The close of the year is our annual opportunity to revisit our goals, tabulate our accomplishments, and contemplate how we’ve grown. This informs the resolutions that we make for the New Year.
This year has been unlike any other; 2020 was uncomfortable, heartbreaking, triumphant, and tragic. It’s been a year of worry, loss, growth, struggle, innovation, and resilience. It challenged and changed us.
So how do we weigh what we achieved this year, and how do we consult that to drive our 2021 goals?
Surviving challenging times
This year felt worrisome, frightening, exhausting, unhinged. Goals like professional advancement and professional development were dislodged in favor of a single goal-survival.
Making it through hard times is an accomplishment. Whether your challenge was learning to function from your home office, helping your kids do the same, putting on your PPE, and heading to your workplace, or weathering illness, grief, or job loss, the complexities of COVID altered our plans and taught us to adapt.
And we did it. Writer Isabel Allende reflects: “We don’t even know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward. In times of tragedy, of war, of necessity, people do amazing things. The human capacity for survival and renewal is awesome.”
So, that the conference, where you hoped to present a paper, was canceled; that promotion that you hoped you’d clinch was sidelined. What strength, skill, or awareness did you discover instead? How are you different after this challenging year, and how will you use your newly acquired skills, wisdom, and grit in 2021?
A power skills crash course
We’re still calling this “the new normal,” but when you’ve been working differently since the spring, it hardly feels new anymore. What’s “normal” is simply different now. During these difficult times, our soft skills have become survival skills. They have enabled us to make this work.
Soft or behavioral skills aid our interactions with others, and help make professional life easier, more harmonious, more fluid. Some soft skills include accountability, adaptability, enthusiasm, time-management, communication, resilience, empathy, and teamwork. Whether you learned to conduct more engaging Zoom meetings, calm customers who feel uncomfortable wearing masks, work remotely with students, or assist worried patients, these interactions call upon and refine your behavioral skills.
Behavioral skills matter at work. Josh Bersin, HR educator and thought leader, explains: “the skills of the future are not technical, they’re behavioral. Yes, engineers, designers, and technical people need to know how to build and fix things. But as IBM’s research points out, CEOs and business leaders now realize that they can ‘buy’ these technical skills (or build them internally, at ever-lower cost) relatively easily, it’s the soft skills or ‘power skills’ that take effort.”
Think about how the pandemic has pushed you out of your old life, and how you had to use your behavioral skills to navigate this new reality. Refining these “power skills.” is an important accomplishment to add to your 2020 list.
Honing these power skills to make you more resilient, a more astute communicator, and a better leader. “More than 45% of CHROs tell us people coming out of college have the digital skills they need: what they’re missing is skills in complex problem solving, teamwork, business understanding, and leadership. The data is quite clear: ‘digital skills gaps’ are being addressed: the leadership and behavioral skills are not.” Bersin points out.
Ask yourself: how did I advance my power skills in the last year? How did I become more aware of what my colleagues are going through? How did I communicate better? How might I continue that work?
Delivering on diversity
Systemic oppression and racism commanded the national conversation in 2020 as Black Lives Matter protesters and allies challenged injustice and violence that African Americans and minorities encounter in their everyday lives.
The ambition to deliver on diversity and to create cultures that are comfortable, suitable, and equitable for all contributors continues to emerge as a core corporate value. In his 2021 Workplace Trends Report, Glassdoor’s Chief Economist, Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, explains: “companies are being pushed to make tangible progress on diversity and inclusion like never before.” Dr. Chamberlain continues: “Racial injustice and economic inequality have come to the forefront of public consciousness in 2020. Despite decades of data showing dramatic racial pay and wealth disparities around the world, discouragingly little progress has been made. In 2021 and beyond, more companies will be seen as having a responsibility to make progress toward righting racial inequality and injustice within their workplaces.”
Employers and employees want equitable workplaces. “Now more than ever, companies are doubling down with their diversity and inclusion (D&I) programming efforts within their organizations,” Glassdoor’s team explains. Employees value diversity; in fact, according to Glassdoor research: “3 in 4 (76%) job seekers and employees today report that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.”
As this challenging year winds down, ask yourself: what did I learn this year that I did not know? How will I use that knowledge to enhance the culture in which I work? How can I support my colleagues? How can I be a better listener? How can I be an ally, mentor, sponsor, and champion?
Happy New Year!
Struggle is a demanding but effective teacher. As you reflect on 2020, give yourself credit for what you weathered, what you learned, what you taught, and how you changed. Welcome 2021; we’re ready!
Without those in-person conversation near the communal coffee pot, your team may not feel as close. But “there are so many new tech innovations happening right now trying to adjust for the new working and living style we are all facing, and some of them are pretty fun,” says Ehrlich. Explore tools such as Toucan that support virtual happy hours, or live streaming group events where you can all connect and watch movies or play games, she suggests. “The more your team feels like they are still a team,” Ehrlich says, “the more they can rely on each other, collaborate, and remember why the company is a great place to work.”
To help end inequality, shine a light on inequities in the workplace, and anonymously share your demographics to pinpoint pay and diversity disparities.