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What skills and working styles do you need to survive in a post-pandemic world?

Employers need the right people — especially entrepreneurs and producers — and people with key survival skills who will enable the business to stay afloat, succeed and then thrive in a post-COVID world.

The pandemic has delivered a profound shock to the economy and has impacted many businesses. This crisis could last well into 2021 and beyond.

It will shrink the global economy by 5.2 per cent this year. According to the World Bank, it represents the deepest recession since World War Two, triggering a dramatic rise in extreme poverty.

But this crisis can be a good thing for stronger organisations and high performers who can add value to their employers. Employers and employees who can successfully adapt and deal with change and seizing on opportunities will survive. Poorly managed organisations will die. Eventually, they will leave the market.

The speed by which organisations can change direction is not a function of size. Employers must, more than ever in this post-crisis, to create a high-performing working environment that is agile and responsive to change and opportunities. These organisations must change faster than their competition or at least as fast as the market is changing. Employers also need the right people — especially Entrepreneurs and Producers — and people with key survival skills who will help their businesses stay afloat, succeed and then thrive.

The reality is that many organisations and businesses will have to scale down their operations to a level that they can become sustainable and profitable once again. They have to focus on maintaining cash flow and preventing their organisation from falling apart. They require the right people to do critical and essential jobs that will keep the organisation alive and responsive to change.

The key survival skills

Employees and workers need to acquire or demonstrate the following key survival skills over the next 12 months (at least) to create value for their employers:

  • Leadership skills — During a crisis, strong leadership qualities are needed to lead teams in uncertain times to deliver exceptional results. People with strong leadership skills are required to manage teams remotely, inspire workers to work hard and bring out the best in them. Leaders are to display the courage of conviction, are calm and composed in their thought process and will make tough decisions in times of crisis and post-crisis.
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking — Employers require critical thinking skills to strategically pivot the business to survive, thrive and be profitable once again. Teams must creatively adapt and pivot their strategies to comply with government advice and restrictions. Pandemic or no pandemic, critical thinkers are vital to business success. It has been a skill that has been in demand for a very long time, now more than ever. According to the World Economic Forum, one in three jobs require complex problem-solving skills and the ability for employees to think critically.
  • Flexibility and adaptability — The pandemic has brought about many changes in our personal and work lives. Businesses have shifted or are shifting their business models and strategies to respond to the impact of the pandemic. Everyone has to be flexible and adaptive to their current situation and changing customer needs and preferences. Work has also changed forever as more employers and employees are embracing remote working and different ways of working.
  • Emotional intelligence — Everyone deals with and react to the pandemic differently. We must be understanding and be more aware and sensitive of those around us, their emotional and physiological needs. Having better emotional intelligence in times of crisis will go a long way in ensuring that emotional needs and stresses are identified and managed.
  • Creativity and innovation — According to LinkedIn, creativity is the most in-demand soft skill. The pandemic has shaken our comfort zones. It has challenged our thinking and assumptions. It has forced or triggered many people and businesses to change and innovate for survival sake.
  • Growth mindset and opportunity-seeking — The pandemic is forcing people to challenge the status quo, embrace uncertainties, seizing opportunities, and be open to trying new things and innovations. It is thinking outside the box and taking each failure as learning opportunities. Those with fixed mindsets would have taken a back seat or thrown in the towel.
  • Risk management and cost prudence — Business decisions are going to be based on sound financial and risk management fundamentals. In these challenging times, businesses that survive will be the ones with cash on their balance sheets. Organisations will need people who can scale down the business to a level of profitability and enable them to grow the business again.
  • Inter-personal skills through effective digital communication — The ability to communicate effectively has also been an important skill. Now, the ability to communicate effectively using different on-line digital technologies and platforms like ZOOM and Slack has been an added challenge and complexity for many people.
  • Digital skills and transformation — People must develop the right aptitude for learning new technologies and developing new skills and experience for using emerging tools effectively. According to Forbes, the pandemic has triggered the fastest digital transformation of organisations in history — telehealth consultations and online schooling are some examples. With so many industries making the shift to digital, we shouldn’t assume that everyone is equipped with these skills.

Two dominant working styles required

The best way for employers to respond to the pandemic is to act like a start-up. Going back to the ‘old’ ways of managing and doing work will be disastrous for many businesses.

