THE FUTURE OF TALENT
Are you future ready?
Sophie Solomon is a Global Marketing Executive with over 20 years of experience. She is the Senior Manager at Accenture and speaks four languages.
Sophie Solomon is a Global Marketing Executive with over 20 years of experience. She is the senior Manager at Accenture and speaks four languages.
Are you familiar with this proverb: “God, grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, the courage to change things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I don’t know about you, but it sure feels that the last three years were meant to assert the truth of this proverb. Whether or not you have an aversion to change and unpredictability, or you go where the wind blows, the lack of control and uncertainty over these past few years has been trying for all. So much so, that mental health continues to make the headlines. Many corporations not only talk openly about it, but they also provide mental health-specific benefits to their workforce. No wonder that in its latest research, Gartner named wellbeing a key metric in the future of work. It doesn’t matter how well-equipped we may have thought we were; nothing could have predicted the past three years.
Let’s face it: Our resiliency continues to be tested daily. Change and uncertainty may very well be the new normal. Who still has an appetite for novelty and risk when the last three years have felt, and feel, like walking on quicksand?
But as trying and disruptive as this unpredictable climate may have been, it also offered us the opportunity to stretch, to grow, and to tap into some hidden reserves and skills we did not know we had. It also opened the door for us to reframe how we think about the necessary ingredients we need to continue to make us discoverable, current, and relevant in an ever-changing professional climate. Learning to embrace change and see the opportunities in an ever-changing climate is probably one of the best indicators of our future professional success as well as our personal wellbeing.
How do we ensure that no matter the socio-economic and political climate, we are prepared to embrace change and ready ourselves for whatever is next? Let’s look at some of these key ingredients to help tone that resiliency muscle and make us future ready.
In my April article on leading with empathy, we explored the role of mindfulness and emotional intelligence in building an empathetic leadership style. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is at the core of our ability to gain wisdom, as the proverb above mentions. Emotional intelligence is about building the necessary self-awareness and personal clarity to make intentional personal decisions as well as professional ones. It’s about recognizing personal strengths and weaknesses, getting insights on our emotional triggers and needs. To put this in a professional context, it provides the insights to get clarity about what we “love” to do rather than just what we “have” to do. It also allows us to understand what environments motivate us and are conducive to producing our best work. To get that clarity, it takes work — emotional work. It requires that we pause and introspect and have the courage to look inwards. It is that clarity that allows us to craft the best path forward for ourselves and recognize what is toxic and harmful. It gives us the information we need to make the best decision for ourselves and also to put us at the helm of our own future and professional journey. When uncertainty strikes again, and we find ourselves not knowing what else is brewing down the professional pipeline, if we recognize what we need for our own fulfillment, we may just have the EQ that it takes to create or find the right opportunities for us. With self-awareness and clarity, we can not only better appreciate what is professionally possible, but we are also better equipped to walk away from what can harm us.
EQ alone is not enough. So let’s shift gears and take a look at technical skills. A solid foundation of self-awareness opens the path to crafting a professional development framework that most likely aligns with the things that we “love” to do rather than “have” to do. It also provides the lucidity to appreciate how realistic our professional aspirations may be. It helps ground us in reality and craft the possible. To stay professionally current, it is essential that we have a lifelong-learning mindset. Knowledge is power; it gives the tools to influence where we go next, even if we do not always know where “next” is. With enough self-awareness, an appetite for knowledge and enough curiosity, we can build the foundation to continue to be current in a world in flux. Although this may seem like a daunting endeavor, when broken down, it is rather simple:
- Hone in on what you want to learn: write it down, brainstorm with trusted individuals, and be honest with yourself.
- Keep your finger on the pulse of your industry or line of work by reading (yep, just that!), listening to podcasters and influencers, and activating your network for thought leadership. In other words, “be in the know.”
- Research the tools, programs, and books to upskill yourself. LinkedIn Learning is a fantastic tool.
- Build learning into your routine. Set time aside on a regular basis. Stay in “knowledge” shape, just like you would do with your physical health.
Staying current is one of the best assets you have to embrace the future, especially a future we cannot predict.
In addition to toning a lifelong-learning mindset, it is also essential to develop a growth mindset. Although they may seem the same, they require different skills and complement each other. A growth mindset calls for getting out of one’s comfort zone. It requires letting go of the known and the idea of being perfect, while embracing the unknown with no attachment to the outcome. It requires looking at failure as a springboard for growth. Eduardo Briceño, an acclaimed culture and learning specialist, states that, “A growth mindset is the belief that we can always improve.” Not only does a growth mindset help us improve, it also gives us the skills of non-conformism, flexibility, tolerance, and empathy to recognize failure not as a weakness but rather as an opportunity for betterment.
It is this mindset and a strong dose of self-awareness that together provide a solid foundation to understand and make space for the essential value of inclusivity. Some of the factors that are influencing the future of work include globalization, migration, mobility, and access to information, just to name a few. They’re also giving us all the opportunity to engage with people and cultures that are not like us, especially in our professional journey.
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) deserve their own article to do the topic justice, but today I will just touch on inclusive behaviors as they relate to future readiness. In this climate of unpredictability, learning to be inclusive provides opportunities to carve out new challenges, open doors in unchartered territory, and bring light to new business practices and shared knowledge. Most importantly, inclusivity unleashes creativity and innovation. In addition to bringing economic value, it also fosters belonging — and subsequently, retention.
To put it plainly, inclusive behaviors also make business sense.
So where does one start? During my tenure at my previous company, we developed the habit of introducing and practicing one behavior of inclusion each month, ten months a year. This practice did three things: It established inclusivity as a priority for our culture, it made it approachable and doable, and it created a space where all belonged. Our behaviors included:
1. Examine your assumptions.
2. Make a habit of asking questions.
3. Ensure all voices are heard.
4. Listen until they feel understood.
5. Address misunderstandings.
6. If you have a strong reaction to someone, ask yourself why.
7. Seek input from people with different backgrounds.
8. Reduce stressful situations.
9. Understand each person’s contribution.
10. Be brave.
As a result of incorporating these behaviors into our culture, our turnover rates were unrivaled, and our community (and profits) thrived.
There is one last ingredient I’ll leave you with today: Get to know your brand. What is your brand? It is how you add value beyond your job description. To prepare for the future, you must understand not only what you love to do, but also how you do it.
Often, I hear professionals talk about soft skills. I like to refer to them as superpowers — the unique combination of skills that define how one shows up at work, how one does their work, and how one engages is the real value we bring to an ecosystem. Your brand is company-and role-agnostic; it is what we own and control in a world in constant flux. “No matter where you go, there you are.”
Who knows what is in store for us next, for our planet, for our personal and professional future? Change is the only constant. In order for us to make the most of the here and now and also be prepared, we must turn inward and intentionally tone the muscles that set us up for success, no matter what the future is. “Growth and relevancy are a fascinating journey driven by relentless curiosity and one’s willingness to take risks and drive to grow.”
So, are you future ready?