According to Yale University, “change is a natural part of life; therefore, adaptability is a crucial skill.” As part of our everyday life, we have to adapt to changing circumstances, so why should our professional lives be any different?
Having the ability to be flexible, open to learning new skills, and taking on challenges is, according to Indeed.com, highly desired by employers and makes someone a competitive candidate for a job.
Here we explain in detail what adaptability in the workplace means, why it is important for your company, and offer four tips for encouraging adaptability in your company.
1. “Adaptability in the workplace” can be defined as the ability to adjust and be flexible to change in working environments.
2. Adaptability may be required in instances when there are changes to a company’s structure, business needs, work processes, and protocols. It is important that employees can respond to such changes so that companies can progress and come out stronger.
3. Employers have the opportunity to encourage workforce adaptability by promoting a collaborative culture, welcoming fresh ideas and suggestions, supporting strong communication and teamwork amongst colleagues, and attracting the right people from the outset who can demonstrate adaptability through previous experiences.
4. Particularly since the global pandemic, focusing on encouraging collaboration and communication is vital to sustaining adaptability in the workplace.
The meaning and importance of workplace adaptability
When we refer to “adaptability” in the workplace, we mean the ability to pivot by learning new skills and behaviors as a result of a change in environment.
Within the workplace, it is important to have adaptable employees that are able to be flexible when new and challenging situations arise. For instance, good team members are those who can rely on their initiative, solve problems, find solutions, and “think outside of the box.”
In the workplace, new problems will always arise and changes are inevitable, but it is how these problems are dealt with that makes all the difference. This could be a change in management, strategies, personal responsibilities, or organizational culture. Having the ability to adapt means that such changes can be embraced rather than hinder performance.
A perfect example of unexpected changes in the workplace are those caused by the global pandemic. Many companies can relate when it is said that the pandemic forced us to adapt. In some instances such as this, change may not be welcomed, however having a team that can adjust to new working patterns, working locations, and working styles can make or break collaboration and overall business success (Read more at 8 Ways to Keep Remote Workers Motivated and Engaged).
On the other hand, change in the workplace is sometimes fundamental to the growth and success of an organization. Therefore having employees who can support this by suitably adapting is vital.
Four tips for encouraging adaptability in the workplace
1. Promote a collaborative culture
A collaborative culture is important in encouraging diversity and differing values coming together between colleagues, which in turn encourages adaptability.
In light of this, it is important that companies promote teamwork. This could be done by setting up team working activities, team projects, team challenges, and team social events. This way, people are able to learn to adapt to other colleagues’ working styles and personalities. When employees are used to having to take on different roles within new groups and adjust to different people, they are practicing adaptability.
A good way to make the culture more team and collaboration-focused is by creating a learning community. This could be as simple as having employees share ideas or approaches in undergoing certain tasks, peer-to-peer training, or “buddy” schemes. Such systems can help people to learn from others and be more open to different ways of working.
It is very easy for workforces to become disjointed, especially as recently a lot of people have had to work remotely as a result of the global pandemic. As such, companies should implement strategies to focus on keeping everyone well connected.
Where colleagues are working remotely, it may be hard to encourage adaptability in the workplace as people may feel more isolated. Not having the moral support of other colleagues can make people feel unproductive, disconnected, and demotivated. People are more likely to fall into a pattern of behavior where they feel as though they are “fending for themselves” and not properly part of the team dynamic. When your team members are not accessible physically, it can be easy to feel isolated. This type of feeling is something that employers that are trying to achieve workforce adaptability need to be aware of as it can be a risk that certain employees are falling into a less team-focused mindset.
It is therefore important that employers do more to encourage teamwork and collaboration at work when the workforce is not physically together. This could include arranging scheduled virtual meetups and check-ins, allowing flexible working, having open lines of communication and informal interactions.
2. Welcome ideas
When people feel as though their suggestions and ideas are welcomed rather than being shut down, they are more likely to engage and participate. A good way to encourage this is by creating an environment where people feel comfortable sharing and learning.
Sharing ideas can help employees open their minds to things they had never thought of before. The great thing about having a culture where new ideas are valued is that people are more willing to open up and when this happens, everyone benefits. Employees can feel confident making recommendations, the company benefits from receiving such suggestions and the whole team is able to develop a “growth mindset” by absorbing new insights and improving skills.
A method that companies can use to show that they are willing to welcome new ideas is by creating a “safe” environment by showing appreciation for shared opinions, rewarding those who speak up, and saying “thank you.” Organizations could set up forums or discussion groups to dedicate spaces for sharing feedback to encourage company development. By doing this, companies are able to encourage creativity and adaptability.
3. Communicate and connect
Communication is key for encouraging adaptability in the workplace. Being able to talk through new ideas, be open about feelings and make appropriate suggestions, can contribute to a more flexible and successful working environment.
Similarly, promoting a collaborative work environment where people can build strong connections and relationships with colleagues is likely to improve employee well-being and productivity. This means that people will support each other more, show empathy, and be open-minded about change. Subsequently, a more adaptive work environment will be created as people will be more inclined to adjust to change. When good communication is supported throughout a company, strong relationships are built, which means that teams are likely to be supportive of one another.
4. Recruit and attract the right people
Finding ideal candidates who fit with the values of your company culture and attracting people who have adaptable qualities through previous experience is a good start in recruiting adaptable employees. Signs that individuals have adaptability skills may include evidence of seeking to improve their skill set, or ‘upskill‘, by gaining extra qualifications or training, taking on volunteer work, or extra responsibilities. You can establish these details by asking particular questions in interviews and understanding what potential employees have done to demonstrate initiative and flexibility.
To attract these types of people, it is important that your employer branding is correctly positioned. By highlighting growth opportunities and wellbeing considerations, you will be setting off on the right foot when it comes to attracting suitable candidates. Employees who are wanting to develop their skill set are likely to apply to companies that offer movement for progression and development.
It is also important to to have a multi-pronged recruitment strategy and ensure that your organization is open to a large range of applicants, by exploiting tools such as the ‘open talent marketplace’.
The skill of “adaptability” is highly important, especially in today’s world where many companies are susceptible to change. There are many internal and external factors that can contribute to this, such as having to pivot to new market trends, mergers and acquisitions, and the economic climate. The strength of a company is mostly reliant on the people who are working in it. Therefore, having a strong adaptable team is fundamental to the success of a business.
Frequently asked questions
Adaptability in the workplace can be demonstrated in a number of ways. For instance, taking on extra responsibilities according to business needs, adapting well to new co-workers and teams, responding to changes in business strategies, having to work remotely and using more virtual forms of communication, or adjusting to changing work processes. There are many situations where employees must adapt according to a workplace change and it can be shown through the behavior and attitude that the employee adopts to respond to that change.
Having employees that can demonstrate adaptability skills is a key driver in helping companies grow and meet goals. Employers are able to encourage this attitude by creating an environment that promotes adaptable working.