The PAEI Management Model, developed by Dr Ichak Adizes, is a model for categorising people or workers into one of four work roles or working styles — Producer, Administrator, Entrepreneur and Integrator.

Adizes asserts that no individual manager or worker can meet all the needs of their organisation. He argues that effective management requires a team of leaders and workers who — when working together in harmony with everyone else — can handle the most complex challenges and issues. Each team member has a dominant working style that complements each other.

Employers must, therefore, find or hire people with the following two dominant management or working styles. They will keep the business afloat in the short-term as a start-up and set up the business to succeed and thrive in the long-term:

  • The Entrepreneurs (visionaries) — Employees who are Entrepreneurs will embrace change and inspire those around them. They focused on creating or finding new opportunities and positively responding to threats. Entrepreneurs are visionaries. They take significant risks to try out new things. They use storytelling and other techniques to bring and motivate people along with them.
  • The Producers (high achievers) — This is not the time to procrastinate. Time is of the essence. Businesses must quickly produce or deliver results and make a profit by executing what looks good on paper — new strategies, new plans, new products and services. Working closely with Entrepreneurs, employees who are Producers must find innovative ways to financially benefit from changing customer profiles. Producers are typically very delivery focused and are high achievers. They work hard and long hours to ‘just do it now’ and produce results.

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Therefore, to succeed well in a job that has job security, employees and workers must either be an Entrepreneur or a Producer to create or add tangible value to their employers in times of crisis.

The Entrepreneurs

Organisations will depend on Entrepreneurs to come up with the big ideas that will allow them to maintain their strategic advantage and enter new markets. They also rely on these people to spot opportunities and threats and help others respond to change.

Entrepreneurs can often use an unstructured approach to solving problems and making decisions. They tend to focus more on a global than a local perspective.

The Producers

Once the vision and strategies have been set by Entrepreneurs, it is time to ruthlessly execute or implement these plans.

The person in the Producer role is ultimately responsible to deliver the product or service to the customers. Producers are in charge of meeting goals and objectives. They will make sure that the end product or service delivers the expected results.

Producers often work fast and they tend to focus on results. They work hard and get things done.

Agile ways of working in a high-performing environment

To survive the negative impact of this pandemic, employers must also create a high-performing working environment by adopting agile ways of working. This will particularly enhance the working styles of Entrepreneurs and Producers.

When organisations, big and small, create a high-performing working environment that is agile and responsive to change, they can be constantly pivoting and regularly making bold opportunistic moves.

Agile ways of working will require employers to:

  • Empower their employees to take full ownership and accountability of their work so that they will drive the business that is in survival mode towards success.
  • Give responsibility and authority to people so that they can be highly engaged, performing at their peak, caring towards others, will figure out innovative solutions, and will deliver exceptional results and outcomes.
  • Embrace change, uncertainties and opportunities in a constantly evolving but difficult operating and business environment. It is now about being the quickest and most productive in trying new things and solutions. It is being able about learning quickly and recovering from mistakes.
  • Recognise that opportunities and resources are abundantly available to co-create value with stakeholders.
  • Unlock value and enable quick reactions to the needs of the business, customers, regulators and other stakeholders.

In summary

In a post-pandemic world, organisations must successfully deal with change and seizing on opportunities to survive and thrive.

Employers will desperately need the right people — especially workers who are Entrepreneurs and Producers — and people with key survival skills who can help the business to stay afloat, succeed and then thrive.

Depending on the availability of this two dominant management and working styles within the organisation, many employers will have to quickly hire or borrow people externally. Short-term contractors could be the solution.

If you are looking for a job right now and have work qualities of an Entrepreneur or a Producer and posses the key critical skills, you are job-ready.

But if you have a job and do not have work qualities of an Entrepreneur or a Producer, then it is time to change your working styles and attitude towards work. Workers who are not humble, teachable and adaptable to change are easy targets for potential layoffs.

Now more than ever, employees must be able to demonstrate their value proposition to their employers in order to have job security. When the job market is flooded with qualified workers desperately wanting your job, employees must demonstrate that they can create value for their employer and be able to justify the amount of salary they are receiving in return.

When the deciding factor to laying off people is down to cost and expenses, all employees must now justify their ‘return in investment’ for their employers.

If you can ruthlessly work as an Entrepreneur or a Producer and can apply your key survival skills in the workplace, you are in a better and secure position to demonstrate that you are an essential worker and valuable to your employer!

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