Trend 1: Fluid thinking will be the #1 skill in demand by employers

As workforces globally grapple with the ongoing impacts of an international pandemic, industry leaders continue to look to the future for strategies and solutions. However, what lies ahead is now less clear than ever before, and the ability for employees to master ‘fluid thinking’ has quickly become a skill in high and urgent demand.

The impacts of COVID-19 mean businesses must evaluate how to navigate change and uncertainty. We’re not following a map any more. We’re not taking a known route on our business journey – we’re embarking on odysseys which are a different type of expedition guided instead by a sense of purpose, vision and collective values. And businesses are seeking employees who are ready for this new adventure. (Aidan McCullen, transformational consultant in innovation and host of “The Innovation Show”; Forbes, The Future Of Work Post-COVID19: Why Embracing The Odyssey And Valuing Rebellion Is The New Recipe For Success, 04.05.20) 

To steer your way on an odyssey, fluid reasoning – or novel problem solving – is an absolute essential. And, the good news is that, to a certain level, fluid intelligence can be trained in a person.

According to behavioural therapist, Andrea Kuszewski, there are five primary factors to increasing fluid intelligence:

1. Seek novelty: Expand your mind – learn an instrument, read a new genre, be a ‘knowledge junkie’.

2. Challenge yourself: Being in a constant state of slight discomfort keeps your brain active and leads to cognitive growth.

3. Think creatively: Explore conventional and unconventional thinking and generate original ideas.

4. Do things the hard way: Try walking to work when you might have driven or going without GPS … your brain will thank you!

5. Network: Exposing yourself to new people and perspectives enables learning and comes with social and emotional benefits! 

Trend 2: Nomad executives will become vital contributors to an organisation’s success

More than employee longevity in a position, your ‘importance’ is based on your unique value, the impact you create, the outcomes you drive. Organisational capability and performance is ABSOLUTELY DETERMINED by the capability and potential of its people. Talent acquisition, talent engagement and talent pipelining have become essential strategies for the future.

Coronavirus has forced many companies to continue with remote working set-ups. The rise in ‘nomadic work’ means staff can operate from almost anywhere, at any time, and business leaders have realised that where and when we work is not as significant as we thought. Since the start of Australia’s COVID-19 shutdowns, almost half of the Australian workforce (ABS: Household impacts of COVID-19 Survey) has spent time working from home and many corporate employers are continuing this trend.

In her book Unleashed, Harvard Professor Frances Frei argues that one of the most compelling things we can do as leaders is to ensure our “impact continues in our absence” and “the performance of others improves in our absence.” As an executive or leader in a nomadic working environment, be clear in your communication so everyone is able to execute the core function of the business without face-to-face interaction.

Trend 3: More talent will transition their careers … and employers should take notice

For some, the pandemic has forced a change for the better. Our clients tell us that the disruption of 2020 has given them the opportunity to really “go after” what they want. COVID-19 has caused workers to reassess priorities with many leaving their roles or industries altogether. Research published by ING Future Focus in their recent ‘Preparing for the digital workforce of tomorrow’ report shows that three million Australians are planning a post-pandemic career change.

As people become less afraid of change, they will be prepared to take on greater risks so, as business leaders, look out for the ‘gems’ currently transitioning to your sector and hold on to the top performers you already have.

The ‘gems’ proactively transitioning their career know their unique value, they know the impact they want to have on the world and they know their purpose. These people know what they want and who they want to work for. They will be more productive and demonstrate greater resilience and sustainability. 

If you are holding onto your ‘gems’, make sure it is in their best interest, not yours.

Trend 4: Employers will be less afraid to downsize and more skilled at organisational change

Business leaders are busy redefining their focus on workforce capability, productivity and profitability. While it’s not easy for leadership to navigate the economic impacts of COVID-19, when layoffs are necessary, here are a few ways to manage them compassionately:

Gather information: Being prepared with all the information regarding what happens post layoff can help ease anxiety.

Be direct and compassionate: This can help people process what you’re saying. Include a brief explanation about the economic conditions that led to the layoff (if applicable) so employees know it’s not about job performance.

Understand resources to aid redundancy: Discuss any measures that may assist in mitigating the impact of redundancy.

(Harvard Business Review: April 7, 2020, How to manage Coronavirus Layoffs with Compassion)

Trend 5: The mislabelled ‘soft skills’ will earn their rightful place as ‘hard, highly technical, must-haves’

Being able to communicate, engage, motivate, connect, empathise, understand, support, develop, and mentor are mislabelled as ‘soft skills’ causing a whole generation of leaders to not actually recognise how technical these skills are and how necessary they are for productivity and profitability.

These ‘soft skills’ are actually the ‘hard’, essential core skills that enable effective leadership, especially during a time of crisis when employee anxiety is heightened.

To become a successful, recognised leader, regardless of your position, switch your perception and mindset around these skills from ‘soft’ to ‘hard’. You will then be able to better understand these areas of expertise and develop them to a more competent, more powerful level.

Our tips for success:

1. Be highly visible. Communicate authentically and clearly: Stress in the workplace can limit a person’s ability to digest and translate information. Ensure you are communicating to the individual as well as the team and absolutely ensure consistent messaging, mitigating any risk of assumptions and inconsistencies.

2. Dig deep when things get tough: Accentuate the positive and strengthen communal bonds to restore confidence. The number one rule for leaders and managers is this: as a leader or manager, you are not allowed to whinge. Dig deep and stay strong. Your team needs you more than ever.

3. Be authentic. Dont dress things up. Be honest, and don’t be afraid to tell the truth. Whilst confronting and challenging, finding the right words at the right time and preparing people for change is essential. Creating an environment where people feel comfortable and safe is key to enabling productive and constructive dialogue.

4. Bring relevance to situations that are complex and uncertain. Foster hope for the future: Support your teams to establish a clear vision for the future. Identify key success factors – both short-term and long-term – for the organisation, the team and, most importantly, the individuals.

5. Be present, be engaged: Our information needs during times of immense change can be complex and differ from person to person. Get creative in your messaging and communication techniques. Don’t just rely on what you have done before. Listen to the responses from your audience and act accordingly and with respect.

Contact Steam Capital to learn more about our services:

  • Masters in Me™ Career Transition Program
  • Bespoke Outplacement Services
  • Talent Acquisition and Recruitment

Libby Marshall

Author Libby Marshall

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