The one constant we will see moving into 2019 is the rapid pace of change that has defined businesses for the past decade or so. This dynamism makes it vital for organisations not only to have access to the right talent, but also to ensure that these people are happy and performing at the top level. Yet it is not just markets and customers which are moving fast – employee’s expectations are also shifting rapidly, and to thrive in the coming year businesses need to adapt.
Several key macro-trends are having a decisive impact on how people relate to their jobs. On average, people are spending less time in each role as the ‘portfolio career’ becomes a viable and indeed normal approach. Moreover, as digital and mobile technology have penetrated every element of working life, so we have seen the rise of an ‘always on’ culture which requires employers to provide people with the capability to work effectively from different environments and via different mediums.
Moreover, the talent pool has become far more diverse over the past 50 years, as far more women have entered the workforce. This has implications for employers, and indeed it provides them with an opportunity to better meet the needs of their people. For example, a family might have two members juggling demanding jobs with other responsibilities, and for organisations this represents a chance to help facilitate both professional and personal happiness. How can they start unlocking the talent of the future in 2019?
Wear two hats
In order to bring in and retain the kind of top talent that will help them thrive at a dynamic time, business leaders need to map a path forward that addresses people’s needs. This requires them to essentially take on two roles – the enabler and the disruptor.
The first is focused on proactive support, empowering and enabling teams to learn new skills, to develop in their work life, and to succeed. At its core, the role is about creating a culture of perpetual learning, where employees are constantly growing in a professional capacity. This enables them to adapt to a fast-moving business environment, and therefore thrive at a time when change is the rule rather than the exception.
The second is focused on challenging the status quo, pushing the organisation to transform, and will involve risk-taking and pushing boundaries. The disruptor essentially acts as a role model for the kind of change the organisation needs to make to thrive in the future, providing the impetus for important adjustments and more dramatic turns. Neither of these roles are easy – but both are essential.
Recruit with imagination
While the above point covers the leadership aspect of navigating a dynamic business environment, it’s also vital to have the kind of flexible talent that will drive change. This poses challenges to traditional recruiting assumptions – for example, how important is depth of experience (such as years spent in the relevant industry) compared to breadth?
In a world that is perpetually changing, being able to make sense of unfamiliar situations and take calculated risks are essential characteristics. People who have demonstrated the adaptability and agility to succeed in different roles could have an advantage in this world. However, this might extend beyond the world of work – for example, has a candidate learnt new languages after leaving full-time education? Do they have varied hobbies, or have they learnt an instrument? Any of these could be evidence of the kind of inquiring mind and commitment to personal development that positions someone to thrive in an uncertain world of work.
Learn to scrum… off the rugby pitch
In agile software development, a scrum is a development method that revolves around a short daily stand-up meeting – the daily scrum – where the team reviews what work was done the previous day and plans what needs to be completed over the course of the coming day. The role of the scrum master is to ensure that everyone can make an impact while ensuring the project is on course. She or he empowers the team by removing obstacles – whether that’s getting an approval from a senior team member or dealing with a difficult administrative process.
Moreover, the scrum method allows teams to be more responsive to changes in the external circumstances of a project, which is especially important in an increasingly unpredictable business context. Meeting regularly and having a person dedicated to communicating with stakeholders allows for the team to respond quickly to unexpected developments or to changes in scope for the project. It helps inoculate against inevitable mistakes along the way, as the team can quickly identify and correct their course.
The usefulness of this concept is not restricted to development teams. As all kinds of teams deal with increasingly fast-moving and complex problems and projects, so they encounter internal blocks that hinder progress and stop people from making a positive impact. To ensure they can attract talented employees who want to use their skills in a visible way, it’s worth organisations considering how a scrum master could fit into their teams.
Develop a different kind of leadership
In a dynamic business environment, where there is lots of uncertainty, no one person has all the answers. Where ultimately one person will need to make a decision, they increasingly lean on information and data from different sources. Consulting a wide variety of perspectives has become very important – not just to reach a good decision, but also to unlock the talent in your organisation.
This is a more collaborative style of leadership, where power and responsibility are shared and where people can bring their expertise to bear on a wide variety of problems. However, this doesn’t happen automatically – leaders need to nurture an environment where diversity of thought and experience are encouraged. Moreover, they should ensure that these forces are harnessed not only towards efficiency but towards the kind of creativity that leads to inventive solutions and innovation.
Ultimately, this involves leaders becoming coaches, orientated towards helping individuals bring their unique strengths to the fore in the context of the team and the wider organisation. It requires a degree of emotional intelligence, sensitivity, and relationship-building.
Unlocking the future
All organisations are ultimately based on people, and their success in the market is based on whether they enable their employees to flourish and bring their strengths to the table.
To unlock this talent, all kinds of organisations need to look to their leaders to develop different approaches, to rethink how they go to market when looking to fill roles, and keep an eye on how emerging technologies can help them to function better.