Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) these four words are prevalent in the workplace, as they neatly
encapsulate the turbulent and unpredictable nature of today’s business
environment. When change was incremental HR Professionals could learn to
prepare for it – and manage it – by utilizing their past experience or by
following managerial skills. An awareness of the forces represented in
the VUCA world and strategies to mitigate the harm they might cause are
integral to crisis management, risk management, change management, talent
management, team management and disaster recovery planning. The HR landscape
that is characterized by extreme volatility means that HR leaders have to focus
on getting there early and staying there for the future. HR leaders have to
channelize their energies so that they know the future to compete in the
present. VUCA has been subsequently used in emerging ideas in strategic
leadership that apply in a wide range of organizations, including everything
from profit corporations to education. The
landscape that confronts the HR leaders of today is characterized by what is
known as the VUCA principles. Increasingly unstable and unpredictable world
that the HR leaders have to navigate. The premises of VUCA tend to shape an
organisation’s capacity to anticipate the issues and shape conditions, and to
prepare for alternative realities and challenges.
Volatility, Ambiguity, Disaster Recovery Planning, Predictability,
is an acronym that stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and
Ambiguity, a combination of qualities that taken together, characterize the
nature of some difficult conditions and situations. The term VUCA originated
with the USA Army War College to describe conditions resulting from the Cold
War. So far India is concerned after LPG policy VUCA started in HR. The
VUCA concept has since been adopted throughout multinational organizations, industries
and sectors to guide HR leadership, planning and strategic HRM. An awareness of
the forces represented in the VUCA environment and strategies to mitigate the
harm they might cause are integral to crisis management, risk management,
change management, knowledge management, performance management, talent
management, Strategic HRM, team management
and disaster recovery planning.
Volatility is the
quality of being subject to frequent, rapid and significant change. The HRM
landscape that is characterized by extreme volatility means that HR leaders
have to focus on getting the changes in staying there for the future. HR leaders
have to channelize their energies so that they know the future to compete in
the present. Companies having branches
in different states are having different salaries and fringe benefits etc.
but work is same, for example
Uncertainty is a
component of that situation, in which events and outcomes are unpredictable.
The lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise and the sense of
awareness and understanding of issues and events. Forecasting has become
extremely difficult, as past issues and events are no longer accurate
predictors of future outcomes.
Complexity involves a
multiplicity of issues and factors, some of which may be intricately
interconnected. It means that HR leaders have to adopt a non-linear approach to
solving problems and must think out of the box. The world has become so complex
even for the layperson that the complexity in
HR world is of much higher magnitude and is multilayered meaning that
the landscape is now no longer a simple equation where draw the high salaries
and more benefits mean success.
Ambiguity is manifested
in a lack of clarity and the difficulty of understanding exactly what the
situation is. It means out of box thinking. The fourth aspect that HR leaders
must confront is ambiguity, which means that the HR landscape presents problems
and dilemmas that cannot be reduced to simple ‘yes’ and ‘no’ type of solutions
and black and white approach to problem solving. Instead, most of the problems
that HR leaders face now are of the type where the complete information is
lacking, where there are no clear solutions in sight and multidimensional
meaning that HR leaders would have to resort to unconventional ways of solving
problems and confronting situations. Ambiguity also manifests in conjunction
with the other features like uncertainty and complexity.
VUCA has been
subsequently used in emerging ideas in strategic leadership that apply in a
wide range of organizations, including everything from profit corporations to education. It discusses
systemic failures and behavioural failures, which are characteristic of
These VUCA elements
present the context in which organizations view their current and future state.
They present boundaries for planning and policy management. They come together
in ways that either confound decisions or sharpen the capacity to look ahead,
plan ahead and move ahead, VUCA sets the stage for managing and leading. The
particular meaning and relevance of VUCA often relates to how people view the
conditions under which they make decisions, plan forward, manage risks, foster
change and solve problems. In general, the premises of VUCA tend to shape an
organisation’s capacity to anticipate the issues and shape conditions and to
prepare for alternative realities and challenges.
Develop Leadership in HR Perspective
VUCA is not enough to
train leaders in core competencies, without identifying the key factors that
inhibit their use the resilience and adaptability that are vital in order to
distinguish potential leaders from mediocre managers. The capacity for VUCA
management and leadership hinges on enterprise value systems, assumptions and
natural goals. The capacity for VUCA leadership in strategic and operating terms
depends on a well-developed mindset for gauging the technical, social,
political and economic realities of the environment in which people work.
