There’s no turning back or trying to ignore the fact that we are living in a world facing massive change. As technology advances, markets become more competitive. Customers are demanding more. Whole industries are about to face further waves of disruption. These are challenging times for both employees and employers. It is no wonder people are worried. But rather than getting stuck in gloomy thoughts, it is a good time to consider how we can be proactive.
One thing is for sure, to remain competitive as employees and businesses we cannot stay the same. We cannot keep doing the same things in the same ways, using the same skills and technology. Keeping up requires upskilling and devising better, cheaper and quicker solutions. Not doing so will lead to stagnation and getting left behind. Beth Comstock from GE summarised it well:
“I think we still need great leaders with vision, the ability to find and coach people, to encourage people, to help them renew themselves, to go forward……the future still depends on great leaders who reinvent themselves”.
~ Beth Comstock, Vice Chairman of GE, Head of GE’s business innovations.
The times call for agility and adaptability; a reinvention of ourselves and the way we do things.
We might be quietly worried about being displaced. While employees worry about the future of their roles, employers worry about bridging the talent gap in their organisations. The Oxford Economics Workforce 2020 Report identified a looming talent crisis. It found most companies surveyed were unprepared to capitalise on the changes facing the workplaces of the future.
- Businesses seemed to be struggling “with managing talent, cultivating leadership, encouraging learning, and understanding their employees”.
- They didn't appear to be making HR a priority.
- Only 39% of employees said their HR department had a good understanding of their skill-set.
- HR departments didn’t seem to understand the true knowledge and abilities of their employees.
There are some valuable insights here and hidden opportunities for both employees and employers. Workplaces are fast becoming more diverse than ever. There is value in diversity and in being adaptable. Diversity brings a variety of skills, experiences, strengths and talents of multiple generations and backgrounds. There may be a shortage of exact experience, but there are also opportunities to tap into aptitude and potential.
2. We all have some degree of strengths blindness – find hidden potential
We must aim to develop the required technical skills and to bridge the required experience talent gap. While there might be a shortage of experience, there's no shortage of potential. Let's look for and develop transferrable strengths, skills and experience. Some of these may already be available within the existing workforce.
Our human potential is being underutilised in workplaces. This is clear. I think there are blind-spots, both in the eyes of the employee and in the organisations’ understanding of their human capital. This is what I have observed. The biggest reason people are not achieving their full potential in the workplace: a lack of awareness of and ability to express their capabilities. Why?
We all have some degree of strengths-blindness when it comes to knowing ourselves, and others. We each have strengths and abilities which may currently be invisible, inactive or even supressed. We get caught up in the comfort zone and repetitive nature of our roles and daily lives. We all disconnect to some extent with what we’re still capable of.
What are some of the things holding us back? Social conditioning, self-limiting beliefs and limited opportunities for best-self expression and growth. Rigid position descriptions and roles are due for an upgrade.
- 61% of employees surveyed did not think their employers had a good understanding of their skill-set, and
- We each have some degree of strengths-blindness
- How many strengths and abilities are still invisible, inactive or suppressed in our human capabilities?
- And, how much could we gain by tapping into these more fully?
3. Be Adaptable
We humans have been historically hard-wired to be apprehensive of change. Our software for living in a world facing exponential change needs regular updates. We regularly update our devices but we’re much slower in updating our internal software, or mindsets! We cannot face a rapidly-changing future armed only with the skills and experiences of the past and by remaining in the established comfort zones of our lives and careers.
The increasing pressure of keeping up and remaining competitive provides opportunity. Opportunity for employers to for employees to discover, develop and add new skills to their toolbox. To show their willingness and ability to adapt and grow.
The Hudson Report, Australia, H2 2016 has a message for employers, which should not be ignored. Professionals aspire to work in adaptable and innovative workplaces.
“Your people want to be innovative and adaptable: they are looking for new skills and employers have the opportunity to channel that enthusiasm into a win-win.” ~ The Hudson Report, Australia, H2 2016
For organisations to remain competitive and relevant in rapidly changing markets, they must create a culture of innovation and adaptability. These underpin successful change.
