Competencies in times of change
What are the most sought-after skills and competencies in times of change? This is a question many talents wonder, especially when they start to plan career advancement. This is also a question most of us employers wonder when we think about how to execute our business strategies.
The most sought-after skills & competencies in times of change
We are living the era of change as a megatrend. As the world digitilizes, we can see the impact of it all around us: our personal lives, our professions, and our work.
For quite some time now as employees and professionals, we have been forced to accept the radical changes to work due to artificial intelligence and robotization. As more and more routine tasks are being automated, what is left for us? What skills and competencies will be sought-after and valuable when robots become part of our teams?
It is impossible to say for sure what skills and competencies because most likely there will be all sorts of new skills arising as technology evolves. Many of the skills we are probably not even aware of today.
There are however a couple of skills & competencies growing in importance as we learn to collaborate with technology:
- Ability to use existing skills and knowledge in new contexts
- Capability to learn and adopt new skills fast
1. Being able to adapt to changes around oneself
Did you know that our resistance to change is one of the reasons homo sapiens is still alive and kicking? In the times of the cave people, resistance to change was one of our survival skills. Resistance to change is an automated reaction of our brain to a perceived threat. Without it, we would have died a long time ago.
However, as the world changes in such a rapid speed around us, we must develop our abilities to handle the change, not see it as such a huge threat, and also learn to ask and look for the reasons behind the change.
Our ability to adapt to the change is one of the critical skills of this era. Some people find it more comfortable, even love the change. Some people fear it. The unknown causes stress we may find difficult to cope with.
What can you do if all this change is stressing you out?
Understand, it is a natural reaction to a perceived threat. It is a good thing, not something to be embarrassed about.
It is most often caused by a lack of information about the change. Take a proactive step to ask for more information:
- What is this change?
- How does this impact me, my work or my team?
- What specifically will change?
- What will stay the same?
- How can I learn more about the change?
- What will be the benefits of this change to me professionally and personally?
If you are the party responsible for the change and resistance, what can you do?
- Understand, resistance to change is a natural, automated reaction to a perceived threat. You are likely to experience resistance to change.
- Those who have more information about the change, are in a great position to remove this perceived threat or at list minimize it. It is as simple as communication!
- Discuss the expected change, the reasons behind the change and your team’s abilities to adapt to the change together with the team. Let them ask questions. Find answers to questions you don’t yet know. Vision together how the change will benefit you, where it probably impacts the most and what you know at this moment to stay the same.
If you are hiring, how can you recognize if a person can adapt to change well?
During the hiring process, you can evaluate only so much as all the interviews and tests are there to help us understand what risks there might be.
However, some common ways to recognize adaptability to change could be:
- The person has had a reasonable amount of changes in their professional and personal history.
- They have reasonable long employment in organizations that are known for their dynamic atmosphere, growth, and change.
- Their roles and responsibilities seem to be more about development and innovation than executing a strict protocol or process.
- They have a personal interest in taking risks which may look like moving a lot, traveling a lot, hobbies that are connected to taking risks.
- They seem to be quick decision makers.
- They talk openly and with passion about experiences where they had to make fast decisions or jump into the unknown.
2. Ability to use existing skills and knowledge in new contexts
Did you know that creativity and innovation have more to do with an ability to take what exists and modify it into something new?
Even if the world and work change at the speed of light around us, it doesn’t mean all we have in our rug sacks is no longer valid. Some of our skills, unfortunately, become unnecessary as the need for them is replaced with something else. However, all of our experiences are as valuable as they always were. What we need to develop is our ability to use our existing skills, experiences, and knowledge to solve new needs and problems.
The development of this ability requires us to be curious about what happens out there, outside our comfort zone, take time to learn about evolving trends and needs, and evaluate how could I solve these problems with the tools that I’ve got.
Imagine, the evolution of humankind: we went on about moving on our four legs to standing up and standing tall. The development of our skills and knowledge will do the same if we allow it.
