The year 2020 has unfolded in three chapters – almost in a manner of cause, effect and impact - starting with COVID-19 being declared a pandemic, to its aftermath of nationwide lockdowns, economic downturn and severely broken health systems.
The impact on the corporate sector has been all about unprecedented change. Companies invested in technology and infrastructure to enable remote working, as the definition of workspace evolved. What ensued was a complete overhaul of people’s daily lives. Dealing with the collision of work and personal life alongside coping with the fear of loss, be it fear of losing a loved one or losing a job or losing sanity, made it a very difficult year. People experienced varied emotions right down to the lowest point in the valley of Kubler-Ross change curve. If there were a poll for the range of emotions experienced this year, ‘overwhelmed’ would certainly stand out.
But here we are, at the end of 2020, with the knowledge that sometime in our future the fears will stall, and the pace of change will rescind. What we will carry into the future are the skills people applied to stay focused and stay relevant this year. Companies would do well to recognize and promote these softer aspects that ensure the pivots made to create the 'workplace' of the future are complemented by a ready and raring to go 'workforce' of the future.
Here are few skills people applied this year, that would continue to play a big part in defining the future of work;
Individuals with a learning mindset view setbacks as opportunities. They try hard to overcome the problem and exemplify the saying, ‘there is never a bad outcome, there is always a great lesson’. This quality also enables resilient thinking and attitude.
In the post-Covid era, the pace and scale of change propelled the need to learn and adapt like never before. Be it technology or new ways of collaborating or even managing personal finances, this year there was enough and more reason to sharpen the saw. With home isolation, people mindfully channeled time saved from travelling and socializing into preparing for the future. Most companies reported a surge in learning uptake.
LinkedIn Learning reported a 245% increase in the number of hours spent by their members on learning in July 2020 as compared to 2019. Since overcoming setbacks and growing from them is the need of the hour, learning mindset is a valuable muscle to build.
Creativity in the organizational context is about experimenting and taking measured risks.
During the initial chaos following the transition to remote working, people employed creativity within the realm of what was in their control, without compromising on outcomes. For instance, from being worried about the safety of their families, people relocated to be closer to near and dear ones. From being flustered about not having dedicated spaces to work at home, people discovered the magic of virtual backgrounds. Experimenting and improvising made people’s lives better.
While creativity flourishes in a time of great flux, it is important to maintain the momentum as things begin to settle. This is the right time to fuel thoughts around why we are doing what we are doing, and how things can be improved in the interest of solving for problems in the foreseeable future.
Empathy allows leaders to see things through the eyes of their people and respond in a manner that holds meaning to them.
With disruption in the traditional construct of the workspace, companies had no option but to intensify efforts around ensuring people feel enabled, included and connected while they are remote and apart. The focus on building trust, transparency and inclusion was clear through strong communication, employee well-being programs and shifts from managing people to empowering them.
While trust, transparency and inclusion are cultural aspects, they speak directly to the quality of empathy – in the sense of being aware of, sensitive to and understanding what people are experiencing and building solutions accordingly.
There is a strong correlation between a company’s culture and traits exhibited by its people. People who experience a fair understanding of their own situation through others, will attempt to provide the same experience back to their clients and customers.
The above are by no means an exhaustive list of skills, but the idea is to have a mix that would suit any context. As we poise for recovery, these skills would continue to be leveraged. While the mantra this year has been to ‘stay home and stay safe’, we can take hope from the fact that people have been steadily working their way to a skill mix that will help themselves and companies alike, stay relevant and stay future ready!