Develop the skills your business needs in the future

The pandemic has allowed us to better adapt to immediate challenges, but what about the longer term?

How has Covid changed the skills that create success in your business?

How have the behaviors of your customers changed? Are your star artists today the same people as 12 months ago? What skills did your stars have to unlearn and relearn? How will you develop your entire workforce with these new abilities that create success?

I know that is a lot of questions, but they are all essential. I predict these are also the questions every business and HR manager will have to ask themselves again and again over the next several years. Long-term changes in the industry and changes in consumer behavior will make it impossible to be sure your answers will stay the same.

The leaders I speak to are now realizing the need to understand how the Covid pandemic has transformed their needs into skills. Many were delighted with the way their people adjusted to the initial crisis. However, when we discussed how these ideas and experiences are changing current and mid-term skills development investments and activities, many were less clear and less confident.

To begin with, leaders need to determine whether their plans will deliver the skills and talents that the future business needs on time.

Understand the skills that will ensure future success: Some industries have had no choice but to abandon traditional approaches to work and skills development after the Covid strike. For example, retailers had to rethink and redesign again and again as challenges arose.

Many retailers have seen the skills required to be successful completely transformed. One story that I find particularly revealing and inspiring, and a good lesson for the future, is that of Chinese beauty company Forest Cabin.

Covid meant that traditionally store-based beauty consultants could no longer interact face-to-face with customers. These beauty consultants have done a great job quickly developing the skills to run live streaming sessions to recommend products on e-commerce channels. They quickly re-qualified to provide personalized customer service online.

It’s more common in the industry now, especially for independent retailers which you can see on social media platforms like Facebook Live. However, at the time, it was revolutionary. This pivot in the way products were sold and promoted was a successful short-term survival change, but it had implications for the future.

Forest Cabin sales staff no longer just talked about makeup products, but they also had to give beauty tips to keep customers coming back. They needed to change from talking to an individual or a small group of customers to effectively talking to hundreds. We had to stop talking about formulas and give practical application advice in everyday language to attract customers.

Can you imagine the implications of profitably developing these emerging and growing skills across all sales staff in a time of limited resources?

Understand the implications for your skills development plans: For Forest Cabin, developing sales staff with the skills to effectively present a product would no longer guarantee success. Now, sales people need to acquire skills that will build relationships, trust and a place in customers’ lives. These skills manifest in growing and maintaining extensive online following, as influencers do.

The sales staff knew this because they were now making more sales – and more money for themselves and for the company – than ever before. The nature and scale of the sales had changed from one-time purchases to between 10,000 and 20,000 renminbi each time they were presented to a large crowd.

Big Western companies quickly picked up on his idea and it started to transform the industry. Simply put, the critical impact area has shifted from the store to the internet, and the skills needed to be successful have changed (and will continue to do so).

In addition, building skills for the future is now very different from the past. Companies in this industry that have not understood this and do not retrain their staff for the new reality will not survive. Thus, skills development plans and approaches have changed to achieve this goal on a large scale and quickly.

So how do we get started? Last week a friend asked me to think about some questions that I would like to share with you.

Are you still in the industry you thought you were in last year? What does your real data tell you about your customers? What has changed and are you serving the same people in the same way?

Without understanding this emerging picture, it is impossible to recognize what needs to change in your skills development planning. Without revisiting your skills development plan, you cannot be sure that your employees can achieve new successes instead of just recreating the excellence of the past that will not support your future.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capacity Officer and Managing Director of SEAC, the Center for Lifelong Learning in South East Asia. She can be contacted by email at [email protected] or Tell us about how SEAC can help your business in uncertain times at

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