Personal Agility: the individual skill-set for this changing world of work

The COVID-19 outbreak is first and foremost an unfolding life and death issue which must be beaten – and we will do just that together through dedicated commitment and concern for each other and our loved ones over the coming weeks and months.

It is also a stark and aggressive reminder about the volatile, uncertain and changing world of work that we are living through in the modern age.   It has primed our concern about the fragile nature of employment in a service dominated, inter-connected and rapidly changing economy. And it has certainly accelerated our thinking and practices regarding new and innovative ways of working.

The media, social and otherwise, is awash with tips from remote working, online education, video based recruitment and virtual team working – and how to deal with the practical, technical, legal and other consequences of working in new and innovative ways. These trends were already well underway as part of the ongoing ‘future of work’ debate but COVID-19 has dramatically catapulted these practices into our lives regarding how, and where and by whom work can get done today.

It’s not just about tools and practices – it’s more personal than that…

The challenges and opportunities presented to all of us by (1) the fragile nature of work in uncertain environments and (2) the new and emerging ways of working have been with us in different ways and playing out at different speeds for some time now.

In their recent Global Trends Report, Mercer report that one in three employees are seriously concerned about Automation and robotics taking their jobs and the same proportion claim they do not trust their employers in managing their transition to the new world of work. There is constant debate and research around how technology will replace, augment and also create jobs into the future.

And, as COVOD-19 is proving, automation and technology are not the only forces at play in shaping the new world of work – healthcare, climate change, globalization, talent scarcity, wealth distribution and demographics are among the other forces influencing our #futureofwork.

The clear message from these trends, and being acutely experienced right now, is that we need to be able to personally learn to adapt to rapidly changing times and circumstances in the new world of work. Not just for now but also from now on, beyond this crisis. New tools and practices will help but there is a more fundamental mindset and skill-set required – both of which we as humans have always instinctively had. The difference with today’s context is that we need to be increasingly aware and conscious of these skills in a more deliberate and front-of-mind way than ever before.

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Adopting a Future of Work mindset – and skill-set

So what are the adaptive skills and attributes of those who thrive (rather than just cope) in the changing world of work ?

We researched these skills over a two-year period by diagnosing individual case examples with leaders across multiple sectors, organisational size and geographies.

The motivation behind researching these attributes and skills was simply to help people to take more positive control of their own path in an ever-changing work and career environment – and to be more mindful of the practical skills needed to do so.

The essence of these “Personal Agility” skills and attributes is summarized as follows with the details and actual competencies identified included in our full whitepaper referenced below:

1.      Being Purposeful – having an outlook, attitude and bias for intentful action. Being clear about what you are about and why, underpinned by a core set of personal values and beliefs that help bring focus and direction in both the short and longer term. For adaptive people, these ‘purposeful characteristics’ provided resilience and worked like a rudder for them in navigating changing circumstances. They helped them to be more receptive to changing course and learning new skills so long such changes helped them in moving towards where they wanted to go and who they wanted to be.

2.      Having a Learning mindset – an openness to learning and to new perspectives, to developing new skills, experimentation and seeing opportunities for growth. As well as having a growth mindset, adapters were resourceful and creative in learning new skills

3.      Open to change – being positively oriented to change rather than naturally resistant to it – seeing change as normal and as a growth opportunity rather than a threat. Being ‘change-able’. Building resilience and being able to bounce back and deal with changing and unwelcome circumstances

4.      Empowered – motivated towards taking action and responsibility, being accountable for your own path, development and decisions accepting that they may not always work out as planned

5.      Orientation to engage and work with others – being prepared to build relationships, collaborate and positively deal with different and diverse perspectives and opinion. We simply need other people in one way or another to succeed in the future of work.

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While of course it helps to have the right culture and leadership for these skills to flourish, they are ultimately individual, learnable skills that we can develop in ourselves and in others if we are all to thrive in uncertain times.

These Personal Agility skills can help us during the current uncertainties and changes in the workplace but they will also help us to future-proof our careers and working lives into the future.

For a full copy of our Personal Agility Whitepaper and Competency Model, explore the following link….. and feel free to get in touch…..

Be safe and be well


WorkMatters provides people and leadership solutions for the changing world of work.

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