The Covid-19 pandemic has put several megatrends in motion. These are powerful, transformative forces shaping every area of our lives, including our workplaces, leadership and learning.
This is according to Jackie Kennedy, founder of the LeadMe Academy, unpacking some of the shifts she anticipates in 2022:
There are a number of reasons why top-down organisational structures no longer serve today’s or even tomorrow’s businesses. For starters, relying on a handful of leaders at the very top makes it harder for the organisation to respond to changes in the market and therefore far less resilient. Just think about how your company responded at the start of the COVID-19 crisis and whether this could have been handled more swiftly and efficiently, along with the knock-on effects this has since had on the business.
We are moving to a world of work where the corporate ladder is out, and the jungle gym is in (at least for organisations that want to embrace rapid change). What this means is that employees are required to develop diverse skillsets and be agile enough to work on a range of projects. These skillsets can then enable different employees to lead different projects depending on who is best suited (based on their skillset). This requires developing employees with a set of leadership skills.
That being said, we still need strong, flexible, and forward-thinking leaders at the top to provide direction. However, leadership is moving from tenure and title to a skill possessed that can be used when needed whereas in the past it was often based on length of service with a company. Often function experts became leaders despite not having the people skills or training to do so – one of the reasons why there is often a weak middle layer of leadership in companies. Nowadays, we need team members who can take the lead interchangeably – this is key for rate of change and for teams to solve problems or invent new products or services.
The focus on pressing basic needs in the early days of the pandemic meant that inclusion and diversity receded as strategic priorities for organisations, but now businesses have renewed their efforts, especially as inclusion and diversity are seen as critical for business recovery, resilience and reimagination.
While the CEO or founder might understand the business best, one individual doesn’t know everything. All businesses have to contend with competitors, clients that change over time and market forces, so ideas and input from the people who are working on the ground is essential. In fact, 44% of Fortune 500 companies say that diversity in the workplace (which includes diversity of thought and experience) increases innovation and agility.
The Great Resignation
Additionally, 51% of Fortune 500 companies state that diversity enhances employee engagement – the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals. In the era of the Great Resignation, which has seen 60% of South Africans terminating their employment between April and October 2021, employee engagement is essential. One of the best ways to engage (and retain) employees is to work with them on unlocking their personal and professional development. If companies are seen to be making a long-term investment in their employees’ wellbeing, the stronger the likelihood that the employees will stay.
The World Economic Forum is anticipating that 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025 and that leadership will be one of the top 10 skills demanded in the future. In the wake of the pandemic, and with the Great Resignation set to continue into 2022, leadership development programmes need to be equipping leaders company-wide with soft skills when it comes to leading themselves, others and the organisation. These should include self-awareness, communication skills, resilience, stress management, flexibility along with strong problem solving and critical thinking skills.
It has been reported that 86% of organisations with leadership development programmes can rapidly respond to adversity in an unpredictable business environment. What’s more, leadership development results in a 114% increase in sales, 70% lower turnover, 71% higher customer satisfaction and 90% lower absenteeism. Apply these programmes across the organisation and employers gain an even greater competitive advantage – higher productivity, a resilient and high-impact workforce, smarter resource management and increased revenue. If companies don’t empower their employees with critical leadership skills, they will be left behind. After all, when individuals thrive, companies do too.
Kennedy concludes by saying that these and other megatrends affecting workforces, leadership and learning will determine how businesses fare in a post-pandemic world.