Elements of VUCA may be a driver for survival and sustainability otherwise
complicated world. The landscape that confronts the HR leaders of today is
characterized by what is known as the VUCA principles. Increasingly unstable
and unpredictable world that the HR leaders have to navigate.
VUCA, these four words are
prevalent in the workplace, as they neatly encapsulate the turbulent and
unpredictable nature of today’s business environment. When change was
incremental HR Professionals could learn to prepare for it – and manage it – by
utilizing their past experience or by following certain rules. As the pace of
change increased, many employers introduced new processes and methodologies to
help them respond effectively and HR leaders
had to develop a more flexible and cooperative approach.
traditional role of leader is to anticipate change, identify opportunities,
create strategic plans, motivate and direct people, manage risks, solve
problems and make effective decisions. However, these tasks are made much more
difficult in a VUCA context. Organisations will have to look beyond on-the-job
training, job assignments, coaching and mentoring. What’s needed now is a new
approach to leadership development.
leadership focuses on three key issues;
A shared vision:
A clear direction has always been important for organizational success.
However, VUCA leadership demands that everyone supports the vision and
thoroughly understands their part in it. When the ‘big picture’ is clear and withstand volatile changes by responding
rapidly with decisions and actions that stay true to the vision.
VUCA leaders will need to successfully harness the knowledge, skills,
experience and multiple points of view of their staff, if they are to inspire
and energize others and achieve the organization’s goals. They must learn to
listen intently to those around them and to build on their ideas. They should
promote and support internal networks, interconnection and interdependency
rather than reinforcing hierarchical areas of functional expertise.
Fostering an agile
culture: VUCA leaders will be keen to assess
their corporate culture, to better understand why things happen as they do in
the organization. The right work culture will promote and reward the desired
behaviour and this will help to attract and retain talented employees.
leaders will need:
A fresh mindset:
A leader will never successfully adopt
new behavior if it clashes with their mindset or their values. Leaders need to
become more self-aware of the leadership choices they are making and what
drives their thoughts and actions.
In a VUCA world, information will come from many different sources. HR Leaders
will therefore need to communicate with all levels of employees in their
organization and demonstrate teamwork, collaboration, information gathering,
data analysis, listening, facilitation, empowerment and strategic thinking
skills, in order to benefit fully from the different opinions and experiences
of employees. A key benefit of doing this is that it increases the engagement
and job satisfaction of employees, if they can see that their views are
recognized, valued and implemented. Giving personnel ‘permission’ to express their opinions creates
the sense that everyone in the organization is ‘in it’ together.
strengths of leaders: Rather than
identifying their weaknesses, leaders can learn to leverage their personal
strengths to deal with any new challenges they are facing.
Understanding more about how leaders learn, why leaders behave the way they do,
and how to make changes, can help leaders to challenge their ingrained habits
and adopt new behaviours.
Leadership teams can undertake this
together or leaders can participate with their peers from different
organizations on an open programme.
The organization will benefit by becoming more
agile, a better environment in which to work and better able to counter
volatility, manage uncertainty, simplify complexity and resolve ambiguity. Organizations are ranking the development of
cognitive readiness skills as a top priority for leading in a VUCA business
world leaders need to LEAP:
lead successfully in the VUCA world, leaders need to LEAP through the fog and
demonstrate core cognitive readiness competencies, as well as possesses the
Open to new behaviour or opinions and willing to adapt or discard existing
values if and when necessary to adapt to the new world.
Filled with lively energy with sense of passion and optimism in engaging the
team and other stakeholders.
Proficiently change and evolve the learning organization with next-gen
leadership competencies including cognitive readiness, critical thinking, emotional intelligence and social
intelligence, amongst others.
Leadership development should focus on application agility. Learning agility
refers to a person’s ability to learn a new concept or skill. Application
agility is the ability to put training into action, and apply new skills and
knowledge even in unfamiliar settings.
Build trust-based partnership with teams as well as externally with other
stakeholders including union leaders.
VUCA Leaders should be
redesigned to the focus on;
consistently identify a lack of highly skilled leaders as a critical area of
concern. Organizations must anticipate future leadership requirements and
develop robust leadership skills that will be ready to face tomorrow’s business
needs. Effective leaders are often the differentiating factor that enables
businesses to remain competitive and produce optimal results.
HR Leaders must
contemplate the current and future needs of the organization, assess the
workforce, and then determine how to develop and apply new skills and tools to
maximize the benefit for themselves and their teams.
