Article by Daniel Ross
The world of work is going through a period of rapid transformation. According to a 2020 report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), half of all existing employees will need to acquire new skill sets by 2025, with so-called ‘soft skills’ like critical thinking, resilience and problem-solving topping the list.
This prediction is echoed by a Gartner study from last year in which almost 60 percent of surveyed HR leaders believed that building critical skills and competencies would be 2022’s number-one priority.
The talent gap
Crucially, though, businesses are already struggling to develop their teams’ skills at a pace that matches their evolving needs, partly because of the increase in demand for new skills and partly due to a rapid drop in the value of old ones. Gartner’s data shows that not only is the skills-to-job ratio on the rise but that nearly one in three skills needed for a job in 2018 are no longer relevant today.
Successfully navigating the corporate landscape in a climate of ambiguity requires a workforce capable of acting confidently, even when the picture is incomplete. The best employees will be flexible, autonomous and open to new ideas.
But skills shortages will mean that HR managers are likely to face ongoing recruitment and retention challenges while trying to build an effective workforce that can adapt to future demands. Forward-thinking leaders are focused on closing development gaps and creating a more versatile workforce through the adoption of a skills-centric approach to talent management.
So, what qualities and competencies will be most highly prized amid shifting priorities?
The desire to learn
This isn’t just about nurturing curiosity – although that will play a part – it’s more deeply connected to an eagerness to learn about a broad variety of topics, as well as the ability to spot trends and draw insights from acquired knowledge.
Keeping an open mind
That said, effective learning can only take place in the context of an open mind. Homogenous thinking further entrenches fixed ideas and rarely, if ever, leads to real innovation. The best outcomes will require seeking diverse opinions and learning from diverse experiences, as well as the willingness to share them with others.
While being open to new ideas is essential, experiencing empathy for others is central to the success of collaborative and team working – and to mastering effective communications. It’s a quality that will be increasingly sought-after as workforces become more dispersed.
Understanding problems and exploring ideas for resolving them will be key to thriving in ambiguity. In an uncertain world, success will depend on overcoming the human instinct for clarity, instead focusing on being comfortable with making decisions, even when information is incomplete.
As businesses grow in complexity, so problem-solving skills continue to be highly valued in every workplace. People who are good at problem solving are also likely to be creative thinkers with a knack for research and the ability to critically consider a variety of options that consider context, resources and broader business implications.
Creativity isn’t the preserve of writers and designers. It’s crucial that businesses embrace creative thinking as part of a holistic approach to growth and development – a way of bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, perspectives to work.
Events of the last couple of years have demonstrated the importance of resilience. The ability to bounce forward from setbacks is rooted not in some innate sense of optimism, but in a willingness to stay on top of information, make sense of new developments and find fresh approaches to enduring problems.
Codifying the skills and competencies needed to thrive in ambiguity
The size and scale of the talent gap means that businesses can’t simply rely on filling vacancies with new hires. A pragmatic workforce development strategy is key to growing the skills your organisation needs.
- Honest skills assessments will help you gauge the skills level in your workforce and identify gaps
- A reskilling programme will support competencies as roles and responsibilities evolve
- New upskilling initiatives can offer employees the skill sets they need to transition to new roles
It goes without saying that creating (and modelling) a culture that encourages advancement, provides opportunities to grow, and rewards employee contributions is key to a sustainable, long-term talent-management roadmap.
Building robust training programmes (based on skills assessments, individual development plans and performance management strategies) will not only promote personal, professional and organisational growth but will also attract a broader and more diverse talent pool as new candidates increasingly look to work for companies that invest in their workforce.
Change for good
Rapid change can bring stress and uncertainty into the workplace as expectations shift and responsibilities multiply. However, change can also be a force for good, inspiring innovation, presenting fresh opportunities and presaging growth. To succeed in this climate, more people must become comfortable with not knowing – with finding purpose and making decisions in ambiguity.
As priorities are shuffled and new goals emerge, leaders, managers and employees alike will need to stay agile. By establishing a flexible approach to L&D, businesses should find themselves better placed to adapt to change – and to develop and hone the skills that will take them confidently over the next horizon.
Daniel Ross- Managing Director. Dan has built his reputation on developing long lasting relationships with great clients. These years of working across industries have shaped him as a trusted advisor and collaborator. He is highly skilled at leading teams of highly regarded thought leaders, occupational psychologists and facilitators to meet client needs, and is driven to deliver results. His personal interests are varied, but a real passion of his is football coaching, which he has been involved in for over 12 years, particularly women's football development, and also grassroots football development, working with children from six to 16 years old.
Receive more HR related news and content with our monthly Enewsletter (Ebrief)