Some change is planned: digital transformation, expansion into new markets, or mergers and acquisitions (to name a few!). And sometimes change is unplanned or triggered by a compelling event that is outside of your control – like the current reality we face with COVID-19. Change isn't a new concept, and to adequately prepare for both planned and unplanned changes, talent leaders need to drive strategic decision-making about identifying and developing skills that are critical for success.
How do we build strategies and programs that will enable us to mobilize the skills we need to address the opportunities (and challenges) that change presents? What are the most important skills that will prepare us for the future of our organization? Are we upskilling our employees to stay informed or adapt in their current role? Do we reskill employees to adapt to different responsibilities as the organization's needs change?
As organizations and expectations shift and evolve, it's important that your decision-making is strategic to reflect the needs of employees and the skills that will help them succeed in our collective 'new normal'.
Reskilling in times of growth and change
Workplace changes are inevitable – whether it is the implementation of a planned technology upgrade, or the immediate and accelerated implementation of new tools and technology to support an entirely remote workforce. To combat this, organizations are adapting to new ways of working, and the skills and roles that support it.
Skills are at the core of all things talent management. And sometimes abrupt change (like the COVID-19 pandemic) forces organizations to rely on an entirely new set of skills. But you are likely equipped to react with the power of your people. Your workforce is comprised of a group of skilled people that can adapt their skillsets and rise to the challenge. It goes without saying, we are living in a state of disruption – and how we react now will set us up for success as we redefine what we now know as the world of work.
Nurturing behavioral skills
If you've been working to develop critical skills, you are ahead of the pack. Recognize these skills and provide your people with opportunities to apply their skills to the challenges at hand. Pull on your highly skilled employees to coach and mentor your talent (and build your organizational bench strength). If this hasn't been a priority, start defining what behavioral skills are most aligned to your organization's values and current strategy – and focus your efforts on building awareness and development opportunities to chart the course.
Now more than ever, behavioral skills exercise their importance – the ability to communicate, innovate, and adapt – in a state of flux. The way we work and the response to ongoing changes means that organizations are shifting their focus to nurturing the behavioral skills of their employees and supporting them as we adjust to the unknowns.
Building core skills through social learning and collaboration
Learning is a cognitive process. Humans model their behavior and learn from those around them through observation and imitation. This theory, established in the 1970s by Albert Bandura, remains true in 2020. The only change? The social medium.
Organizations around the world have gone virtual! The social medium that enables teams to communicate, learn and collaborate is digital – and it's here to say. Learning can go beyond its core definition; intentional learning has the capability to provide greater connectivity among teams and individuals. Right now, you may have the opportunity to leverage learning technologies to connect your people in new ways through virtual development opportunities. When the dust settles and the return to work begins, learning and collaboration will be equally, if not more important than it is now.
Closing skills gaps by linking performance, feedback and learning
Learning and performance don't solely co-exist – they support one another. But how do you connect the two during planned or abrupt change? It's up to talent leaders to deliver a learning experience that moves the needle on performance. Start by connecting performance expectations (the what) around what needs to change or the new outcomes we are working towards with critical skills (the how) that are required to get it done. Then align your learning strategies to build the critical skills to close performance gaps and set your people up for success.
The shift in the way we work and stay productive isn't all new, but the way we react and respond is critical, and employee engagement is likely top of mind. Linking performance, feedback and learning is an opportunity to enable employees to develop and succeed, now and in the future.
Without the added pressure of a global pandemic, companies are still navigating regular workplace changes. Learn how four diverse companies have made their employees' skills a critical building block for their talent and business strategies in our eBook, Enabling Critical Skills: A Guide for Success.