The workplace today is dynamic and ever-changing, which demands workplace adaptability skills.
Our careers and workplace are molded by new, innovative systems installed to improve work performance and customer service. New employees and managers join the workforce with different ideas and viewpoints.
Change, being a key part of today's workplace and life, requires us to adapt to changing circumstances. For example, the colleague you relied on for support is suddenly on emergency leave or your department has a new manager. How do you deal with this?
Adaptability in the workplace — to adopt change, learn and unlearn — is critical to navigating new and novel situations and taking on change.
This article explores adaptability, adaptability skills, types of adaptability, benefits and tools to improve workplace adaptability skills to adapt to change.
What is adaptability?
Adaptability is the individual or business ability to be flexible and adjust to change in an environment, situation or condition. When practiced in the workplace, it is called workplace adaptability.
Adaptability is a soft skill that can be earned, grown or improved over time. Being adaptable is a highly valued skill and important in career advancement.
What is adaptability in the workplace?
Workplace adaptability is the ability of a business or employees to effectively adjust and respond to different workplace scenarios and challenges and shift focus towards new goals. This may include adjusting to new work approaches and processes based on changing circumstances and/or challenges.
Workplace adaptability is more than just being flexible. Adaptable people have targeted skill sets, frameworks and processes that allow them to fast and efficiently respond and adjust to changing situations, trends, new roles, new clients, new projects and more.
Flexibility and adaptability at work also mean having soft skills for work and relations, such as interpersonal, communication, problem-solving and creative thinking skills. By expressing adaptability, you show your motivation and work to try new challenges or learn new skills.
Examples of workplace adaptability
There are many scenarios and examples of adaptability in the workplace. Some are:
- New ideas or perspectives of getting work done from new managers or co-workers require other employees/managers to have an open mind to adjust to the ideas/views.
- A new or additional role or responsibilities due to a new system, a system change or an employee exit requires you to adjust to the new circumstance to meet expectations.
- A shift in workplace priorities or trends to meet a business need, coming with different expectations, requires you to adjust to the trend.
- COVID-19 caused the increased use of video conferencing and communication platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack and others.
Types of workplace adaptability skills
Adaptability skills are critical to implementing a change management strategy.
Overall, adaptability skills can be cognitive, emotional or personality based.
- Cognitive adaptability skills allow you to think through and recognize potential scenarios and plan for various outcomes. It supports decision-making and other cognitive adaptations.
- Emotional adaptability skills accept and acknowledge personal differences in work and thoughts and connect with different personalities to succeed at work.
- Personality adaptability skills allow you to see an event or situation in reality, or for what it is and what it may become. If a change occurs, you become open to positive and negative scenarios. It's a combination of realism and optimism when responding to a situation.
The six key adaptability skills include:
- Communication skills.
- Interpersonal or relationship-building skills.
- Problem-solving skills.
- Teamwork skills.
- Creative and strategic thinking skills.
- Organization and productivity skills.
#1. Communication skills
The ability to express yourself in any situation is an important skill in adapting in the workplace. For example, seeking out additional information or asking for clarification during transitions or projects show your motivation to learn, adapt and seek help. Communication also extends to active listening and attention to nonverbal communication, which expresses your desire to adjust to new processes or listen to other views and opinions.
#2. Interpersonal or relationship building skills
If you can express yourself and listen to others, you can build relationships with them. This is called interpersonal skills. It's the ability to effectively interact with others in positive and healthy ways to avoid conflict or miscommunication during work or operations. It's a key way to adapt to changes and adjust your ways of work and interactions in the workplace.
#3. Problem-solving skills
Every work presents different types of challenges and problems. How you deal with or solve problems tells a lot about your adaptability to challenges. This is called problem-solving. You might use your problem-solving skills to solve challenging tasks or interact with stubborn colleagues creatively. Problem-solving skills work hand in hand with other adaptability skills like critical thinking, analytics and emotional intelligence.
