Two Cents: The need for speed and agility in the new world of work

It is now a matter of ‘be agile or die’ in the post COVID-19 world. How can organisations make sure they adapt to the new normal?
By: | September 15, 2020

If your organisation was barely keeping up with the pace of digitalisation and disruption even before the COVID-19 pandemic, you might want to speed up now – or risk being left behind for good.

Organisations find themselves being hit by the train of change when the pandemic swept through around the world – just when they were getting serious about their digitalisation and agility plans.

But after being thrusted into remote working for the last few months, businesses are now forced to rethink their workforce and learning agility strategies.

It is now a matter of ‘be agile or die’ in the post COVID-19 new normal.

Having said that, the pandemic has presented opportunities for businesses to improve agility, upskill, and prepare their workforce for the skills needed in this increasingly mobile and digital world as well as future disruptions.

Look within

With most companies going through some form of restructuring of their businesses and workforce, hiring has taken a backseat as being lean and cost efficient is at the fore of leaders’ minds during these challenging times when survival is their main priority.

However, in order to bounce back and recover quickly post-pandemic, organisations need to understand their talent needs and gaps. But why look outside when you can tap into your existing pool of employees where their skills, capabilities and experience can be mobilised and redeployed to fill your evolving business needs and gaps?

Moreover, speed is everything in this increasingly digitalised and disruptive world where the fastest wins. A study by Wharton Business School found that external hires require an average of two years to catch up to the level of competency that an internal hire would exhibit day one.

And that is where the importance of learning agility becomes more pronounced than ever during these disruptive times. Employers need to identify the existing skillsets of their people to equip them with new skills that complement their existing ones. More importantly, it will help to effectively map them to roles that are essential for future business success.

If that is not a good enough incentive to look within the organisation, Wharton Business School also found that internal hires are on average 18% less expensive than new hires.

And according to the 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report by Deloitte, “the fastest-growing organisations are twice as likely to have excellent talent mobility programs than organisations that are not growing at all.”

Look ahead

While companies are understandably focusing on cutting costs and staying afloat, it’s imperative that they look ahead to what capabilities and knowledge are needed for a strong recovery after the pandemic in order to have a head start over their competitors when the economy restarts.

It is also important for employers to identify what roles and aspects of work that will evolve with the advancement of work technology and automation.

Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics require organisations to rethink their talent management strategies and anticipate recruiting and workforce training needs in months in advance.

Having great execution is no longer sufficient for organisations to navigate this new world of work. Organisations need to have the foresight to spot opportunities and threats in order to adapt and pivot faster than their competitors.

In this increasingly volatile world, employers need to prepare their people beyond crisis management and prepare for the next wave of changes and disruptions.

Look to each other

Why be agile only within your organisation when agility and talent resources can be maximised across different industries? One of the areas that the pandemic has illuminated is the need for greater collaboration where businesses can share, borrow or “rent” talent from each other.

One example of such talent collaboration and agility is between medical supplies manufacturer 3M and carmaker Ford where both companies shared talent resources to develop N-95 face masks at scale to help combat the COVID-19 outbreak.
Pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk and brewery Carlsberg also came together to convert ethanol into hand sanitiser.

Such partnerships and workforce agility between companies could be the solution for the evolving talent needs and helps strengthen understanding across different industries.

And not only can businesses tap on each other’s talent resources, it can also improve their workforce’s learning agility by sharing of industry knowledge and experience.