Tag: future proof

Future Proof your Organization by Focusing on its Purpose

To prepare your organization for the future, begin by finding your purpose and values.  Then put your vision into practice by developing a purpose-driven culture. These are the building blocks that will connect the dots towards a future proof organization for the long term, beyond technological trends.

There is no way to “future proof” our organizations any more than we can “future proof” our lives. It can’t be done. “Future proof” sounds like we need to create an impenetrable force field, and then change will bounce right off. That’s not how it works, and if we think it does, we won’t be ready when change hits us. What we CAN do is to be clear about who we are and what’s important to us, and then build on that solid foundation. Then, when change happens, we’re ready, and even if it knocks us off balance, it won’t knock us down. And when it does knock us down, we’ll learn, get back up, and grow stronger. So, rather than delude ourselves about being “future proof,” let’s look at making ourselves “future-ready.”

The future isn’t coming, it’s happening now. Every moment is different. Every day. Every year. The question is, How do we prepare ourselves to meet those challenges head-on?  It may be tempting to plunge into the latest trends in technology, management, or business development. There is always something new, and some of it is truly revolutionary. However, when we’re chasing the “next best thing,” how do we know it’s a thing that’s right for us? A better way to future-ready your organization is to start at your core and make meaningful decisions about what best serves your unique purpose and the culture that puts that purpose into practice. 

Answering the question, “Why are we here?” is a good place to start. What is our purpose that will help us define a compelling vision? What are the values and motivations that make our organization unique?  Those qualities are powerful tools to engage employees, inspire customers and stakeholders, and prepare us to be future-ready.  

Find your purpose to unlock potential

Purpose “embodies everything the organization stands for from a historical, emotional, social, and practical point of view.”  Finding purpose has the power to unlock “greater focus, more engaged employees, more loyal customers, and better financial performance,” according to a study published in the MIT Sloan Management Review.  

“Why are we here?” leads to, “What do we stand for?” and “What makes us different?” These seem like straightforward questions on the surface, but to really answer them, we need to dig deep into our core. When answers come from generic words tossed around a conference room, a company will never be able to communicate what makes them truly unique. All companies want to be “nimble,” “customer-focused,” “collaborative,” etc. Duh!  Dig deeper. What does “nimble” look like in your organization? What does it mean? Why is it important? For example, “We are [what nimble looks like in our organization], so that [how that benefits our customers, employees, the world, etc.].  A future-ready organization will be able to clearly state what it stands for and why it exists.  

Do companies need to make money? Of course! But the P&L statement is not a compelling vision, and net revenue is not a lever we pull. Success metrics are the results of creating a compelling vision, aligning that with strategy, and executing on our goals. AND all of that is guided by a purpose and through a culture that either supports results or hinders them. So, do you want a compelling vision? You bet your sweet $$ you do. 

To create a compelling vision, we need to inspire people. We need to inspire our employees (people), our customers (also people), and our shareholders (yup, more people). What is a compelling vision? A compelling vision paints the picture of who we are (purpose and meaning), where we’re going (future destination), why that’s important (values), the impact we’ll have (results), and what we (people) will do to get there. When we create that level of clarity from our core, our organization is not just “ready” for the future, we create it.   

Future-ready your organization with a purpose-driven culture

When an organization puts its values into action, a purpose-driven culture is the result.  While many organizations believe they act in accordance with their values and purpose, objective data shows a gap between the ideal and reality.  For example:

  • Only 40% of employees feel strongly that their organization’s purpose makes their job important;
  • Just 39% of employees agree that actions are aligned with the organization’s values and direction; and,
  • A slim 20% of employees feel strongly connected to their organization’s culture.

When our organization’s actions and values are not aligned, people (employees, customers, shareholders) see it, feel it, smell it, taste it. This disconnect not only undermines a culture, it defines the culture, through which we drive our results. We may say we have values X, Y, and Z, but behaviors express our values far more than words. From our daily tasks to large scale change and everything in between. Our behaviors not only identify “how we do things” but “who we are,” and if our behaviors do not support who we want to be, we need to change those behaviors to change our culture

Communicate vision.  Aligning purpose and culture begins at the top.  Leaders must define a purpose that will inspire employees, customers, and stakeholders.  The vision should be the result of asking hard questions about what the organization values and what it stands for.  

Set the tone.  Leaders are advocates for the organization’s culture.  They need to communicate the organization’s purpose and values to inspire others, and they must define behaviors that will make the vision a reality. 

Prepare the people.   The first step to future-ready an organization is to help people continually update their skills (e.g., upskilling and reskilling) to be not only “relevant” but ready for change.  Upskilling refers to people keeping their skills up to date, while reskilling refers to moving people into positions that meet growth needs, both for the person and the organization. Developing future-ready skills goes beyond tangible technical skills to also building “critical intangible” people skills we need to successfully navigate change together.