#4. Teamwork skills
Teamwork skills allow you to adapt to different dynamics, personalities and working teams. It's also the key skill for collaboration with teams and colleagues. Teamwork allows you to work and thrive in diverse teams with different backgrounds, skills and experiences. Teamwork and collaboration work well with other skills like empathy, active listening, communication, emotional intelligence, tolerance and more.
#5. Creative & strategic thinking skills
Adaptability also requires creative and strategic thinking. This is how you react and operate to succeed when faced with a challenging project or adapting to a new environment, goal or project. Developing new ideas to carry out tasks, market products, adapt to a changing market, implement project methods or resolve conflicts showcases your critical thinking skills. Critical and strategic thinking help you find the best action in every situation.
#6. Organization & productivity skills
Every kind of work needs organization and productivity skills. Organizational skills include several elements of adaptability that lead to productivity, such as preparedness, maintaining an organized work area, proper filing (paperwork or digital files) and more aspects of your job.
When you maintain an organized work area, including paperwork, digital files and other aspects of your job, you can be better prepared for operational changes.
Benefits of adaptability skills in the workplace
Why is it so important to be adaptable in the workplace?
Having adaptability skills gives various benefits you can apply in various scenarios. When you show adaptability, you demonstrate your ability to handle anything that comes your way, negative or positive.
Here are some of the key benefits of workplace adaptability:
- Embrace change and challenges. Of the few things guaranteed in life, change is one of them. And when change occurs, you need adaptability skills to help you adapt and carry on. You'll also be prepared to address work challenges and continue doing your job effectively.
- Build resilience. Resilience is a person's ability to bounce back from a challenge, misstep or failure and stay focused on the goal.
- Boosts productivity. Embracing change and building resilience removes worry from you and gives you more time to think about how to complete tasks and complete projects. You'll put more time and energy into actionable items and be more productive.
- Sets you apart. Overall, adaptable people are visible and stand out. They're quick to think, find solutions, collaborate with teammates, make difficult decisions and work in a more organized way. Change doesn't scare them and you can spot and reward them.
- Promotions, rewards and work-based benefits. Businesses need adaptable and resilient employees who can adapt, overcome and adjust to unprecedented changes and challenges. Being adaptable can earn you promotions and increased pay to keep you in the company.
- Build a sought-after experience and leadership. When you're adaptable, you can easily evolve into a leader to guide your team through different changes and challenges. You know each team member's capability and communicate effectively.
Skill & practices to develop workplace adaptability
Now that you know the meaning, examples and benefits of adaptability, let’s look at how to adapt to change in the workplace.
Adaptability may come easy for some but difficult for others. Either way, you need to develop adaptability skills and nurture others to succeed in the workplace as an employee or leader.
Here are tips for growing, building, improving or refining your adaptability skills:
#1. Be confident & open to improvement
You need to know the gaps between your actual and desired performance levels. This insight drives behavior change. But you must balance self-awareness with self-belief. Without self-belief, increased awareness needs can be disheartening and demotivating.
"With realization of one's own potential and self-confidence in one's ability, one can build a better world." — The Dalai Lama
#2. Develop a keen growth mindset
Being adaptable is willing to learn, listen to other viewpoints, and try new things. A keen growth mindset will positively influence your ability to approach new challenges, ask questions, find new opportunities and learn new knowledge to contribute to new projects. This will also influence your teammates to be more adaptable and committed to tasks.
"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all." — Dale Carnegie
#3. Challenge tradition
People who love processes, routines or orders find it hard to stray from their way of doing things and rarely adapt. But just because "this is how we've always done it" works doesn't mean it's the only way to be done.
"The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." — Steve Jobs
So, challenge yourself to do things out of order and try new things, whether it's a new project, onboarding tool or a new way to collaborate with teammates. For example, practice how to create easy-to-follow guides for onboarding new hires. Do this more, and you'll be adaptable to anything.
#4. Be aware of changes in your work or environment
To develop or improve adaptability skills, you need to keep up with changes in your workplace, environment or industry.
