Oliver Barber: How and why businesses must evolve to enable adaptability

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How and why businesses must evolve to enable adaptability

Digital transformation and Artificial Intelligence mean that employers’ jobs and skills needs will change at a quicker pace than ever before, with automation making many tasks obsolete and innovation requiring new functions and expertise all the time.

But many businesses are far from ready for this brave new world. According to a Deloitte survey, less than half (45 per cent) of executives are confident in their own digital skills and ability to lead their organisation in the digital economy.

If your business finds itself struggling with this accelerating change in the employee skill-sets required, it’s a fair bet that others do to, and those in possession of such skills are quickly highly in demand. This will mean a general skills shortage and potentially intense wars for talent. As a consequence, jettisoning employees when their current skills become less critical will not be tenable. In any event, business success and employee engagement are built on a shared vision, which is very hard to embed where there is constant employee turnover.

Evidently, businesses desperately need to reinvigorate how they upskill employees, but at a more foundational level, they also need to train employees to be adaptable. Most employees are still used to the idea that they develop a skillset in a certain area and it changes little over time. The idea of reinventing themselves every 2-3 years in line with shifts in the business and the economy could lead to significant stress and anxiety. Businesses will have to not only manage this but facilitate the mindset change necessary to create a culture of adaptability.

As well as presenting opportunities for employees to grow and shift roles, HR leaders need to build growth programmes that encourage adaptability and build resilience among employees.

Here are some measures companies need to consider to enable them to do that:-

Encourage the Growth mindset

Businesses need to place particular focus first on helping individuals realise their skills can be developed, especially through expert input. People with a “growth mindset,” tend to enjoy challenges, strive to learn, and consistently see potential to develop new skills. Employees under this mindset are described as more innovative, collaborative, and committed to learning and growing. With this in mind organisations will be more inclined to retain employees from within and allow them to rise through the ranks as opposed to looking externally. Studies conducted by The Conference Board, EY and consulting firm DDI suggested that organisations embracing employees’ capacity for growth will experience substantial advantages. Encourage employees to learn more about fixed and growth mindsets, to help them think more about how they can evolve as opposed to focusing on their limitations.

Walk the walk and then talk the talk

Across industries predictions are the pace of transformation will shake the skills businesses once esteemed and where this is not addressed could see a huge turnover in employees. It sends a clear message to all of your organisation if you can showcase examples of having totally retrained employees in new digital skills. Very recently Lloyds banking group announced plans to create a technology hub in Scotland but in doing so would offer jobs to branch staff who they intend to retrain as software engineers. Employees will stay at organisations where they feel there is great potential to learn and build new career aspirations. Start with a significant example of retraining success to act as a poster child that encourages all other team members to think that everything is possible for them within the confines of the business.

Use Gamification Can Eliminate Fears

For most organisations, the value of learning is well understood. It can empower employees to solve problems autonomously and benefit from the knowledge of their peers. It also encourages employees to be more proactive sharing ideas and insights freely, in a healthy learning ecosystem. But organisations will be mistaken in thinking traditional methods will lead to the necessary evolution. A starting point will be for organisations to opt for a gamified learning experience and by doing so eliminate the fears surrounding change. Research has shown with gamification peoples’ innate desire for competition, self-expression and achievement find it is realised.

Show High-Levels of Support

Additionally, organisations must also be sure that an adequate support structure is provided in this new, super-charged learning environment. The absence in support will sometimes uncover a lack of confidence, especially where employees are keen to develop their own skills. This puts to bed the myth that navigating employees onto the right course will suffice. The ideal structure should include opportunities for team members to discuss learning challenges with HR, feedback to the business, collaborate and share experiences with colleagues. To become truly adaptable employees, people need to feel that there is a safety net for when challenges arise.

The above-mentioned measures are particularly pertinent for companies where the workforce is largely made up of millennials and Gen Xers. The “Google” generation who perhaps have more propensity for e-learning but are not typically seen as adaptable or self-starters will need the support all the more. This support could prevent knowledge gaps from appearing and disenchantment with adapting to new strategies and career opportunities. On the positive side, given new systems are predominantly digitalised, millennials will be expected to be largely more receptive.

With the rules of work rapidly changing, constant learning leads to continued relevance – a win for both the employee and the business. Helping your workforce to adapt rapidly and be agile in today’s changing environment is good for business. Professional development works hand in hand with high retention and thus creates a culture that keeps businesses growing. Give your people a helping hand to adapt.

Interested in adapting to the future of work? We recommend the Future of Work Summit 2019.

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About Oliver Barber

Oliver is currently EMEA Director for Docebo. He is a seasoned L&D software industry veteran with over 19 successful years in consultative software sales. Over the years Oliver has maintained a focus on training and talent management software platforms, resulting in a detailed level of industry knowledge and an understanding of what large companies want and how they buy. His efforts and focus are now increasingly towards regulated industries, areas of validation, certification and high stakes compliance. More recently Oliver's focus has been zeroed in on Artificial Intelligence and how it will affect not only the learning industry but the industries of every single prospect and client he regularly speaks with.

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