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How to create a culture of adaptability in the workplace



Adaptability is often cited as one of life’s most crucial survival skills. Change is a natural part of everyday life for everyone. Adapting to those changing circumstances is a fundamental requirement for surviving or, better still, thriving.


“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”

- Jim Rohn


This is just as true in our work lives as it is in our personal lives. Even if you remove the effects of Covid from the equation (and that’s a big ‘if’ for some significant effects), changes within our professional lives have become more frequent and more pronounced as time has rolled on. From new technologies to new competition, structural and organisational changes to legal or regulatory requirements, companies’ expanding or streamlining… The list of reasons for change is almost endless.


Adaptability, flexibility and resilience, and the ability to learn new skills, are usually high on the list of attributes for employers seeking new employees. But what about our existing teams? Can we help them with their adaptability? We know that resistance to change is common. Fear of the new, of the unknown, is understandable, after all. Can we really help those who fear or fight the change that we know is not only inevitable, but fundamental for the survival and growth of our organisations?


“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”

- John C Maxwell




The good news is that there are simple ways to encourage and nurture adaptability within your teams. And because we all know that three is the magic number, here are three mighty fine places to start.


1. Communicate and connect


Communication is fundamental for encouraging and nurturing adaptability within our teams. And that means effective and two-way communication at every level. Employees need to feel comfortably and effortlessly connected to each other and to their leaders, regardless of geographical or time barriers. Supporting good communication will ensure that stronger relationships are built, resulting in people being more supportive of each other, showing more empathy, and being more open-minded about change.


A robust internal comms strategy that carefully considers the needs of all of its people (in terms of getting key messages to them, listening to them, and facilitating cross-organisational connectivity) will help to nurture a culture of adaptability.


2. Encourage collaboration


Teamwork and collaboration are not only good for an organisation’s productivity, but also for the growth of the individuals concerned. Learning from and adapting to others’ different working styles, personalities, techniques, and problem-solving approaches is hugely beneficial to our resilience and adaptability. This is just one reason why diversity in the workplace is so important. Companies that set up team project groups, team working activities and even team social events and challenges, will reap the rewards of a more adaptable workforce.


Encouraging and empowering employees to share their knowledge, experiences and approaches to different tasks and challenges will result in similar benefits. Relaxed peer-to-peer support or buddying schemes, learning lunches, and good practice forums are just a few practical ways to make this happen.


Extra effort may be required for remote colleagues, especially if working remotely is new to them, and even if the remote working is what they want. That removal of everyday physical interaction, of subconscious or accidental moral support, can result in feelings of detachment or isolation. And they are fierce enemies of resilience and adaptability. A combination of carefully selected tech’ platforms, scheduled virtual check-ins and the availability of physical get-togethers should be used to counter this risk.


3. Invite ideas, suggestions, and feedback


Creating a feeling of psychological safety across our teams is essential if we want our people to contribute and grow. Asking our people for their thoughts, ideas, suggestions, feedback and feelings -and actively listening to them- will build trust and make them feel more valued and more confident when participating.


From meaningfully two-way one-to-ones, “my time” sessions with leaders, open forums at team meetings, special brainstorming gatherings, employee surveys and quick polls, interactive tech’ at remote or large in-person meetings, there are many ways to ensure our people have a voice. Just as important is that leaders know to listen, respect, and respond. That will instil the psychological safety that is required to let adaptability flourish across our teams.







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