If you were ordered on a mission to travel back in time to tell an office worker from the ‘90s what their day-to-day will be like in 2020, you would be laughed out of their cubicle, and then escorted past the watercooler and by the stationery storeroom on your way out. This imaginary worker from the dialup internet slash paper-based era would not be able to fathom how their job could be done from anywhere not named the office.
And yet, to be fair to the imaginary worker, just one year ago none of us would have thought that our future morning commutes would be a different kind of door-to-door journey: we've ditched public transport and traffic congestion for a short stroll down the hallway to our makeshift home offices. From video conference platforms, to a greater trust and reliance on cloud-based technology, and an adjustment to working remotely on the fly, organisations (and their employees) have made it work.
Organisations and their employees have proven their resilience
According to Microsoft, the early stages of the pandemic saw the daily record for meeting minutes obliterated — their previous record was 900 million meeting minutes logged on March 16, and that number ballooned to 2.7 billion meeting minutes on March 31, a staggering 200% increase in a matter of 15 days. This data may come as no surprise given the global working from home policies implemented by human resource (HR) teams; however, it demonstrates how agile organisations had to be to ensure they could continue to do business during unprecedented times.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has accelerated a whole catalogue of underlying trends, such as artificial intelligence, big data and automation. The pandemic has been more of an agent for hurrying along trends that were going to happen anyway, rather than a force of sheer disruption. The effect of the pandemic on our ways of working has brought about some HR challenges for the new normal as it pertains to finding and nurturing employable talent.
Nurturing talent is proving to be a stubborn challenge
It’s now more important than ever to identify individuals who can demonstrate the abilities and traits that enable them to work effectively in the new normal. According to Pearson research, organisations are struggling to find candidates to fill job vacancies, as well as to effectively evaluate the skill sets of candidates. Additionally, jobseekers are finding themselves in a career progression conundrum: they’re finding that they’re overqualified, under-skilled, or in some cases, both.
The research found that human resource and learning and developing professionals are focused on identifying what the impact of the changing world is on their organisation and the skill structure of the workforce, which involves understanding (and identifying) skill gaps. According to the data, 57% of organisational needs are understanding how the pandemic has impacted the structure of teams, ways of working and overall organisational design, and 33% of attention will be directed at reskilling the workforce.
The new ways of working have made soft skills, such as critical thinking, adaptability, collaboration and communication, more valuable than ever before. In addition, and while they’re deemed critical in today’s landscape, some of the core soft skills are indeed a skill gap among jobseekers and today’s workers. Critical thinking and complex information processing are two soft skills that are sought after by industry, but are lacking in the talent pool.
According to Pearson research, these are the following top 10 skills in demand in order of priority, as deemed by organisations:
- Adaptability and continuous learning (38%)
- Critical thinking and decision making (34%)
- Complex information processing and interpretation (31%)
- Project management (29%)
- Leadership and managing others (27%)
- Basic digital skills (25%)
- Advanced IT skills and programming (25%)
- Quantitative and statistical skills (22%)
- Advanced data analysis and mathematical skills (22%)
- Entrepreneurship and initiative taking (20%)
Many HR professionals are considering online tools and services to address the skill gaps and to assess their immediate (and future) organisational needs. Activities such as workshops, e-learning solutions and advisory services are being increasingly leveraged to reskill and upskill workforces as form of on-the-job education.