As many businesses think through and recast their strategies and business models, it is equally important to recognize that, as business models shift, so must the DNA of the teams tasked to deliver against the change.
A New Work Landscape
The COVID-19 health crisis has given rise to different work modalities. Part of the workforce hunkered down at home, essential workers had to remain on site, while others adopted a hybrid work model early on.
Because of this, many organizations were forced to redesign their current processes to fit this new “phygital” reality where, physical and digital ways of working needed to co-exist and work together to ensure business continuity. In addition to new ways of working, new roles emerged, some roles became mission critical to business continuity, while others had to be reassessed based on the new reality.
Aside from the day to day ways of working, there was also a redefinition of leadership roles. In The new landscape, line managers and team leaders became even more critical in the shaping of the culture. The need for quick action and agility, gave rise to a more empowered and collaborative middle management team and technology enabled communication reduced the power distance as leaders became more accessible and could communicate with the wider organization in a meaningful way.
In the immediate term, the initiatives implemented to enable teams to manage this change were effective to ensure the workforce remained productive. But, as new work modalities emerge, it will be necessary for leaders to also redefine the employee of the future and the DNA necessary to survive and thrive in this new work landscape.
Employee of the Future
With the environment continuously changing, the employees in this dynamic system have to evolve together with it and in more ways than “just” digital skills. So what is the DNA of the employe of the future? We have broken it down into four dimensions of competencies that organizations must be mindful of.
George Bernard Shaw once said “those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” The defining characteristic of a thriving employee of the future starts with the mindset. Intellectual curiosity or “the intrinsically motivated desire for information” (Loewenstein, 1994, p. 76) is critical in making sense of the uncertainty that abounds. Coupled with Learning Agility or as Korn Ferry defines as “knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do” would propel one to find information to be able to figure things out when our challenges nowadays are dynamic and continually evolving.
In a constantly evolving world the era of control and rigidity are no longer effective and having the mindsets of flexibility and openness to change allows one to go with and harness the flow. In fact, CHRO for one of the largest technology and telecommunication companies in the Philippines identifies Learning Agility and Openness to Change as critical competencies for the future.
“Phygital”, hybrid and agile workspaces requires one to be more autonomous, independent and with a deep sense of ownership since their managers and co-workers are no longer beside them in a cubicle or a stone’s throw away to get help or decisions from while at the same time discerning what decisions are within their area of influence and what needs a higher level of authority.
While this dynamic, hyperactive and viral environment takes a toll on one’s mental and overall wellness the employee of the future would need to be able to reflect, self-regulate and have a healthy dose of self-care in the service of one’s resilience and adaptive capacity.
Along with the autonomy a “phygital,” hybrid and agile environment of today allows comes the need for strategic thinking at every level. Starting from a mindset of intellectual curiosity this translates to strategic thinking skills or skills that uses critical thinking to work out complex problems and decide on a way forward (Stobierski, 2020).
This is most especially critical among team leaders whom we saw to be essential in unlocking the agile organization. Empowered team leaders who have the critical thinking, business analytics, customer centricity and decision-making skills provide companies with a strong foundation and competitive advantage.
Execution or getting things done has totally been turned on its head and made complicated in a “phygital”, hybrid and agile environment. There is a definite impact on the evolution of functional competencies so employees and organizations should be mindful of various changes in their field. Organizational savvy or one’s ability navigate organizational systems and processes but also dynamics, politics and personalities. If before it was easy to go from cubicle to cubicle or office to office to get the information, help or buy-in needed, one must learn how to do this virtually. Innovation, a highly collaborative and high-touch endeavor is also something that has to be learned in this new environment. How can teams collaborate if some are on site when some are not? How can you really see what’s happening in the market and what are the trends when the market is also very hybrid and agile?
As challenges to innovation and organizational savvy shows us, relational skills would also need a tune-up. Employees of the future would have to be very good in written, spoken, virtual and face-to-face communication as one cannot rely on only one medium of communication to get things done.
Collaboration is also more relevant than ever. Since communication mediums are more layered and perspectives are nuanced brought about by differing and possibly limited exposure due to hybrid environment, people can’t do their jobs in a vacuum. They will rely more on others for information or perspectives that they might be missing out on. This also puts a lot of relational stress especially if one is not adept at collaboration in a hybrid environment. The stressful environment has also put a stress on how people relate with each other and stakeholder and conflict management is a key skill that needed to be learned.
A Time to Redefine, Refine, and Retool
The world is changing and has been changing drastically so over the last year and a half. Even after the pandemic, there is no old normal. There is only now and only those who will embrace the change will thrive in it. Defining what your DNA needs to be, Retooling and Empowering our teams with these skills and competencies will spell the difference between survival and failure in the new normal. Once this employee blueprint has been defined, a deliberate capability building plan will need to be put in place to transform your teams today into the employees of the future.
Defining your Employee DNA: What are the skills that your organizations needs?
3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking. (2019, May 23). Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2019/05/3-simple-habits-to-improve-your-critical-thinking
Knight, M. (2020, October 21). The Organisational X-factor: Learning Agility. Korn Ferry Focus. https://focus.kornferry.com/leadership-and-talent/the-organisational-x-factor-learning-agility/
Loewenstein, G. (1994). The psychology of curiosity: A review and reinterpretation. Psychological Bulletin, 116(1), 75–98.
Stobierski, T. (2020, September 10). 4 Ways to Develop Your Strategic Thinking Skills | HBS Online. Business Insights - Blog. https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/how-to-develop-strategic-thinking-skills
About the Author Katrina Tala Ocampo
Tala is an Organization Development, Human Resource and Internal Communications professional with over 18 years of experience in the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Singapore. She has worked in Fonterra Brands, L’Oreal, Get Hooked 360, USG Boral and Firefly Electric and Lighting Corporation. She is a faculty for the Diploma in Organization Development program of Ateneo CORD and has taught in the graduate and undergraduate levels of the Psychology Department at the Ateneo De Manila University and is an an Affiliate Consultant with Acumen's Organizational Transformation Practice Area.