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Developing leaders in the post-Covid economy

The latest McKinsey Global Survey on reskilling highlighted the urgency in addressing skills gaps in the workplace and confirmed that skill building is the most effective way to close the gaps. Since the start of the pandemic, reskilling and upskilling employees have seen a significant uptake with organisations choosing to invest in existing employees over hiring or contracting new talent.

58 percent of respondents said that closing skill gaps in their organisations has become a higher priority since the pandemic began, whilst 69 percent confirmed that their organisations invest more in skill building now than they did before the pandemic. Redeploying talent to new roles has also become more common over the past year with 46 percent of respondents reporting an increase in redeploying talent, making it the second most critical activity for closing skill gaps.

Focus on emotion at work

Leaders play an essential role in managing the energy of their workforces, cultivating the quality of employee relationships, and demonstrating a capacity for resilience. The pandemic has shifted the focus of the leadership skills required, highlighting the importance of soft skills such as empathy and adaptability. Organisations are becoming more people-centric than ever before, addressing the impact of emotions at work, and leaders are more aware that if employees feel anxiety and emotional fatigue, it becomes a business challenge – because if they are emotionally exhausted, they don’t bring their best selves to work.

Successful learning initiatives start with identifying the current and future skill gaps and requires commitment from the top that drives a culture of lifelong learning. Whilst digital learning is an effective way to upskill and reskill employees, research suggests that overall a varied and multichannel approach to learning and skill building works best. Other less common ways to learn such as peer learning or expert coaching can also support successful skill transformations, underlining the importance of the team-based learning - a crucial ingredient in successful skilling strategies.

The shift in talent management

The future of work requires a new talent strategy that develops critical digital and cognitive capabilities, social and emotional skills, as well as resilience and adaptability. Recent research from LinkedIn and Microsoft found that around a third of all new jobs started in the UK since the pandemic involved a move to either a new industry or a new function, or both. The data illustrates that for organisations to thrive, they need to move away from the traditional, credentials-based approach to talent management based on direct work experiences and formal qualifications towards one that is focused on the skills and potential of each individual.

Talent management requires leadership focus now and in the long-term future and leaders are accurately aware that talent will be key to driving long-term growth and developing organisations that will thrive in the new normal. This is a critical time for learning and development, not just to thrive in the current economic climate, but also to strengthen companies for future disruptions.

Skills transformations have the ability to realise company strategy, employees’ performance and engagement, increased productivity and improved employee morale. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at


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