Why Adaptability Matters in the Workplace

Early on in the pandemic, businesses were trying to cope with social, economic, and political challenges. Unfortunately, many didn’t know how to adapt because they lacked the training and the processes to transition. In other words, they were missing one key skill– adaptability.  

According to a recent report published by Deloitte, companies and organizations who took key actions towards building an adaptable and resilient workplace weathered the pandemic better than others. One of the key skills that helped them manage the change was implementing processes like training the staff across various skills to enable them to re-skill when needed.The more adaptable and resilient the workplace was before 2020, the easier it was for them to manage the change.

In the same report, the skills which were ranked the most critical workforce trait for a resilient future were flexibility and adaptability. Other skills include tech-savviness and a strong sense of shared organizational values and culture.

So, Why Should Adaptability Matter?

In our world of rapid change and massive workforce disruption, change is often abrupt, unexpected, and sudden. Today, organizational leaders are expected to step up to the plate with effective communication skills, well thought out transition plans, and the collectiveness to keep their teams happy. They need to lead with confidence and transparency, when possible, while building trust. All of these traits, or soft skills of the workplace, can be summarized with the word, adaptability.

Adaptability is not just about the ability to overcome challenges in the short run, however, nor is it only for leaders.

"Adaptability is a powerful skill set related to many wellbeing outcomes such as engagement and job satisfaction," Megan Schuller, PhD, Director of LeggUP LABS said. "When your people are adaptable, they are more resilient and open-minded, allowing them to independently and collectively better embrace change."

So, it goes without saying that whether your organization needs help with managing change during difficult times, empowering new managers for future leadership, or retaining top talent, making the workplace more adaptable and resilient should be your top priority. Adaptable workplaces are an amalgam of multiple factors, but it starts with leadership training, building strategic culture, and strong organizational values.

Training Leaders

There is a term called a liminal experience in anthropology, which is essentially an experience that tests a young person to their limits, both mentally and physically, to help them transition to adulthood. The same is true for any leadership or top management. Most good managers possess a certain set of skills that make them good at what they do.

The ability to make reliable decision time and time again come from experience, however, there is a large body of research shows that the most effective way to make workforce and workplace resilient and adaptable is through customized individual coaching. Rather than waiting for your staff to learn from adversity, enable young leaders to train to be more adaptable and resilient.

Strong Organizational Culture

One of the biggest challenges to strong organizational culture is rigid practices. To counter this, you need to ensure your organization's leaders are all on the same page, meaning they personally align and support your company's values and mission. If leadership showcases values that are driven by adaptability and resilience, it gives way to a strong culture.

But words aren’t enough for culture to trickle down from the top! Commitment to adaptability needs to be translated into sustainable actions and values across the board. When top leadership is dedicated to a cause, the rest of the teams will retain and exhibit the same commitment to organizational values.

Strategic Advantage

While product, offers, and other strategies offer your organization a competitive advantage, true sustainable competitive advantage arises from the ability to undergo change and adaption in times of crisis. Those who lack this ability fail to maintain their position in the market.

In the long run, doing a particular thing exceptionally won’t give you an advantage. Rather, your ability to embrace change without losing the sense of who you are as an organization is a true strategic advantage.

To conclude, adaptability isn’t just about experimenting and changing products and services, but also changing processes, models, strategies, and sometimes entire cultures, as we have observed time and time again. Those who can keep up and evolve with time succeed.  

Needless to say, teams who are good at adapting can improvise when a challenge arises. They are also able to adjust to new modes of work quicker— and that’s a skill worth having especially in times like today.

Nimra Khalid

Organizational Psychologist

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