The professional world has seen megatrends and changes, with Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cloud computing. These are three key drivers of the fourth Industrial revolution and they have blazed the trail for corporate innovation. Even more, our jobs and businesses are fast changing with the protracted COVID restrictions still be in place. We are all engrained in a global crisis of unpredictable outcomes which are driving the COVID job economy. The pandemic undoubtedly rode down businesses and drove millions of people out of work globally, but it has also given rise to a mix of opportunities different from those that have been lost.

The crisis has significantly accelerated business and workforce changes at an unprecedented rate with massive disruptions across economies and industries spurring a drift to digital transformations in weeks rather than what we thought could be possible in years. Businesses are now forced to critically evaluate workforce requirements, when and where work gets done, and finding cost-effective alternatives to full-time employment. Post COVID-19 pandemic, the dynamics of manpower supply and automation will shift the geography of employment birthing new ways of working; as we have seen recently with the high adoption of hot desk arrangements, part time and remote working.

Most professionals are experiencing the complexity in a new world which is more interconnected and dependent on each other as a lifeline. With an increase in workforce without borders, organisational structures are getting flatter along with a complex set of work structures and matrixed responsibilities. Today’s workforce identifies more with a multidimensional workplace either physically or virtually.

The investment of the future – to reskill or upskill?

One of the most important realisations today is the separation of critical skills and roles. Organisations are not looking at critical roles the same as they did before COVID-19. The idea that critical roles are regarded as ones needed by the organisation to meet its strategic business objectives has been upended. Many organisations have now reassessed critical roles and defined them as one central to the success of the core business operations. Organisations that will thrive will focus more on leveraging key skills that will enhance its competitive advantage along with the processes that fuels the advantage.

The discrepancy between the skills people have and those needed for jobs in a new work order is one of the most significant problems many organisations may face. Skills required for one job increases by 10% every year and none of these skills will be the same

– PricewaterhouseCoopers report

For individuals who are looking for their next career move or employees looking to remain relevant, this is the time to develop new skillset in areas most organisations deem critical. This can present multiple opportunities for career development than waiting for a specific next role. Organisations will predominantly be hiring individuals with transferrable skills. Skills that are resilient to the ever-changing world of work. As skills set constantly evolve, employers are more likely to hire tech-savvy professionals who are agile and adaptable. As such, one must focus on digital upskilling or risk falling behind. There is always a skill to learn no matter your industry or position. Do a self-audit, understand where there are shortfalls and create a plan to close the knowledge gaps. There are many free or low-cost resources such as the Google Code Academy, Udemy, Khan Academy etc. Organisations have the responsibility to provide reskilling opportunities to employees in critical roles to build their capacity.

Remotopia – a move from the margins to mainstream

Remote working has not been a common practice in our part of the world, but in the wake of this pandemic, many organisations and professionals are adapting to the normalcy. There is a constant draw by many organisations to ensure a great employee experience and engagement even when majority of employees work remotely. Remote working arrangements has seen a vastly different way of thinking and collaborating. The regularity of distributed and dispersed workforce places priority on key skills such as communication, flexibility, relatability, and empathy. Some research has shown that remote workers tend to work more hours than their counterparts in the office. Organisations are now recruiting into fancier job titles such as the Head of Remote Working to focus on the balance between business gains and wellness offering to mitigate an increase in isolation and burnout. Businesses can now recruit knowledge workers in new geographies, including underrepresented groups like disabled or chronically ill workers. While remote working can save companies a significant amount of money, many professionals now find it very attractive and may turn down jobs that do not offer it.

The gig economy

TaskRabbit, Fiverr and Upwork have become leading on-demand platforms experiencing a surge during this period, providing a space to complete ad-hoc work by freelancers. This normalisation along with new technologies is paving the way for more jobs along the supply chain. With most common collaboration tools today being Slack, Zoom and Mural, a new workforce trend without borders remain for talented professional willing to contribute to projects to global businesses with complete flexibility.  Freelancing is providing agility to organisations that must thrive in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment. It has also presented a unique opportunity to professionals looking for the freedom of flexibility. This shift will position professionals and employers in a place of success in the new world of work, no matter when or where it might happen.

The strength of weaker ties

The one thing that remains unabated in a corona job market is the depth of your professional network. The golden rule of networking has always been to mobilise weaker ties. This remains an untapped opportunity mine. Whereas stronger ties will be the default for most professionals due to the trust, obligation, and commitment it brings, one challenge remains clear.  Strong ties such as family, friends and even close colleagues mostly know what you already know. Weaker ties can be a useful source of new leads, resources and information but in some instances, there is a lesser motivation to help. Increase your chances by sharing proposals, or offer help on projects that show your commitment and what you can do. Another way in which professionals can go by the conundrum of the stronger and weaker ties is to leverage ‘’dormant ties’’. These relationships could be your 3rd degree connections, that is, people you were once close to but have not been in contact for years. Natural candidates for this category ranges from former clients, consultants, potential employers, recruiters, and so on. When you nail a meeting, deliver a great pitch that will increase the motivation to help you get a lead or an opportunity.

Now more than ever, it has become advantageous to utilise virtual meet-ups while social distancing. Build a professional LinkedIn profile to ensure your online and personal brand reflects the type of opportunities you wish to attract.  Have clarity on your own priorities, broader purpose and juxtapose against any possible lead. It can be tempting to focus on one dream path, but this could be limiting in this current situation. Change is rarely linear as we will wish, so it is good to consider various paths. Do your research on all the possible alternatives and do not be hanged up onto a single industry or role.

Finally, COVID-19 has presented an inflection point that hitherto seemed impossible.  The new trends set out will transpose the future of work in an evolutional way. Knowing the second and third order effects of the pandemic can be mind-bending but that notwithstanding, will be the key to successfully navigating the new world of work. Change preparedness for organisations will set the course for survivors while shining a light on the outright winners. For professionals, it offers an opportunity to shape the future you want rather than simply managing the future that comes.

Written By:

Kwame Afreh

Snr. HR Advisor

Tullow Ghana Ltd,

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