From VUCA to BANI: Five key HR issues to deal with for HR teams today

today2022.04.20. 16498 1 1 5


Farai Mugabe, Content & Research, The HR Congress

The world is changing and it requires answers. Recently with the emergence of COVID 19 and other socio-economic and political changes, there is a new term to describe the world called BANI. These current challenges present great opportunities for HR to create value.

The world used to be called Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) until recently with the emergence of COVID 19 and other socio-economic and political changes which ushered in a new term to describe the world called BANI.1 

BANI is an abbreviation for Brittle, Anxious, Non-Linear, and Incomprehensible. We are now living in the age of chaos where the world is going against the norm and traditional way of things in a radical and almost violent manner. Certain events in the world such as the COVID 19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have callously threatened to decimate humanity. In such a world that is compounded by fragility, anxiety, difficulty to comprehensive, and non-linear, BANI best describes the situation we face right now. Despite such a difficult world, HR has the potential to build organizations that win in the marketplace! 

In the 1980s during the time of the cold war, the term VUCA became more popular. It was used to describe the world that existed at that time. This served as a launch pad for strategy development and implementation in key business functions such as Human Resource Management, Finance, Operations, Information Technology, Engineering, and Production. The approach was based on volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that the world faced. 2

What is VUCA

The term ‘VUCA’ seemingly traces its roots to the United States of America Army War College towards the end of the 1980s. It gained popularity through military ranks during the 1990s and eventually found its way into business strategy books by around early 2000s. It is a smart way of viewing the world and deconstruct the world. 


Volatile means that change is fluctuating at a high speed. This speed makes often makes it difficult for companies and individuals to be able to cope with change quickly. 2


Uncertain means that the future is not known. No-one can easily predict the future and what will happen tomorrow. This makes it almost difficult to plan and respond to organisational demands coming from the environment. 2


Complex means that a number of key variables have to be considered before coming with a decision. A number of key determinants of a decisions have become so entangled and interlinked and thus making it difficult to clearly make a solid decision. 2


Ambiguous means that there is absence of clarity on how to interpret the implications of business issues. This lack of clarity makes it difficult to predict change and properly analyse situations. 2

What is BANI?

The world has moved beyond volatility and complexity towards chaos. No-one can comprehend what the competition will do. There world order has greatly changed. A new way of doing things is now more towards chaotic.

The term VUCA seemed insufficient in describing the world and environment as the world grappled COVID 19. American futurologist, Jamais Cascio, coined the name BANI as a sense making model focused on helping business leaders to manage situations that are chaotic and develop a way to manage them (chaotic situations) better. 3


The world has become brittle or fragile. It is easily breakable. In times of fragility, what used to be a competitive advantage today, might not be a competitive advantage tomorrow. The new environment has shorter product lifecycle, depressed product and service demand, disruptive change and a number of fades. 

Global talent have become more stressed and suffering from burnout and mental health issues. There is huge presence of stress, burnout and absence of times of physical contact. 4


The situation around us has become more anxious. A state of anxiety makes people restless, eager to know what will happen next, fretful, and hesitant to make decisions. The current events happening in the world around such as how COVID 19 came into being and the war in Ukraine are clear indication that the world is ‘anxious.’


Cause and effect relationships are no longer easily predictable in advance. Logic is being defied and quiet often events happen in a way that no one could have believed it would have happened. New knowledge needs to be created to find answers for new and existing problems. Quiet often new knowledge is coming in to defy long held truths. 


Cause and effect relationships are no longer easily predictable in advance. Logic is being defied and quiet often events happen in a way that no one could have believed it would have happened. It is very difficult to understand and comprehend how events are happening and why they are happening. 

Given the rise of a BANI world, we look at five HR issues to deal with for HR teams today. These are: dealing with nomadic talent, hybrid working as a new trend, reskilling and upskilling of staff, the rise and rise of a digital world and the increasing need of caring HR. 

  1. Nomadic talent 

Talent has become highly nomadic. A study by Microsoft entitled, ‘The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work’ indicated that 41% of the global workforce might be considering to be resigning. 5 This means that the global talent mobility has paced up. Talent retention has become so brittle and incomprehensible. Talent leaders are so anxious on how to retain their talent whose trends are becoming more non-linear and unpredictable. 

