What Covid-19 Has Taught Us About Employment Skills

Only a mere few months ago, the world of work looked remarkably different and organisations had priorities completely unlike the ones they have today.

In the wake of a crisis however, things can change rapidly, and leaders across industries are finding themselves in need of certain skills to ensure they come out the other side of this pandemic in the best form possible.

Here are four skills which the pandemic has put under the microscope, and which ought to be prioritised by employers across the world of work:

1. Effective communication
Many employers new to managing a remote working team may have grappled with barriers to communication across their team and the wider business. This has definitely put the ability to communicate effectively under the spotlight in today’s remote world of work, but by no means does the importance of strong communication only come to the fore in trying times. In fact, two thirds (66%) of employers surveyed in the Hays 2020 Outlook surveyed in January this year cited communication and interpersonal skills as important.

Today’s employees are using multiple platforms to communicate: video calls, messaging apps and more. Not only do employees need to be able to communicate effectively no matter the platform, but they need to know how often to communicate and what technology to use. When looking for a candidate with good communication skills, look out for cues like a strong introduction, open and engaged body language and strong eye contact, and try to speak to them via the technology your team uses most.

2. Project and change managers
Against a backdrop of constant transformation, the demand for project and change managers is evident and shows little sign of abating in the near future. The required skills for these roles overlap considerably but a solid understanding of IT systems and software as well as confident people management skills are crucial. Remember that these skills don’t just have to be assigned to the role of a project or change manager, they can be incorporated into a number of management roles.

Having an expert driving force which is equipped to lead and manage change is crucial for our current and future world of work, so either build these responsibilities into existing roles or consider assigning a new role exclusively to ensure your organisation is able to stay ahead of the curve.

3. Technological and digital literacy
Even the most technology resistant of us are having to get to grips with new tools and software just to carry out our day to day jobs, showing that we all need to have some degree of digital literacy no matter what industry we’re in. Without fully fledged IT teams and professionals who are savvy with tech, we wouldn’t have been able to make the widespread shifts to working from home that we have done in recent times.

As the pandemic has certainly shown the value of strong IT skills, it is likely that businesses will only be looking to increase their use of technology once normal working life resumes. Employers ought to consider digital literacy as a priority in their talent development plans and make sure that any investment into new technology is coupled with sufficient training to support their workforce in getting the most out of it.

4. Adaptability
While it’s true that change has occurred more rapidly since the onset of the pandemic, we will inevitably experience different challenges once this passes which will require us to change and adapt. Today’s short-term uncertainty hasn’t altered the longer-term reality that our world of work is in constant flux thanks to new technology, emerging trends and industry shifts.

To truly cope with change, you need adaptable and flexible staff at all levels who don’t shy away at the possibility of disruption. Lead from the front by being receptive to new ideas yourself, being curious, challenging the status-quo and bouncing back when things go wrong. Encourage diversity of thought too, as when things are uncertain and constantly changing, the least helpful mindset for a team is a unilateral one. Varied and diverse opinions are key to staying adaptable.

While we hopefully won’t be bear witness to anything like the current crisis for some time, it certainly shows us what skills are crucial for organisations to have if they are to stay afloat amid the current uncertainty and cope with change in the future. Skills are the new currency to pay for a smooth journey through this, so make sure your organisation is honing in on the right ones.

This blog is an abridged version of an article from Hays here.

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Katherine Whittaker • 21/05/2020

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