We can’t talk about resilience without discussing people

Business leaders must realize that people drive change as much as systems and processes

The pandemic has really shown us the importance of business resilience. Having the right tools and processes in place has been the difference between those businesses that have merely survived the past year and a half and those that have thrived.

But one factor that’s often overlooked in conversations about business resilience is people. Without the right employees, few businesses would have been able to cope with the drastic changes of the past year.

As we start to look toward the future beyond the pandemic, it’s vital we correct this, and remember to put people at the heart of our business strategies.

The message is sinking in at a senior level: According to new research from ServiceNow and ESI ThoughtLab, 40% of CEOs saw a lack of know-how, skills, and talent as a key challenge in the next one to two years. But there’s still a way to go.

At the end of the day, businesses that don’t develop both new and existing talent at the same rate as their technology are unlikely to secure the skills they need to drive digital transformation forward.

The end result? Their competitive advantage will erode.

Here’s what businesses can do to make the most out of the talent on offer, and build truly resilient businesses.

1. Consider what the employees of today really want

The workforce is undergoing a huge demographic shift at present, with a wealth of new talent entering the workforce as older generations look to retire.

But it’s worth noting that those generations entering the workforce today have very different priorities to those that have come before.

It’s not just salaries that these new workers are interested in—it’s a better quality of life, compatible business values, and a better work/life balance.

Flexible working over the past year has shown many of these new employees what work can look like, so businesses have few excuses not to offer this kind of flexibility in the long term.

Businesses that don’t will simply see talent go elsewhere.

2. Combat the skills gap by seeking out new talent sources

Competition for good workers is becoming fiercer and fiercer.

According to McKinsey, the EU skills gap is costing up to $2.5 trillion in missed GDP; a lack of specific education and old-fashioned hiring strategies means businesses just aren’t getting the skilled workers they need.

Fixing this strategy will require employers to broaden their focus and look for new sources of talent outside of conventional training and education. In many cases, it may mean businesses hire on potential, not skills.

Beyond sourcing the talent businesses need, the added benefit of this approach is that it allows more opportunities for socially disadvantaged groups and other minorities that aren’t offered the same avenues into education and further training.

A case in point: Unemployment is on average 2.5 times higher in disadvantaged areas of France, where undereducation is a systemic problem; those students from underprivileged backgrounds who do manage to reach university education are 14% more likely to fail, for a variety of reasons.

Delivering meaningful employment that offers the skills and training people need could play a significant role in revitalising these areas. And hiring more diversely can help address systemic blind spots, too.

3. Upskill existing talent

Building the most effective, resilient workforce means not just finding new hires, but cultivating existing talent, too.

Digitization is set to continue to disrupt the way we do things, including the workforce. But, rather than a threat, this is a huge opportunity for businesses to make the most of their existing employees.

Many of the tasks today’s employees undertake can be repetitive and unfulfilling. But if advanced machines take over the bulk of rote, repetitive work, there’s an opportunity to reallocate and upskill employees into more fulfilling tasks that give them increased satisfaction.

This means less ‘disruption,’ and more ‘reallocation’: a fundamental realignment of our economy that drives efficiency, but also gives employees more fulfilling work.

It’s a double win for businesses, who not only benefit from increased efficiency through digitized tasks but are also able to use employees to their full potential, reduce dissatisfaction and churn—and become more resilient as a result.

Talented employees, resilient businesses

Making our workforces truly resilient is a long-term journey. But businesses looking to make a success of digital transformation need to take it seriously.

The potential benefits are clear: increased efficiency, but also new opportunities for employees of all backgrounds.

Of course, it’s not all simple. Much remains unanswered, and we at ServiceNow are trying to figure out the best way forward, too.

But one thing’s for sure: Those businesses that succeed will be far more agile—and far better prepared for whatever the future holds.