The Harvard business review discusses about the rise of a corporate nomad at the face of COVID 19 pandemic. A corporate nomad is an individual who engage and participate in part-time in geographically dispersed work and projects within the employer’s network.6

 Whilst employers used to tie down employees to one employer, the rise of the corporate nomad presents an opportunity for HR to generate value. Corporate nomads gain critical skills from other organisations and best practices which can help businesses to generate more value. As we live in times of BANI where the world is anxious, we learn about how to manage situations better from the experiences of others. These corporate knowledge are able to bring in new ideas and innovation necessary to drive businesses forward. HR is able to retain top talent. Top talent can gain new learning opportunities, extra income and pursue their individual goals. This will make them more engaged and stay in their jobs thus serving as a gate keeper against the great resignation.  

  1. Hybrid working  as a new trend 

Hybrid working has become the new way of working. Employees now expect more time with family and more time to pursue other goals. Employees now desire more time to pursue other life goals outside work. This implies that employees require more control over how they work and when they work. Hybrid work is the new way of working.7 A recent survey by Microsoft reveals that 73% of employees want to work in a flexible work environment whilst 67% are craving for an in-person meeting with their colleagues to build more collaboration and teamwork. This means that hybrid work dominates the current and future of work.8 

In order to create more value, HR needs to redesign traditional work policies and standards to suit the new world of work. HR practices such as recruitment, talent attraction and culture management has to change. The focus going forward should be more towards building collaboration, team work and communication across the organisation to ensure effective coordination of business activities. 

  1.  The rise and rise of a digital world

COVID 19 pushed the world towards being digital and contactless. We are now connected by numerous digital devices. There are a number of digital tools that came in as during the COVID 19 pandemic. Companies are said to have been forced to digitally transform themselves. Employees are now surrounded by a wide range of digital tools such as mobile devices, high speed internet and collaborative. 

The digital world presents an opportunity for HR to create more value since most of the administrative HR process have been digitalized. If the administrative HR processes have not yet been digitalised, the current BANI world presents a good business case for HR digital transformation. With the administrative burden being taken away from HR, HR professionals will have more time to focus on value adding activities. More so digital HR tools helps HR professionals to be able to collect and analyse data better. This helps HR to make more impactful decisions that are data-driven and well-informed. 

  1. Rise of caring HR

A caring Human Resource Management approach is critical for the success of any given company today.9 The global workforce is currently suffering from burn out and stress which has millions of employees exiting the workplace or finding other forms of employment elsewhere. As previously indicated, 41% of the global workforce might be considering to be resigning. 5 The rise of a caring HR professionals is has become increasingly important in this brittle and anxious world. HR professionals provide care, developmental opportunities and inspire employees to become their very best. HR professionals are also best positioned to help individuals and teams to stabilize their emotions and access care and support.9 This will help employees to be able to effectively contribute towards organisational goals and success. 

  1. Reskilling and upskilling of staff

In the year 2020, the World Economic Forum’s future of jobs report indicated that 85 million jobs around the world require reskilling and upskilling.10 The biggest challenge towards full adoption of the 4th industrial revolution is not technology, physical and financial resources. These can be mobilized and acquired quite easily as compared to human skills and competencies. Human skills and competencies to use and develop new advanced technologies is a critical challenge today. This presents a huge opportunity for HR to generate value and being able to align people’s skills and competencies towards company strategies. 

The world is changing and it requires answers has become a BANI world. HR needs to rise and step up in creating organisations that win in the marketplace. Current challenges that we face presents a great opportunity for HR to create value. HR leaders must be fearless as they handle the immense challenges that they face today. 11


1Facing the age of chaos, by Jamais Cascio, Medium

2What VUCA Really Means for You, by Nate Bennett and G. James Lemoine, Harvard Business Review

3BANI: facing the age of chaos, by Isabelle Sailer, Linked In

4 How HR can assist to deal with emotional trauma during times of crises, by Farai Mugabe, HR Congress

5Work Trend Index 2022. Great Expectations: Making Hybrid Work Work, by Microsoft,

6The Rise of the “Corporate Nomad” by Claudio Fernandez-Araoz

7Updating Talent Strategy for Hybrid Work, by Betterworks,

82021 Work Trend Index: Annual report. The next great disruption is hybrid work- Are we ready? by Microsoft

9World Summit| 29-30 Nov| Online- HR’s new Horizon: Creating Sustained Human Capability, By HR Congress, HR Congress,

10Future of jobs report, by World Economic Forum,

11Six fearless talent choices that HR has to make in times of BANI,

Written by: Mihaly Nagy

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