Emmanuel Zvada

Did you know that today’s business environment is actually becoming ever more Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (Vuca). A Vuca business environment poses many challenges to organisations and only the prepared and agile will survive such an environment. Truth be told, HR practitioners need to attend to how your organisations respond to issues of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, because the world is getting more and more Vuca every single day.

What does Vuca means?

The acronym Vuca was first introduced by the US Army, as a military and geopolitical term, to define the world after the collapse of the communist bloc at the beginning of the 1990s.

Such collapse affected performance of organisations, employees and employers to such an extent that organisations with no proper strategies could not survive. Nowadays, it is used in the field of business strategy and management, since the environment has become less predictable and full of changes, doubts and conflicts. The Vuca economy best describes the Zimbabwean economy.

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Is Zimbabwe becoming a Vuca economy?

This term Vuca, concisely describes our situation in Zimbabwe today which is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The country moves through all four of the letters on a daily basis. Most businesses are getting frustrated and there is uncertainty, there is volatility, complexity and ambiguity. Business is finding it difficult to pay staff and the staff is finding it difficult to come to work as the cost of living is overtaken by cost of labour. Below are some instances in Zimbabwe that just prove the turbulence that the country is experiencing on a daily basis.

During the beginning of the year, there was an outcry and a complete fear that prices of goods would go up and surely, they did go up.

The price of fuel which is also the enabler to many activities in the country has also gone up and is continuously being reviewed every week or two. It is difficult to imagine the chaos it causes to a business that is trying to budget or plan anything. The price constantly changes and yet there is no guaranteed availability. Business and citizens are uncertain of the next steps that the government will take and that only serves to create volatility and a very ambiguous business environment. It’s good to plan, but nowadays you plan and the next thing you adjust your plan.

Planning has become a foreign concept simply because change is moving more frequently and faster than one can imagine.

Electronic money and mobile wallets now dominate daily transactions because of the shortage of cash. On the same note, exchange rates are changing daily, weekly and sometimes hourly, creating an uncertain environment. The question is how then will the employers match these changes to capacitate their employees to continue coming to work.

The gaps between the employees being paid in forex is widening more than those being paid in local currency even if they have the same qualifications and experience.

Antidotes against Vuca world

Make no mistake, Vuca times are real, painful, challenging and tough. What needs to be done is to be willing to face the brutal facts and challenges of the present and see possibilities beyond your current challenges. Business leaders and CEOs are indeed struggling to lead in a Vuca environment. No wonder many people see change as the only constant, and HR professionals find themselves constantly re-organising so as to fit in the volatile environment.

Agility mentality

In a Vuca world, learning agile HR leaders are better equipped to be successful. They are open to learning from experience. They can quickly recognise better ways to get things accomplished. If we hold on to the way we always do things — stay in our comfort zones — we cease to grow intellectually and behaviourally. These are the kind of managers who are flexible and open to change and thrive on new experiences. This means those individuals who are quick to learning from experience and move forward with new ideas will be better prepared to succeed in tomorrow’s world and survive the volatility.

Multi-tasking abilities

In the Vuca world, managing change will be a continuous process and one will have to invest in it to build the capabilities in him/herself to adapt to this changing environment.

Continuous learning, upgrading of skill sets will be the key to overcome the challenges.

+HR leaders need to develop training programmes at every level which will help in building the desired skill sets in its people. HR must also be able to identify the right talent and promote such talent for critical projects and assignments. Ability to manage multifarious roles will also be the key to survive in extreme conditions.

Adaptability and flexibility skills

Being adaptive to change in the workplace is the first and foremost trait that HR people need to have. Flexibility is the idea that your plans can change very quickly, sometimes with or without notice. We can not always predict when changes like these are going to happen. That is why flexibility is so important. When you are flexible, you are versatile, resilient and responsive to change. You can adapt to unexpected demands in sudden workplace surges. The HR team should be able to understand when it’s time to modify old policies, create new ones and how to help employees embrace change.

Substitue “volatility” with clear vision

A vision statement is a statement of an organisation’s over-arching aspirations of what it hopes to achieve or to become. Here are some examples of vision statements: In volatile situations, the knowledge of facts and opinions is important, separating facts and opinion, precise and objective communication is the key in this situation. Volatility can only be combated with clear vision. When changes are rapid, employees need to know what’s happening and where they are heading to.

A clear-cut vision and fact-based knowledge of the situation helps creating a pathway. A clear sense of vision helps to keep people focused and distinguish between what is essential to do and what are the priorities amongst the myriad of activities. This will also help them understand the demands and opportunities emerging.

Substitute “uncertainty” with understanding

Employees should know what is happening, what the organisation is planning. In fact, there should be constant communication between the employees and the employers. It should be known that rapid changes in the environment requires faster communication, ensuring everyone has the same level of understanding. The pretext of performance in such a period is the ability of leaders to build trust; this has to be done during a calmer period.

When uncertainty hits the organisation, all have faith in the leadership that they will do their best in the interest of the people they lead.

Coping with the complexity of today’s business environment is not about predicting the future or reducing risk. It’s about building capability of people and the organisation; to adapt continuously and learn speedily, in order to maximise the chances of seizing fleeting opportunities. Surviving in a hostile world seems to be a very big challenge.

Vuca forces will present businesses with the need to move from opportunities that are necessary for survival and sustainability. To survive in a Vuca world, your business needs to be agile, so replace Vuca (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguity) with Vuca (Vision, understanding, clarity and agility.

 Emmanuel Zvada is a human capital consultant and an international recruitment expert. He writes in his personal capacity.