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As coronavirus restrictions are lifted: a moment of opportunity for organisations and individuals

Published23.06.20
Updated03.07.20

As the lockdown eases and we enter a new phase of the global health and economic crisis, it’s important that organisations and individuals reflect, and act upon the lessons they’ve learnt over the past 12 weeks.

Tomorrow’s challenges today

Our Careers of Tomorrow research highlighted that the future of work and working are increasingly uncertain. We noted that increasing automation, the integration of AI, and more flexible working patterns are changing the way organisations do business and fundamentally impacting the nature of jobs, skills and careers.Recently, we organised a virtual roundtable of senior HR leaders to reflect, share insights, and learn from others’ experience of the human impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has resulted in their organisations tackling many of the predicted future challenges – today.

Test and Learn

Participants told us that their crisis response has demanded an unprecedented level of creative thinking and organisational agility. Their organisations had acted quickly and decisively in:

  • Re-purposing parts of – or their entire – business
  • Moving key people around the organisation to focus on priority areas
  • Forming cross-functional project teams to address critical issues
  • Initiating large-scale remote – and technology-enabled- working
  • Transforming their learning delivery processes to on-line and social learning
  • Increasing employee resilience, support and wellbeing programmes

During this process of responding and coping, their organisations had learned, or in some cases re-learned, many important lessons.

Crisis-response lessons

  • Frequent, clear, open communication to employees
  • Visible leaders who connect with their people, and are positive about the future
  • Clear organisational values as a guide to the everyday behaviour of managers and employees
  • Realising the contributions and potential of people from untapped talent pools, especially when those individuals were given more autonomy

Opportunities as well as challenges

The group acknowledged that the crisis will continue to bring long-term challenges, but also sensed it presented real opportunities. They told us it was essential for people at all levels to come together to reflect on what they’d learned, and then apply these insights to future ways of working.

A recent McKinsey article1 included a framework and questions to help organisations take this moment to review their past, present and future. Some of these questions are listed below:

Past

What have we stopped or paused, but is core to who we are and will want to return to?

What do we want to fully let go of?

Present

What do we want to continue as-is because it is working?

What about our organisation will continue but change and improve permanently as we move into the next normal?

Future

What kind of an organization do we want to become?

What do we want to create that is new – new practices or ways of working, new norms that are emerging?

Individual reflection and planning

The experience of the last 3 months has shown that individuals and organisations can rapidly develop mindsets and skills to successfully adapt to change.

One of our mantras is to encourage clients to futureproof their careers. This requires resilience and personal agility, qualities that many people have drawn upon during the first phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. But it also calls for people to find time to stop and think about their career direction. We’ve seen huge appetite for career agility, as over 900 people have taken up free places on our Be Bold in your Career programme.

Just as forward-thinking organisations are seizing this moment to identify and build upon their insights, individuals need to do the same. Everyone’s situation is slightly different, and so the most pertinent review questions will vary. However, the following reflective questions will be relevant for many:

  • What have I learned about remote working and how I want to work in the future?
  • What have I learned that I’m good at and enjoy doing and want to incorporate in my career plan going forward?
  • What has this experience taught me about how my area of expertise is changing, and what this means for my current skill set?
  • What have I learned about myself, for example what I’m capable of, or my ability to handle unexpected change, and how can I use these insights?
  • Who else can help me think these things through, in and out of work, and then create a plan of action?

Good luck you as you consider what you want the future to hold for you.

Find out more about strategic career planning and how we can help you to enable agile careers.

  1. ‘Tuning in, turning outward: Cultivating compassionate leadership in a crisis’, McKinsey and Company, May 2020.

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