Competencies for a Post-COVID World

It seems as of late that we are always in the midst of difficult times. As I am writing this post, the world is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases. The challenges that this is placing on society goes without saying.  In classrooms, educators continue to grapple with the impacts this is having on both remote and hybrid learning models. It’s not easy, and many people are at a breaking point, but who could blame them.  The silver lining here is that we will get the pandemic under control at some point through more stringent social distancing requirements and a vaccine.

When the dust settles, we need to look carefully at critical lessons learned. The world of work has, and continues to, fundamentally change. There is a necessary shift emerging right before our eyes. More and more employers are moving away from physical spaces and embracing remote environments while providing greater levels of trust. What this equates to is less of a focus on the number of hours put into a day and more on getting the work done at a high level.

In my view, the future is bright, and these changes will be welcomed by many. The fact of the matter is that reporting to an office or being required to put in a set number of hours each day doesn’t necessarily result in success. So, what does this mean for education? A greater emphasis on productivity in the future of work will require our learners to have a refined set of competencies. It is important not to get caught up in the hoopla about needed “skills.” While these are important, they focus on the “what” in terms of the abilities a learner needs to perform a specific task or activity. Competencies outline “how” goals and objectives will be accomplished. They are more detailed and define the requirements for success in broader, more inclusive ways. In a previous post, I shared this:

Competencies, therefore, may incorporate a skill but are much more than the skill. They include a dynamic combination of abilities, attitudes, behaviors, and knowledge that is fundamental to the use of a skill aligned to a learning outcome. 

Now, and in the future, our learners will most likely need to be competent in the following areas to succeed.


  • Self-regulation: Process by which people plan for a task, monitor performance, and reflect on the outcome.
  • Remote collaboration: People work together, regardless of their geographic location, to achieve organizational goals using a variety of digital tools.
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving: The ability to think in complex ways and apply knowledge and skills acquired in relevant ways. Even when confronted with perplexing unknowns, people are able to use extensive knowledge and skill to create solutions and take action that further develops their skills and knowledge.
  • Emotional intelligence (EI) – A person’s capacity to be aware of, control, express one’s emotions and handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. A person who is competent in EI can understand, manage, and use their own emotions to communicate effectively, relieve stress, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict in positive ways.
  • Time management: Process of organizing and planning how to divide the time you have available between specific activities or delegate tasks to others depending on organizational structure. In a nutshell, it’s about working smarter, not harder, to achieve goals.
  • Creativity – The ability to develop and successfully implement innovative ideas to develop solutions to complex problems while connecting seemingly unrelated phenomena.

It is essential for educators to develop their own sense of what is critical for learners going forward. The curriculum might dictate what has to be taught, but the art of teaching is all about how we teach in ways that inspire meaningful learning. As the world continues to change in ways that we could never have imagined, it is imperative that learners have what they need to succeed.