By Chaitanya Sreenivas
The pandemic has altered many facets of our professional lives, and given some important lessons that are crucial to thriving in the new normal. It has brought the significance of foundational skills to the fore, as they have a longer half-life when compared to perishable skills associated with specialised processes or tools. Today, foundational skills are becoming critical. These enable employees to cope with the new normal of work-from-anywhere and are indispensable for their career growth. As for organisations, they need their workforce to own these competencies to help catalyse their shift to new business models, accelerate innovation and improve customer experience.
Emerging competency framework
An observation of the corporate workplace trends and recent studies show that resilience, perseverance, interpersonal communication and holistically managing your well-being are important foundational skills that employees should possess. Career resilience, which is fast emerging as a core professional competency in the new normal, should be the priority for employees.
With resilience, they gain the ability to adjust to career change — irrespective of the surrounding circumstances — and can navigate obstacles in their career paths. By becoming resilient, they can also make their organisations future-proof. To create career resilience, employees should assess and benchmark the functions that will help them excel and accordingly develop competitive abilities in line with the evolving job trends. The shift from career dependence to career resilience is inescapable.
Further, in an increasingly autonomous environment, employees need improved creativity and problem-solving abilities, for which perseverance is vital. Perseverance also fosters cognitive functions that are essential for innovations. Another competency that employees should build in the distance economy is interpersonal communication to ensure they effectively collaborate with their teams, retain & grow client relationships and drive organisational change. Besides, strong interpersonal communication is necessary to show empathy and self-expression. Well-being is a skill too that they should have and hone, following an appropriate fitness regime and a clear delineation of work, personal and family time. Employees should also be mindful of their financial, mental and physical health as working in isolation does take its toll over a period.
Lifelong learning can’t stop
Employees should not stop the continuous learning mechanisms in the realm of digital skills. These are now economic imperatives that provide a competitive advantage to employees. Those who plan and improve their skills continuously are likely to evolve into high performers. In the fully digital environment that we live in, every employee should inculcate basic digital skills to work and collaborate with team members, clients, partners and other stakeholders. These skills will give them a basic understanding of data concepts, and processes like data visualisation and advanced analytics that are crucial in the new normal.
While employees embark on a path of building foundational skills and continuous learning, organisations, for their part, should put in place talent strategies focusing on these functions besides investing in across-the-board employee learning programmes. They should reimagine the competencies that their employees should possess to continue working remotely or in a hybrid model. If organisations do not set out on this path now, they may find it difficult to do so at scale in the future.
To summarise, the name of the game in the Covid era should be the new attributes — resilience, perseverance, and interpersonal communication, coupled with continuous learning. They are fundamental to enhancing product development and delivery, customer experience and the ability to innovate as new working environments, business models and technologies emerge. The workforce and their organisations should embrace these changes. As the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, remarked hundreds of years ago, “Change is the only constant in life.”
(The writer is VP & HR head, IBM, India/South Asia)