Don’t Just Fill the Position . . . Hire Employees for the Future 

The outbreak of COVID-19 has forced organizations into perhaps the most significant social experiment in the future of work in action, with work from home and social distancing policies radically changing the way we work and interact. But the impact on work is far more profound than just changing where people work. It’s also profoundly changing what work is performed and how we perform it. 

That begs the question – Are the skills that were once in demand in pre-COVID-19 world still in demand today as well as, with perseverance and a bit of luck, in a post-COVID-19 world? 

There’s little denying that events over the past 8 months have changed the way we work. The prime example: It’s forced many employers to make the shift to a remote and digital workforce, and quickly! 

It’s meant that processes that would routinely take months to achieve have taken place in a matter of days. Everyone has had to step up, show initiative and innovation in their roles to adapt to the ever-changing work environment as a result of the pandemic. So, with COVID-19 pushing us out of our comfort zone, many of us have had to develop new skills just to keep the workplace afloat. 

The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually pass. We don’t know when and we don’t know how long it will last. But we do know that recruiting new employees doesn’t have to grind to a halt until this crisis has passed. If anything, whenever this outbreak ends, employers will have very little time to hire candidates and position themselves for the next phase of growth. 

With this background, we thought it important that we make an effort to identify what many experts believe are some of the more critical skills that you want to be looking for in new hires in today’s workplace. 

Critical thinking 

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that critical thinking is a great skill to have in an employee’s toolkit. Thinking critically allows for deep thinking and thought processing. If you’ve got a team of critical thinkers, you’re already ahead of the competition. 


So, what exactly is critical thinking? One definition is that it’s the ability to analyze and dissect information from an unbiased viewpoint and offer relevant solutions. Critical thinking is necessary for almost every job. Employees need to be able to consider evidence, question assumptions, test hypotheses, observe and draw conclusions from any form of data. 


The reason critical thinking is a skill and not just an automatic thought process, is because most people naturally think “uncritically,” making decisions based on personal biases, self-interest or irrational emotions. Everyone is vulnerable to this type of simplistic thinking – it’s just human nature. 


Example: After a thorough analysis of your department’s two vendors, you decide to scale back the work of one by 25 percent while ramping up the other by 60 percent because you fell you’ll get a much better return on investment. 


So, how can critical thinking help us in these times? Certainly, it can’t make COVID-19 and the chaos it is causing go away. What it can do is help us understand that what has happened and suggest ways to cope and improve the current situation. It’s a necessary skill as it helps individuals and groups to efficiently and rapidly analyze issues and recognize potential risks that are not blatantly visible at face value. 


Creativity and innovation 

Creativity in the workplace has become a “must have.” Today, we operate in a highly competitive environment, making creativity crucial. You might be wondering what does creativity do for a business? It’s creativity that keeps businesses moving forward with fresh, new ideas and innovation.   


Innovation involves incorporating new ideas that generate changes that help solve the needs of a company and increases its competitiveness. 


Let’s face it. The reality is, we weren’t prepared for a global pandemic to overtake our lives. However, while it’s been destructive to some, it’s also pushed some out of their comfort zones, forcing them to innovate just to keep their heads above water. We’ve seen gin distilleries swing to manufacturing hand sanitizers as a way to keep employees on the books. This minirevolution rose from the demand for hand sanitizer and the quick drop in wholesale orders from restaurants and bars.  


Likewise, we’ve witnessed people making 3D printing spare parts for medical equipment as well as learning how to sew protective masks. 


Innovation and creativity have always been in demand and now, more than ever, irrespective of the industry.  


One more thing. We often assume that we are at our most creative when we have an abundance of time and resources at our fingertips. Research suggests otherwise, however, that constraints such as the current pandemic help us unlock our brightest ideas. 


Frank Geary, one of the most prolific architects in the world, claims that his nightmare scenario, when building a house would be to have no constraints whatsoever. “It’s better to have some problem to work with,” he explains. “I think we turn those constraints into actions.” It was the strict standards set for the acoustics at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, for example, that inspired the extravagant interior that makes it one of Gehry’s most well-known works. 


Example: It appears like everyone at the company is always asking for a copy of that one report that comes out every month. You dig on the internet and find a free tool that would distribute this report internally to only those people who opt in. After getting the necessary approvals, you implement the tool, saving everyone lots of time. 


Other “soft skills” in addition to creativity and innovation that are in demand include teamwork, dependability, research, work ethic and integrity. 