3. Capability to learn and adopt new skills fast
Especially in the field of IT, we know how rapidly technology changes. Many of the programming languages prevalent in their hay days have long gone. New ones come up and require us to learn them fast. And this happens now in most professions and industries.
Unfortunately, this capability separates people from each other. Not all of us possess the capacity for learning fast. However, motivation can be a big help in overcoming the skill part. It is not at all unordinary for us to find the ability to comprehend a subject if it is intriguing to us. Look outside work and into your favorite spare time activities and hobbies? Are you able to recognize hobbies in which you use specific hard or soft skills?
It is not at all uncommon for us to find ourselves on a career path where we are unable to use those skills and competencies where we find true passion in, and that’s why we use them outside work. Your hobbies may reveal areas where you might be able to expand professionally beyond your current capabilities and interests.
Empathy is still a characteristic that we humans are better at than robots. Moreover, as the world starts to look more and more like a robot, the need for empathy will rise. The Inc.-magazine wrote an article about ten reasons why empathy is the most critical business skill you will ever need.
For as long as we remember, we have been more interested in people’s technical skills than their persons and their ability to get along with other people at the work scenarios. It has not been a secret; we hire skills and fire personal traits.
According to the Inc.-article, the four most important soft skills of the 21st century are:
- Critical thinking
For all these soft skills, empathy is seen as the basis for being successful for the others. This is what the Inc.-article lists as the ten reasons why:
#1 Empathy will help you understand the motivations of other people you work with.
This will then help you to predict or direct the outcome towards what you want it to be.
#2 Empathy will help you to succeed in any negotiation.
It will allow you to understand what is more important and what is less important to your counterpart and help you to either win in the negotiation or reach the best win-win situation.
#3 Empathy will help us to put ourselves in the shoes of the other person and connect with them.
This, in turn, gives us a valuable tool of understanding and identifying what the right solution to the problem is.
#4 Empathy will help us to manage conflicts constructively.
This means, we can still be passionate about our stand, but instead of directing it to the person, we address it to the issue. Empathy is the key to most effective, productive and creative teamwork.
#5 Empathy enables us to build businesses that do well are trustworthy and produce positive financial results.
When we can empathize with our customers, we can identify what’s important to them, what the real problem is and then focus on that.
#6 Empathy will help us to understand the motivations behind our investors and their investment strategies.
Companies who pursue growth with the help of investors will face the many motivations of investors investing in companies. The odds of getting investment increases when we can empathize with the potential investors’ preferences and biases.
#7 Empathy is also an essential skill to successfully presenting your case as a job candidate to a company you applied for.
Just like you are not changing jobs because any one company needs to hire, a company is not hiring you just because you need a new job. Empathy will help you to identify and understand the situation and the needs the hiring company has, and then presenting your professional case in a way that resonates with the recruiter.
#8 Forever salespeople have been fascinated by what they offer, not what the customer might be needing.
Empathy is a soft skill that guides you to spend more time in understanding what your customer needs and then, explaining it to your customer. Sometimes it may not be what you are selling. However, having the gut to tell that to the customer as well will raise your trustworthiness in their eyes exponentially. Guess whom they will remember and come back to in the future?
#9 Empathy is key to great customer experiences.
We all have stories to tell about excellent customer service and terrible customer service. Customer service is a tremendous competitive advantage in a competitive market place. Anyone working with customers, in any role, is in a position to either exceed customer expectations or underscore in that department. Being empathetic with your customer problem means you put yourself in their shoes, reflect how you would personally want to be treated in the same situation and give your best to put a smile to the customer's face.
#10 Empathy is also a great tool to raise the motivation and drive in your team member, subordinate or colleague.
The Inc.- article lists teaching as the 10th example, but in a school scenario. In a work environment, during times of change, when we are required to learn new skills and adapt to changing situations, empathy can take us a long way. If you are a team leader, a tutor, a mentor, a trainer, you can use your understanding to make your “students” feel good about themselves and boost their confidence in their abilities to learn.
Written by Susanna Rantanen
Advisor to Enfo Group Talent Acquisition Development