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The 5 skills all HR leaders need to succeed during the Great Resignation

Ira S. Wolfe

President, Success Performance Solutions

Until a few weeks ago, few of us ever heard about a mental condition called the “twisties.” But then Simone Biles, who has been called the greatest gymnast of all time, opened up about the condition: experiencing dangerous disorientation while performing moves she had spent years practicing.

It’s not just Olympic gymnasts who can become lost or disoriented. Faced with historic labor shortages and a record number of job openings, for many HR teams, what has always felt like up can suddenly feel like down.

The Great Resignation has only added to the stress put on HR leaders like you. With pressure to close employment gaps, reevaluate compensation and develop a hybrid work strategy — HR teams are currently trying to perform under a lot of stress.

Periods of uncertainty can actually serve as a springboard into an opportunity to thrive. By focusing on five personal dimensions that define our ability to adapt and be agile, HR leaders can help regain their bearings and perform at the top again.

1) Resilience

Arianna Huffington, like many others, selected resilience as the word of the year for 2020 becasue it's an essential skill for our time. The pandemic may be a once-in-a-lifetime event, but new and unexpected setbacks will persist.

Your best people may leave for a new opportunity. Candidates may reject your offers. Positions may stay open for longer than usual. The Great Resignation has brought with it an abundance of open positions, making it a struggle to fill yours.

Recovering from setbacks, staying optimistic and not taking rejection personally — the ability to move forward — will be essential.

2) Grit

The days of posting a job and sitting back and waiting for applications to flow in are over. To confront today’s talent scarcity and uncertainty, grit (and a robust internal mobility program) will be needed to grow and thrive.

As put best in Anglea Duckworth's TED Talk, grit is mental toughness fueled by passion and the perseverance to endure tough times. And you'll need it if you and you're team are going to stay adaptable in the face of change.

3) Mental flexibility

Organizations are trying to reconcile the new worlds of work: on-site, remote and the hundreds of hybrid work variations that lie between.

Futurist David Houle anticipates the post-pandemic 2020s will be a decade of cognitive dissonance, where we live in more than one reality at the same time.

Consider this: Within 18 months we went from a world where 99% of C-Suite executives expected workers to come to an office to work, to 50% expecting that all or most work can be done remotely.

HR leaders will need greater mental flexibility — the ability to shift our thought patterns in light of new circumstances — to deal with our own cognitive dissonance and help others become comfortable with the ambiguity of figuring out ways to work that work for everyone.

4) Growth mindset

Carol Dweck introduced the value of a growth mindset — believing that your most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work — almost a decade ago, spotlighting a pervasive problem in the way companies recruit and manage talent.

For many years, experience and pedigree education were the thresholds managers set for qualifying candidates. But in her presentation on developing a growth mindset, Dweck showed these factors don’t necessarily indicate people who are inclined to develop their skills.

In a future where what-got-you-here won’t-get-you-there, recruiting with a growth mindset is key to identifying the people who are most willing to learn, take on more challenges and adapt to new circumstances — crucial skills that might not be identifiable on a paper resume.

5) Rethinking

You’ve probably heard the saying “knowledge is power.” Today, like the rest of us, that saying has had to adapt: "The right knowledge is power."

Like a computer drive, our brains get loaded with temporary, duplicate and unnecessary “files.” Sooner or later, we need to “defrag” our brains. Adam Grant calls this rethinking, and writes: “The faster you admit you’re wrong, the faster you move toward being right.”

Having the right knowledge about the skills gaps in your organization — and the skills that are needed to find success — can open more doors to help you find the right person more efficiently and effectively.

The Great Resignation will take an Olympic effort

The pressure you and your team are feeling now will only mount. But focusing on and developing these five core adaptability skills — resilience, grit, mental flexibility, growth mindset and rethinking — will help you overcome the pressure so you can grow, flourish and perform at the top of your game.

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