One of the most popular buzzwords in recent years has been “transformation,” and for good reason. As many organizations continue to navigate the workplace and societal changes spurred by COVID-19, they are also undergoing technological that preceded the pandemic — commonly called “digital transformations.”

For any organization to thrive and survive during this dynamic time, its leaders must be aware that transformation isn’t an event or a project. Rather, transformation is a mindset that embraces constant change amidst a backdrop of ambiguity. The only thing certain anymore is that change is inevitable. Thus, a constant state of transformation is the new normal — something I like to refer to instead as the “never normal.”

In today’s always-on business environment, organizational transformation has become an ongoing strategic priority. And that means most organizations need to overhaul and refine their workers’ skills — particularly those that are useful during transformational events — in order to lead and execute with speed and agility. In fact, 87% of executives surveyed by McKinsey in 2020 said they had skill gaps in their workforce; however, fewer than 50% said they knew how to address the issue.

Upskilling, of course, is easier said than done. It requires significant investment of time and resources. But organizations that make employee upskilling a priority, and do so by emphasizing project management skills and abilities, are finding that their people feel empowered to be “changemakers” who are deeply invested in their companies’ transformation efforts and help bring them to life.

Here are some best practices, frameworks and strategies for transforming your workforce so that they can deliver the large-scale business change necessary to prosper in today’s fast-paced workplace:

  • Look beyond the C-suite: While transformation is impossible without C-level buy-in and guidance, true organizational evolution requires that workers at all levels have the ability — including change execution skills and the right “ways of working” — to move nimbly. That means ensuring they have access to, and encouragement to participate in, relevant professional development and project management training opportunities. When employees are up-to-speed on more advanced ways of working and problem-solving, they will be better able to innovate and uncover quick solutions to urgent issues. They are also more likely to respond quickly to sudden and unexpected deviations from the plan, and to find their work highly motivating and meaningful.
  • Democratize decision-making: Companies that move with utmost speed and agility are poised to succeed during transformative times. But many organizations, especially those bogged down by age-old bureaucracies, often move too slowly to address challenges or take advantage of big-picture “moments that matter.” To make decision-making less time-consuming, leaders must empower their managers and team members to handle certain decision-making tasks. Upskilling here centers on business acumen, which involves a deeper understanding of the business they operate within and the upstream and downstream impacts of their work – how it fits within the big picture. This may require training them on the tools to handle the added responsibility, like strategic planning and business management, that may not be a part of their current experience.
  • Prioritize power skills: Specific job-related skills — whether in engineering, marketing, manufacturing or elsewhere — are in constant need of upgrading. But so, too, are what many of us now refer to as the “power skills” that are imperative to solving complex problems and moving work forward. Some of the most valued power skills within agile, change-ready teams are empathy, communication, active listening and collaborative leadership. And these skills, which enable people to think differently in a dynamic world, can be learned and honed through educational courses and training exercises — just like more technical skills.
  • Help employees make the time for training. Employees value when leaders respect their time outside of regular business hours, so it’s important to ask yourself — are you only offering training courses outside of work hours? Fortunately, with the proliferation of online, self-paced learning options, employees can choose to bolster their professional development at whatever time works best for them. Make sure you have these types of options within your training regimen to prove that you value not only your employees’ time, but also their sense of control over their development.

Organizations must prepare their people today to effectively address the demands of tomorrow. That means cultivating a transformation mindset across every phase of the organization. When your workforce is prepared and confident in their abilities to drive real change, and encouraged to develop the skills necessary to do so for their own professional transformations, your organization will be positioned to boldly tackle any situation that arises.

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