Connect performance with purpose. We connect performance with purpose by showing people how their day-to-day work aligns with organizational purpose.  Leaders (also people) must not only talk about these connections, but model the attitudes and behaviors they promote to fulfill the organization’s vision.  

Empower people.  A future-ready organization must provide employees with guidelines and context for making decisions in line with the values and purpose.  Once in place, give people latitude to develop solutions.  Empowering decision-making connects people and their work to the guiding purpose to achieve the best results.  

In summary, when we identify our company’s unique purpose and clarify our values, we create a strong foundation on which to build a future-ready organization. From this foundation, we then create a compelling vision that aligns our purpose and values, and empowers the actions we all need to take to be ready for the changes to come and create the future we want to live.


Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

Reskilling:  Changing Roles for a Changing World

Reskilling is the process of preparing an existing workforce for new and different roles as the result of market changes and technology. Profound changes in the future of work, combined with a labor shortage, make reskilling a strategic imperative for large and small organizations alike.

Reskilling and upskilling are critical in a changing world

Upskilling and reskilling are more than trendy buzzwords.  They describe efforts to develop workforce skills in an era of technological transformation and demographic change.

In the previous blog, we looked at “upskilling,” the process of continuously upgrading employee skills in existing positions.  In this blog, we’ll consider “reskilling,” the process of preparing employees for different roles within an organization.

The world of work is changing

The World Economic Forum and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation predict that 1.1 billion jobs will be “radically transformed by technology” by the year 2030. The change will require intensive upskilling and reskilling to keep pace.  Despite the challenge, the WEF predicts that the combined effects of upskilling, reskilling, and improvements in early education could add $9 trillion to global GDP in this decade. 

The labor market is changing

The labor market is also forcing organizations to take reskilling and upskilling seriously. 

The U.S. unemployment rate was just 3.7% in November 2023, near historic lows.  According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, even if every unemployed person in the U.S. found work, the economy would still face a shortfall of 3 million workers. 

Long term demographic trends reveal an aging U.S. workforce whose growth has been slowing for decades.  In parts of Europe and East Asia, population decline has already begun.  The workforce of the future is likely to be smaller, in other words.  

Organizations can no longer expect to “hire” their way to success.  Instead, they must take steps to retain, upskill, and reskill the existing workforce.

Let’s next consider some of the steps to be taken in any successful reskilling effort. 

Identify Outmoded Positions and Skills Gaps to be Addressed

As was true of upskilling, the first step to a successful reskilling effort is to survey the organization’s needs. 

Identify the positions.  As a first step, the organization must look for positions becoming obsolete due to marketplace changes or advances in technology.  The organization should then look for areas where it wants to grow or where it has identified skills gaps. 

Identify the skills.  The next step is to identify the skills needed for success in the new positions.  The World Economic Forum and others have developed skills taxonomies to make the process more systematic.  Using such systems can help identify employees with related skills who may be a good fit for new positions.  

Identify the employees.  One under-appreciated challenge is to convince employees to undertake reskilling at all.  Organizations should recognize that reskilling can disrupt the lives of employees.  Resistance to change should be expected.

Organizations can manage that resistance by being open and transparent. Presenting clear career paths and training goals is key to improving results.

Design the reskilling effort to maximize success

Another key to success is giving proper attention to the process of reskilling.  

Choose appropriate reskilling methods.  For example, many adult learners prefer a “hands-on,” experiential approach to learning.  Practical training in the form of mentoring, internal apprenticeships, and “job shadowing” is often the most effective.

In other cases, online courses or webinars may be appropriate.  These should be easily digestible in short segments, typically an hour or less.  Lunchtime seminars are another way to fit learning into the workday.

Finally, some technical specialties may require certifications or the completion of degrees.  Some organizations, including Amazon, have programs to pre-pay or reimburse tuition and other educational expenses. They also provide time off for study and exam periods.

Involve all levels of management in the reskilling effort.  Having the support of C-suite leaders and upper level management is critical to success.  But still more is needed. 

The benefits of reskilling should be made clear to the middle managers and first line supervisors who implement it.  Too often these individuals bear the burdens of reskilling without reaping the benefits.  

One solution is to make employee development a part of the performance goals of all managers and supervisors.  Done properly, such goals can help instill a culture of development and provide incentives for participation. 

Meeting the future

The future of work is changing and so is the workforce.  Organizations need to adapt to the transformational changes already underway if they are to survive and thrive.  That means making the most of the existing workforce through upskilling and reskilling, to ensure that people have the tools they need to meet the challenges of tomorrow. 

Please contact us if you would like more information about reskilling, upskilling, and employee development.  


Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

People Development:  Closing the Skills Gap With a Culture of Learning

People development is the process of identifying the skills needed to achieve organizational goals, and designing learning, coaching, mentoring programs to meet those goals.

