COVID-19 has forced companies around the world to be agile and shift quickly. For many, that shift has come in the form of digital transformation efforts. According to a global McKinsey report, the share of products and services that had been partially or fully digitized by December 2019 was only 35%. By July 2020, however, the percentage had jumped to 55%. That’s a seven-year acceleration — in just half a year.
In whatever way agility presents itself, it’s clear that if companies want to respond well to crises like this pandemic, they will need teams that can pivot quickly to tackle changing demands head-on. If companies don’t have workers with the right skills to do so, they’ll fall behind.
Developing Teams for Resilience
According to another McKinsey study, 87% of executives worldwide are either currently experiencing a skills gap or expect to in the next few years. Now is an excellent time to begin thinking about how to plug those gaps. Instead of hiring new talent, you can focus on developing the team you already have through upskilling.
“When you invest in upskilling, you increase the potential of your existing resources instead of sinking your resources into scouring a highly competitive job market,” says Jeff Mazur, executive director of LaunchCode, a nonprofit aiming to fill the skills gap in tech. “And you help employees advance out of lower-skills jobs and move up in their careers.”
By giving your current employees the training they need to react effectively and with agility when the next disaster strikes, you’ll build a resilient company that can survive whatever the future might bring. Here are three additional steps that will help you develop the talent you already have and create a more resilient business:
- Take a one-on-one approach.
Research shows that one-on-one coaching is an effective way to develop employees for a resilient workforce. Start by meeting with employees individually to determine which skills they’re most interested in gaining or building, then mentor them yourself or pair them with other individuals who can teach them more about the skill.
If an employee is interested in building his leadership skills, for example, consider establishing a mentorship program where you can meet regularly to offer advice and assess his growth as a leader. If another employee is interested in something outside of your wheelhouse, pair her with a leader in your company with relevant skills who’s interested in helping others learn.
- Encourage relaxation and offer time to unwind.
The most resilient teams are hardworking, of course, but there’s a fine line between hardworking and overworked. And running yourself into the ground doesn’t equal resilience. Create an atmosphere where your employees feel enabled and encouraged to step back, unwind, and come back to work refreshed and refocused.
This requires more of you than simply offering more paid time off or flexible work hours. Employees may know these options are available but still feel guilty or anxious about taking time off. Why? Perhaps they don’t want to burden their teammates with additional work or fear they’ll return to an even bigger pile of tasks. To mitigate these issues, cross-train other employees and document processes clearly so time off is never seen as a burden — for the person taking time off or for the people filling in while their colleagues are away.
- Facilitate opportunities for employees to connect.
In a remote work environment — like the one many of us are currently in and will be for some time — we lack the ability to converse with our co-workers in the ways we once took for granted. But that doesn’t mean employees coming together to converse is any less valuable. In fact, amid the many changes and stressors that have sprung forth from COVID-19, intentional socialization is even more important.
If you want to build a resilient business, you must give your employees time to share their struggles, solutions, positive experiences, motivations, and more with each other. Of course, you can ask your employees about these things when you meet with them individually, but they’re likely to be more candid with their peers. Establish times for workers to get together — whether that means a virtual happy hour or lunch break or even a socially distanced outdoor picnic. Resilient teams work together, and that means connecting with each other regularly.
Any company is only as resilient as its workers. If you want to make it through this pandemic and be well-prepared for whatever crisis comes next, giving your teams the resources they need to be resilient should be priority No. 1. Help your employees develop skills, take care of themselves, and connect with those around them to create a resilient workforce that will always bounce back.