Data management 

Understanding, researching, translating and compiling data are increasingly valued abilities in today’s job market. The amount of data companies gathers and manages has exploded in recent years and employees need to be comfortable working will all that information.  


So, what is data? It can be any type of information that has meaning and needs context: A study your company commissions on a specific area of industry analysis, a spreadsheet containing your company’s lapsed customers or even a report on how a single post on a single social media platform performed. 


More to the point, despite the current crisis, businesses still need to crunch numbers, analyze trends, gain insights, and make decisions. In fact, in a time of increasing uncertainty, companies need to make better decisions with greater urgency and wider import at higher levels of risk. This demandsmore than ever, the highest quality, well-understood data, delivered at speed and in considerable volumes. 


Example: You receive six spreadsheets in your inbox, each containing a different data set to describe how your teams’ business is doing. You take this information and consolidate it for a presentation you’ll give in two weeks. 



Effective problem solvers 

There are many definitions of problem solving. But at a basic level, it focuses on the ability to accurately assess a situation and arrive at a positive solution. 


Effective problem solvers possess strong decision-making skills and, equally important, the positive mindset to consistently apply those skills. These employees are motivated to engage problems. They bring commitment, focus and resourcefulness to the decision-making process. 


Effective problem solvers are those who can apply logic and imagination to make sense of the situation and develop a solution that works. Even if the solution at hand doesn’t prove entirely successful, resilience is also important, so a person can reassess the situation and try an alternative. 


ExampleIt is generally best to define problems broadly. For example, rather than only considering COVID-19, it may be better to consider all contagious diseases, so solutions can address other similar risks and lay a foundation for more comprehensive, long-term solutions.  



An attitude toward progress 

While only a few companies have experienced growth during this pandemic, having a team of innovators with an attitude toward progress are likely to put your company in a position to get through this episode. 


Employees with this progressive mindset are forward thinkers and are especially driven to push themselves to attempt new and different things. They think outside the box and take each disappointment as a learning opportunity that will help out down the road. 


COVID-19 has shown us this: It acted as a catalyst for spotting those with fixed or progressive attitudes. Those with progressive mindsets would have stepped up and displayed creativity. Those with fixed mindsets would have taken a backseat or thrown in the towel. True, an attitude toward progress has always been in demand, however, now, it will be more so than ever. This pandemic has shown business owners first-hand what it’s like to be involved with those with both progressive and fixed mindsets – and we definitely know which one we prefer. 


Example: Sure, there are things that can’t be done right now. But there are also things that can be done. Start there. Success breeds success, so give your employees some opportunities to succeed. Break complex problems down into smaller steps. Look for incremental improvements and ways to make progress a little bit at a time. Celebrate that progress as it happens instead of waiting for the whole problem to disappear. Little by little, you’ll get there. 


Ability to be flexible and adapt 

A recent nationwide poll showed that 48 percent of employees will likely work remotely at least party of the time after COVID-19 versus 30 percent before the pandemic. 


Going forward, we recognize that the way we work has forever changed. We can only expect to see more offices incorporating the remote working arrangement and a shift for employees to become more agile. 


How easily can your new hires adapt to changes? Changes in processes, tools or clients they work with can happen quickly. Employees who are capable of adapting to new situations and ways of working are invaluable in numerous jobs and industries. 


The ability to cope with change or respond well to change is extremely important in today’s workplace. Having adaptability skills means a person is open and willing to learn new things, take on new challenges and make adjustments to suit transitions in the workplace. Being adaptable in the workplace can be especially important when working on projects, developing strategies and implementing different approaches to doing a job, so critical in the age of COVID-19 and beyond. 


Example: A person who is flexible and demonstrates adaptability will receive new roles and responsibilities with enthusiasm when transition finds them – whether a promotion or transfer – showing commitment to the company by learning as much as they can about the new position. They ask relevant questions to ensure they understand what is required of them. 


Reduce your risk of bad hires 

Are you tired of placing people unable to succeed in their new jobs? Do new hires leave your company because they lack the skills or motivation to produce results? 

If you’re lucky, you figure it out quickly. If you’re not, then it costs time and money each time employees fail to master new skills or are unable to assume new responsibilities. 


Contact PDDM Workforce Solutions when looking for your next new hire at (724) 788-4048.  Please contact either Kim Dulkoski (x2002) or Sonya DiGiorno (x2004) for further information on how we can help your company hire your professional staff.