As Frank Clark says:
"If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere."
If you want to be more adaptable, stay on top of the latest techniques, tools and projects to reduce the amount of learning and training you need when their adoption time arrives. For instance, you can check your team or project's updated SOPs (Standard operating procedures) to be aware of new procedures so you can tackle changes and challenges when they arise.
#5. Learn how to accept & embrace change
Change is inevitable, and you'll always need to embrace it because you can't wish it away.
"Change is the only constant in life." — Heraclitus
So, learning to embrace (or look forward to) change makes you become more adaptable. Learn to embrace any challenging situation by taking more risks, practicing and accepting results, whatever they are. Also, learn to ask questions and reach out for support if you need help. Rather than feeling frustrated, practice will help you appreciate the effort and make you more adaptable.
#6. Use the right workplace adaptability tools
When you implement a change, not everyone will accept it. You need employee buy-in and feedback to understand how the change impacts your team's workflows. You also need to listen to their suggestions about the change and how to handle it. This requires a workplace adaptability tool like project management tools, training and onboarding tools, digital adoption platforms and more.
For example, if you want to implement new IT, you can use Scribe as a tool for:
- Process documentation.
- Knowledge management.
... and more!
Scribe is versatile and supports the whole process of knowledge management for improved adaptability. You can create process documents (Scribes) and share them with your teams, colleagues, new hires, or customers.
You can also use Scribe Pages to organize multiple Scribes (process documents or guides) in a single document (Page). This allows you to easily explain processes like new hire onboarding, technology rollouts, Customer training and more.
#7. Practice mindfulness
How do you react to change? Mindfulness is an adaptability skill that allows you to focus on the present moment without worry. It's calmness in a storm.
So, instead of jumping in with less-thought-out solutions, mindfulness allows a person to take a step back, reflect on the situation and think critically. This allows you to be more thoughtful and flexible in your thinking.
#8. Strive for personal development
Developing adaptability skills is part of personal development. If you focus on personal development, you'll develop adaptability skills.
"Permit yourself to change your mind when something is no longer working for you." — Nedra Glover Tawwab.
Personal development methods can include:
- Upskilling or reskilling some knowledge related to your role, project, company or industry.
- Learn and practice problem-solving skills from automated process documents.
- Learn from experts by connecting with top professionals and thought leaders, signing up for industry newsletters, following top leaders (including on social media) and more.
- Take continuous training and onboarding for personal learning and development.
- Ask questions to clear up how to do things using the correct procedures.
- Learn public speaking and communication.
- Improve your teamwork and collaboration skills to work with your teammates or manager to find possible opportunities for completing tasks.
- Volunteer for new projects to learn new things and expand your skill set. This will help you build confidence and adaptability.
#9. Practice goal setting
Setting your own goals and working towards achieving or surpassing them can help develop adaptability skills. Goals take you out of your comfort zone and prepare you to accept results, whatever the outcome.
And if you hate failure, you'll work towards success. But you'll also learn to accept failure and work towards improving it, which is a key element of adaptability.
"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." — Les Brown.
For instance, if you feel weaker in public speaking, communication or writing process, you can set a goal to work on public speaking or writing skills so you can improve how you communicate publicly.
This will expand your overall communication skills.
#10. Ask for feedback
In whatever you do, seek feedback and accept positive criticism. As you develop your career, you might request feedback from your teammates or managers to help you improve your skills.
Positive and constructive feedback is beneficial for setting goals and achieving success in your task, project or career.
Conclusion: Build an adaptable culture from the ground up
Change is part of our lives, making adaptability a crucial soft skill for survival. While some people adapt naturally, for most people, developing adaptability is a continuous process spanning our careers.
Because it's challenging and often difficult, businesses can set structures, strategies and an environment that makes adaptability a ground-up approach, beginning during new hire onboarding and extending to the top.
Use Scribe to help your business improve its adaptability environment and support employees' adaptability process.