This is part 3 of our Talent series. We focus on this essential resource for all modern businesses and take a look at the concept from various perspectives. The goal? To better understand talent and how it affects the workplace, how we can foster it, and how we can make the most out of it.
The Coronavirus pandemic (somewhat) unexpected irruption inevitably forced businesses to see things from a different perspective. There were disruptions to workflows, adoption of new working models, an increase in work flexibility, and new approaches to managing, among many other things. There were no other choices. Companies could only overcome such a challenge with an adaptive stance.
A lot of experts are saying that work won’t be the same after the COVID-19. On the one hand, that’s because businesses will keep some of the routines developed during times of crisis, as they surely noticed that the new way of doing things could be beneficial. On the other, because people will look at work differently, maybe preferring to work remotely part or full time. All of that will configure a new normal for work that will undoubtedly impact the needs and requirements for future talent hunts.
All in all, the pandemic underscored something that some companies already knew for quite a while: anyone trying to make it in today’s business landscape needs to be agile. In other words, companies need to be flexible enough to adapt to new scenarios quickly. Accepting those work routines and models will change over time (and, sometimes, really fast) is critical to stay ahead of the competition and move with ever-fluctuating markets.
Now, it’s essential to understand that companies are as agile as their workforces. That can mean several things at once, but it’s better summed up by a single concept: talent agility. Knowing about it and understanding how to foster it can help your business better prepare for the uncertain scenarios ahead.
What is Talent Agility?
Talent agility refers to your ability to modify your workforce quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively to face new situations. It encompasses all the ways you have at your disposal to ensure you always have the talent you need to tackle your company’s business challenges. Thus, talent agility includes:
- Learning programs
- Talent development plans
- Talent acquisition and retention
- Talent management
A combination of all of those methods will surely increase your in-house talent capabilities to tackle new scenarios that might arise and better adapt to new demands. Besides, all of that will do wonders for your workforce morale, as everyone will feel part of a dynamic team that’s always prepared and deeply valued. That’s because you’ll be investing in your staff, helping them develop new skills that will benefit them and their careers as well as the company.
Why is Talent Agility Important?
As proven by the Coronavirus, the business landscape can change in a matter of hours. What worked today might not work tomorrow. The product you planned during months might feel useless after a competitor beat you out to market with a similar one. The skills your team has honed over the years might fall out of favor in a minute. New technology can create new demands – and new threats. A startup can revolutionize a field with a novel approach. And so on.
As you can notice, all of these situations don’t necessarily arise from emergency times. Sure, the COVID-19 created a new scenario overnight, but all of these happened (albeit less dramatically) pretty often before the pandemic. There are plenty of examples to support all that: Uber disrupted the mobility world, artificial intelligence is changing pretty much everything from finance to farming, no one would hire a Flash expert today.
Those examples (and the many more we haven’t discussed) challenged our business views. Before Uber arrived, we wouldn’t have thought of having the possibility to review a taxi driver. Artificial intelligence is now providing us with insights that business execs only dreamed of before. Flash, once the ubiquitous king of the internet, has been quickly replaced with HTML5 tags. Those changes forced incumbent companies and talent to adapt or risk being forgotten. Think that’s too dramatic? You can ask Kodak executives what they think about it.
Thus, changes are inevitable. Even huge companies that would love for things to stay the same need to understand that to remain competitive. In such a context is where talent agility proves its importance. By having a workforce that’s continually improving and learning, any company can better respond to those changes, be them foreseeable or not. It’s a matter of adaptability, just like it happens with evolution.
The future will undoubtedly be different from today’s, and it will call for very different talents and skills for work. Ten years ago, no one would have imagined that we would need blockchain experts or Internet of Things developers today. Now, there’s plenty of demand for them. Plenty of people that worked on other things made the switch and are now blockchain experts and IoT developers. They were agile enough to change when the market changed. That’s precisely what you need.
How to Achieve Talent Agility
Naturally, all of the above is easier said than done. Usually, changes are more abrupt and quick than our response capacity. That leaves companies and their talent in a reactive position – as the pandemic clearly showed. That doesn’t mean you have to stand there with your arms crossed, waiting for markets to shift. You can be better prepared when your company and the people you work with develop the right mind frame: the one provided by talent agility.
So, how can you foster that in your company and help your talent be more agile? By doing the following things:
- Know your talent strengths and weaknesses. The first thing you need to know is what expertise you have in your company and which one you’re lacking. So, you’ll need to analyze your current workforce. Be as thorough as possible, since saying, “I have two software developers, three marketers, and one accountant” doesn’t cut it. You know the specific skills for each one of them!
For instance, you can find that your marketer also knows about UX or that one of your software developers has blockchain-related skills. Make a detailed inventory of those skills (even the ones you don’t use right now). Doing so will allow you to know where your company stands in terms of capabilities.
- Know your competitors, market, and industry. Now that you have an in-house talent inventory, it’s time to assess your competition and your entire industry. Checking your competitors’ hiring intents, detecting emerging trends in your audience, or staying on top of the latest news in your industry can identify potential talent needs in the short, mid, and long term.
Don’t just focus on the competitors that feel closer to you (in terms of size and market focus). Check your entire industry from big enterprises to new startups. One might be about to revolutionize the field with a specific strategic move, and you need to be aware of that to get the skills required to swing in that same direction at a moment’s notice. Though this might seem more reactive, it doesn’t matter if you’re the first to a trend that can become a new norm: it only matters that you get there fast and right.
- Plan a talent strategy. When you know your company, competitors, and industry’s skills strengths, weaknesses, and trends, you have a whole picture that allows you to plan your next move, talent-wise. Where will you go? This is a tricky part, as there’s a lot involved in creating such a strategy, a mixture of data, trends, expertise, and pure instinct. The plan has to define where you will go next: which skills you’ll invest on?
By all means, don’t take that as a call to go all-in on a single investment. You have to be smart about the direction you’ll take with your talent. Maybe you can diversify your efforts and train your workforce in several skills you imagine might make a difference in the future. You might partner up with a nearshore development company to fill in the gaps. The important thing is that you come up with an actionable plan for you to follow, with a clear purpose.
Keep in mind that the plan won’t be set in store – a huge part of having talent agility is being flexible, so you’ll have to be ready to switch directions at any moment.
- Combine different talent methodologies. Now it’s time to put that plan into action. Ideally, you have to combine different strategies to get the skills you’ve defined as your talent goals. That means that you’ll have to resort to some of the methodologies mentioned before. A good suggestion is to always start with skill learning programs, training sessions, and talent development strategies.
Investing in reskilling and upskilling can provide you with increased talent agility, as you’ll have a workforce whose skills you already know will get better through new skills. They’ll have the bonus of knowing your company and your market inside out, so they’ll bring extra value to all your efforts. Besides, investing in your team will better prepare for unexpected changes and boost engagement with your business.
Increase the Agility of your Talent
It’s hard to measure the impact the pandemic will have on the short and mid-term. It’s safe to assume that several things will change because of the economic outcomes of the crises, the new-born preferences of workers, or the new business strategies of companies. Thus, we need to prepare for a future that will introduce more uncertainty and change than what we’re used to.
In such a light, talent agility becomes even more critical, as it will provide you with the right frame of mind to tackle the upcoming challenges with the best weapon any business can have: great talent.