How the Covid crisis transformed how we look at talent

How the Covid crisis transformed how we look at talent

Success relies on your best people doing things differently in a rapidly changing digital world

Is an uncertain outlook forcing you to re-examine the talented people in your organisation? It is not their fault. Covid is understandably making organisations feel less confident that they have the capabilities they need for the future.

Some leaders are starting to question whether the people they earmarked to lead the organisation into the future now have the right mix of skills. Individuals have contacted me and shared their fear that the current uncertainty has left them feeling stuck and uncertain.

Is a crisis a time to worry about talent? Nobody knows what is coming next, but legacy approaches to talent development will not meet today’s much-transformed needs. Organisations that rethink their talent development approaches effectively will have a viable edge over those that do not.

The last 18 months have shown that business success now relies on your best people doing things differently in a rapidly changing digital world. Your talent strategy needs to reflect this.

Both tech and human components are now critical. Constant shifts in business technology mean your talents will need a different set of capabilities. They won’t all need to learn how to program, but they will need to understand emerging tech opportunities and how they can be used to create a competitive advantage.

In short, all talents will require basic digital literacy and understanding of coming technological change. Your talent team needs to consider how technology will change roles and the skills required — and how technology can better develop them.

How your talents use what leading talent thinker Josh Bersin calls “power skills”, to better work with and get the best out of other people, is increasingly critical. Unless they develop the skills to manage and lead increasingly diverse teams in an increasingly virtual world, they will not be able to create the impact you need.

Whether your talents work on the back office or on the front line, they need to develop a human-centric mindset and the ability to understand what customers are doing or trying to achieve to deliver products and services.

Your talent system needs to prepare your people to prepare to take on never-seen roles, or your organisation will struggle. So, ask yourself:

  • Do our talents welcome development opportunities and embrace uncertainty?
  • Do they now lead with empathy, curiosity and passion?
  • Do they act quickly, decisively and boldly, and look for ways to solve problems?

If the answer is no to the above, it might be time to rethink your approaches.

Coca-Cola welcomed 2021 with an inspirational invitation to consumers to “Open to Better”. The company’s ideas on talent also provide insights into what is possible. “The world has changed. We wanted to evolve our talent approach,”​ declared Lisa Chang, Coke’s global chief people officer. You can read some of her thoughts here.

Coke realised that talents were key to emerging stronger and making changes to grow faster post-pandemic. The company first admitted that talent operations needed reimagining to respond to sudden changes in work practices, business operations and foreign markets.

It identified critical gaps in talent processes, work experiences, data and technologies. Most importantly, it used business challenges to rethink everything to nurture skills, talent and potential.

In Coke’s case, the company realised it was now looking for people willing and able to look one step ahead and do something creative due to their approach, originality and ability to adapt to different situations. This led it to look in new places for talents to bring new ideas and experiences.

Coke then gathered high-potential talents from across the organisation to work on special team projects that address business problems identified by senior leadership. It was so effective that business units competed for the teams to tackle their problems, and the talents learned new things outside their daily roles.

On a smaller scale, this is something I use in my organisation, SEAC. I realised legacy ways of looking at things and relying on our existing perspectives could stagnate our thinking if we were not careful. It is why I enjoy so much learning from younger generations and other industries.

What should we consider if we are rethinking our talent approach? 

Traditional talent approaches, even some of the best and most innovative I have seen, tend to be cohort-driven, structured programmes. Your talents also need to be supported to wander and learn what they discover they need.

Your talent team needs to keep some facts in mind. You now need to be building your talents’ capability to change your business for the better through innovation, new leadership approaches, digital business acumen, and technology literacy together. You also must stretch them from being masters of one deep specialty to become the talent the 4.0 world demands.

Arinya Talerngsri is the Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at [email protected] or Talk to us about how SEAC can help your business during times of uncertainty at

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