Careers

Nine things every professional would need in 2020

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Here are a few 'tools' that you may want in your professional kit.

Agility and resilience

Not long ago, there wasn’t much complexity involved in mapping an organisation’s structure. Organisations slid into ready templates as easily as a knife into a scabbard. With the increasing complexity of the business environment challenging them to be more agile, organisations now assume rather unusual shapes during their lifetime just to address emerging situations. What does this mean for employees? Kannan Hariharan, former senior director, human resources, PepsiCo India, who is now associated with social enterprises, says it means resilience and agility have become indispensable.

Kannan explains, “Those are two abilities any employee would do well to carry into 2020. Companies are changing the way they do business. Organisations are changing the way they are structured. In this climate, an employee can’t afford to be fixated on how they would want to work. Certain skills are required to work in a matrix organisation. Working in a global organisation will come with its own demands. New technology ushers in new ways of working. Resilience and agility are two abilities that are absolutely necessary to navigate this VUCA business environment.”

Focus on Quadrant II

Naresh Purushotham, co-founder, Crestcom India, believes that most professionals procrastinate over issues that are important because there is no need to deal with them immediately. They let things slide till they are forced to attend to it, and sometimes, they realise to their chagrin that they are well past the ‘golden hour’. “In his book First Things First, Stephen Covey discussed the four quadrants of time management in the context of work that comes with varying degrees of urgency and importance. Quadrant I (urgent and important) and Quadrant III (urgent but not important) are where we expend most of our time, because they are external reminders pushing us to attend to them. Quadrant II (not urgent but important) is the most ignored, because usually, the motivation has to come from within.”

Naresh gives two examples of how we fail to live in Quadrant II, professionally.

“We may not ask ourselves ‘How do I reinvent my leadership style?’ as we are not threatened in any manner, in the present. Let us take the question of performance appraisal. There is the option of making it proactive, by not waiting to do it only at the end of the year. Every quarter, managers can provide their team members with feedback about their performance in the previous quarter, and directions on how to work in the next quarter. Doing so allows team members to make course corrections. If a culture of informal performance appraisals is built into a team's functioning, there won't be any surprises at the end of the year.”

Conflict-resolution skills

Though workplace conflicts are commonplace, efforts to develop the skills necessary to resolve them are rare.

Vidhya Srinivasan, adjunct faculty and advisor, XIME Chennai, believes the ability to universalise the conflict so as to take the sting out of it, and listen empathetically can help defuse tension in the workplace, and make for a happy and engaged team.

Vidhya explains, “Universalise conflicts by creating empathy about the issue. Conflicts often lead to burnout so being inquisitive, asking questions, listening deeply helps to keep the attention on the other person and focus on what is being said. Understanding another perspective builds trust and influence. One participant described how sharpening his empathic listening skills has enabled him to foster greater collaboration with his colleagues. His response de-escalated the conflict and led to a healthy, less stressful conversation.”

Learning culture

A culture of learning can make an organisation competition-ready, as it can adapt to any changes that new market realities may impose on it. K.S. Raja Rajasekar, deputy general manager, human resources, KONE India, says organisations should seek to promote a culture of learning at every level of their workforce, even if it may sometimes mean welcoming the possibility of failure.

“In learning, there is no hierarchical factor.

There are only two kinds of employees: the learner and the non-learner, who will be characterised by a progressive mindset and a fixed mindset respectively. Leadership competence is centred around humility, which is about the ability to learn from everyone,” says Raja Rajasekar.

Cultural intelligence

With the world shrinking considerably, working with distributed teams will become the norm. In such a working environment, employees will have to make sense of culturally diverse situations far too often, and respond appropriately.

“If you are looking to add a super-strategic skill to your armoury in 2020, you just can’t go wrong with cultural intelligence! We live in a world today that is not only incredibly diverse, but also one where our identity is linked to socio-cultural anchors. You can take me out of Chennai, but you can never take Madras out of me! The ability of individuals, teams and businesses to be mindful of the varying cultures around them and respond with understanding, respect and inclusiveness is what one would call cultural intelligence. How do we build this skill? Simple. Read up on people, habits, customs and traditions. Interact with people who are very different from you. Develop an attitude of acceptance, rather than tolerance. Add a dash of friendly humour and voila, you will display cultural intelligence!" says Saundarya Rajesh, founder-president, Avtar Group.

Self-awareness skills

In this VUCA world, the speed of operations can be so intense that one day blends into another, with no distinguishable difference between the two. Self-awareness is one of the casualties in this situation. However, ironically in the VUCA world with challenges coming from many quarters, being self-aware becomes extremely important, especially in the context of leadership.

“We have to practise ‘pausitivity’. When our work is punctuated with meaningful and purposeful pauses, there will be greater self-awareness. If employees are to be reflective, the output in their work will be higher,” says Naresh.

Without the transformative power of a reflective mind, an experience will be just an experience: It can’t turn into a lesson. Journaling can be a handy tool in a leader’s or any professional’s toolkit, as it can help them put their work in perspective and make necessary changes.

A health app

There is an increasing number of HR professionals who believe in technological tools that can help employees take care of themselves, and their organisations to assess individual performance on a daily basis. Shradha Puri, corporate head, human resources, Hitachi Systems Micro Clinic, says “In today’s fast-paced world, there are huge demands, especially on our time, and in the process of meeting them, we often neglect our health. A personal health app that monitors our physical and psychological well-being, by reminding us about the breaks we need to take during a work-day, will be a great workplace ally to have. In our organisation, we are in talks with those who can make such an app for our organisation. Our interest in such an app is driven by our awareness of the benefits resulting from using a customised resource-management app that has been tracking employees’ daily productivity levels.”

Engagement tool

Artificial Intelligence tools can study continuous engagement of employees through a method that cuts out a laborious and boring feedback and processing mechanism, says Poonam Sharma, global organisation development head, Alkem Laboratories Ltd. “The cloud-based AI tool can be put in employees’ mobiles and laptops. It will call the employee for feedback, and if the employee specifies a different time, it will call back then. Having an analysis done on the basis of the feedback is easier. Using some cloud-based tools will help the analyst arrive at the right picture. One doesn’t have to sit on an Excel sheet,” says Poonam.

A career map

It should all begin with a career map marked by actionable steps, between the dream and the destination, says R. Sridhar, founder, IDEAS-RS, and this is how he explains it: “There are three questions one has to ask. One, what would I like happening in my career in 2020? Two, what is currently happening in that context? Three, what should I change or what should I do differently, do more of, or less of, to get where I want. Anybody can do this. It will give a roadmap to 2020. Everybody has a dream, but most of them don’t do anything about it. They had a dream in 2019 and in 2020, it remains a dream. They start and stop with the dream, and they don't follow the next steps.”

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 4:26:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/careers/here-are-a-few-tools-every-professional-should-carry-into-2020/article30395077.ece

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