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How Hiring for VUCA Change Management Skills will Help You Navigate the Turbulent World of Business

change management skills

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With Covid19 changing how the world of business operates, change management skills are becoming increasingly important.

The world is VUCA right now. VUCA, a term coined in 1987 by the US Military to describe national security in the Post Cold War Era, means Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.

change management skills
VUCA Definition:
According to Harvard Business Review, VUCA can be characterised as:
Volatile: The challenge is unexpected or unstable and may be of unknown duration, but it’s not necessarily hard to understand. Knowledge about it is often available.
Uncertain: Despite a lack of other information, the event’s basic cause and effect are known. Change is possible but not a given.
Complex: The situation has many connected parts and variables. Some information is available or can be predicted, but the volume or nature of it can be overwhelming.
Ambiguity: Causal relationships are unclear. No precedents exists: you face “unknown unknowns”.

Reading this with the pandemic front of mind, many of you will be nodding along. Not one of us knows what this situation will look like in a month, six months, a year’s time.  Even if your immediate industry or location bounces back well, you can’t be certain that’ll be the case for interconnected industries or for other countries.

No one can be 100% sure of their own situation. We don’t have normal social interactions and activities to take our mind off it…

vuca change management

“It’s Totally VUCA Out There!”

VUCA conditions make life much harder for businesses. Among other things, it can:

  • Put forward planning and projects on hold
  • Stop decision making
  • Stifle innovation
  • Make people anxious and destabilised
  • Create tension within teams
  • Affect company culture
  • Put careers on hold
  • Make retraining and reskilling an immediate necessity

But a VUCA situation doesn’t always have to be negative. There are many examples of businesses who have led through similar situations and come out the other end stronger. Right now, many SaaS, distance learning, and supply chain businesses are doing just that.

What About Talent Management?

This is where it gets more difficult.
Internally, your team could be feeling unsettled, scared of the future, and find it hard to be motivated and get work done.

change management skills

The external job market becomes volatile because more candidates come on the market and businesses either grow or shrink. In the US the employment rate went from 3.2% in Feb 2020 to 6.2% in Feb 2021. That’s 6.5 million people.

In this situation, the market doesn’t allow you to keep recruiting as before. There are some things you need to work on:

Promoting Your EVP

Passive candidates are even more so in a volatile job market. To successfully engage with good passive candidates you need to have a great EVP. And if you’re working with outside recruiters, they need to push this EVP. 

They need to be fully embedded in your business and know everything about the culture, the way you represent the business, and how you work. Recruiters who work on a volume basis (usually contingent recruiters) struggle to find the time to engage with quality passive candidates. 


Rather than find this passive talent, it’s easier to go for the low-hanging fruit; people out of work, whose CVs “almost match”. When the world is VUCA, you need a perfect match with the change management skills to weather the situation.

Wooing Candidates with Change Management Skills

It’s not just about making your business appear a great place to be, because you also need to make the candidate feel wanted. That this role will provide a stable environment. 

As a result, recruiters need to spend time engaging with candidates, making them feel your business really wants them. That means more time on initial engagement, providing updates and feedback through the process, and keeping in touch after, whether you hire them or not. 

Like initial engagement, that will be difficult if you work with contingent recruiters or a stretched internal team. A quality recruitment partner who guarantees results will do this easily though.

Focusing on Specific Qualities

In the past, companies would recruit people based on their skills and qualifications. But as market continually change, so do businesses. The people you hire need to be adaptable. After all, The World Economic Forum predicts we need to reskill more than 1 billion people by 2030. Your business is unlikely to escape that.

change management skills

Hiring for learning capacity, agility, and current skills will allow you to flex and grow as market changes dictate it. Candidates who are able to adapt to new environments and take on new roles are the ones you’ll be able to reskill and use in other parts of your business,. This helps with lowering attrition if things change; and creating continuity.

Hire for VUCA Change Management Skills

While everyone in your team needs to be adaptable and agile, your management team needs to have VUCA Change Management Skills. The ability to be a good team leader is vital because experts predict we’ll see more natural disasters and pandemics in future.

You’ll need to spend time finding people who have your specific sets of hard skills. 

Then figure out if they have the right softer qualities like good decision making, crisis planning, an ability to plan ahead, and be able to instill excitement rather than fear of the future, in their teams. 

You’re most likely going to be looking for passive talent again, and you’ll need to be able to engage with these candidates well and persuade them to leave roles they’re comfortable in. You probably won’t know if they have these qualities by looking at their CV or even interviewing them.

What Skills Do Managers Need for Each Element of VUCA? 

  • Volatility
    • Have good vision for both the short and long term.
    • The ability to clearly communicate and cut through the noise.
  • Uncertainty
    • Be able to rally the team to a decisive approach
    • Have flexibility to cope with uncertain situations
  • Complexity
    • Simplify processes and strategies
    • Encourage new ideas and growth processes
  • Ambiguity
    • The ability to communicate quickly and clearly
    • Find alternative measures
    • Be able to learn from past experiences and apply them

Specialist tools will be vital to discover these qualities.

For example, psychometric DISC testing will help tell you how each candidate prefers to work and what their preferred professional environment is. While psychometric testing should only make up part of your hiring decision, along with candidates’ hard and soft skills it can help you see who works best in situations like these. 

A HPTI (High Performance Traits Indicator) test could also be really useful to figure out how they cope under pressure or how their communication and adaptability skills will cope under pressure. 

And of course, multiple interviews with stakeholders to determine the candidate’s suitability will need to take place.

Change Management Skills for the Future

It’s likely that we’re going to be in a VUCA climate for some time. And while we like to be as positive as possible, changing markets, climate change, and political upheaval have been part of the business landscape for a long time. (Maybe forever?)

People with the change management skills and qualities to carry the team through volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous situations are the type of people you need on your team. They will be the ones to take control of decision making, be flexible and develop new perspectives, simplify processes and procedures and encourage new ideas, and communicate with clarity – all vital to cope with the situation. 

But does your business have the resources, in a time like this, to commit to spending more time hiring for key positions? Or do you need to bring in a partner who can help you get the right hire to deal with the situation, fast?

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