One takeaway from the coronavirus pandemic is that there is a growing need for digital skills. Digital literacy isn’t simply an asset now – we’ve realised that it is rather a requirement, a requirement which was accelerated by the pandemic. Whereas up until a decade ago, digital literacy was a matter of access and resources, now that is hardly part of the equation. Locally, we have the digital infrastructure to support being online almost everywhere. This means access to the digital world is not limited to the few, and is affordable by most. As companies shifted to remote working almost overnight – the need became instant. Employees who were not equipped or skilled to work in that manner had to either stop or learn overnight. However, digital skills are not the only skills in demand post-pandemic. What are organisations doing to make sure their workers are equipped with the right skillset and means, and what other skills become crucial?
There are soft skills that are part and parcel with digital literacy and the possibility of a “work from anywhere” future – some of which are creativity, resilience, and the ability to collaborate with others. Simultaneously, there is a plethora of “soft skills” which are being sharpened after workers having faced the challenge of the pandemic. We discuss these skills below.
Workers were required to work under new conditions, perhaps getting used to working at home, or at different hours and even on different equipment. They may have had to get used to new software in a short period of time, or getting used to working under pressure when surrounded by demanding family members and still getting work done. This demonstrated the adaptability of your workers. Chances are the pandemic has made them even more so.
Not having their manager at the office next door and within reach will have made workers more autonomous. On the spot decisions need to be taken there and then, and this also applies to time management. Apart from scheduling your own tasks, you are the one in charge of your accomplishments. This enables workers to sharpen their time management skills, and feel accountable for their work.
Managing yourself (and others) remotely
Managers now require the skill to manage teams remotely, across digital platforms, and in some cases, different schedules. Workers have had to practise self-discipline, become more self-aware and set boundaries between home and work for themselves and for their teams. Managers’ communication skills were tested overnight as teams switched to working remotely. How did managers catch up with their team members? What could be improved? What are the takeaways from this experience? Are we equipped with the right skills to handle it should this happen again? Another question worth asking is whether your usual office “open-door policy” viable within the digital context? How was this translated? How open were you to listening to your team and how did you manage contact with your team?
The pandemic forced each of us to work in different scenarios to what we are used to. Pushing some of the workers into situations they are not comfortable working in – such as when surrounded with noisy family members or a lack of office space at home. Workers’ may have empathised with their co-workers in tough situations, and perhaps took on some of their load or allowed more leeway around deadlines. Empathy in itself shows emotional intelligence and encourages teamwork.
A new situation may have triggered innovation and inspired workers to come up with projects that would have otherwise been neglected over “more important” day to day tasks. However, as humans, we cannot be creative at the click of a button. Workers need to feel they are in an environment which enables creative thinking, that gives room to brainstorming ideas and expanding on them. Working in inspirational speakers into their training regime is one way to do it. Workers will not be inspired if they’re sitting at their desk all day. Google gives 20% of their engineers’ time to work on creative projects. One of the outcomes of this was Gmail – one of the tech giant’s most successful products. Where can your workers go to get their juices flowing? Now that they may have had to work from home, you may have noticed that a change of scenery may have triggered a new idea or inspired workers to work differently and more efficiently. Environment is everything. Think of ways to improve it. Eventbrite (a global ticket sale company) designed a Zen room in its San Francisco office where workers could meditate, think or even nap in a low-light environment. This could be as simple as adding plants to the office space or adding a part-time remote option – which enables a change of scenery.
Bottom line: Training is not just about online courses – training is also about fostering a learning culture and an open culture – where they feel listened to and are enabled to innovate and ask where they have doubts. Work on improving your workers’ soft skills and automatically, your workers will feel empowered to grow and learn new skills to add to their repertoire.
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