Resilience: the soft skills to nurture in yourself and employees during COVID-19

With the impact of COVID-19 set to affect both employers and employees for some time to come, we identify the top soft skills to nurture not only in your workforces, but in yourself also.

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When people think about skills, it tends to be hard skills, such as the ability to use certain computer programmes.

However, successful organisations will recruit new team members based on soft and intangible skill profiles which are applicable across roles. These have traditionally included skills like problem solving and decision making, creativity and customer focus.

With the impact of COVID-19 set to affect both employers and employees for some time to come, these traditional organisation-wide competencies could be replaced by other traits which are more reflective of the current situation.

Here are some traits which will be highly valued by employers in the coming months:

Resilience

These are tough times, both financially and emotionally for both businesses and their staff. Employees will be affected by unsettling events in both their personal and working lives. For example, they may be deeply affected by someone contracting COVID-19, or economic uncertainty could have them worried about their job security.

The challenge for businesses, particularly with many employees continuing to work from home, is how to identify and nurture resilience in remote environments.

Intangible skills like these are difficult to identify until an employee ‘demonstrates’ it, so organisations must focus on building policies around mental health and wellbeing which can help employees build these traits.

Focusing on effective employee wellbeing will not only help individuals to deal with challenging situations; but their health and happiness will have a positive effect on productivity too.

Adaptability and flexibility

COVID-19 has created a fluid situation where no-one is sure what is coming next. Until a vaccine is found, measures to combat the virus will be constantly changing. This will affect individuals and businesses.

For instance, with the outbreak likely to be managed at a local level moving forwards, employees may find that they could have a relatively normal working life one day, yet a tightening of restrictions the next due to a localised outbreak. How quickly can they adapt from being in a place of work to working remotely, then shifting back again when restrictions are lifted.

In another scenario, if members of their team are suddenly forced to self-isolate or - heaven forbid - come down with the virus, do they have the capacity to pick up their work at short notice?

Being able to adapt on the fly and have the flexibility to accommodate rapidly changing business requirements will be crucial skills for employees to thrive in the months ahead.

Mindset and trust

In these troubled times, those employees who demonstrate a focused, determined mindset will perform the best. Self-motivation and focus, combined with a desire to learn and grow, will help employees make the best of these times and stay productive.

Conversely, managers who place trust in their colleagues to produce their work and not micromanage will help to bring out the best in their teams. This is particularly relevant to those who will continue to work remotely even after some government lockdown restrictions are eased.

Organisational focus on enhancing these skills

It is not only down to employees to develop these traits. Employers must play their part both in identifying talent who have these skills, and helping existing employees develop them.

Organisations must ensure that their policies and recruitment tools continue to support the changing world of work. Adjusting existing recruitment profiling to consider the skills which will be most valuable during the COVID-19 crisis will be critical.

Additionally, businesses must ensure their learning and development efforts are concentrated on building these new, highly prized, skills and behaviours in their existing workforce. Firms need their employees to be resilient and adaptable to be able to work effectively in the current climate.

As such, we expect to see a growing emphasis on mindset, motivation and trust when organisations make hiring decisions in the months to come.

To find out more about building resilience in the workplace, sign up to tomorrow’s Consultancy+ webinar on the subject.

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Matt Phipps
Principal Consultant

Matt is one of the leaders of the HR consultancy practice at Consultancy+. He has a keen interest in driving positive change in organisations’, delivering projects that add genuine value to people strategies.

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Tim Whitaker is a consultant working on age and employment issues and a Trustee of Wise Age - a specialist employment charity for the over 50s working with employers, policy makers and older workers.

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