Adapt and Thrive – The Skills Required by Corporate Services Professionals

March 16, 2021

Although there are still many unknowns, the shift in post-pandemic global dynamics is affecting all business sectors, including corporate services. We look at how the industry's professionals can adapt to the new operating environment by upskilling and adopting a more flexible working approach.

As businesses restart and more people return to the workplace, companies have already accommodated the reshaped environment with arrangements like work-from-home, virtual offices, or digitalization. It may be tempting to think because a new operational order has been established, we can continue with the same employment mindset we had 12 months ago. It's not going to be that easy.

Companies are now weighing up their approach to the altered environment by rethinking their future needs. This process directly affects the corporate services industry at a strategic and personal level. For the sector's professionals, this will involve a period of research and introspection to establish what new skills are required to continue performing with the highest integrity and protect their employers' interests.

Embrace Change to Create Value

A high-level question to ask is: what skills do I need to create value? In the new climate, this undoubtedly involves a willingness to adapt. Employers have seen how quickly their workers have become used to, for example, working remotely, even among those who had previously been resistant to change. The wider business community knows this too. The key to success here is applying an open and creative mind to all interactions, even if they initially appear unconventional. The ability to process information is also vital. Rather than accept something at face value, professionals should be questioning the significance of any initial proposal then work with their co-workers or superiors to see if there are better ways to achieve a specific goal.

In a similar vein, employees have to accept that their current job description may be something of a relic. Instead, they should be ready to embrace any expansion in the scope of their role. This could involve predicting the risks and outcomes in newly exposed areas – something that had previously been the remit of those on a higher pay grade – or handling governance issues.

New Technology – The Ability to Ease Workload Pressures

Some may see technology as a sticking point, especially those who fear its introduction may dilute their role. An open mind will look at this differently and see technology as a liberator rather than a threat. The day-to-day corporate services role has its share of administrative and time-consuming tasks. New technologies, including artificial intelligence ("AI") and automated devices that provide company secretarial software and board portals, can ease workload pressures. Technology-led contributions can save valuable time and create a more practical and secure business solution – what it can't do completely take over every aspect of corporate services.

Effective Communication – The Key to Enhanced Relationships

Once technology has freed professionals from some of the administration grind, they can add greater value elsewhere. In particular, employees should bring their business advisory and soft skills to the fore. For some, this may be a difficult ask. Communicating clearly was an endangered skill even before the pandemic, as people channelled many of their thoughts and feelings silently through email or smartphone. Add to this our relative lack of human interaction over the past few months, and it's not surprising that our people skills leave some room for improvement. A smart corporate services employee should aim to counter this by talking and typing, both to colleagues and clients. Focused conversations often provide more clarity in less time and can be backed up by a succinct electronic record. It also improves business goodwill – an often-overlooked factor – because the professional is perceived to have made an effort to connect.

The Local Employment Market – Growth Drivers

Nurturing or improving skills is one thing, but we need a healthy employment market to deploy them effectively. Businesses are restarting, and the job market is starting to improve. To understand why this is happening, we also need to touch on the bigger picture: China has a five-year plan to double its economy by 2035, and there are Greater Bay Area (GBA) initiatives like the Youth Employment scheme that incentivizes graduates to work in Mainland GBA cities. Both programs mean that numerous sector-specific job opportunities are expected to be created for local workers. These developments will also serve as an alternative pathway for job seekers who are prepared to keep up with market trends. In turn, it will help to gear up the employment market in 2021.

Resilient Companies, Versatile Employees, and Economic Developments

The job market and opportunities for corporate services professions will inevitably remain affected by the pandemic. But most businesses have stretched themselves and adopted strategies to cope with demand, including technology-led solutions that enhance internal operations. Employees can also play their part by adopting a more flexible approach to the workplace, learning new skills and building on existing expertise. When this is combined with positive developments in the broader economy, then the outlook for the corporate services industry is positive.

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