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The challenges of a VUCA world

There are many things that might be considered volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, although the acronym VUCA has gained traction over the past few years as a way of describing today’s business world.

The increasingly speedy, rocky and complicated landscape in which we operate, one with new challenges of technology, globalisation and changing workforce demographics, leaves more unknown than ever before and moves at continued pace, changing the playing field all together.

It’s important that organisations today can change, flex and adapt to the VUCA world around them to succeed, although many businesses feel uneasy at the prospect of change. There’s a lot to adjust to, make sense of and consider, but luckily, the learning technologies space doesn’t stand still, utilising new and emerging forms of technology for learning in order to improve how organisations operate.

Today’s business world requires new ways of thinking, change to happen more readily and on a larger scale than ever before. Read on to find out more about some of the challenges we’re facing today and what the VUCA world means for your business.

Volatile – dealing with the impact of technology

The influence, use and general uncertainty of technology has made the digital conversation in organisations a much higher priority than ever before. On one hand technology offers opportunities, opens up possibilities and promotes efficiency, while its very disruptive nature also poses a very constant threat to established businesses.

Emerging communication technologies are amongst the areas with the biggest impact to L&D, consistently providing opportunities to diversify and scale. In just a few years, mobile drastically changed the way we approach work, while it’s long-term impact and integration into the workplace remains to be seen. The opportunities that wearable, immersive and other emerging technologies provide us are even hazier, leaving L&D to try and make sense of when a shift in technology might happen and, if so, how the workplace can benefit from it.

Uncertain – global skills shortages

With a potential shortage of 40 million high-skilled workers by 2020 (Mckinsey, June 2012), increasing competition for top talent and a growing crisis regarding the lack of future leaders, leadership is a very real issue within organisations today. The first world’s ageing population has lead to a shrinking of the labour pool while jobs are changing – companies aren’t able to go out and easily recruit the all-in-one graduate, technical and varied talent that’s needed to bridge the skills gap.

It is the responsibility of talent, L&D and HR to develop existing employees and new hires into the talent that not only fills this void, but can lead an organisation into the future. In a VUCA world of pace and uncertainty, leadership development is of the utmost importance to the future success of leading companies.

Complex – increased regulation

Industry regulation is an important driving force for learning and development because it triggers so much training to be commissioned. Even in recent years, events such as the global banking crisis keep the pressure on risk, safety and increased regulation, which has a knock on effect to L&D.

The increasing transparency and visibility of global operations also drives compliance. Not only is global accountability and safety a key concern of multi-national organisations, but compliance training also offers a means of standardising process at a global scale. While it doesn’t necessarily pose a constant, direct threat to any one area of business, global and industry regulation certainly has a bearing on many decisions and business initiatives.

Ambiguous – organisation-wide leadership

Leadership training has historically been about training leaders, but with a lack of future leaders in today’s organisations, that must drastically change. The messages and skills of leadership can no longer be filtered from the top downwards, they must spread deeper and wider into an organisation, with the skills taking root at all levels. In essence, it’s about deploying training that’s more effective, brings permanent change and doesn’t cause a huge uplift in training cost per person.

Investing in leadership can bridge the skills gap, deal with the impact of technology and help take an organisation into the future, despite the VUCA world we find ourselves in. If you’re interested in exploring how to develop and retain the leaders of tomorrow while delivering higher quality leadership to a wider audience, check out LEO’s Chief Strategy Officer Piers Lea’s slides from his September webinar ‘Solving the leadership crisis’.

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