The coronavirus pandemic has turned the working world upside down, with millions of employees re-evaluating the place of work in their lives. Many people have discovered the benefits of working from home and are reluctant to return to the five to nine office day lengthened by the dreaded commute. Morale and commitment are at an all-time low. Add to this constant change on multiple levels, and you have a very challenging year ahead for learning and development leaders.
In addition, we find ourselves in the age of digital transformation, which has proven to be very challenging for most organizations. Implementing complex enterprise software is challenging, with resistance from employees and skills gaps holding back the process.
Members of the Leading Learning Partners Association (LLPA) can support company leaders in their journey to the adoption of cloud technology, which will greatly ease their digital transformation process. The upcoming C3 Global Cloud Skills v-Tour in April hosted by the LLPA will feature The Phoenix and the Unicorn author Peter Hinssen as keynote speaker. The book is a guide for enterprises that want to transform themselves in the face of disruption and volatility.
Technological innovation has been accelerated by the pandemic, changing consumer behavior for the foreseeable future. Hinssen predicts that volatility and transformation will be the new normal and will require resilience and agility. He says that organizations will need to challenge themselves faster than ever, and dare to reinvent themselves constantly.
In this challenging environment of uncertainty, volatility, and constant change, learning and development professionals must operate, facing more challenges than ever before.
A closer look at some of the more pressing challenges Human Resource (HR) professionals will face in 2022.
- Improving company leadership
Current conditions in the workplace are so challenging that leaders who used to fulfill their positions with ease are now at a loss as to how to navigate a complex world. Many need additional leadership training to adapt to changing circumstances and excel in their roles.
Development Dimensions International (DDI) research polling 368 CEOs and 2,102 HR experts found that CEOs are disenchanted with their management corps. Only 34% of CEOs rated their first-level leaders as “very good” or “excellent,” with a similar percentage to mid-level managers.
Uncertain times put a lot of pressure on leadership. The same research found that CEOs experience a 20% drop in confidence in these times when their leadership is most critical.
The one skill that emerged during the pandemic as sorely missing among workplace leadership is empathy. It has been pointed out as the number one soft skill that leaders need in these challenging times.
L & D leaders are challenged to build up the management and executive teams in their organizations to lead effectively and with empathy.
- Equipping company leaders for the post-pandemic world
The post-pandemic world is increasingly characterized by circumstances that are described with the term VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, says Hinssen. In fact, VUCA has become normal, with leaders having to lead in a world where there is more uncertainty than ever before.
He explains that visibility is shrinking because the world is moving faster than ever before, and leaders can no longer see far ahead. There are more unknowns and things that change almost on a daily basis. Today’s leaders are not ready for these circumstances because they have been trained to make decisions based on all the facts, but they simply don’t have all the facts.
Hinssen makes a radical suggestion: ’’Maybe we need to train people to make decisions in complete uncertainty. Maybe our leadership should not be about managing things but about taking risks; it’s about being comfortable with uncertainty, it’s about figuring out how you make decisions if you don’t have all the answers.’’
The problem is we don’t have those skills today. L & D professionals may have to work with executive teams to develop decision-making strategies that incorporate uncertainty.
- Stemming the tide of resignations
HR teams have to find ways to put a stop to human capital loss. Companies can’t remain competitive if they keep losing experienced employees. The first step is to establish why workers are leaving in droves and addressing those issues.
According to research by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), the top factors driving talent loss are burnout, lack of advancement opportunities, compensation, and the insistence that employees return to the office after working remotely during the height of the pandemic. The researchers warn that workplaces that don’t offer some form of flexibility in their work arrangements going forward will struggle to retain or attract talent. Burnout was cited as the number one reason employers will likely lose talent. If companies can’t find ways to retain staff, burnout rates may increase, leading to more resignations.
- Solving talent attraction
Recruiting and hiring in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic have turned out to be very challenging. Working remotely for many months, millions of workers have realized that they can have a better quality of life without the commute and are no longer willing to go back to the office full time. Millions of people have quit their jobs, creating a recruiting nightmare for companies.
