COVID-19 has changed the world, and the businesses that adapt are the ones that’ll survive. For better or worse, most companies have discovered their pre-coronavirus complacency in their business’s roles, strategies, and tactics—and found themselves in a new global business landscape that demands unique skill sets and talents.
The coronavirus forced companies to evolve practically overnight, and many industries feared they wouldn’t be able to keep up. However, many have discovered that these new business adaptations and “temporary” substitutes are performing better than they’d ever imagined.
We’ve learned that focusing more time and resources online provides a pretty healthy ROI and that it doesn’t take expensive real estate and lengthy commutes to complete tasks that could be done from a home office. Operations are changing, and tactics are evolving—to keep up, businesses, leaders, and employees are going to have to master new must-have post-pandemic skills.
Nothing Will Ever Be the Same Again
Or at least not for a very long time. Brand-new operational trends are emerging, and most will stick for a while—some, forever. Here are a few top-of-mind changes that’ll require special skill sets to address:
- Contactless: Contactless won’t be a passing trend—expect businesses to continue evolving to reduce touchpoints even after the worst of COVID-19 is behind us.
- Social distancing: While 6-foot social distancing won’t be a forever requirement, every organization and industry is going to have to rethink how to make some form of social distancing a painless norm.
- Crisis planning: Before COVID-19, a business’s crisis plan was often a quickly whipped-up document shoved in a file cabinet somewhere. Moving forward, expect a bit more due diligence to go into creating plans, backup plans, and backup-backup plans.
- Remote work: Remote work was on the rise before coronavirus landed, but now businesses have had to adopt it quickly out of necessity. Expect businesses to retain and evolve their work-from-home policies to optimize efficiencies and reduce waste.
- Legacy rules: COVID-19 has taught the world (especially Americans) that our unquestioned rules of the past aren’t as set in stone as we once thought. Eviction bans, debt forgiveness, and extensive government loans aren’t fantasies—they’re attainable in times of need. So why not in times of normalcy?
These are just some of the changes businesses have faced—and will continue to face for the foreseeable future. Companies will have to hire, train, and reskill their workforces to adapt to a brand-new business landscape that’ll continue to change week by week and month by month.
New skills are needed, and businesses don’t have years to waste acquiring them. Most of the following trending skills were important before COVID-19—but now they’re non-negotiable.
13 Must-Have Post-Pandemic Skills
1. Pivoting Quickly
Before this global pandemic, business life was already changing very rapidly. New research, technology, and data kept us constantly on our toes. Now, amidst a confusing virus-occupied world, companies have had to pivot quicker than ever before.
Businesses that failed to evolve quickly in the wake of COVID-19 have been left behind—it’s hard to play catch-up when stuck in a downward spiral. However, those that fearlessly pivoted to adapt their business operations, supply chains, and offerings are surviving—and some are thriving.
Moving forward, the ability to pivot won’t be a nice-to-have factor—it’ll be a need-to-have one. The coronavirus’s gradual departure and rapid recurrence will force policies and procedures to change once again (and possibly in new ways). Businesses that can acclimate on the fly will claim the majority of any early-bird opportunities.
2. Supply Chain Optimization
When the virus first hit (and still, somewhat, to this day), hot products flew off the shelves and stayed sold out. Everything from toilet paper to hand sanitizer to webcams practically disappeared overnight—nowhere to be found.
Businesses that sell these much-wanted products experienced a huge spike in sales—but then they weren’t able to sustain their inventory. This gap in availability left holes for competitors to swoop in, and sweep up, the desperate market.
Supply chains will continue to experience volatile shock waves and massive disruptions for years to come due to customers’ COVID-19-related chaotic purchasing habits. Automated systems and fancy algorithms only work in a predictable environment. Managers are going to need to get their hands dirty, dig into the data manually, and start making more proactive sourcing and stocking decisions to nail supply chain optimizations.
Some businesses are going local to build shorter, more reliable supply chains, but this also limits manufacturing potential. Plus, it’s harder to find competitive pricing close to home. To maximize sales and business efficiencies, companies will need supply-chain-savvy professionals that can keep the sourcing-selling cycle going despite volatile shock waves.
