Is Flexibility on Your CV? The Skills Companies Need Now
Hiring in 2020 is down. That is hardly a headline in the midst of a pandemic that has impacted millions of people around the world and nearly every country on earth. But, companies do have to find ways to keep operating, and they’ll need to be able to do so in an environment that looks a lot more like 2020 and a lot less like. . .ever before. Let’s not call it post-coronavirus; let’s say post-coronavirus reaction. What do companies need as they hire with an expectation that where we are now is the scenario for at least another 12 months, and organisations will want to hire for the new situation in an orderly, proactive way. The skills companies need now have to meet not only their industry-specific, product-specific parameters, but that also address a very different environment.
Here are three skills companies need now to compete in today’s environment
Communication. There’s a different dynamic in the way we communicate with each other now. For those who previously worked in a traditional office environment, not everyone had to be particularly talented in articulating themselves. It helped, of course, but there are people who have always been great at analysis, or innovation, or governance, and not persuasion, or clarity. That was a different time. Now, whether you’re leading a meeting or updating your manager, it’s more likely that you are doing that virtually, as opposed to wandering down the hall. That can be difficult for those who are not great communicators. For all of us, the ability to see and hear colleagues in a live setting is greatly diminished, and therefore, the nonverbal cues we read are largely unavailable. Now employers need to put a premium on people who not only get the job done based on their technical skills, but also can effectively communicate their opinions, results, concerns, etc.
Technological. We’ve been living in a digital age for a long time, but now we’re dependent upon it without some of the analog safety net we once had. The skills companies need now include those who are fluent in technology or willing to learn very, very quickly. Using online collaboration tools and videoconferencing to supplant in-person operations has increased exponentially. Employees who resist or can’t quickly acclimate not only don’t support the company; they do a disservice to themselves. There’s a natural inclination to allow some of us to do things “the old-fashioned way”, whatever that might be. Not now. Some even argue that it’s not just about adjusting to technology per se, but the lack of direct interpersonal opportunities; for example, extroverts who might normally avoid remote work options may have no choice now.
Adaptability. This might be as much about attitude as it is a skill set per se. But being flexible, understanding there is no true long-term plan in a pandemic, accepting uncertainty at work (and in general), are among the skills companies need now. This encompasses everything from being able to seamlessly change ways of operating, to modifying goals, to emotionally withstanding an ongoing evolution of norms and practices in real time. In fact a recent McKinsey study emphasised the growing importance of social and emotional skills. Testing for that can be hard in the framework of traditional interviewing. But perhaps just asking how someone has adapted to 2020 might well reveal everything from their ability to be innovative professionally, to finding self-care that restores them emotionally so they can continue to be productive.
Success in 2020 and beyond means having employees with skills companies need now
It goes without saying that organisations will have to find the traditional talent they have always sought to get or maintain a competitive advantage. So-called “soft skills” have always been appreciated as well. However, this year has taught us that change can come hard, and fast. We will only be as good as our ability to answer that.
Robert Kovach is the Director of Leader Success for Cisco’s Leadership and Team Intelligence Practice Area. He has been an advisor to leadership teams of Fortune 500, FTSE 100 and FTSE Global 500 companies on driving business strategy through executive leadership effectiveness and organizational agility. The opinions expressed in this blog are his own and not those of Cisco. Contact him for speaking enquiries.