innovative skills to achieve business objectives in alternative or lateral ways.
We’ve already seen plenty of examples of businesses adapting their products or services to suit the market, such as ride-sharing drivers offering deliveries and restaurants offering takeaways. But, from an internal perspective, employees, managers, and senior leaders will need to be open to the ways of ensuring business continuity using virtual techniques or by adapting existing practices to comply with social distancing.
Like a ripple effect, many people have been affected by COVID-19 in a variety of ways, be it due to business closures, delays to services, supply chain issues, reduced team resources, job changes or even just a complete change of daily routine.
Through turbulent times, it will be crucial for companies to onboard and cultivate talent who can recognise and respond appropriately to the emotions of others who are experiencing their own individual challenges, from colleagues and managers right through clients and customers. Empathy, the ability to listen and create consensus amongst teams will likely be very important traits moving forward
The types of skills employers will be looking for during and post-COVID-19 have always been important for companies. But as businesses have had to adapt and learn quickly throughout the pandemic, there’s no doubt employers will be placing even more focus on building workforces who have the key skills to see them through to the other side as we all respond and adapt to the new “new normal” over coming weeks and months.
Matt Weston, Managing Director, Robert Half UK