Skills in the post-Covid era: Revolution or Evolution
Back in 2019, the evolution of professional skillsets hit a rapid pace. In an article published in October of that year, CNBC discussed how competencies trumped credentials (or reimagined with the emergence of micro-credentials) and a shift in the marketplace towards skill-based recruitment was taking place. Then, on January 5, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a disease outbreak statement warning of a new form of pneumonia developing in the Hubei Province of China— and the world as we knew it changed forever. While the aftershocks from the pandemic continue to reverberate through all aspects of our lives, it’s left us wondering— what’s happened to our skill needs?
What Are Some Early Post-Pandemic Skillset Trends?
The latest OECD report on the economic outlook signals that varying levels of recovery are underway in many countries. In fact, a few economies may have already recovered to pre-COVID levels which is pretty astounding if you consider where we were just 12 months ago. Part of this recovery is attributed to swift policy action and the fast development of vaccines. However, the rapid adoption of new technology and the enormous upskilling efforts undertaken in many industries also played a big role.
While the impact of the pandemic was unprecedented in terms of global economy, we have not seen the radical job disruption many predicted. For that to occur, according to Adam Boyton, Australia’s National Skill Commissioner, we should witness radical changes in both the structure of the economy and the distribution of jobs. Instead, there is an acceleration of trends that pre-existed before COVID hit.
The Remote Work Revolution
And while it is still too early to assess whether the trends we’re seeing today will be short-lived versus more permanent solutions, eQ8 believes if this remote-work trend remains, it will permanently alter the distribution of jobs and cause radical changes to the economy.
A Shift Towards Suburbia
Interestingly, the decentralization of professional skills impacting the job market represents only one side of the coin. The exodus of office workers towards leafier neighborhoods has also impacted many retailers. The once bustling coffee shops, eateries and gyms in metropolitan cities became quieter; but local suburban businesses are enjoying a renaissance. As remote working proves successful and viable in the long run, it will create shifts in the job market where the boundaries for sourcing talent are no longer being defined by location. The world could really become our oyster.
Video Conferencing Excelled By COVID
However, this also changes the way jobs are done and the skills employees need. By far, the biggest impact on the way we work today versus the way we worked pre-COVID times needs to be attributed to technology.
To be effective in this brave new world requires reshaped skills. Communication, traditionally a soft skill, has now become harder. 'Hard is soft. Soft is hard.’ management guru Tom Peters noted. A recent study by Stanford University also confirms that cognitive load is higher when we communicate over a screen. In a predominantly virtual world of work, verbal and non-verbal communication needs to be adapted for virtual settings.
Even Universities are adapting their teachings based on this new video conferencing landscape. Oxford University’s business school launched a module on virtual negotiation that teaches students how to build trust through communication media that lack the usual social cues we send in face-to-face meetings.
Video-conferencing platforms made remote work possible by bringing people together in a period of forced isolation. While the idea of “togetherness” was touted, it turns out that virtual meetings do not equate to connectivity that in-person affords. Recent research from Microsoft shows that after having endured endless virtual meetings for prolonged periods of time, people actually do not feel that included. In order to address this issue, the company has recently published a “Getting [Zoom] meetings right” guide.
So where do you begin? With the development of a strategic workforce plan focused on skills. The eQ8 SWP platform includes a Skills Forecasting tool that allows organizations to assess the abilities of employees outside formal learning pathways. By integrating external skills forecasts with the organization’s own demand requirements, skill need has clearer context. Companies can really optimize their investment in pipelines of employee skills. Now that we have perspective on the pandemic, we can lift our gaze to the future. The silver lining is that may professions have more work choice IF they can master new skills needed. Organizations that get the clearest picture of this will thrive.