Many companies provide
leaders and high potential employees with the opportunity to work in various
business units throughout the organization, with the goal being the development
of a well-rounded leader who has a keen sense of the organization’s operations
Effective leaders must
prioritize development of their staff, and be held accountable for engaging in
the process and ensuring the desired growth in capability and performance
results is achieved. The focus should be on interacting with their employees in
a meaningful and purposeful way, not just managing to tactical objectives.
Those who interact more are proven to be better at coaching, communicating,
fostering networking and innovation. It must be understood that the development
of employees is a key deliverable and not a “nice to-do.” This must be
reinforced through leaders’ performance goals and discussions and reflected in
Challenges for HR: VUCA Perspectives
In order to address the employee expectations organizations need to design employees
satisfaction and offerings. Flexible HR practices can help organizations in
achieving sustainable competitiveness through creating, integrating,
reconfiguring and building on its human resource base. For example,
organizations can get a competitive edge by offering training and development programmes.
HR has already witnessed paradigm shift from maintaining compliance to building
organizational capability. Such transformational role demands the expertise on
leveraging human talent.
Diversity can be defined as the similarities and differences, tension and
complexities related to composition of workforce majorly in terms age, gender
Changing Phase of
Employee-employer Relationships: Push and pull
of globalization and localization have led to transformations in employment
relations and HRM systems.
HR Analytics and
Metrics: HR analytics includes collecting
information related to HR functions, activities, and people; analyzing and
interpreting the collected information and using this understanding in
developing and designing of various HR metrics for managing performance. HR
analytics and metrics enable organizations to leverage maximum employee value
Change is constant and the approaches for dealing with change may fluctuate
over time, the ways people react and respond to it remain remarkably constant.
Changing expectations of the work experience are forcing companies to look
beyond their traditional corporate identity and examine how to appeal to a
younger generation that expects social responsibility and community engagement
to be integrated with work.
The development of a compelling employment brand is a crucial element in the
Dramatic changes and increasing complexity in technology and the world of work
are forcing companies to redesign their talent strategies to drive improvements
in workforce capability. An increased focus on delivering business results
requires reskilling HR to move beyond traditional roles to become an effective
partner in the development of a workforce that provides a competitive advantage
in the employment market.
Effective talent attraction and engagement strategies in a globally competitive
and changing environment require innovative approaches. “The war on talent is
over, and talent won.”
Strategies: The greater HR community to develop
and implement Human Capital strategies that will anticipate the needs of the
future and deliver the appropriate business results.
Cultivation of Networks:
The cultivation of networks should be incorporated into objectives. In the
future, leaders should foster networking and collaboration rather than simply
directing individuals. Leaders themselves need to model networking behaviors by
pursuing professional development and collaboration opportunities within the
organization, and through engagement with external professional organizations.
An emphasis on developing leaders at all levels and keeping the future employee
base engaged as a priority will be essential to optimize this pipeline. Invest
in human capital by focusing on their engagement and development. Prepare for
the future by addressing the needs and expectations of future Millennial
leaders in the Millennials. Focusing on continuous development of current
employees will keep them engaged and challenged. Encourage managers to make
time to reinforce learning by providing feedback to their employees once they
are applying the use of their new skills. If this is done across the
organization, research indicates those organizations are five times more likely
to have successful, high quality leaders and more productive and engaged employees.
Experience-based learning approaches have the greatest impact in
building capabilities rapidly. Ensure that managers are creating linkages for
their employees by connecting the dots between the learning and training and how
it applies on the job. Consider how you can build development into current
projects and assignments rather than viewing it as something separate that
requires extended time away from the workplace.
The world has changed.
There has been an increased awareness about the globally interconnected world
of business; its complexity and sustainability. Some would believe that its
unpredictable and situations change rapidly which is resulting in the obsolescence
of existing models to deal with complexity and uncertainty.
VUCA world is an apt metaphor for leaders who have to lead from the front and
have to steer their companies through turbulent and choppy waters. As mentioned
above, each of the features in the VUCA environment are interrelated and feed
into each other with the result that the overall picture one gets is a HR
landscape that is chaotic, fluid and ever changing. Indeed, this is where the
true and great HR leaders can distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack
through their objectives, vision and sense of mission.
have changed the world development seen industrialists are now thinking of best
human resource in more technology. This is the greatest hurdle for developing
countries like India. Where by 2020 youth rate will be increase two fold and
unless and until, government shows much interest on skills development unemployed
rate will increase. In recent times banking sector will find lot of
amalgamations and excess majority of employees has been given VRS. This is one
example HR Professionals are facing lot of uncertainty in management and