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Importance of Resilience and Contributions Talent Management could make

Sep 17, 2020


  • ANITA VASUDEVAN Global Talent Development and Location HR Leader at Sonata Software
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The needs of the future are changing and COVID-19 has brought the future to us earlier than we thought.

A case in point is the way we work. COVID-19 has hastened the VUCA world experience and the pace of change is at its peak. Living in a rapidly changing world could have its own challenges for us human beings and could throw us into the flight-or-fight reflex, increased anxiety and stress, etc.

VUCA, Changes in the way we may have to work and Jobs of future have been researched, written, and well-spoken topics off late. Yet – when the COVID-19 hit the globe, how many corporations and people were completely prepared? With the changed circumstances, the ability to bounce back or become resilient has been of paramount importance to organizations and people. Speaking from my personal experience, in this short period, I have gone from shock to acceptance to hope.

Resilience: A Must-Have Skill in the Future of Work

A quick look at WEF skills of the future reveals that focus has shifted rapidly from specific technical skills to behavioral capability; with active learning and learning strategies, complex solving and emotional intelligence climbing up the ranks. These personal leadership behavioral aspects subtly indicate resilience under changing circumstances. To be able to get back to normalcy quickly after major changes or catastrophes, thinking differently and learning become very important in addition to other points. For organizations to be prepared for rapidly changing and evolving circumstances and environment of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, resilience becomes a key requirement.

Talent management has a great opportunity to contribute to building resilient talent and organizations by creating the right eco-system.

The HBR Emotional Intelligence Series on Resilience identifies 3 key aspects of resilient people – being realist, having a purpose, being positive and having bricolage. Building this across the organization will contribute toward building a resilient organization.

Below I share a few thoughts on how resilience could be brought into Talent Acquisition and Talent Development:

Talent Acquisition:

  • Move away from traditional approaches and consider new methods in recruitment and selection

    Look at the individual, strengths and interests, instead of focusing solely on technical/functional skills. A person who is a good and quick learner with a good attitude may be more adaptable and valued as a resource as compared to someone who is a technical expert in one or a few areas, since the shelf-life of technology is getting shorter. Of course, aptitude to learn plays a role too. One quick way that could be used to check the individual’s resilience is by checking what the person thinks of failures and what she needs to learn from them. Many talent managers are pinning down on fungible talent, which refers to the talent that can be used in more than one area and more than one role e.g.: A good designer could be a could marketing person too. A good functional role holder could be a business analyst too.

  • Consider sourcing from different backgrounds and explore different sources of resumes

    Having diverse team members increases the diversity of thought and you never know from whom and where the next great idea is going to come.

    Typically recruiters/interviews feel that since they and some of their team members have done well in the organization, similar sources and types of people will work well moving forward too. This could cause unconscious bias and lead to reduced diversity.

  • Analyze the current team’s strengths and style of working and identify which type of talent could help build the team better. This would translate to some amount of customization when hiring for similar positions in different teams or different contexts.

Talent Development

My own experiences have helped strengthen my belief in building pragmatic optimism, finding purpose, and building positivity. Learning to work within constraining environments has strengthened my belief in the power of resilience. We now know from research that self-leadership and attributes like resilience can be developed by all human beings and need not be gifts few are born with.

As part of the talent development portfolios, I suggest:

  • Build practices and processes that will keep the organization functioning when under tremendous pressure.
  • Provide resilience development opportunities to leadership, budding leaders, and talent.
  • Help organizations craft the right ecosystem to help talent become resilient and continue being resilient.
  • Enabling behavioral change for adults may be challenging as compared to children and adolescents as we are experiential learners, who build our learning through our experiences and environment.

    To address this, I begin behavioral change intervention by asking participants/ learners/ audience “What is in it for them?”

    If an adult can relate to a clear purpose and see that the value of the change is greater than the investment required, the motivation to make the change comes into play. On the organization’s part, it will need to provide the right development opportunities/ learning interventions/ programs, etc. If these could be conducted through a series of short modules of experiential learning, the effectiveness could be increased.

    With so much of learning material available today, the role of talent development teams may change to that of evangelists, content curators, coaches, facilitators, etc. from content designers, developers, program managers, and trainers.

A few ways in which resilience could be built into organization practices

  • Providing programs on the appropriate behavioral/leadership competencies
  • Providing safe learning environments and spaces, where people can fail quickly and learn
  • Facilitating change management programs that help people cope with the changes/changed business and larger environment would also contribute to building resilient talent
  • Building and sustaining a learning culture
  • Building fungible talent pools
  • Providing opportunities for people to build new competencies to showcase themselves, etc.
  • Providing role enlargement and enhancement opportunities
  • Including job rotation programs
  • Facilitating opportunities to enhance education and qualification while working full-time
  • Empowering mid-level leaders to quickly make decisions
  • Building a culture of learning. Also building acceptance of failure and celebrating failure as success
  • Creating mentorship and reverse mentorship programs
  • Coaching programs

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