As companies emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, they are realizing that talent management has become even more urgent. Given the disruptions to so many business models, organizations are grappling with how to make hybrid teams function better, which new skills are needed, and what the workforce of the future will look like more broadly. Then there is the perennial challenge of how to deploy talent to the highest-value opportunities within an organization.

The pandemic has also increased pressure on organizations to respond to three long-term talent trends that have been building for at least a decade: on-demand skills are scarce, made worse by digitization and automation; responding rapidly to changing and uncertain conditions is essential; and flexibility reigns supreme. A flow-to-work model is an effective organizational response to all three talent challenges highlighted above. By deploying scarce talent to the highest-priority work, companies can avoid the inefficiency of hoarding valuable skills in just a few parts of the organization. By creating mechanisms to reallocate and redeploy talent based on evolving priorities, organizations are well placed to respond rapidly to external changes, including shifts in customer or business demand. By forming flexible teams, roles can be tailored to best match the skills to the work to be undertaken, with individuals playing different roles on different teams as required. Changing the operating model in this way isn’t an overnight task, and it requires significant process and mindset shifts. However, it can be a critical way of improving organizational speed and responsiveness, people leadership, .

McKinsey research during the pandemic showed that responsive organizations outperformed their less agile peers by pivoting teams to solve new problems as they arose.Today, organizations are looking beyond their corporate functions to reshaping their talent operating models much more broadly. The paradigm shift toward skill pools applies to job categories such as project management, economics, data and analytics, and engineering. In executing successful talent management in a post-COVID workplace, managers will need to be sensitive to people’s needs and show understanding of the ongoing challenges faced by their workforce.

Managers need to demonstrate an understanding of the ongoing challenges their people face in a post-COVID workplace.Ledsed to consider that employees are likely to expect continued flexibility around working arrangements that help them to meet personal commitments as well as professional commitment. Furthermore, businesses ought to consider the flexibility that employees have shown at a time when they were most needed, as well as what is likely to happen if this flexibility is not reciprocated in the future. Of course, there is a balance to be struck, but a rigid approach that may have been adopted before may not be appropriate now, and a more compassionate style may be what people are looking for. Flexible deployment is not suitable for all types of work—a fixed team, for example, makes more sense for work that involves highly repeatable tasks. A flexible-deployment model is more appropriate for work needing scarce skills across multiple projects. For instance, one organization shifted to flexible deployment for analytical and project-based policy work but decided to keep fixed teams for compliance, assurance, finance, and operations.

For many organizations, a shift to organizing around talent and skill types rather than functions, regions, or business areas is a big change. By extension, employee wellbeing should remain a priority. You should think hard about existing job families, the skills they include, and how they should be developed over time. Wellbeing programmes have gone from being something companies have available to employees, to being actively developed at pace, and specifically engineered to meet the needs of the workforce.But whatever the individual response, it’s clear that on the whole, rolling back on wellbeing post-pandemic will not be welcome among the workforce. And crucially, the impact of COVID will not necessarily subside once the virus itself dissipates.

Loss of security, bereavement, and financial concerns can cause long-term emotional and psychological harm. In particular, a recent challenge has been the blurring of home and work boundaries, and the sustained extreme focus combined with long hours. These have all increased the risk of employee burnout and it’s vital that leaders remain conscious of this. Employees need to be checked in regularly with leaders, and excessive hours and burnout signals should be monitored. Additionally, managers must be aware of how they can prevent burnout by using time management strategies,flexible work arrangements, electronic monitoring system, and coaching to help workers deal with stress. In 2022, it will be key to business success to shift the focus away from COVID and towards the future.

Many businesses have experienced how having a shared purpose has manifested as a focus on survival in recent years. Having a focus on thriving is now the priority. People need to be able to visualize the future, and leaders need to be able to paint compelling pictures of it. They also need to understand their part in the whole to feel connected to the purpose and be motivated to work hard. Leadership can be challenging at this point. It’s important that connections are made on a regular basis between the work people do and what the company is trying to achieve. Lockdowns offer employees an opportunity to learn a new hobby or skill, and managers should help build on self-motivation by giving employees more responsibility for their careers.

Managers can accomplish this by having substantive career conversations with their employees, examining what their motivations and talents are, and helping them identify where their strengths and weaknesses lie.In a dynamic world where uncertainty remains, it will be critical for employees to take ownership of their career. When employees participate in their own future, they have the ability to shape it, expanding their skillsets to enhance their employability and thereby enhancing their employment opportunities.But crucially, managers should support their employees with this. This will also benefit the organization. for employees: it can also uncover hidden talents, strengthen succession plans and positively impact engagement.

Writer: Nujhat Anjum Ani, Senior Lecturer