3. Contactless Know-How
Before COVID-19, contactless payment was a silly, often unused feature that some products touted, like Apple Pay and Android Pay. Now, however, contactless is the only way many businesses can open their doors.
With the likely re-emergence of the virus, businesses will need to already have the know-how to go contactless. Whether that’s pay, delivery, or other services, contactless is the future.
Contactless pay via apps like PayPal and Venmo still lacks traction in the US due to trust issues. Americans are just too comfortable with plastic cards and sweaty cash. Businesses will need to get creative to build confidence in contactless pay to open up their doors to more business.
4. Crisis Management
COVID-19 was a not-so-gentle wake-up call to the reality that a devastating crisis can lurk just around the corner. Businesses without a plan were left floundering—and if they didn’t possess the skills to pivot quickly, they went under.
Crisis management has always taken a backseat to other business initiatives. Companies talk about always being prepared, but they give as much attention to crisis planning as 6th graders do to their semiannual fire drill. In the future, expect businesses to finally invest more in crisis management experts and resources.
However, crisis management isn’t the sole responsibility of the individual with “crisis” in their title—every team and manager needs to be responsible and ready. When a crisis strikes, every employee should already know how to respond and act without waiting for the CEO to convene an all-hands meeting.
5. Remote Proficiency
Remote work was already on the rise, but now COVID-19 has become a catalyst in its rapid, widespread adoption. Despite remote work’s generational appeal, it’s not inherently for everyone. Some individuals, teams, and businesses work better in collaborative, in-person spaces. However, that’s becoming less possible for the remainder of 2020—and likely into the future.
Businesses and hiring candidates will need to learn to perform high-quality work from the comfort of their homes. They’ll need to learn how to communicate, work, and collaborate while being hundreds—or thousands—of miles apart.
Remote work has plenty of potential benefits, but they’re not all gimmes. Businesses will need to work strategically to empower their employees to complete work efficiently from home.
6. Tech Savvy
In conjunction with remote proficiency is the need for increased tech savvy:
- Employees will need to learn to do their own troubleshooting when they don’t have an IT pro sitting across the room
- Individuals will need to master tools like G Suite, Slack, Asana, Zoom, and others to foster teamwork, communication, and collaboration
- Advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and big data will help protect businesses during future pandemics
Whether you work in a restaurant, an accounting office, or a marketing firm, you’ll need to be tech savvy to function in a post-coronavirus world.
7. Data Literacy
Data is the fuel for business performance. The right data can help prevent business disruptions, financial mistakes, and supply chain failures. More data doesn’t equal better performance—but more data literacy does.
Due to hiring challenges, companies will need to train their employees on how to manage data. In an Experian study, results showed that 84% of businesses see data literacy as a core competency that all employees need to have in the next 5 years.
8. Financial Planning
With SBA coronavirus loans drying up, it’s becoming critical for businesses to know how to acquire, budget, and use capital well. Before COVID-19, cash flow was already the 2nd biggest startup killer—quarantines, curfews, business closures, and social distancing have only made the problem worse.
Companies need financial planners, accountants, and bookkeepers who can track and plan for all their cash needs. Cash cushions need to be rebuilt (or started), lines of credit need to be obtained, and business plans need to be reevaluated.
In times of prosperity, businesses can get by without laser precision. Spend here, spend there—it doesn’t always matter. However, in times of difficulty, survival is only guaranteed through thoughtful and meticulous spending.
9. Emotional Intelligence
2020 is off to a rocky start. A global pandemic, civil unrest, record-breaking unemployment—it’s a lot to process. It’s easy to get lost in the social media posts, exaggerated news, and Trump’s Twitter feed right now, so leaders and employees need to exercise emotional intelligence in response.
Individuals need to overcome stress, anxiety, and fear to control and express their emotions better. Those who do will stay calm and make clearer decisions—those who don’t will make blind judgments and rash decisions. Now more than ever, we need level-headed employees to keep their businesses moving in the right direction.
COVID-19 will sort the true leaders from the fakes. During the good times, it’s not too difficult for leadership to keep the ship afloat, but when a storm is battering your business from all sides, that’s when you discover who’s really worth the big paycheck.
