Media and advocacy

Ready for change

1 October 2020, 
Sarah McCann-Bartlett

If there has been one constant this year, it’s change, and one of the few things that most people agree on is that we will experience an accelerated rate of change into the future.

Exactly what skills organisations will need in this rapidly changing future has of course been much discussed. The pandemic has prompted organisations to make fundamental changes to their business models at a rapid pace and with little opposition. The upshot? We have become much more change-able as a workforce.

We need to make sure that we nurture and grow this capability in the longer term. As well as changeability, there are other ‘essential’ skills that all organisations are going to need to cultivate across our workforces, including creativity, curiosity, resilience and digital skills.

In times of financial difficulty, it is common for organisations to tighten their belts and reduce expenditure on ‘non-essential’ items; this has often included learning and development. However, capturing and developing essential skills will be vital to businesses’ success going forward, and may very well be the difference between an organisation thriving and failing.

As well as becoming more change-able themselves, many HR practitioners also extended the scope of their roles and thus their own capabilities during the pandemic.

Our Pulse Surveys have told us that this period has been incredibly difficult for HR as their workload increased and they struggled to keep up with everything that was required and expected of them. However, it has also brought HR's value to the fore. Workloads remains high and many HR professionals have not yet had the opportunity to take stock of their impact on the organisation or reflect on their own learning.

More broadly, the question for organisations is how they are going to continue to develop those employees who have embraced rapid change and demonstrated their ability to grow their skills and capability. Equally important is considering how those who have demonstrated less change-ability can be supported to grow.

My experience as a leader tells me that a clear articulation of expectations within a supportive environment is a good first step. However, it needs to be underpinned by the understanding that the organisation is made up of individuals, each of whom have
a unique set of skills, knowledge and ways of looking at challenges.

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