There has never been a better time to pause and reassess, to reconnect with who we can be at our best. It’s time to embrace our human-ness and to understand what we’re capable of, outside of our past. This is the time to explore our potential for stretch and growth and how we can best utilise and complement technology. It is a time for keeping up with technical skills. This is also a time which is ripe for self-discovery and the development of our unique human strengths and softer skills. It is a time to discover the unrealised and transferrable skills, qualities, strengths and talents to tap into. These will help us to adapt and reinvent ourselves and our organisations to meet the workplace needs of tomorrow.
4. Focus on Career Development Planning and Upskilling
Employers need to make HR a priority. Clear talent strategies and career development planning are essential if they are to attract and retain the best people.
“Employees crave innovation and new skills – but they also feel the pressure to keep up in a competitive job market.” ~ The Hudson Report, Australia, H2 2016
Career development, new skills development and the ability to remain competitive in a changing job market are extremely important for employees. Here lies the problem. According to The Hudson Report, “Employers lack a game-plan for building future skills.” One in two employees didn’t feel supported by their manager to improve their skills, and are prepared to take their career development into their own hands, outside of the organisational plan. Organisations must develop a culture of continuous learning and development to meet the needs of a rapidly-changing world and to keep great talent.
The prospect of career planning for a fast-changing future can be very confusing for employees. I find that people are seeking clarity and direction. People want to grow and develop their capabilities more fully. They want to plan for and devise talent strategies for the next chapter of their careers. People want their organisations to recognise what they have to offer and to support them in their development. They are much more engaged if they feel like they’re an integral part of the organisation and its vision.
When not understood and not given a chance to develop, people get frustrated and want to get out of the rut they are finding themselves in. There is a real fear of stagnating, and being left behind technologically. Many don't feel they're getting the right exposure and skills development. There is a clear need to develop career talent plans and strategies.
As an individual, do you have a career development plan? As an organisation, do you have a clear HR talent development strategy?
What can be done?
- Leaders can find out the strengths their employees have and what motivates them and re-think org structures and roles.
- Individuals need to become more self-aware and self-assured in understanding and promoting their full abilities and in understanding and seeking the environment which will enable them to perform at their best.
- Both should seek to find ways to merge interests and potential with future skills needs.
- Get flexible. Find ways of creating hybrid jobs, which merge the best of both and allow for a more rounded application of the individual’s skills and interests.
- Provide a suitable learning and development plan to develop, engage and retain the talent within and attract the best new talent.
- Identify and fast-track the development of potential future leaders.
Do this to ensure a more engaged, better-skilled, more agile and future-ready workforce.
5. Embody an Innovation Culture
According to The Hudson Report, there is room for improvement to the innovation culture in Australia.
- 86% of employers say their organisation has a culture that drives rewards and innovation
- But only 22% of employees say their organisation encourages innovation to a strong extent in the workplace
Innovation is not just about developing radical new technology, services or products. It is not limited to the organisations with large research and development budgets. Invention usually get all the attention, but it is not the only aspect of innovation.
“Every employee can probably tell you at least one thing they would do differently. It’s up to leaders to ask the question.” ~ The Hudson Report, Australia, H2 2016
While it is important to upgrade technological systems and skills, it is equally important to recognise the value of developing softer skills. There is power in teams working together extraordinarily well. We can improve or change processes by tapping into employee insights and feedback. There are opportunities to improve communication, teamwork and collaboration. We can better-utilise the diverse skills and untapped strengths and potential of existing employees.
It can be a matter of bringing new life and energy into the people and organisational mindset. Renewing and making the organisation more engaging, effective and productive through re-engineering and transformation. It is an opportunity to channel employee enthusiasm, to harness their motivations and interests. We can merge organisational goals with what employees do best to create a win-win.
Develop a culture which is prepared to give it a go, fail quickly, learn fast and move forward.
Innovation and adaptability requires focus on change and culture management. Everyone can contribute to innovation. Give attention to employee upskilling and built-in systems and processes to support initiatives in these areas. Staff need time and a safe environment to experiment. They need to know they can fail and learn from mistakes so they can quickly move forward. Let people know you’re ready to listen, and then implement and reward the best ideas.
6. Start Today and Get Help If You Need To
There has never a better time than today to make a start in preparation for future-readiness.
Start with developing a flexible mindset and an exploration of existing potential. Take the time to pause, re-assess and see possibilities. Develop a future-readiness plan to engage strengths, grow and develop skills and innovate. Be ready to adapt and be prepared to reinvent.
If you need help, I can get you started. Contact me to organise a strategy discussion.