These people will be looking for jobs again, but they will make demands that companies will have to take seriously if they want to attract top talent. These may include flexible work hours or alternative remote work days, mental health benefits, technical skills training, and proof of commitment to diversity.
Talent acquisition professionals may have to think outside the box to solve the talent shortage, like taking advantage of the growing gig economy to hire freelance professionals and offering mentorships and training to develop promising employees for leadership positions.
- Navigating the technology challenge
The ability to utilize the latest technology to drive new ways of doing business is a major factor in the digital transformation of organizations. New software and digital technologies are constantly being developed, and companies have to train employees in the use of them in order to stay relevant and maintain a competitive edge.
According to a survey by Gartner, Inc., nearly 60% of L & D professionals say that building critical skills and competencies will be their number one priority in 2022. The vast majority of workplaces have critical IT skills gaps that are holding them back. L & D professionals facilitating the training of the workforce in new technologies will accelerate digital transformation.
In particular, cloud computing skills have become critical. Rapid developments in cloud technology have caused severe IT skills gaps, leading, amongst other things, to catastrophic cybersecurity breaches, insider data theft, and phishing attacks.
L & D professionals can turn to the LLPA members for assistance. The LLPA members offer training and certifications in cloud computing, with a particular focus on Microsoft Azure.
- Addressing mental health in the workplace
The past three years have tested employees to the limit. Mental health issues have soared, and addressing the issue has become a top HR priority.
Stress and burnout have been identified as a significant threat to the mental wellbeing of workers across functions and levels of seniority. As stress and burnout levels are not abating, companies are forced to prioritize the overall wellbeing of their employees and come up with strategies to support their mental wellbeing.
When employee wellbeing suffers, productivity and profitability suffer. The challenge for companies is to be able to spot the signs of mental health problems and step in before the issue escalates and causes serious problems for the employee, co-workers, and the workplace in general.
HR teams in forward-thinking companies are focusing on creating awareness, prevention, and addressing stigma around mental health issues. Some teams are using new technologies to identify employees that are at risk.
- Building diversity
Managing diversity in age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc., remains challenging and high on HR professionals’ list of priorities. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are critical issues for 35% of companies, according to the Gartner survey.
Having people from different backgrounds working together in teams inevitably leads to conflict, which hampers productivity. Complicating the issue and holding back diversity targets is the fact that HR leaders struggle to hold business leaders accountable for DEI outcomes. The result is that underrepresented staff don’t get sufficiently promoted in mid-level and senior-level positions, according to the survey.
HR professionals will have to devise new strategies to get company leadership to commit to DEI goals. In the meantime, they will continue to sensitize workforces to the needs and expectations of all groups.
- Develop change resilience
Employees across industries suffer from change fatigue. Surprisingly, HR professionals report that employees experience small day-to-day changes like different teammates, a new manager, small process or system shifts much more tiring than big transformational changes. Each change causes disruption, which becomes trying over time.
At the pandemic’s beginning, companies were relieved that productivity didn’t suffer and concluded that the workforce was resilient. Months later, everyone realizes that steady productivity has come at a price. Mental health issues are widespread, and trust in the workplace has suffered.
Apart from working to restore trust in the workplace, HR teams can help employees have a personal sense of purpose by showing them how their work is relevant. Statistics support the need for trust in the workplace – when employees believe that their work is personally relevant, there is a 26% increase in the likelihood that their mental health won’t suffer.
To help employees cope with change, HR must help them to establish trust among themselves on all levels. Employees with high trust have 2.6 times the capacity to absorb change. Secondly, HR must help build team cohesiveness – teams that are close show twice the ability to absorb change compared to teams that are not close.
Be ready for what comes next
Development and Learning professionals together with CLOs and CIOs can boost their company’s learning culture and institutional transformation by attending the third C3 Global Cloud Skills v-Tour presented by Microsoft and the LLLPA.
With The Phoenix and the Unicorn author Peter Hinssen as the keynote speaker plus sessions by LLPA members, company representatives will find answers to the many challenges that face them and understand how the acquisition of cloud skills can propel their organization to transform into a Phoenix.