New Normal, New CompetencesBy Jaime Castro | Wed, 10/06/2021 - 13:02
We can say that there is a BP world (Before the Pandemic) and an AP (After the Pandemic). The fear of this new disease led the world for the first time to experience confinement and lack of mobility to avoid the infections (and deaths) that this new virus implied. This fact alone caused the way we conceived of daily life to be radically modified due to fear of the situation.
In the BP world, we would travel by public transport with no worries other than not getting off at the right station, we held face-to-face meetings and trainings with our clients and staff, we attended parties and meetings with our friends and during our workday, we had peace of mind that our children were safe in their schools. Human contact, hugging, kissing and shaking hands were normal. What about meals in restaurants or vacations with the whole family? We visited grandparents every weekend and ate with relatives around the table. Business and pleasure trips were constant, and attendance at the workplace without need of a COVID test to enter our facilities was part of our routine. All of this changed in a matter of days.
During the first year of the pandemic, many of us and our companies faced the paralysis caused by suddenly being in an unknown scenario and facing an uncertain future. Questions arose, such as: How long will the epidemic last? When will we have vaccines? Is the virus really that dangerous? Is it transmitted through the air? I must confess that I, like many other people, was concerned about where this new circumstance would take us.
Gradually, we began to create new ways to make this new scenario more bearable. Over the past year, in the actual first months of the pandemic, I had the honor and pleasure to participate along with many renowned figures from the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry in Mexico in a panel discussion on resilience and the important role that would play in the following months. The constant of strengthening our resilience in the new environment was the need to reinvent ourselves, to make the most of technology, to find mechanisms to protect our staff, like remote work, internal and external communication with our clients and to keep ourselves informed truthfully about the new information that was emerging, not only at the level of our country but from other nations to contrast results and learn strategies.
More than a year after the contingency began, at QBD, we can say with satisfaction that our actions have allowed us to have a level of contagion among our staff below 2%.
But perhaps the most radical change that has occurred in the workplace has to do with remote work. Today, working hours have changed and the need to move to a workplace has become less rigid for many positions within organizations. This change, when correctly applied, has taught us that it can represent many advantages for our staff and our business.
Among the lessons that the past months have left us is the need to identify and strengthen new skills among our staff, skills that in other circumstances would not have been as relevant or simply as desirable but that, in light of the facts, have allowed those who already possessed them to handle the situation in a much better way. These competencies are:
- Use of computer technologies. How fortunate that the pandemic occurred at this time when we had more and better computer technologies! Twenty years ago, the world would have collapsed without the current communication capabilities, internet speeds or the existence of groupware. It does not require computer experts but it does require being able to go one step further than what we have been used to. This competence incorporates, in turn, some more specific skills such as:
- Teleconferences. The management of more than one teleconferencing platform, which includes the ability to configure a camera and microphone for use, institutional wallpapers and use of the platform's chat.
- Cloud systems and collaborative tools. Use of cloud storage for uploading and managing files, online applications for managing projects, documents, team activities, monitoring indicators, surveys and even document editing.
- Digitization of information. Capabilities to transform physical documents into electronic form, not only as images but also as text through OCR and in various formats, as well as the use of electronic signatures.
- Self-management of assigned hardware and software. Ability to solve the most common problems and adjust the settings on your computers: network settings, use of antivirus, use of file compressors, restore your computer, automatic save settings, printer installation, work with more than one monitor, etc.
- Analysis and interpretation of information. The ability to collect, understand, assess and analyze the information available on the network to obtain adequate results and make better decisions.
- Empathy. These are new times and remote work also requires empathy to understand the particular contexts of the people with whom you collaborate. This time has taught us that no one is exempt from the spontaneous appearance of children, pets or external sounds in our important work teleconferences.
- Stress management. The face-to-face work environment offered us many possibilities to externalize the accumulated stress through social coexistence, the possibility of traveling, walking abroad or simply during the trips to the workplace. New circumstances require the use of different ways to manage the stresses and pressures of the day in more restricted environments.
- Innovation and creativity. The ability to adapt also requires a high dose of creativity and innovation to find solutions and alternatives that allow us not only to maintain the efficiency and effectiveness of our activities but also to increase them.
- Organization, discipline and time management: Greater autonomy and work self-sufficiency imply that staff must be able to organize their time and work environment without the need for supervision or adherence to strict rules established in the office. The discipline that maintains this organization and time management is fundamental.
- Prioritization capacity. The ability to prioritize activities by their relevance and based on the established objectives, allows greater autonomy and efficiency in the management of their time and results.
- Work by objectives. Both for managerial positions regarding the establishment of objectives for staff and for operational positions that must know how to achieve the objectives set, working according to objectives becomes an objective measure of compliance and evaluation of staff results. It also allows the prioritization ofthe objective over the differences and discussions between areas or managements of the organization.
- Communication (different from how we have conceived it in the past). Communication has had to evolve in recent years. Today, we have managed to exploit and take full advantage of electronic media to be in contact with each other; however, it is a double-edged sword that if not used in a correct way can cause new problems and defects in communication. Face-to-face communication is made up of more elements than the simple voice (such as non-verbal language). New rules of etiquette are created in remote conversations, with the risk of losing a very important part of the process, which is the reading of this non-verbal language. The use and abuse of emails and instant messaging systems to address core issues can lead to misunderstandings or loss of context on important issues. Knowledge about the proper use of teleconferences and audiovisual support media can greatly reduce these risks and bring new advantages to the communication process in the organization.
- Emotional intelligence and neurolinguistic programming. Given that communication, its effectiveness and efficiency represent some of the main challenges in circumstances such as the one we have experienced in the last year and that the tendency to work remotely and in a hybrid way is increasing, it is important that in addition to the means of communication mentioned in the previous point, the form and quality of the message are correct, not only in intention and modulation, without allowing new forms of stress to affect it, taking care of its composition and structure so that the best forms are preserved, for which mastering the competences of emotional intelligence and neurolinguistic programming is of great help.
- Command of another language. The world increases its globalization with the expansion in the use of communication technologies and those who may be in contact with people from other nations will be one step ahead in creating new business opportunities.
- Critical thinking. Technology also exposes us today to huge amounts of information, which is not always true; likewise, the speed with which we must analyze it to find solutions to problems or to make important decisions increases. The constant exercise of critical thinking as a job competence provides us with a structured, pragmatic, and coherent method to rationalize our thoughts and the information we receive by strengthening our intellectual and cognitive skills, self-knowledge and the timely detection of our own biases and prejudices.
- Resilience. The only constant in the following years will be change. Resilience capacity as a job competence will be the result of having the greatest amount of the aforementioned competencies since these will be the tools that will serve to overcome the coming and increasingly frequent changes, coming out better positioned in the face of adversities.
After all, we will not be exempt in the future from facing circumstances like those that the world has faced in recent months and not necessarily for the same reasons. The scientific community warns that what happened in recent years is only a small sample of what the next decade holds for us: natural disasters, new diseases, political and social instability, food shortages. Among other factors, they will make flexibility, adaptability, diversification and self-management essential. Strengthening these competencies between our staff and ourselves from today will allow us to be better prepared and, therefore, have a more resilient response.
Meanwhile, let's also work to reduce the root cause of these new circumstances. Let's take care of our environment, let's recycle, let's not waste, let's be self-sustaining, let's be mindful of food security. Responsibility and ecological awareness should also be very important competencies today for any person and organization.