Measure and Strengthen Employee Adaptability in the Workplace

In this article, we will learn what employee adaptability is, why it is important, how to measure it, and most importantly, how to improve it. Let's get down to business!

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Business growth is impossible without change. The changes affect many aspects of the business, from organisational structure and personnel changes to the adoption of technology and communication strategy within the team. Of course, every manager wants all members of his or her team to be able to easily adapt to change without losing productivity and motivation. But before you get started improving employee adaptability, you need to figure out what it is and how to measure it.

In this article, we will learn what employee adaptability is, why it is important, how to measure it, and most importantly, how to improve it. Let's get down to business!

What Is Employee Adaptability?

Employee adaptability is the same as adaptability in general, the ability of an individual to accept change. But in our case, it is the ability to adapt to changes in the work environment. What might those changes be?

They could be ideas from new employees or managers that are worth listening to, even if they go against established practices. Change can also come from the need to work remotely and learn new technologies such as AI applicant tracking systems on your own, or the need to learn online through specialised applications, which is often beyond everyone's capabilities. Change can be planned or unpredictable, and it is equally important to be able to embrace both to remain effective at work.

Why Is Employee Adaptability Important?

Employee adaptability is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, employee adaptability is important for employees themselves, as it is a way to become flexible, empathetic, open-minded, and collaborative. Adaptability opens up new opportunities not only for professional development, but also for personal growth.

For the employer, employee adaptability is important because it makes team members more stress-resistant, productive, and resilient, helping them to handle unexpected challenges with ease and work with others in a conflict-free manner.

It seems like a win-win situation.

Employee adaptability is all the more important as volatility is the norm in the marketplace, business, and the global economy in general, and stability is not to be expected. Embracing change and working together in the face of difficulties is the key to keeping your business productive in tough times.

Key Adaptability Skills

Having certain skills means that an employee or candidate is adaptable. These are usually soft skills that make each person unique. Let's see what those skills are.

1. Positive Thinking

This skill is not about turning a blind eye to a truly critical situation and repeating, like a mantra, "Everything will be fine. Positive thinking is, first and foremost, the ability to remain calm and sane in the most stressful circumstances. Even if the situation is bad, positive thinking will prevent your employees from sowing fear and doubt in the team. In addition, people with a positive mindset get along better with others, are better at diplomatic negotiations, and help your team stay upbeat no matter what.

2. Creativity

If your employee lists creativity as one of their skills, it means that they are likely to be able to come up with ideas and look at things from a different angle. This skill comes in handy when you need to come up with a breakthrough advertising campaign or stand out from the crowd with a new and better offer.

3. Problem-Solving

This skill requires a person to be able to identify a problem, dare to raise it with their manager or team without blaming others, and be able to consider the options available with a clear head. This skill is particularly useful when there is a threat to the company's reputation or finances and one needs to take responsibility and act quickly and without unnecessary emotion.

4. Flexibility

This allows employees to change their work schedules as circumstances require. Flexibility allows them to take on additional responsibilities or add professional development training or mentoring to their regular workload.

5. Teamwork

Teamwork as an employee skill is good for business. When employees are team players, it means they can negotiate and unite to achieve a common goal without being dictated to from above. In addition, each team member with teamwork skills can help each other, especially those who are lagging behind, thus reducing management's workload.

6. Striving for Learning

To remain valuable to the company, employees need to learn and expand their horizons, master new technologies, and acquire advanced knowledge. All of this makes them more sought-after employees while keeping the company more progressive and able to meet the challenges of today. For example, with the rapid adoption of artificial intelligence, proficiency in ChatGPT or other similar tools is no longer an optional skill, but a mandatory one.

7. Responsibility

The ability to take responsibility is, above all, a sign of an adult personality. It is a pleasure to work with such people. If your employees take responsibility for making bold decisions or for the mistakes they make, it means that the team has the potential to grow because it is made up of adults who are aware and able to analyse mistakes and move on.

8. Critical Thinking

This skull indicates that an employee is inclined to analyse, question established views, and look for new solutions. People with critical thinking skills tend to be highly educated, able to check facts and think logically. How does this benefit the organisation? If your employees are critical thinkers, their decisions are balanced, facts are checked, and the risk of error is reduced.

9. Resilience

Among other things, an employee's resilience indicates that he or she is a person who likes to grow and can withstand unpredictable work and personal challenges. The good news is that resilience can be developed by taking on new challenges. Conversely, if you avoid challenges, you risk never becoming resilient. Find out if your employees are resilient enough.

10. Time Management

These skills are critical in the workplace, especially for adaptability. An employee with time management skills can plan, prioritise, and most importantly, delegate, and still manage to complete all tasks and more. They are also likely to be tech-savvy, as they won't experience any delays in getting their work plan done.

