HR Tech: 10 realities about the ‘new normal’

The term “20/20” has often been associated with clarity–but the year instead is producing many more questions than answers. Accepting and embracing that uncertainty is necessary for HR to move forward through the myriad unknowns to come, said Kimberly Cassady, chief talent officer at Cornerstone, during a Tuesday session at HR Tech.

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Along with Chief Learning Officer Jeff Miller, Cassady shared 10 things all HR leaders should understand about the changes to the landscape of work ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. VUCA is real.

The leadership term, coined in the 1980s, stands for: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Using this model, Cassady said, HR leaders should accept that they don’t have all the answers. Instead, “start by creating a space to think for you and your employees.” Then, experiment: Test and re-test new models and plans.

2. We are chasing technology.

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Technology is evolving at such a rapid pace that HR leaders need to be continually pursuing strategies for harnessing tech in the best way for their people.

3. The world is accelerating.

Industrial revolutions are happening at quicker and quicker clips, Miller said. “And if we aren’t continually learning and creating learning organizations,” he noted, “people are going to feel inadequate and that will negatively impact productivity.”

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4. Embrace a growth mindset.

We’re living in a “petri dish of learning,” Miller said, but many organizations are struggling to embrace resilience amid uncertainty. The lockdowns, business disruptions and economic challenges all should be seen as opportunities by HR, which needs to also embrace failure for its ability to teach. “We’re literally living in our test period now,” Miller said.

5. Skills are the new cryptocurrency.

Hard skills are only expected to have a shelf life of two to three years–and that number will likely continue to shrink, Miller said, which is why many employers are investing in soft skills. People leaders should be coached to keep the focus on learning and development–including showing their employees how challenges can be growth moments and encouraging them to “fail forward.”

6. Lead with inclusivity.

HR should be leading through the lens of “inclusivity first,” which includes giving all employees a voice and the opportunity to see their perspectives brought to life.

7. Flexibility is the ultimate perk.

The pandemic experience will leave an imprint on employees, Cassady said, which will dictate where and for whom they want to work. And much of that will boil down to trust. Employers that exhibit trust through flexibility will be better positioned for the future.

8. Empathy is queen.

Leaders need to view empathy not as an occasional practice but rather an everyday habit, Cassady noted. By listening openly and asking more questions than the answers they can provide, they can build the foundation for truly empathic leadership.

9. Be a futurist.

At this time of disruption, HR should be forward-looking–but not too forward. Following the VUCA model, Cassady noted, HR leaders should focus on bite-sized chunks; plan for the first quarter of 2021, for instance, instead of 10 years down the line.

10. Create change.

HR and business leaders should be actively striving to “create change,” not just respond to it. “You need to be reactionary to change but you also need to be conscious about limiting the negative effects of change,” Miller said.


The HR Tech Conference will feature free, virtual content through Oct. 30. There is still time to register. For more information, click HERE.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].