2 July 2020
Agility, resilience and digital transformation
Does your team have the skills needed to stabilise, mobilize and activate in a time of uncertainty?
The world of work is undoubtedly in turmoil. We hear the word agile pop up again and again. It tends to be followed by the term resilience. One stands beside the other and there has been a nationwide consensus that it is something we need to work on. We accept it, but rarely explore it. As HR leaders struggle to create agile teams and operations at speed, we must not lose heart. This crisis is the opportunity to upskill and implement new ways of working that have long been recognised as important and have been long overdue.
Even prior to Covid-19, companies were trying to future proof themselves against a future seen as a survival struggle. Digital transformation has been a very slow and bumpy road for many. The changes necessary in work practices to become more digital, agile and collaborative were slowed by lack of skills and rigid mindsets. HR leaders fought for the upskilling and the implementation of new technology vying for time, budget and attention. A recent Talent Trends study showed that progress on the digital experience had stalled in recent years: only two in five companies were deemed fully digital, a figure not changed since 2018. When the pandemic hit those companies where HR had not won the battle were the least resilient. Not being digital, was not being prepared.
But rather than despairing this crisis it is an opportunity for companies and employees to change that and reinvent themselves. Well, it’s rather more than an opportunity. It’s now a necessity. The future of the workplace filled with an agile, digital, global and connected workforce has long been discussed. But we hate change. And now we are paying the price. Having updated HR digital tools to upskill, understand and attract talent suddenly gives a competitive edge. Pre-outbreak, Amazon had invested heavily in HR technology for new hires. During lock down when need and opportunity were high and yet access to physical spaces low, this technology allowed the company to onboard 1,700 new employees on a single day.
Some companies have used their recent downtime to play catch up. To upskill, to focus on helping employees learn new technology and ways of working. It’s been a bumpy path but a forgiving one. Those companies that have supported and invested in employees become digitally savvy during this time will come back more agile. Digitally connected workforces can be reviewed, and better understood by HR. They can be more readily moved about and mobilized. They are more agile. More resilient.
Future of work strategies have now become survival tactics. Leveraging remote working and alternative workforces, upskilling and utilising analytics. These insights are vital to HR to identify which skills will allow for reinvention post pandemic. Digital transformation is the key to activate a workforce in a time of crisis and beyond. Digitisation transforms how organisations leverage talent. It allows HR to build diverse workforces, improve team productivity, analyse performance and, vitally now, embrace flexible working. Only 22% of companies were prepared for majority remote working prior to the lockdown (WEF Pulse Survey). Yet, since then 37% of firms have implemented mandatory, company-wide work-from-home arrangements, and a further 17% have done so for specific departments. Change is happening.
Agility is the key to resilience. Agility in a work team goes beyond just organisation design but by understanding and nurturing a range of skills held by every employee has and using them when and as they are needed. Reskilling and the promotion of adaptable mindsets are crucial to this, as is trust, but that is something I cover in my other articles. But not all mindsets are embracing it. Whilst 78% of employees asked in a recent Pulse survey said they are ready to reskill, only 45% of executives believe their current workforce could adapt. It is worryingly indicative of the remnants of a mindset that resists change and has led to exactly the sort of trouble we are in now.
Now of course how digital and so agile and resilient you can be in the current climate depends not only on where you are on your digital transformation, but also what industry you are in. However, smart companies should be using this time no matter where they on their digital journey to ramp up a level. And agility doesn’t just mean on a workforce level. It means on an individual level too. Being agile and adaptable as an individual (a skill in itself) is one of the top five skills HR leaders believe will be the most in demand in the next few years. HR leaders must prioritise this now, and be supported in this endeavour, to ensure that their companies can come out of this as agile and resilient as possible.