We’re facing some dark times right now, and it’s going to take exceptional leaders to motivate employees to do their best work, avoid distractions, and overcome barriers. Everyone from the C-suite to the front lines will require greater leadership capacity to deal with expanded roles and responsibilities.
11. Problem Solving
Most COVID-19-related problems are clear and unavoidable, like store closures and cash flow issues. Other problems, however, won’t be so easy to spot. The ability to search, find, and fix problems is a rare but valuable skill.
Many employees are content to do the bare minimum and only solve issues that directly impact their work. Problem-solving employees don’t settle for “good enough”—they proactively look for deficiencies and develop practical resolutions.
Communication has been—and always will be—a foundational workplace skill. But COVID-19 has shifted the ways that we communicate, and now even the most likable individuals will have to tailor their communications to receive and deliver messages effectively.
We all know those individuals who text without punctuation, emoji, or voice—we’re always questioning whether they’re angry, annoyed, or just too busy to bother. In a world where business communications are primarily happening over email and messaging apps, it’s critical to hone written communication skills.
Beyond text, body language has become more important than ever. If you’re chatting with your teams and colleagues virtually, you’ll need to ensure that your face, posture, and appearance align with your communications.
Businesses are rewriting their playbooks for everything from sales to marketing to manufacturing. There’s no guide or proven best practices for operating a particular business in a particular industry during a lengthy global pandemic.
It’ll take creative minds—from the CEO to the interns—to develop ideas and solutions for brand-new ways of doing business. Explore crazy ideas. Experiment with innovative solutions.
Don’t be afraid to fail. The post-pandemic time period is when risk-enthusiastic businesses have the opportunity to claim massive rewards—rewards that’ll have us thinking a decade from now, “Ah, I wish I would have done that then.”
How to Reskill Your Workforce
Millions of jobs have been lost to COVID-19. Even with companies ramping up their hiring, it’ll be extremely difficult to overcome the massive unemployment claims soaring across the country.
If your business is in a position to hire for the skills mentioned above, then you’re in a good place. However, if you’re not in a position to hire, you’ll need to reskill your workforce to adapt to these necessary traits.
Some of these skills will be adopted by Darwinism, but others are going to have to be taught slow and methodically. McKinsey & Company have outlined a 6-step process to reskilling your company workforce:
- Identify the skills your business needs most: Look through the skills we’ve listed above and identify which ones are most crucial for your business and industry. What skills does your current workforce lack? Which ones do they currently possess?
- Build skill sets: Focus on skills that will be universally beneficial, regardless of an employee’s specific role or responsibility. Role-specific skills are important, too, but everyone needs certain base qualities.
- Launch tailored learning journeys: You’ll need to think ahead strategically to identify not only the skills your team needs now but the skills they’ll need 12 to 18 months down the road.
- Start now, test, and iterate: Launch as soon as possible so that you can see what works—and what doesn’t. This will give you time to make changes and slowly perfect the training model. Don’t wait to get all the details right before launching—start now, test rapidly, and make changes.
- Act like a small company: Research shows that reskilling programs at small businesses are more effective than large ones, despite the bigger companies’ access to more resources. Be agile, move quickly, and be willing to fail.
- Protect learning budgets: Maintain your employee-training budgets, even when you’re making cuts to adjust to COVID-19 impacts. Your employees are your #1 asset—don’t delay in investing in them.
Be Prepared for a Post-Pandemic World
COVID-19 has likely caused the biggest worldwide economic shock since World War II. Few alive have had to rebuild broken economies, businesses, jobs, and livelihoods. You won’t have all the answers, but you can give yourself a fighting chance by acquiring the skills necessary to thrive in a post-pandemic world.
Don’t wait until your business is forced in a new direction or you’re placed far outside your comfort zone to start adopting these skills. Take the time now. Make a conscious effort. You won’t be able to do it all at once, but if you follow McKinsey’s 6-part process, you’ll be better able to identify and learn these necessary skills—1 at a time.
Whether you’re ready for it or not, big changes are coming. Coronavirus has shown us just how much the world can change overnight—you need to be prepared to act and not just react. With these skills in your back pocket, you’ll be ready to navigate whatever curveballs life throws at you.