Insights to guide organizations in 2021, part 2

Dealing with uncertainty may be a certainty for leaders as they approach 2021. To help guide them and their organizations in this new year, we’ve gathered some of the leading insights and observations from McKinsey’s Organization Practice.

Our first post in this three-part series shared some leading insights and observations from McKinsey’s Organization Practice in 2020 with a focus on organization design and culture and change.

The themes of learnings offered in this post include inspiring individuals, strengthening talent management, and enabling reskilling.

Inspiring individuals

Inspiring individuals became a crucial priority for organizations in 2020. Below are some of the top ways we’ve seen organizations address this call to action.

  1. New methods of digital learning. Digital transformation, the pandemic, and the shift to remote and hybrid working models have led companies to incorporate more bite-sized, individualized opportunities into their learning and development programs.
  2. Increased focus on engaging all layers of the organization. Whether making a big decision, communicating office re-entry plans, or launching a change strategy, leaders are now bringing more layers of the organization into the fold for broader and more comprehensive perspectives.
  3. Continued investment in tech-enabled tools. As organizations shift to hybrid working models, we are seeing ongoing technology investment that supports increasing flexibility, collaboration, and a more on-demand approach to shared working spaces.
  4. Greater integration of analytics and behavioral science in talent management. Data and research hold great potential for streamlining and improving any function within an organization, and talent management is no exception, from driving behavioral change to identifying unexpected candidates to fill in-demand roles.
  5. Emphasis on building leaders’ “soft skills.” While “hard skills”—including those associated with increasing technology adoption—are important, leaders are prioritizing “soft skills" development, which can create better employee experiences, improve productivity, and set up the organization for success. Many leaders are even using new terminology for this significant skill set: “critical skills” instead of “soft skills.”

Talent and reskilling

The COVID-19 pandemic ramped up the pressure to address talent and reskilling needs. These four considerations helped organizations tackle their talent demands amidst the uncertainty.

  1. Harnessing the broader ecosystem to support hiring and reskilling. Tech-driven job marketplaces emerged as a solution to address rapidly changing talent needs through external hiring. For example, Career Exchange uses AI to match workers with available roles based on their skills. Additionally, organizations embraced learning and development resources, such as massive open online courses, to address skill gaps.
  2. Reimagining the possibilities of hybrid and fully remote work. In the wake of the pandemic, several companies have announced plans to shift to a hybrid or fully remote working model. This change has led to other innovations, such as remote interviewing, supported by technologies such as AI and analytics.
  3. A skills-based approach to talent. Skills-based talent management emerged as a more equitable way to assess candidates, address skills gaps, and support DE&I across an organization. The approach considers how transferable skills can factor into performance management and workforce planning, rather than focusing on education and professional background alone.
  4. Dynamic, agile talent. According to research by McKinsey and the Harvard Business School, organizations that launched agile transformations before the pandemic outperformed those that had not during the crisis. A more dynamic, agile approach to talent helped many organizations quickly redeploy employees according to changing business needs.

Be sure to read the third part of this series, which offers insights focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I).

Learn more about our People & Organizational Performance Practice