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25 FEBRUARY 2021
Can you spot an opportunity when you see it?

by Alan Hosking: Publisher of HR Future, South Africa's human strategy magazine, and a Leadership Renewal Coach for senior executives.

There are certain priorities that are popping up and demanding to be noticed that may appear a bit “touchy feely” to hard-nosed business executives who have a “take no prisoners” mentality to leadership (somebody should tell them they’re showing how out of touch they’ve become). For example, when you try to explain to a “boardroom brawler” that he’s got to start showing empathy, you risk being regarded as having gone soft and becoming a liability in the rush to boost the bottom line.

I’m aware that I may be exaggerating to prove a point, but the point I’m wishing to make is that there’s an awful lot of work that needs to be done to help business leaders see the importance and merits of showing even more of their human side to their employees, not because the softies are trying to take control but because that’s the way things are going.

Yep, that’s what the pandemic has done in a matter of a year…

While executives who have an unusually close focus on figures and financials have tended to view empathy as a weakness in the business world, things have done a 180 degree swing about, making empathy during these trying times now very much a strength.

And in addition to the call for empathy, there are increasingly louder cries for reskilling and upskilling of employees.

Naturally, these cries include things like more tech skills, data analytics and the like, as well as skills that will help employees become comfortable working alongside AI, and such cries should indeed be heeded.

If you’re an HR Professional, are you seeing what I’m seeing? Are you seeing the opportunities for the “people” people to rise to meet a growing business need? Are you seeing the opportunity to take the lead in helping your company and its employees, from top to bottom, reposition themselves, reskill themselves and, in some cases, reinvent themselves – not because it seems a cool thing to do – but because that’s the way to a more secure sustainable future?

What are we talking about here? Training and Development. And who’s responsible for that? Thought so!

Allow me to whisper a word in your ear…

The mindset that T&D is about skills only is a hangover from the Industrial/Mechanical Age. Don’t confuse skills with qualities. In the past, all necessary competencies needed in the business world were regarded as skills. But something like empathy is not a skill. It’s a quality. And you can’t train someone to simply start “having” empathy. Empathy therefore has to be developed in leaders, and that can’t be done in a one-day flash-and-dash training course. One has to take leaders on a journey that helps them to acquire and show empathy that is genuine and is a part of who they are, rather than some skill they simply switch on and off as and when required.

So, as HR Professionals stand up to be counted at this time, they would do well think differently about how to develop the necessary qualities in their companies’ leaders and employees, while also training them to acquire the new skills that will also be critical to a more sustainable future.

Start using your imagination. Start innovating. How do you start that? Start with the question, “What if …? What if we tried this or that? What if we started doing this? What if we changed the way we …? And so on.

When you play the “What if …?” game, you’ll be surprised at what emerges. And don’t keep the game to yourself. Get your team members involved, then have the courage to give serious consideration to what they come up with.

There’s a massive opportunity for HR Professionals to shine. The question is: Can you see the opportunity? Do you have the courage to seize the opportunity? Remember, courage is also not a skill – it’s a quality! I urge you to put on your “What if …?” specs and see what’s beckoning you into a reinvented future.

And while we’re asking all these questions, allow me to ask you another: What will you answer your grandchildren and great grandchildren when they ask you, “What did you do in the pandemic?”

HR Future
HR Future is South Africa's only independent, most forward thinking human resource magazine with the richest content wealth of HR related issues on the continent of Africa to help executives recruit, manage, train, reward and retain the best talent. Visit our InfoCentre or website.

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