Even before the world was traumatized by the pandemic outbreak of COVID-19, soft skills were recognized as essential elements of organizations. Now, soft skills are more critical than ever before.
Digital transformation has hit our businesses at warp speed globally. Five-year plans are turbocharged into one-year programs. Leaders need to adjust fast and now, not tomorrow. With digitalization happening at an incredible pace, change management skills, communication strength, and the ability to empathize are a few of the soft skills required in your leadership toolbox.
First, change is not coming; it has already arrived.
For example, in South Korea, a 5-G broadband internet connection is widely available. There is a Starbucks coffee shop on every corner. Yet, historically, South Korean workers prefer to work from a brick-and-mortar office. Until recently, it was nearly impossible to get workers in South Korea to work from home. However, in the recent Ernst & Young's global 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey, they discovered that 9 out of 10 employees want flexibility in when and where they work.
We must adapt and change to succeed. This pandemic has forced us all to rethink our strategies. Heather McGowan, a future work strategist, has said, "In work as in life, evolutionary success belongs to those who can most readily adapt."
For example, there are already changes beginning in how we recruit and retain. Candidates already have a checklist of items to think about when considering changing companies. They think of the hiring companies' reputation, the position details, location, compensation, the education system for their children, accommodations and living environment for their family, etc. Now, that checklist has increased. They will add, is this opportunity a traditional employment structure, or will it be in a new hybrid work environment? Do they physically have to move locations? And there will be more questions added to the list. This will make recruitment more difficult for the executive search firm and the hiring company.
You may be wondering, will there be a high turnover in employment after the pandemic gets under control? Because if there is an increase in turnover, my job just becomes more challenging. Well, here is one survey that believes that there will be considerable turnover soon. According to the 2021 Work Trend Index, they project that 41% of the global workforce is planning to leave their employer within the year, and 46% are planning a career transition. Get ready.
Second, communication tools and skills will obviously increase in quantity and quality.
As we go beyond fax and email, Zoom, Skype, Teams, and other video conferencing software are standard. Everyone needs to be trained on how best to use these tools. Messaging apps for our computers and handheld devices are also critical to how we communicate. How can we capture the corporate culture that we have developed in a person, in a digital world?
Also, with the remoteness of how we work, meeting face to face takes on another dynamic. We see a decrease in the quality of our communications due to the lack of non-verbal communication in our digital meetings. Check out the "93/7 rule: 93% of communication occurs through nonverbal behavior & tone; only 7% of communication takes place through the use of words." We must figure out a way to not lose our critical non-verbal communication.
Some specific types of nonverbal communications are facial expressions. The human face is highly expressive, able to convey countless emotions without saying a word. Other types of nonverbal communications are body movement and posture, gestures, eye contact, touch, space and voice.
Finally, this leads us to our final tool in our leadership toolbox. Empathy.
Many great leaders have emphasized the importance of having empathy for others. Here are a few examples. "I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization." – Roger Ebert. "Empathy grows as we learn." – Alice Miller. "Never look down on anybody unless you're helping him up." – Jesse Jackson. "The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others." – Albert Schweitzer.
Leaders need to be empathetic to understand all the changes that are affecting their team members. Hybrid or remote work is bringing multiple changes into our lives and work environment. Some may excel at working more independently, while others may struggle. You can look no further than the schooling issues that have derived from this pandemic.
I am a board member of a non-profit Foundation that owns an international K-12 school. The parents' issues and challenges in becoming more hands-on with their children's education have caused some families great stress. They have been used to a hands-off approach to their education. Now, since the children must stay home and do their schoolwork in hybrid situations, the parents have been forced to become part-time teachers. Too many of these parents don't have the time or abilities to be good teachers. They openly admit that they pay large sums to send their children to schools and not home school them.
In summary, as we focus on our change management skills and communication abilities and develop greater empathy for those we love and lead, we will survive and thrive. I know change is a difficult task. So, I want to give you some FREE Bonus Points on change in hopes that I will help you in this transformation that we are all involved with.
There are four emotional stages of change.
Initially, a change is met with disbelief and denial. "I'll figure out a way through this problem." "If I just keep trying, things will go back to normal."
2. Anger and Blame
Next, it is common to see anger and blame. At work, an employee can resist change by saying things like, "That's the way we have always done it." "Why change it if it is not broken?"
3. Reluctant Acceptance
As we work through anger, we move into the third stage, where they reluctantly begin to accept the needed changes and explore their role in it.
4. The Final Stage
When someone commits to the change, they focus on the future instead of dwelling on the past. The person will have a clear sense of their roles and where they are going.
Now go and change the world, one person and one organization at a time.
About author: Steve McKinney
Steven B. McKinney is the Founder and President of McKinney Consulting which was established in Seoul, South Korea in 2001. He has combined over 17 years of high-performance executive search and leadership consulting solutions to his multinational clients in the Industrial, Consumer Goods, Technology and other industries in Korea.
Prior to McKinney, he had 13 years of experience at Adidas International as Head of Footwear Product Development (Globally), Production Manager for Reebok International's largest manufacturing facility in the world situated in Korea and others. He has traveled to 25 countries.
He has served on non-profit boards such as the American Chamber of Commerce, Korea, the Korea Foreign Schools Foundation and is a Co-founder of the Korea Business Leaders Alliance.
He has a B.A. Education from Mars Hill University, Certified Master Coach from Behavioral Coaching Institute, Leadership Coaching Strategies Certificate from Harvard University and was bestowed Honorary Citizenship of Seoul in 2007.
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