11. Communication

Communication within and outside the team is key to mutual understanding and a positive team atmosphere. Communication skills allow employees to negotiate, compromise, or insist on their opinions, encouraging free expression and stimulating ideas for breakthrough projects. And let's not forget that when it's easy to interact within a team, people are more excited to come to work and are more committed to the common cause.

12. Tech-Savviness

In today's world, if you don't keep up with progress, you're likely to be left behind. That's why mastering modern technologies and tools - from CRM and ATS to ChatGPT and other AI-based tools - is a must for an employee to be in demand. In other words, the ability and willingness to master technology is a sign of adaptability. Conversely, if an employee finds it difficult to master technology, it may be a sign that adaptability needs to be improved. Let's just say that if an employee is tech-savvy, it gives them an edge over those who find it difficult to master technology.

How to Strengthen Employee Adaptability in the Workplace

Employee adaptability is not something innate and unchangeable, but something that can be developed. We will discuss how to do this below.

1. Promote Well-Being and a Growth Mindset

Encourage your employees to take care of their health and well-being. You can team up with psychologists to develop an internal wellness program to remind employees of the benefits of exercise, walking in the fresh air, and getting away from their smartphones. A person's tendency to take care of their physical and mental health is a sign that they think in terms of growth, a life strategy that focuses on learning, development, and healthy practices. Employees' well-being is key to their productivity.

2. Foster a Positive Atmosphere

It may not seem like an obvious factor, but a company's communication culture or hierarchy can affect the performance of the entire organisation. If the team has an atmosphere where only the leaders' opinions are valued and other employees don't see the point or are afraid to express their ideas or question management's decisions, it won't lead to anything good. The team should create an atmosphere where everyone is equal and feels valued. To do this, encourage team bonding through games, recreation, and informal activities, and don't micromanage.

3. Offer Mentorship and Coaching Programs

It's a good practice to create mentoring and coaching programs to attract new hires while meeting the need for your experts to share their experience and guidance as mentors. With the support of more experienced colleagues, new hires can acclimate more quickly and achieve their professional goals by avoiding common bottlenecks or difficulties in learning material or performing job tasks on their own. On the other hand, when a company has a mentoring program, it provides new opportunities for career and personal growth for long-time employees. Either way, having mentoring and coaching programs in place shows that you care about your employees, and they are more likely to do the same.

4. Encourage Communication among Employees

A close-knit team has a better chance of overcoming work challenges. So it makes sense to encourage communication between employees, especially in a hybrid or remote work environment, and to make sure no one is left out. After all, what keeps a team from communicating seamlessly? First, confusion, disengagement, and even team hierarchies. You need to create an environment where everyone feels included and valued. One way to foster this is through online group calls where colleagues can talk about life outside of work, their favourite movie, or their pets. A mentoring program should also encourage communication between employees, as having a mentor who is always available increases trust in the team and the desire to stay in touch with colleagues.

5. Praise and Encourage Employee Efforts

It's great when employees get results. But what if, despite their best efforts, something prevented them from achieving the desired result? Management should recognise employees' efforts, not just their results. After all, the result is only the end point, and the effort is all the way to the endpoint. If there were no effort, there would be no result. And when you show that you recognise and appreciate the contribution of each employee, regardless of the results, it is very supportive and allows them to keep going.

6. Maintain Team Diversity

The benefit of a diverse workforce is that it brings different perspectives to the team and avoids expert blindness, a cognitive distortion where only one opinion prevails due to authority or lack of counterbalance.Diversity makes your team more communicative, collaborative, and flexible. It will also enable you to hire talented people who are really good at what they do, regardless of their gender, age, or other backgrounds.

To achieve diversity, conduct a recruitment campaign demonstrating that you are an equal opportunity employer. Remote or hybrid work can also help, as each employee adapts to the environment in his or her own way and has the freedom to do so.

7. Foster a Space Where People Can Freely Speak Their Minds

Let's start with the opposite. What do you think contributes to employee burnout? An increase in workload? Yes, it is. But the truth is that microstressors also often lead to severe stress and, as a result, burnout. Microstressors, in turn, can be caused by misunderstandings with colleagues and a lack of personal growth in the team. Even if an employee feels insecure about expressing his or her opinion, this can also lead to stress. Imagine this happening to your employees every day.

Isn't it time to change your culture and encourage the casual sharing of opinions through various events, apps, chats, and midday activities? One way to do this is through what people like. Offer to create a movie review based on a favourite TV series, initiate a sports challenge among employees, create a wall of funny photos, etc.

8. Provide Ongoing Training and Development Opportunities

The ability to learn on the job is one of the reasons people are more likely to stay with a company and contribute to its growth. But corporate training makes sense for other reasons, too. When your employees are faced with the need to acquire new skills and knowledge, it means that they will have to change their familiar and already enjoyable routine to something less comfortable, because learning new things always makes the human brain feel uncomfortable. However, if your employees can cope with the new challenges associated with acquiring new knowledge, it will contribute more to the employee adaptability you are looking for.

