Since the middle of March, and perhaps longer for countries outside of the UK, Covid has become the C word that trumps all profanities. The Coronavirus pandemic has crippled countries across the globe, causing deaths on a scale seldom seen in peacetime and bringing to their knees, even the world's most robust economies. The Office for National Statistics reported that in April - as the country endured its first month in lockdown, the UK economy shrank by a record 20.4% whilst over the same period, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits rose by more than 850,000. And this picture - one that is mirrored by nations all over the world - looks set only to worsen as government support schemes are scaled back in the coming months. Nobody knows for sure what lies ahead and it seems that uncertainty is the only thing we can be certain about! But it's worth remembering in these times of difficulty, the optimistic and much quoted words of John Adams, ‘Every problem is an opportunity in disguise’...
Now I'm the first to admit that seeing the opportunity in the midst of a global pandemic takes some vision! But history tells us that it is often out of the most perilous times, that the greatest successes are born. A quick Google search reveals that General Motors, IBM and Microsoft were all founded during tough economic times and that M&Ms creating their famous candy that ‘melts in your mouth, not in your hand’ was inspired by soldiers’ solutions to protecting their chocolate from intense heat during the Spanish Civil War. So how do you turn a problem into an opportunity? And what are the key skills you need to get ahead in the post-covid economy?
Communication is perhaps the most important of all skills in the workplace. Every successful transaction requires the effective communication of ideas, whether it be in the form of persuasive copywriting, info-graphics, a simple conversation or countless other examples, and having a workforce adept at the art of communicating is integral to maintaining productivity, positive relationships and staff morale. Sometimes wrongly categorised as a ‘soft skill’, communication correlates directly with perceived competence: if you talk a good game, people will assume that you play one too... and if you can master both, you’ll find yourself at the top of every savvy employers hit list.
The capacity for critical thinking has long been regarded as a principal skill in both the world of business and academia. In an age when we are subjected to more information through more channels than ever before, objective evaluation of sources is perhaps more important than at any other time in history. The world - and the workplace - needs people who can sift their way through the fake news and fish out the facts; people who can analyse data and draw sensible solutions; people who make sound judgements and informed decisions. People like you?
One of the positives to draw from the Coronavirus crisis, is the ability of individuals and organisations to adapt to a changing world. The pandemic has forced the pace of digital transformation across all sectors of the economy, and as such those with skills in areas like web design, software development and digital marketing are being snapped up by employers to ensure that companies can continue to thrive should we become subject to future restrictions. One such skill - coding, is arguably as important as basic literacy in the modern age. And as technology becomes increasingly important in all of our lives, the ability to utilise programming to solve complex problems is a huge advantage in the labour market. Essentially the architects of the digital world, coding professionals will no doubt play a pivotal part as we move towards a new normal.
Widely underrated and disregarded by many of the world's education systems, creativity is the foundation of all change. And since the Coronavirus crisis has forced change upon everyone, having creative minds amongst us who can dream up innovative new ways for our businesses to thrive in the post-covid economy, is going to be absolutely essential going forward. Restriction so often breeds ingenuity and we've already seen clothing giants adapting to a changing market by producing personal protective equipment, and car makers shifting production from formula one vehicles to breathing apparatus. But it doesn't stop there. Businesses across all sectors will need to continually evolve in order to compensate for the crises of the last six months and meet the challenges that lie ahead; creativity will be a huge part of that evolution.
Consistency builds trust, and trust is a vital component of any organisation. As the world returns to work amidst changing routines and expectations, a consistent, reliable approach is essential in building secure, inter-dependent relationships between staff, colleagues and customers. It's no secret that the more consistent one is, the more credible one appears, and few skills will elevate you above the competition as much as an ability to hit targets / achieve goals with predictable regularity.
I'll say it again: Since the middle of March, Covid has become the C word that trumps all profanities. And despite many nations now seemingly emerging from the other side, only a fool would declare this crisis over. Widespread unemployment and a labour market that is wildly different from the one we left behind in winter, will inevitably present challenges in the months and years that lie ahead. Further investment will be required on the part of government; resilience and positivity will be expected on the part of businesses and employees. But one thing is certain, as the global economy slowly gets back on its feet, Covid is not the only C word people are talking about.
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