People development has become a critical need for organizations big and small.  The tight labor market means that vacant roles involving critical skills are harder to fill, while business and technological changes mean that existing roles will need constant updating. 

According to McKinsey & Company, the great majority of organizations will face a “meaningful skills gap” in the coming years.  The causes are both technological and demographic.  The upshot is that organizations wanting to “future proof” their business success need to make consistent, ongoing people development a priority.

Organizations need to not only develop their existing talent pool, but to “think outside the box” in terms of attraction and recruitment.  That will include:

·         Hiring for Potential:  Finding candidates with the ability to master new skills will be as important as finding candidates with existing skill sets.  

·         Considering Non-Traditional Candidates:  People with more circuitous career paths may be more adept at learning new skills and thriving in different environments.

·         Looking for a Growth MindsetOrganizations will benefit from candidates who view personal development with a positive, open attitude.

People development will be key both in advancing the skills of an organization’s existing workforce and in bringing in new employees.  This blog will examine several aspects of the process.

Creating a Culture of Learning to Spark People Development

Whatever development model an organization chooses, creating an environment in which learning and development are priorities – a “culture of learning” – is fundamental. 

·         Having top leadership and management on board is the first condition needed to create a culture of learning.  Without advocacy at the top, learning and development is unlikely to gain traction. 

·         Setting organizational goals for people development is another way to cultivate a culture of learning.  According to McKinsey, “best-in-class” organizations provide an average of 75 hours of training per employee annually.  Some set “aspirational” goals well above that figure.  Hours dedicated to development is a critical first step.  More important, however, is assessing the impact of development on people and the business goals. Measuring the number of hours is easy. Measuring the impact is far more difficult, but also more critical. 

·         Setting aside a dedicated time and place for people development is another useful step towards creating a culture of learning, and making organizational follow-through more likely.

Organizational support and advocacy are the foundations for creating a culture of learning.  By taking specific, practical actions, like those mentioned above, the organization demonstrates its commitment to people development. 

Choosing Effective People Development Methods

The methods of providing learning and development opportunities include everything from online self-study, to formal classroom work, to on-the-job training and mentoring.  Circumstances may dictate which methods are practical, but the organization will have choices to make in every case.

In Person v. Online Study:  Studies show that in person learning is more effective than online or virtual courses, leading to better outcomes and greater retention.  It is also the most costly training method, but may be appropriate to develop highly technical skills where the extra expense is more cost effective. 

In many cases, due to the number of people to be trained or geographic challenges, online learning or self-study courses are the only practical solutions.  Even in this situation, the organization has a choice in how to present the material.

“Segment of One” v. “Cohort-Based” Courses:  Debate continues whether group (“cohort-based”) or individual (“segment-of-one”) courses are more effective.

According to the Academy to Innovate HR, employees prefer to study on demand, at their own pace, and show positive outcomes from that approach.  The Harvard Business Review disagrees.  According to the HBR, “cohort-based” group learning, with set schedules and milestones, produces better outcomes – partly as the result of group support and reinforcement.

Each organization will have to make its own decisions based on its unique circumstances.  A combined approach may be best, but knowing the options available is the first step.

Practical and Experiential Methods:  People development often comes through on-the-job training, mentoring, and coaching.  Some other, less frequently mentioned development tools include:

·         Job Rotation:  A temporary assignment in a different functional area or business division to gain experience and perspective.  Job rotation may be particularly helpful before a promotion to a senior management position. 

·         Peer CoachingA process in which two or more colleagues work together to build new skills, or to consider solutions to problems in the workplace.  Peer coaching is a special-purpose hybrid of the “cohort-based” and “segment-of-one” approaches.

·         Targeted Training and Micro-Mentoring:  Both of these are short duration, high effort approaches to solve specific problems or fill specific knowledge gaps.  They require a short time commitment and can be an effective stopgap remedy where needed.

Designing an Effective People Development Program

Organizations have unique circumstances and needs.  Each will benefit from different approaches to people development.  In some cases, the organization may have a dedicated learning and development team to facilitate the process.  In other cases, the organization may seek outside help to design a people development program. 

However the process proceeds, each organization should regularly assess its business goals.  The organization should then consider the skills needed to reach those goals, and the best way to close any “skills gaps” it finds. 

Once the organization has decided on a course of action, the key to any people development program is regular monitoring and assessment, to find out what’s working, and to improve or discard things that aren’t working.  Conducting follow-up assessments 30 to 60 days after the conclusion of a course or training session is especially useful in making that determination. 

Developing an effective people development program with an overall people strategy will only become more critical as time passes.  To “future proof” their business goals, organizations need to ensure they are taking specific, practical steps toward creating a culture of learning. 

If you would like to learn more about people development, please contact us.


Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.