Future-proofing your skills/competencies

As the whole world unites to overcome the pandemic that has ravaged countries and communities, we all must still collaborate and strategise at various levels on the best ways to get back on our feet post-COVID19. In many ways and in multiple environments, we will all be saddled with the task of managing the aftereffects for a while to come.

Management thinkers would describe thisc present time and global situation as VUCA (a term coined by the US Army War College) – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous – characterised by inadequate information and knowledge, a high level of unknowns, inevitable change and instability. Can anything get more VUCA than the current pandemic that has caused such global disruption and destruction? It is hard to believe that only a few months ago, BREXIT and its fallout was top on the agenda!

For the last couple of years, the global business world has been preparing itself to meet and manage the challenges of BREXIT and to maximise the potential benefits and opportunities. Today, the world unites to wage war against COVID19. While both situations should not and cannot be compared in terms of their effects globally, they share a common phenomenon —- CHANGE.

Without doubt, the pre-COVID workplace is long gone and buried – the way we live and work can never be the same again. The future challenge would to redefine what the new, post-COVID workplace will look like. Thus, should leaders sit back and let the workplace redefine itself; letting things take shape naturally or should there be proactive, strategic approach to create VUCA-proof organisations? Is a VUCA-proof organisation even a realistic goal?

In VUCA times, organisations (and society at large) are faced with the task of dealing with challenges in 4 distinct areas, which require distinct but sometimes overlapping responses. Thus, organisations that would survive in the current climate are those who are open to mastering the art and science of strategic responses to volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Sadly, many organisations and businesses will not recover from COVID19,

VUCA is characterised by unexpected challenges, instability, precariousness, unpredictability and change that sometimes have no precedents. This requires a high level of engagement and decisiveness, the need to gain more understanding and a focus on key directions for the organisation.

VUCA environments require us to learn how to harness the power and benefits of diversity in relation to skills, perspectives, competencies, thoughts and approach and creating an comprehensive, cohesive integrated solution based on enhanced understanding of the situation. 

Similar to organisations, individuals and teams must become VUCA-proof – the workplace must be characterised by individuals and teams who understand that the micro and macro environments in which they currently work will continue to change even into the future. VUCA is the new normal. This inadvertently puts the onus on individuals and teams to develop/hone skills, aptitudes and competencies to respond correctly and effectively to current and anticipated dynamics.

This begs the question about the kind of skills and competencies needed in a VUCA world, to facilitate success at team and individual levels which are expected to translate into success for the organisation. After all, the people make the place.

There are, without doubt certain skills and competencies, which are now as much a given for the world of work as the technical competence and expertise with which we should approach any type of work. For this reason, skills and competences such as leadership skills, communication and interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, analytical skills, a winning attitude, ability to knowledge-share, etc , which any serious-minded professional in the 21st century is expected to already have, will not be discussed in this article.


  1. Cross-cultural intelligence – Goes beyond simply being culturally aware to actively gaining sound and working knowledge about other cultures, understanding and appreciating the differences and similarities among cultures, and having the capacity to demonstrate this knowledge through effective cross-cultural communication – body language, appropriate terminologies, expressions, tone, writing style, etc.
  2. TechSavvyness – It doesn’t require you to be a nerd or IT guru but to have what is now considered basic skills in IT, as well as being able to use common applications. E.g. Microsoft PowerPoint, Prezi, ShareX, etc
  3. Conflict Management – Accepting the inevitability of conflicts among people and understanding that they arise for various reasons, sometimes explicit but with layers which require unpeeling and unpacking. At times like these, managers/team leaders are required to dig deeper to uncover the real reasons for the conflicts. Conflict management here also means the swiftness by which we are able to respond to issues, which arrive in virtual environments and on social environments, which could comprise our digital/online reputation and effectiveness as individuals and as organisations. Essentially, this is about your ability to effectively manage your digital public relations (PR).
  4. Working in virtual teams/environment – Virtual teams are now a common workplace trend, no longer what some companies have, but will very likely now be the default mode of team-working. This could then mean that working in physical teams will be used by those who absolutely need to be in the same physical space. COVID19 has proven that it is absolutely doable and workable. It would also mean that, if they have not already done so, some organisations/HR would now need to develop new and relevant strategies, policies and practices to support their employees working in virtual spaces and virtual teams. Working in this way requires qualities and competencies such as emotional intelligence, adaptability, flexibility and cross-cultural intelligence.
  5. Managing Virtual Teams – Managers of virtual teams have the task of ensuring that not only do the teams stay focused and clear about their purpose, but that the context is not completely lost because of the absence of a physical location. Rather, the context is redefined. Essentially, a virtual team manager should be adept at organising and coordinating people, processes and technology within the virtual space s/he oversees. This requires cross—cultural intelligence, the ability to manage cultural diversity, to provide helpful feedback, as well as other leadership competencies
  6. Problem Identification/Escalation and Effective decision-making – Solving a problem starts first with identifying what the real issue is and mapping possible solutions. Thus, the goal is to solve the problem or to reduce it to the least threatening level. Good problems-solving involves the following steps – 1. being able to clearly articulate what the future will look like when the problem is solved, 2. being able to collect relevant information 3. Generating viable options 4. Making the decision 5. The implementation and evaluation. Escalation in organisational decision-making should also be an area for decision-makers to focus on.
  7. Learning agility and Resilience – Learning agility refers to one’s ability, speed and willing to learn new things and to effectively apply that knowledge in various contexts. It is backed by a personal learning culture and characterised by continuous learning and personal development, with a willingness to share the knowledge acquired. With the future being now, our workplaces will also test our resilience, which is essentially our ability to be flexible, adaptable, to be able to cope and to keep/regain our momentum especially in VUCA times.

Are there other skills/competencies that aren’t mentioned here? Please share in the comment section below.

Toluwani Akaehomen is an inspirational keynote speaker, author, trainer/facilitator and performance strategist. She is currently Lead Consultant at Vantage Dymensions Leadership and People Development. Among other interests and her family commitments, she is also a doctoral candidate, with research interests in leadership, migrant entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education.

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