HR in a VUCA World

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HR in a VUCA World.

Posted on 9 March 2021 in Business | Gabriel Chua

A VUCA World

VUCA. Have you heard of it? An acronym coined by the US Army War College, it describes a world that’s highly susceptible to various factors, namely;

  • Volatility – Situations are in a constant flux with an unknown duration.
  • Uncertainty – Situations whereby causal relationships occur but with a lack of details where change may or may not take place.
  • Complexity – Situations have many intertwined components and variances.
  • Ambiguity – Situations whereby causal relationships are largely unknown.

Indeed, the VUCA world is ever more present in today’s society that is compounded by the ongoing effects of COVID-19. With many interrelated and interlinked components disrupted by the pandemic, the world has seen many changes that has brought down a sense of unease upon our shoulders. What then, can Human Resources do, in order to successfully navigate their businesses through such an unpredictable time?

Going on the Offensive

The best defence is a good offense. When tackling a VUCA world, HR has to take pre-emptive action and be prepared for the unexpected. A VUCA world may force a company to undergo various changes which may threaten its survival. As such, it is necessary for organisations to keep an open-mind and enable flexibility in its various work processes, taking the initiative when dealing with its wider environment.

Follow these tips below to power through a VUCA world and survive and succeed in times of unpredictability.

Powering through a VUCA World

#1 – Encourage Collaboration

In a world where uncertainties abound, teamwork is of the essence. When faced with the unpredictability of an ever-fluctuating environment, HR and Team Leaders should empower all employees to work in tandem so as to conceptualise and ideate new plans and strategies for dealing with adversity.

That is why a system employed by Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) an MNC dealing in real estate services, works well in a VUCA world. Using their self-developed cloud-based mobile tool, Idea Stream, the company has provided a means for their 91,000 worldwide workers to put forth new suggestions, solutions and implementation ideas, effectively strategizing a formula to deal with various unforeseen circumstances. Essentially, JLL has established a platform that leverages on their employees’ ideas and talents to develop global solutions to solve problems that arise.

In an age where problems may appear without notice, HR should push for the organisation to focus on the combined efforts of employees which will enable the organisation to tap on all available resources to drive innovation, productivity and power through adversity.

#2 – Train for Cultural Intelligence

Cultural Intelligence, or CQ, is defined as one’s capability to process, internalise and respect different cultures other than his/her own in various decisions. It is highly important in a world that’s greatly interconnected. Why?

With people of different cultures coming from all corners of the globe, it is hard to strike a balance and respect the varied backgrounds of individuals. This is especially for any business, where a great number of individuals have to harmoniously co-exist for mutual benefits.

With CQ, individuals are equipped with the necessary knowledge to minimise the risk of conflicts, and instead, leverage upon the opportunity provided by differences to drive creativity. For instance, IKEA , customises its approach when entering the same product markets for different countries. They regularly go on various "house trips" to get a detailed look on how people in different cities such as Milan, Shenzhen and London live so as to clarify and/or deny assumptions about the best designs for household furniture.

Such a process has enabled IKEA to be a leading furniture provider in almost all countries they operate in, through their proactive approach to learn about different cultures by immersing their team members in them. Not only does this improve relations with their clients, but intra-company relationships as well. Thus, HR ought to take a lesson from this and encourage managers to pursue an active interest in diversity and different cultures, which would enable organisations to leverage upon dynamic capabilities for a holistic benefit to the business.

#3 – Maintain Fluidity in Business

There is a Chinese proverb that goes, "The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water moulds itself to the pitcher."

The VUCA world forces businesses to maintain a fluid and flexible process. With changes and unforeseen ‘shock events’ occurring more and more rapidly in the business world, businesses need to be flexible and adaptable, switching tactics when various situations call for it. Organisations may have no choice but to reconsider their operations when backed into a corner by unforeseen circumstances.

For instance, as a result of COVID-19, air-travel has largely been restricted to essential business and diplomatic travel. However, such types of travel only form a small chunk of the large revenue that airlines are accustomed to. Thus, in a bid to maintain business continuity outside of providing their usual flight service, Singapore International Airlines (SIA) transformed some of their airliners into dine-in restaurants, effectively diversifying the services which they provided. Such a change in approach ultimately had two effects. Firstly, it created brand awareness, reminding future-flyers that SIA continued to operate, even in unusual circumstances. Second, though the dine-in restaurant service was only provided for a limited period of time, it assured investors and stakeholders that SIA was able to think out of the box and continue generating revenue. Thus,

when travel eventually resumes, SIA will be in a beneficial position to take advantage of pent-up travel demand, cementing its position as a world-class airline with an adaptable and resilient leadership team.

In a VUCA world, being adaptable when conducting business is essential to any company’s survival. As can be seen from the case of SIA, their fluidity and dexterity resulted in both short- and long-term effects which ultimately boosted customer retention and drove-up revenue. Thus, it is unquestionable that a similar process ought to be advocated by HR to enable versality which is of utmost necessity in a world where uncertainties abound.

Evolving with Changing Times

With all that’s been said and done, it is imperative for businesses to be proactive in their approach towards a VUCA world. Undoubtedly, with the environment in a constant state of flux, it is a must for organisations to develop the necessary foresight and come up with their own sets of initiatives to deal with constant change. It is through this can they develop the fluidity and robustness required to successfully navigate through a world of ever-evolving circumstances.

And to help you navigate a through a VUCA world, why not start by giving your HR team a boost in agility with an award-winning HRMS. With QuickHR’s comprehensive HR modules catering to Human Asset Management, Workforce Management and Human Capital Development, you will be empowered to streamline your organisations workflow and focus on dealing with the things that truly matter, building agility for the next generation workforce.

Once again, we hope that you've enjoyed a good read. And remember, Think Now, Think Far, Think QuickHR.

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