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Employees no longer get by with "traditional" competencies. So, how do they manage?

There is a lot going on in the literature around 21st century skills. Rightfully so, because in our VUCA world, diplomas are expiring faster and faster. Employees can no longer manage with 'traditional' competencies. For example, now they also need to be problem solvers and cope with change. COVID-19 has only sharpened the need for such competencies for the future.
by Lou Van Beirendonck, PhD, Peggy De Prins, PhD, Anouck Van Hoydonck | February 1, 2021
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Blog traditionele competenties

Two key competencies for the future

If COVID-19 is a harbinger for the future, what can you learn from it for yourself, your team and your organization? We asked a group of enthusiastic pioneers at our knowledge partner Janssen Pharmaceutica. In the exchange, two key competencies emerged: dealing with ambiguity and networking/stakeholding.

Dealing with ambiguity

COVID-19 has only confirmed the need for resilience in uncertain situations. How and when can I shift gears quickly without knowing everything? What can I get out of setbacks as well as pluses? These questions remain relevant even post-corona. Our VUCA world will continue to challenge employees and managers to shift gears quickly. At the same time, you must remain calm and constructive so that you can make well-considered decisions and make adjustments. Or as one pioneer puts it:

"Understanding the art of successfully navigating within gray areas."

"Gray areas" because experts give conflicting advice, for example, or advice that goes directly against the leaders or business strategy. Still, you will have to make knots, even if various scenarios are possible and even if you don't have everything under control. "In the complexity, you have to see the pieces of the puzzle , the possible paths to a solution," it also reads.

In doing so, you will have to consider risks. However, risks can be scientifically substantiated. And once they are substantiated, you can take well-considered risks. A chicken-or-egg story, so it seems: responding to uncertainty by searching for new forms of certainty, in order to deal with new uncertainties in a sustainable way.

Networking & stakeholding

COVID-19 has not only accelerated the need to adapt quickly as an individual. You will also need to do so across a broad network of stakeholders. Because more than before, we have to admit that we don't know everything. We need others to complete the picture:

"Instead of 'knowledge is power of the individual,' it is: 'knowledge is power of the network, the organization.'"

So investing in broad networks and partnerships is crucial to getting sustainable solutions. Or again, "You can only make good decisions in a complex context if you look beyond your own interests." This means understanding and anticipating your organization and its internal and external networks.

The response "let me do my job" is a true expert approach. But 'getting something done' also means creating social support, i.e. networking. This is not the same as political behavior: it is not about showing your own achievements, but about appealing to your contacts to achieve something together. Authenticity is crucial here. The network must strengthen you in what is relevant.

'Make networking a project,' one might summarize. It is best to support newcomers in this. Network knowledge and networking competencies should be an essential part of the onboarding process, and remain important within the learning and development process further down the career path. A testimonial:

"In the beginning, I was not aware of the importance of networking. In my new team, networking was very explicitly expected. I also received feedback on what was good and what was not going well. My colleagues and my supervisor pressed me with the facts that I did not have a network, and that I urgently needed to work on it."

How to develop these competencies?

Of course, you don't just master such competencies in school, quite the contrary. The learning process happens mainly on the job. Asking for and receiving feedback, regularly making time for self-reflection, constantly 'stretching' yourself and learning from mistakes: these are just a few possible levers in a development path. Or as one of the pioneers summarizes it:

"Having the courage to occasionally jump and swim in unfamiliar waters gives a boost of self-confidence. When you jump you can also jump wrong, you should not be judged on this."

No soloslim

COVID-19 has given us a taste of 21st century skills at an accelerated pace. We are thinking en masse in scenarios, acting according to "moving insight," and bringing out unsuspected agility. We must not let these learning gains go to waste. Employees and organizations must remain committed to dealing with ambiguity. Not solo, but in a broad, dynamic network of stakeholders and knowledge partners.

Employees and organizations must get ready today for the challenges of tomorrow.

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