How to Measure Employee Adaptability

Now that we've clarified what employee adaptability is, it's time to get to the heart of the matter, which is how to measure your employees' level of adaptability.

1. Utilise Behavioural Interview Questions

Behavioural questions are designed to find out how an employee has handled a particular problem in the past. For example, you can ask what your employee did when a client was late with a payment, or what they did when they had to quickly deal with errors in a project/respond to a defamatory comment on social media, etc. Answers to behavioural questions will reveal a person's inherent behavioural patterns, giving you an idea of how that employee is likely to act in similar situations.

2. Conduct Scenario-Based Assessments

Unlike behavioural questions, these questions are hypothetical, requiring an answer in the format "If I were faced with this situation, I would...". Scenario-based assessments help you find out how a person responds to questions and then how they propose to handle a hypothetical situation. Based on the response you receive, you can see if the employee can think on their feet and under stress, how realistic his or her suggestions are, whether all possible solutions to the problem are considered or only one, and so on.

3. Facilitate Role-Play Exercises

In a role-playing situation, employees don't just think about how they would handle a situation, they participate in a life-like game where they have to act as they see fit. For example, employees may play a role in negotiating with a dissatisfied customer, trying to find a common language with him or her, and not lose that customer. Those observing an employee's work should assess their stress tolerance, ability to respond to unforeseen circumstances, ability to communicate without blame or aggression, whether they remain effective, and their overall behaviour.

4. Conduct Psychometric Tests

This method is considered to be more science-based and reliable than the others, although its significant disadvantages include high cost and complexity. Psychometric tests are used to determine the dominant character traits, cognitive abilities, and behavioural styles that are somehow related to an employee's adaptability. These are traits such as intellectual flexibility, coping strategies, emotional intelligence, openness to new experiences, communication skills, etc. Psychometric tests assess how quickly and accurately employees can process new material, which is critical to adaptability.

5. Implement 360-Degree Feedback

The idea is to get feedback from peers, subordinates, supervisors, and anyone else who interacts with the employee to get a sense of his or her adaptability. The feedback received can be quite useful if the responses from peers are detailed and describe specific situations that the employee being evaluated has or has not handled. Gathering feedback provides a full (360-degree) picture of the employee's strengths as well as areas for growth.

6. Present Problem-Solving Challenges

This approach simulates complex, unpredictable situations that require adaptive thinking from the employee being assessed. First, the employee is given a task (for example, solving an urgent problem with truckers stuck at the border for a day, delaying the delivery of perishable goods), and then his or her ability to find a solution is assessed.

Under such conditions, the ability to act effectively in difficult circumstances, when you have too much responsibility, is tested.

7. Track Results and Performance

Finally, you should look at the actual results of an employee's work, not just hypothetical job challenges. Regularly tracking employee performance and results will give you an idea of your employees' level of adaptability.

What exactly should you be assessing? Look at how many projects a particular employee is managing, what percentage of tasks have been completed in the last few months, whether deadlines are being met, whether there have been any communication problems with this person, and so on. In any case, if the work is done on time and with high quality, it indicates that the employees are highly adaptable.

8. Assess Innovation and Creativity

What do we mean by that? First of all, it's about whether people generate ideas and how they implement them. The easiest way to test this is to organise brainstorming sessions or ask them to implement specific ideas and take responsibility for a new project, which is a key aspect of adaptability. If employees can generate ideas during each brainstorming session, are willing to discuss their feasibility with colleagues, and know how to create innovative projects, this shows that they are adaptable.

9. Utilise Comprehensive Adaptability Measurement Tools

For a more holistic and rapid view of employee adaptability, you can turn to off-the-shelf tools designed specifically to measure employee adaptability. Their capabilities focus directly on assessing key indicators of this ability, including employee self-assessment of their own adaptability, peer feedback, scenarios, behavioural questions, and other metrics that have been proven to work. A big advantage of using these tools is that they provide quick and comprehensive answers, eliminating the need to develop and apply assessments yourself.

Final Thoughts

Employee adaptability in the workplace is one of the most critical factors affecting your team's productivity and your company's bottom line. Business is all about people, so you need to know what helps them do their jobs and what hinders their efficiency and job satisfaction. Adaptability in the workplace is even more important today, when new technologies emerge almost daily and companies need to keep up with changes in the marketplace and the world. However, this is no longer a problem for you because in this article you have learned how to determine if your employees are adaptable and how to strengthen their adaptability. The only thing that is left for you to do is to put this knowledge into practice. Good luck with that!

Author Bio

Roman Malfoy Roman Shvydun is a freelance writer. He writes informative articles about marketing, business, productivity, workplace culture, etc. During 10+ years of content creation experience, his articles have helped numerous entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses.

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