Surviving and Thriving in VUCA Times


One of the keys things which has changed workplace dynamics recently, is the diffusion of social media and creation of a workforce that is highly tech savvy.  Social media provides one the exposure and creates a platform to voice and share information to an extent that has never before existed. With multiple platforms being interconnected, personal and professional lives are getting merged to extents previously unimagined. While this does provide a plethora of opportunities, it also brings with it its own set of challenges. How does one ensure one’s privacy, how does one ensure one is not misinterpreted and how does one ensure one is being culturally, politically and ethnically sensitive at all times are questions constantly nagging everyone.

Given this context, there is no doubt that these times call for more agility and adaptability, but it also highlights how perceptions are changing, how fuzzy the line between right and wrong is becoming and how it is no longer about being black or white but increasingly the shades of grey. Ensuring both individual and organizational effectiveness in such a scenario, calls for a new set of skills and strategies you may never have thought of, a few years earlier.

From an organizational perspective, leaders will have to focus on balancing the digital and emotional connect. This would mean that retention and engagement would also need to focus on the wellness and emotional well being of an employee. Rewards would need to be more emotional and spiritual than monetary. Organizations would need to continuously evolve assessment and development tools as learning, performance, governance, ethics and competition reset standards over short business cycles. With increased talent mobility and the interest to pursue alternative careers and entrepreneurship, career paths will constantly have to be redefined and evolved.

On an individual level, the visibility and the exposure social media provides, would mean an increased focus on authenticity, self awareness and an ability to manage oneself.  Being true to oneself and ones community and knowing ‘who you are’ will become equally critical to both the individual and the organization. It will not only help build credibility and trust, it will also help one gain access to opportunities that otherwise might be missed out on.

From an organizational perspective, it has and will become even more important to hire people who know what they want and where their passions lie. Looking for people whose passions match the organizational vision not only helps align goals going ahead, it will make engagement and retention far easier. From an individual’s point of view, knowing and more importantly being open about what one wants and where ones passions lie helps ensure greater fit within the organization and helps better cope with the multiple challenges that the volatility and ambiguity might throw up.

Ambiguous times also require that one be able to think clearly and act without fear of failure while at the same time being aware that one might not always be successful. Teaching oneself that it is okay to fail, being able to pull oneself up from failure and being accepting and forgiving of other’s failures are skills that need to be learnt and taught.

That being said, one would agree that it is paradoxical that in a world where everything is available at the click of the button, the very skills needed to survive cannot be bought off the shelf. It’s a slow and continuous journey of one step at a time – definitely not easy, but definitely worth the time and effort.  And if it’s only a matter of time, then why wait? Let’s get the journey started.

Greetings for a New Year – 2015!!!

Niranjana Neelakantan