It’s no secret that the initial disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to sweeping changes in companies and workplaces worldwide. Business leaders are facing new challenges while navigating the post-pandemic environment where many employees are rethinking their professional commitments and considering other options.
If you hope to avoid the “great resignation” taking place in your company, you might want to consider the best ways to keep your employees engaged and developing their professional skills in order to stay relevant. What are the most important skills your employees need while weathering the post-pandemic changes? In this article, you’ll discover the top three skills your employees should develop and how you can help your employees cultivate them.
According to CXOs surveyed in the 2021 Deloitte Global resilience report, flexibility/adaptability is the workforce trait most critical to the future. The more flexibility employees have, the better they will be at maintaining optimum productivity amidst change. Case in point: the rise of the hybrid work model. Consider the recent flux of working between home and the office and the necessity to implement various technologies to maintain efficiency while working from home.
Looking back farther, the last five years saw a 242% increase in HR professionals with data analytics skills, according to LinkedIn’s 2020 Global Talent Trends report. What does this mean? It means that professionals on every level need to learn new skills in order to stay relevant. Additionally, 73% of talent professionals say people analytics will be prioritized in their company over the next five years, resulting in a need for greater flexibility and more upskilling.
How can you cultivate adaptability skills in your staff?
Some people are naturally more flexible than others. The question is, can you foster adaptability in those lacking it? Yes, and here are three ways you can do so.
In his book, “Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise,” psychology professor and neuroscientist Dr. Anders Ericsson shows that humans can leverage adaptability to become more flexible. The secret is fostering a willingness and deliberate mindset to change.
Dr. Ericsson conducted a pivotal study on which he based his theory of deliberate practice. The study involved three groups of violinists — the best, the better, and the good — at the Academy of Music in Berlin. While seeking to discover what differentiates the experts from the rest, Dr. Ericsson found that the quantity and quality of deliberate practice is what differentiated the groups.
The good violinists reported around 4,000 hours of practice, the very good violinists, 8,000, while the world-class group put in over 10,000 hours of purposeful and deliberate practice. Similar studies were also conducted with the same results. In short, the right mindset is half the battle. The rest is continuous practice.
Look for adaptability skills in your new hires. Specific skills you should keep an eye out for include problem solving, a creative approach to challenges, team working, leadership aptitude, and flexibility.
Try to find out how their career trajectory has developed over the years. Have they embraced change in previous roles? Do they work well with others to achieve professional goals? Have they shown an ability to switch priorities as needed or assist coworkers in a project that is not in their immediate purview? All these signify a willingness to adapt.
Research papers published recently have found emotional intelligence to be a vital factor behind career adaptability and flexibility. Also known as “emotional quotient” (EQ), it recognizes the fact that emotions and intelligence are not opposing factors and, if used together, are synergistic. An employee with high levels of emotional intelligence is likely to be skilled in interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, stress management, and problem-solving.
Actively encourage your employees to develop and honing their EQ. Also, lead by example in practicing self-awareness, improving your social skills, and showing empathy. Recommend books on emotional intelligence to your team members and facilitate their participation in courses and webinars on the topic of EQ.
Collaboration is another top skill your employees need to develop. Higher levels of work engagement result in 41% lower absenteeism, 24% lower turnover, 17% higher productivity, and 21% higher profitability, according to Gallup research.
In Mercer's 2021 Global Talent Trends report, collaboration has been ranked as the top skill critical for future resilience. Today, with many tech-enabled tools, we have unique opportunities to facilitate more dynamic collaboration. Encourage your workforce to creatively discover ways to work together and drive even greater business results.
How to develop collaboration skills
You need employees who are not intimidated by collaborating via technologies such as video and phone conferencing and in-app collaboration. How can you facilitate growth in these areas?
Ask your employees what’s barring them from effective collaboration. Help your team members identify any problems and give them the freedom to address issues they are facing. Encourage them to pursue team working opportunities as well as utilize cutting-edge technology in their collaborative efforts.
Be proactive about collaborating and sharing information with others. Actively seek feedback from your employees in these areas. Don’t shy away from asking for insights about projects or company development.
82% of U.S. employees hope to work from home at least some of the time post-pandemic, so it’s essential that you make remote collaborative tools available. Additionally, offer training and resources to help your staff become experts at using these tools.
Hold cross-functional team meetings to facilitate collaboration. Weekly check-ins can go a long way in creating a work environment where everyone’s skills are understood and respected. Also, promote the stories of successful out-of-box collaborative efforts among your employees. Seeing their coworkers’ names “in lights” for contributions will serve to inspire team members who might otherwise feel hesitant.
Discipline (a.k.a self-management) is the third most important skill your employees need to succeed in this post-pandemic era. The 2021 Workplace Learning Trends Report from Udemy saw the demand for time management, focus, and self-discipline skills rise by as much as 990% from 2019 to 2020.
In a remote or hybrid work environment, a disciplined routine is paramount. Promoting structured workdays will help your workers deal with the struggle of not being able to unplug from work, which can lead to burnout and isolation.
Self-management includes skills such as setting and accomplishing goals with minimal supervision, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, managing projects with efficiency and sticking to a proper schedule when working from home. In our post-pandemic era, it also includes the ability to troubleshoot home office technology and be proficient in collaborative tools.
How to Imbue Discipline in Your Employees
Cognitive psychologist Daniel Goldstein observes that self-discipline is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Enable your employees to flex that muscle of self-discipline in these four ways:
Automation can save work hours and minimize unnecessary meetings. This automation of routine will facilitate meaningful work, and such opportunities are plentiful. Collaborate with your tech team to make use of such tools. For example, you can utilize Slack’s automated file management, delegate tasks to team members with automated messages, and employ customized automation tools according to your company’s needs.
Two major issues that cause employees to neglect routine are lack of motivation and a dwindling sense of purpose. Career coaching and professional development courses can help your team members develop successful work routines and inspire your people with healthy levels of motivation.
Optimize your employees’ performance goals by regularly touching base with them. Monitor whether their work goals are being met and take measures accordingly. Additionally, make sure that individual goals are in sync with the goals of the department as a whole.
Arrange calls among team members to discuss how folks are creating their own routine, as well as tools, thought processes, books, and other material helping them maintain discipline and work-life balance. Team members will gain practical insights from each other.
Times of unprecedented change requires unprecedented approaches. By understanding the top skills your employees need – and how to help your team members develop them – you can navigate through this new normal and achieve stability and growth.
Liz Hogan is a CPRW and the Community Manager at Find My Profession. She regularly shares her advice on job search strategy and resume writing with others. She is also passionate about volunteering and learning new languages.