No one truly knows what the future holds, but one thing that many can agree on is that the rate of change is speeding up, making it harder to plan or work towards long-term strategies with confidence.
For business managers and professionals, the associated loss of control could also be heightening stress because control is so closely related to self-efficacy and identity.
So in a world that defies control, what strategies can businesses adopt?
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We have to start by changing the workplace mindset; creating a learning organisation and helping people accept that we don’t always have control.
To future-proof a business we need to help people learn, and learn how to respond to change, so they have the confidence to adapt to whatever the future holds.
Skills needed in the workplace now go beyond basic training for the job. Today, collaboration, the ability to listen, constructively challenge and respond to change and situations of complexity, are critical skills in the workplace. This also redefines the idea of leadership.
Businesses need to look at their leadership structures. Our leadership team meets daily to look at the detail of what’s happening in the business – to listen, analyse and discuss what the numbers are showing, and what needs to be done. The modern business needs to prepare people, and its leaders, to be collaborative, agile and responsive.
This need for agility and responsiveness also plays back into the adoption of learning; where businesses can benefit from modern technologies to expedite the dissemination of important information, training and learning.
With the learning app we introduced last year we can identify an issue or opportunity and have written and delivered content on that topic – to all colleagues across different locations and shifts patterns – the same day. This is invaluable when you need to communicate and change business practices quickly.
From an employment point of view, businesses also need to look at how they define skills and talents. Many organisations see them as relatively fixed attributes that people either have or do not have, but this isn’t going to help a company adapt to change.
If, however, businesses define skills and talents more broadly, looking instead at individuals’ propensity to learn, adapt, and innovate, then they can develop learning work cultures, where continuous change, evolution and upskilling is an inherent aspect of working life.
Businesses must recognise that the rate of change and uncertainty in the workplace can create anxiety for people who feel they are expected to know all the answers and produce successful results.
To truly create a supportive learning culture, one that allows its people to thrive and adapt to change, a business must create a working environment that is open and supportive to mental health problems.
It’s important to recognise that work stress and anxiety do not reflect weakness but are often manifestations of commitment and a desire to excel. Businesses should reward and recognise effort and learning to promote a growth mindset and greater resilience in the team.
Like many businesses we’re on a long-term journey to shape the future of our people and our network. We understand our business will likely be a very different business in the coming decades. But importantly, we want it to be a business with people that have grown within a supportive, learning environment – and are ready to take on whatever challenges the future holds.
Corina Forman is HR director at APC Overnight