By Ursula Fear –
The workplace today is tough – business usual has become business unusual. In fact, the term VUCA is increasingly being used to describe the world in which leaders and organisations have to operate – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. These words could be applied to the past business environment however, because of the speed of change, oiled by collaborative technology today, makes the environment more challenging than ever before. The effect is a profound change in the kind of organisation and leader needed to thrive in such an environment so much so that the success of the past is unlikely to be the predictor of success in the future. The organisation of the future will need, more than anything, to be agile and to be able to take advantage of a rapidly changing market.
As such, the role of learning and development (L&D) has become greater than ever. In fact, the current business environment requires South African firms to focus on talent engagement, high performance and efficiency, while building capacity for local, regional and global growth. And no matter what sector businesses are operating in, it is evident that the biggest challenges we are, and will continue to face in our industry, will be:
- At an organisational level – creating a dynamic company that attracts diverse, talented people with fit-for-purpose skills and problem-solving mindsets;
- At a leadership level – high performing leaders who create an environment that inspires all employees to be the best that they can be;
- At a cultural level – a high performing, values driven culture that is characterised by goal clarity and alignment, empowered accountability, teamwork and collaboration, stakeholder focus and inspirational leadership; and
- At an opportunities and rewards level – a myriad of challenging career opportunities for talented and engaged people to grow into high-performing employees who are rewarded competitively.
- Organisations that have created open networks understand that one of the most important assets of such an organisation is social capital which facilitates an organisational chemistry in which talented individuals collaborate to create next generation solutions.
VUCA Fit organisations however, will also be defined by their innovation capability and their approach to networking. Members will no longer be constrained by hierarchical, functional, divisional or even organisational boundaries and will be encouraged to network with whoever they need to in order to achieve the organisations goals. In fact, having a well-developed network of connected people will be a key success factor for future careers. The organisation’s people philosophy must support the business strategy. In generic terms, the philosophy must aim to build a sustainable and adaptive organisation of talented, diverse, competent and inspired people, who face the future with confidence and form the foundation of the approach to leadership development. In fact, today, and more importantly going forward, investing in the holistic advancement of talent should be considered a business imperative.
With this in mind, it is evident that success in this market requires brave leaders with the skills to build a high performance culture, through value based leadership. Change is constant and flexibility to adapt to change is becoming critical. Organisations of the future will require managers who can work in complex, multi-cultural situations; leaders who can manage the balance between delivering for today and investing for tomorrow. A VUCA Fit leader will facilitate and promote an organisational (and personal) purpose that inspires and engages all stakeholders. They will also need to drive problem-solving abilities as we don’t know what the jobs of the future are, but we do know that they will be different and will require a different way of doing things. Learning has reshaped itself and the organisation of the future will need to learn as they go along.
In a world where the legitimacy of business is under scrutiny, such purpose will speak to social value creation rather than purely economic value, although the achievement of an enterprise’s purpose will result in increased and sustainable profitability.
As the economy continues to grow, employee skills are becoming more specialised, making engagement and culture, leadership and development top priorities for talent management stakeholders. Every organisation’s culture should support high performance and talent engagement. In 5 or 10 years from now many of the organisations currently represented on leading global stock exchanges will no longer exist. Employers that fail to engage with workers and provide solutions to the increasing demands being placed on workforces today will struggle to stay abreast of the competition tomorrow. They will be replaced by organisations whose leaders facilitate organisational behaviour that enables them to be fit in a technology powered, next generational VUCA world. Welcome to the future.