Focus competencies - Success in the "New Normal"

14/07/2020 2020/07

Our complex world teaches us the transience of our acquired knowledge. Many have already reached the point of seeing the current situation as an opportunity for development. However, knowing this alone does not help us to draw the appropriate conclusions. After our call to go full throttle, to rethink leadership in the home office and to accompany the return to the office, we now want to devote ourselves to the future. Because despite certain uncertainties, some things are already clearly visible.

Which competences or skills are needed now? 

It will no longer be possible to imagine our everyday working life without technology. Networked working from anywhere is no longer a problem. At the same time the demand for leadership is increasing. Whether it is a direct superior qua hierarchy or due to situational project management is irrelevant with regard to the necessary competencies. So which competencies will be decisive for success in the new working world?

Competences can be grouped, evaluated and formalised in different clusters. What is missing in the daily debate is the evaluation of the basics that we lose sight of when developing skills. Although competencies include knowledge, skills and qualifications, reducing them to these is at the same time a misappropriation of sustainably acquired skills. One goal of competence development is to strengthen self-confidence in oneself and one's abilities. We experience the principle of self-efficacy. But it also means that in new, complex and dynamic situations we can reinterpret what we have learned, reassemble it and ultimately find solutions. It thus provides the basis for successful action in the VUCA world.

Consequently, the person who manages to accumulate knowledge particularly well is no longer necessarily successful today. A manager will be successful if he or she is equipped with a competence base that enables him or her to assess it well on the one hand, and on the other hand helps to maintain the will to develop continuously. Basics can be learned, but there are no best practices for future challenges that can be learned. It will rather be a question of whether values such as curiosity, courage and creativity will guide action.

Digital skills are part of everyday life in the new normality.
The handling of IT and technology are required as special hard skills.

This is not only economically challenging, but also psychologically. Some people are currently recognising new leadership skills, while others are not. Agility experiences a short successful start, at the same time the question remains how sustainable all this is. If we look at basic competencies, there are two key areas that are important now and will be decisive factors for successful development in the future.

Digital competence

Changes will be more and more disruptive in the future. In particular, the opportunities that new technologies offer for business models, customer relations and the connection between man and machine can be used as leverage. The handling of IT and technology are in demand as special hard skills.

The move to the home office in all sectors, increased use of video conferencing tools, collaboration tools and the availability of work topics in the digital space place particular demands on the digital competence of all employees. Many companies are already using digital solutions in isolated cases, but working completely digital still poses challenges for many. Not only every single person is asked to approach the topics with curiosity, but also the companies as a whole as well as the executives as helpers bear the responsibility that digitization becomes an enrichment and not a handicap. With regard to the role model function of managers, however, the first difficulties can be identified here. How should superiors proceed in the digitisation issue if they too are alienated with the technology? Various recent studies also show that many employees already feel left behind in digital topics. According to the Bertelsmann study, around a third of the managers surveyed say that they do not know exactly how their company is doing with digitization or whether it is already affected by it.

The area of conflict between activities that are no longer required due to automation or digitisation and specialised tasks that can only rarely be covered by existing skills requires an intensive examination of further education and training. Especially now, however, larger investments are often difficult. All the more important is an individual approach to future needs. In addition, clarity about key functions in the company and their future development with regard to changing requirements and digital skills helps. Digital tools are indispensable in marketing and sales. Online and social media marketing, as well as the digital business model and data analysis, are already shaping business activities today. But digitalization can do more than just represent data streams or run processes in systems. In the health care sector, it provides support through projections or mapping of scenarios, as well as in physically hard work thanks to intelligent robot control.

Dealing with digitisation primarily requires a change in attitude towards it. We experience relief through technical solutions and are allowed to allow them. In other words, we need more courage and curiosity instead of fear and the feeling of threat.

The transformation of work, business and private life will continue to present us with challenges that are currently difficult to grasp.
One goal of competence development is to strengthen self-confidence in oneself and one's abilities.
One goal of competence development is to strengthen self-confidence in oneself and one's abilities.

Communication

We see interpersonal skills as a fundamental soft skill of the future. If our everyday life is shaped by the digital, the interaction with each other in the phases becomes all the more important. At the same time, we need clarity and empathy, especially in digital communication.

Due to the expansion of work in virtual space, conversations or votes no longer take place in person as usual. This influences the quality of the interactions, because the limited possibilities in communication via video, chat or similar replace direct communication only in terms of content. Editing or censoring is possible in written communication, of course this was also the case before, but the proportion has increased massively and interaction suffers as a result. Communication is not a purely cognitive process, because intuition in direct conversation makes it possible to act on an emotional level. Digital empathy is therefore required so that between numbers and data an awareness can be created that certain things can only be communicated explicitly to and from the other person. Thoughts, movements, gestures and feelings must be made tangible so that they can be experienced at all. A communication that is too smooth, too superficial and purely related to content allows the feeling of togetherness to enter. In everyday life people often do not say what they really mean. Our communication consists partly of rather empty phrases or recommendations from communication seminars, which are usual in business speech. The 80% of non-verbal communication, which is often quoted, cannot be experienced to the same extent via digital media. More explanation is needed now - why or for what purpose do I communicate at all, do I want to know, appreciate, decide, communicate emotions or points of view - depending on the situation, an adjustment is needed.

In cooperation, there is a need to develop a common understanding. This means not only a shared understanding of the "right" approach, but also an understanding of the other person. The managers have the task of creating clarity, e.g. with regard to the meaning of words. But even in self-organized teams, translation work is necessary to develop a common understanding or understanding of the "truth" of the other person - What do you mean? What does that mean for you?

Another important aspect is your own clarity, whether in the process, in the situation or in your own role and function in the team. This can be achieved through targeted communication by the manager for the employee and for himself. It is not the format used that is decisive, but the effect on the employees. Psychological empowerment is considered the basis for experiencing oneself as meaningful, self-determined, influential and competent in one's own role. 

In less structured teams, the negotiation of topics or ideas is a basic component of team-internal communication. Norming already exists in the formation phase of a team (see Tuckman 1965). Team rules for cooperation, communication and the handling of conflicts are negotiated, if necessary even renegotiated in the current situation. If teams no longer work only at the same place or time, new rules can help. Open communication with regard to mutual expectations remains a recurring process and, in the absence of communication, carries the risk of lasting conflicts. 

Accordingly, feedback as an instrument has an important function. In the future, it will stand even more for joint learning and joint competence development. Especially when working at a distance, regular feedback on work topics is crucial. Constructive dissent that is lived openly also promotes the quality of results for the entire team, as it rubs perspectives together. It is not the first best solution in a usually well-intentioned but badly made consensus that wins, but a good solution that also allows other perspectives to flow in through critical questioning. This form of problem solving in a team will shape the innovative ability of the company in the future.

At the same time, giving regular feedback also trains the cooperation in its entirety, because it is also about formulating expectations in concrete terms. On the other hand, everyone learns to deal with the consequences of what is said for themselves, especially with their own "disagreements" that can occur in intensive communication. In the future, we may therefore work on our explicit (leadership) communication, our communication in conflict situations and our active listening.

The transformation of working, business and private life will continue to present us with challenges that are currently difficult to grasp. From our point of view, the key to meeting these challenges is to deal with technologies and to focus on the interpersonal aspects. With the appropriate curiosity and constant learning together, we can also act successfully in the future. 

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