6 job skills to succeed in a post-coronavirus world

October 27, 2020

Coronavirus has changed how we work and how we live. The rapid change to online and distance working has challenged many of us; juggling home, work and caring responsibilities. This period has also helped to surface and refine new types of job skills that will be essential in the post-coronavirus world. Here I reflect on just a few of them.

1 Adaptability. Covid-19 forced companies to adapt and change with unprecedented speed. Change is always on the agenda but this pandemic accelerated it. To succeed in the future workers will need to constantly update their skills and, be willing to adapt and be flexible. Job titles won’t necessarily fully describe the breadth of roles. In job interviews, candidates will need to give clear examples of how they have put these skills into use, because the traditional CV won’t convey the nuance of someone’s adaptability. This also means the traditional letter will need more thought, so that will need to be adapted to each employer’s particular circumstances.

2. Creativity and innovation. Businesses have always had to come up with new ways of delivering services but Covid-19 highlighted just how important creativity and innovation is in order to survive. The Abbey Theatre for example, unable to present work on stage, created ‘Dear Ireland’ and invited Irish writers to write a postcard to Ireland – it asked them to imagine what Ireland might need to talk about during this unprecedented time. The Abbey commissioned 50 writers to write monologues for 50 actors each of whom performed on camera in lockdown. These performances were broadcast live on the Abbey’s YouTube channel at the end of May .

The Abbey Theatre performs work on stage directly to an audience so this type of pivot was a gamble for the theatre. However, the quality of the idea, their passion to create work for Irish artists and, the novelty of delivery carried this over the line. This type of creativity and innovation, commitment to care for employees and, desire to connect to customers is going to be a key skill in a post-coronavirus environment.

3. Managing remote teams. Many of us have come to terms with Skype, Microsoft Teams and Zoom as part of our day-to-day routine during the pandemic. Some organisations such as Facebook and Twitter are now planning for permanent remote working. We are also likely to see remote working policies in many other non-technology firms in the future. The ability to manage remote teams effectively is going to be a key skill set in a post-Covid context. This means more than managing a conversation with 12 people in a Zoom room! Research tells us for example that issues of trust are magnified when team members are remote (do you trust someone when you can’t see them?). Research also tells us that the maximum number for a remote team is 100. Over this number and it is difficult for people to engage in task. Managing relations with and between people who will never been in the same room is a sophisticated skill set that will be much in demand as remote working increases.

4. Critical thinking. Covid-19 spread rapidly throughout the world and due to the dearth of research and reliable information, fake news and unreliable data spread equally as quickly. Business leaders, politicians and governments wanted to shift blame and avoid scrutiny. The capacity to parse information, to determine what is informed and reliable will be a valuable skill. Business needs to know that the decisions it makes are informed by objective and credible data, therefore the capacity to critically analyse and think through, understand data and come to an informed opinion will be highly valuable in the post-Covid world.

5. Trust building and leadership. There have been stark differences in the type of leadership exhibited by those charged with guiding us through the Covid-19 pandemic. Unsuccessful leaders are those who have tried to offer certainty by making false claims and offering false hope. The leaders who have been most successful have built trust, admitted what they don’t know and managed anxiety. Leaders do not always know the answer but they recognise that followers are afraid in times of uncertainty. They also know that part of their role is to hold and contain uncertainty. Going forward, this type of trust-building and containing skill will be more important than the ‘strong man’ version of leadership which we have seen fail during Covid-19.

6. Emotional intelligence. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that anxiety is very real and it has very serious consequences. In the future, employers are going to be looking for people who can assess the circumstances around them whilst also paying close attention to the emotional impact of decisions. Skills such as reflection and more importantly reflexivity are going to be very important – how well do you know yourself emotionally? How well do you know your impact on other people? What changes can you make to how you manage as a result of knowing the answers to these questions? These are not intellectual questions that cause for snappy answers at an interview, they are emotional questions that require an ongoing process such as coaching to answer.

These six skills are not a definitive list but they are a baseline from which others will develop.

This article was originally published in Accountancy Ireland

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