COVID-19 has tested our ability to deal with change in every way possible. Within a matter of weeks the world of work had transformed. Business processes underwent a sea change, as did everyday life. The new economic climate demands a radical change in mindsets, as well as skills.
Welcome to the era of cross-functionality. The COVID-19 economy requires professionals to be skilled in multiple functional areas. With a shrunken workforce mostly working from home, many organizations can no longer afford to have super specialized roles. Employees in support functions would have to be skilled in at least one customer-facing domain, in addition to their core roles. Frontline workers would have to learn to handle some administrative responsibilities.
Adaptability applies as much to organizations as to individuals. Organizations that embrace change will respond faster to evolving consumer demands. They will be the ones to exhibit growth and resilience. The job market is still taking shape. A report published by Dell Technologies in July claims that 85% of the jobs that will be available in 2030 are yet to exist. Fortunately adaptability can be learned. A professor in the Counseling and Psychology Division at Lesley University advises individuals to become more adaptable by being “comfortable with the uncomfortable”.
Traditionally business hired employees on the basis of ‘hard’ skills, which essentially consist of expertise in a trade, craft, or profession. The most widely acceptable evidence of having a hard skill is a certification, such as a university degree. By contrast soft skills pertain to interpersonal and social effectiveness. These are harder to prove and more widely applicable. Soft skills have quickly become much more valuable to employers since the outbreak of the crisis. Emily Poague, vice president of marketing for LinkedIn Learning, states that soft skills are the most attractive employee attribute today. This is because businesses depend on productive collaboration between cross-functional teams. The European Commission pointed out in a June article that creativity, innovation, and critical thinking are important skills for the post-COVID economy.
The COVID-19 crisis disrupted supply chains and upended all kinds of business projects. Expert project managers who can get things up and running again are now in great demand. A KPMG publication of late March stated that the COVID-19 crisis had notably increased the value of project managers. These professionals must attack persistent problems with novel approaches. Fortunately help is at hand. The website of the Project Management Institute has a rich repository of resources. In early April the institute provided free access to some of its training tools with a view to expand the problem solving abilities of managers. The site also has discussion boards where industry gurus share their insights. Skilled project managers can also function remotely as freelance contractors. Employers find it convenient to send money online to pay for the services of these valued experts.
With social distancing in place, physical stores have had to relocate online. Having a digital presence went from being an option to a necessity. In May, a webinar conducted by Deloitte reported that digital sales had grown by 18% in the first three months of the year. The digital space is flooded with new entrants. As this space gets more crowded, it also becomes more competitive. Making through this crisis necessitates an investment in digital marketing. Both large and small businesses require talented people for content creation, SEO, and social media marketing. Microsoft has invested $20 million in its Global Skills Initiative. Professionals can freely access a range of digital marketing educational content on platforms such as Microsoft Learning, LinkedIn Learning, and GitHub Learning Lab.
Social distancing and contactless transactions are here to stay. Communities will turn to software-based solutions to tackle everyday problems. As the world becomes more digitized someone will have to make and run all those computer applications. Now is the dawn of a new breed of programmers. In June The Harvard Business Review reported that programmers proficient in certain languages were in urgent demand. As technology becomes even more pervasive, the demand for software developers is certain to grow. Nowadays one can enroll in an online programming course with little or no background in software. Free learning resources are also accessible on Microsoft Learning, LinkedIn Learning, and GitHub Learning Lab.