What are the Skills required in our ‘new normal’ world?

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions on the way we live and work has impacted all of our daily lives over recent months. But with restrictions now beginning to lift, thoughts are inevitably turning to what the ‘new normal’ may look like. There are a lot of unknowns and uncertainty, but it is safe to assume that it is highly unlikely the world will simply go back to ‘business as usual’.

When restrictions were first imposed, organizations had to transform their businesses, their operating models and the working locations of their people overnight. For many, including Atos, this accelerated what was an existing journey toward a more digital and remote workforce. For other organizations, however, it marked the start of the journey - and the pain and difficulty of making those transformations overnight cannot and should not be wasted by just reverting back at the first opportunity. Businesses have a real opportunity to write their own future and determine what they want their ‘new normal’ to look like, from a business model, workforce and skills perspective.

So what skills are likely to be required for the ‘new normal’ and have they changed as a result of the pandemic?

For digital skills, the need remains the same; what has changed is the speed and volume in which they are required. As businesses try to plan for their ‘new normal’, technology becomes a key part of the discussion: it enables businesses to adapt – from facilitating the overnight transition of entire operations from office to home, to helping to shape the ‘new’ working world on an ongoing basis.

What is striking is the realization of the importance not just of technological skills, but of so many other “soft” skills which have come to the fore in recent months. The pandemic has challenged our resilience, our strength as humans and our ability to react and change at lightening pace. As people and organizations plan for the next stage, it is those who have real strength in adaptability, resilience, creativity, innovation and agility that will rise and be critical in shaping the next generation of our organizations.

For our leaders, the pressure is on. Never before has leadership been so important. Amid great uncertainty, they have been required to take the helm and lead their people through this crisis, showing strength, confidence and empathy. Many leaders are having to learn themselves: How do I support a remote team? How can I support the individual needs of my people with their challenging circumstances? How do I keep my business running right now?

The Edelman Trust Barometer for 2020 shows that 58% of respondents fear losing their jobs due to lack of training and skills. 84% cited that it is important for them to have their CEO or leader speak out on training for jobs of the future. People really are putting trust in their employer to help them navigate the future.

All of these challenges require leaders who can manage uncertainty, emotions, individuality and vulnerability, and who can engage and truly lead. Already we are hearing about those who have risen to the challenge (and sadly those who have not) and the decisions they are making concerning their people. How businesses and leaders behave during this difficult time will serve as a measure of their future success; people do not forget how organizations and people behave in the most difficult times.

The final vital skill all workers need in this environment is the ability to learn and re-learn. With industries closing down, with people on furlough or losing their jobs, with organizations redesigning their business models, we will all need to be able to adapt – whether that’s learning new skills, new technologies, new ways of working and perhaps even new jobs and careers. For some time we have talked about the future of work, the death of the ‘job for life’ and the importance or ‘lifelong learning’. That future is now here. Whatever our circumstances, our working lives are changing and we need to be able to adapt – so an ‘always on’ approach to learning will equip us for the future, whatever it has in store.

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About Cheryl Allen
HR Director – Culture & Transformation, Atos UK&I
Cheryl is a HR future thinker, with lots of energy, passion and opinions on HR and the future of work. Experienced across the full spectrum of HR & across a variety of industries including IT, government, utilities and healthcare. As a strategic thinker, who is able to influence senior stakeholders to drive change and a people agenda that positively impacts business performance. Currently leading the agenda of transformation, HR analytics & automation, diversity & inclusion and employee engagement in the UK and Ireland.

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