CATALYST Issue 6 - Page 2

Catalyst | Developing dexterity for workforce resilience and innovation I t’s tempting to fall into the trap of making swift assumptions about how the world of work has changed, but the truth is that we may not yet know. As much as we are craving optimism and stability, financial experts believe the volatility in today’s markets will continue throughout this year and into next. The past six months have shown that things can change at a moment’s notice, and we cannot overlook the fact that the pace of recovery will be different, depending on the industry in question and the local response to COVID-19. Where volatility is the norm, dexterity is a requirement – an organisational adroitness that enables businesses to react quickly and appropriately to whatever the external world throws at them. Our in-depth feature (p7) debates what this might look like in practice, including examples from some of our clients and insights from experts in risk and resilience. Liberating our talent In business, the word ‘dexterity’ tends to be linked with ‘digital’ – describing “the ability and ambition to use technology for better business outcomes”, to quote Craig Roth, vice president of Gartner Research. In July’s edition of Catalyst, we discussed immediate digital responses to COVID that look set to stay, and the need to pick up the pace of digital transformation, designing new people processes from a digital-first perspective. However, dexterity is about much more than digital. Wider organisational dexterity involves reframing talent management as talent liberation, according to author and consultant Maggi Evans. She argues that if we cannot predict what will happen in the future, we must plan for a range of scenarios and ensure there is a diversity of skills within the organisation (p14). In the short term, we will require adaptive talent strategies – “approaches with sufficient flexibility to enable us to respond to immediate needs, to scale up or down, to redeploy and refocus”. To prepare for the long term, we must start by considering the strategic aims of our organisation and possible scenarios for how it might evolve and grow. Nurturing internal talent will be a large part of this. For instance, as part of its total talent strategy, Thermo Fisher Scientific has a dedicated internal talent team and mobility systems that have created an internal market for jobs and career development (see p9). Broadening the talent pool will also be necessary, with organisations embracing many types of worker. A culture of learning Dexterity encompasses mindsets, beliefs and behaviours; an example of a recent mindset shift is the acceptance of widespread remote working by organisations that, mere months ago, would have baulked at the idea. Meanwhile, leadership traits coming to the fore include empathy and compassion – a desire to invest in people’s happiness as well as their productivity, and so build engagement that adds to resilience. Leading virtually, and in turbulent times, requires EQ as well as IQ. Innovation thrives where people feel psychologically safe and are supported to be curious. Research by Harvard Business School (p12) shows that curiosity leads to enhanced creativity, collaboration and communication, and is a key driver of learning. A culture of learning must underpin any dexterity-led organisation in future. As disruptive and damaging as COVID has been – and continues to be – it has also given us an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine and reinvent working. Built-in dexterity enables organisations to do this not once, but over and again, as circumstances fluctuate and change. David Leigh CEO, Alexander Mann Solutions Where volatility is the norm, dexterity is a requirement – an organisational adroitness that enables businesses to react quickly and appropriately