Big changes can shake up a workplace, inhibiting productivity and profit. An adaptable workforce knows how to tackle these changes head on and stay on track. Let’s discuss how to encourage your employees to be adaptable.
Employers can take steps to focus on adaptability and mindfulness to cultivate a productive and happy employee base. The following is a guide to cultivating employee adaptability in your organisation.
The business world changes rapidly — from a new hire to a sudden departure, an office move or even a change to a remote-first workforce. Constant changes can disrupt workflow and make employees question their job security and confidence in their work.
Adaptability is the practice of coping with changes in a healthy and positive way. This soft skill can help employees take on challenges at work and adapt to them while keeping their wellbeing and professional goals in place. Because most employees will face multiple large-scale changes during their work life, encouraging adaptability can help set them up for success.
In fact, 70% of employees have experienced more than four company-wide changes in just five years.
Encouraging your employees to be more adaptable can help them (and your company) grow through these changes and come out the other end more profitable and stable than before.
Getting started with adaptability and positivity can be a challenge in itself. To help you learn more about what makes an adaptable workforce, we’ve put together this guide to workplace changes and how to cope with them.
What are organisational changes?
Organisational changes are any large switch in a company’s management structure, internal processes, workloads, promotions, culture or location.
This can mean anything from bringing in a new C-suite executive to implementing a hybrid schedule where people can work from home on certain days of the week.
A few examples of organisational changes are the following:
- Transformational Changes: Changes in the culture, strategy, or processes in the organisation.
- Personnel Changes: Focuses on employee changes including firings, hirings, promotions, and layoffs.
- Structural Changes: Changes in workloads, structure, and responsibilities of a team.
- Remedial Changes: Made to fix a problem in the company, such as profit loss.
- Location Changes: Moving physical locations, going global, or going fully remote.
Though the goal of an organisational change is to fix or improve the workplace, the implementation of one can be murky. That’s where adaptability comes in.
What is adaptability? Examples of soft skills
To put it simply: adaptability means tackling new challenges, workflows, processes or personnel changes head on. While a large-scale change might be jarring to an employee, an adaptable person will be able to both process the emotions that come with it while continuing to get their work done and grow.
For example, the sudden firing of a project manager might make their direct reports feel uneasy, confused or angry. Someone who hasn’t practiced adaptability might let these emotions impact their work and spend the day unable to get their to-dos done.
An adaptable employee, on the other hand, will be able to both process the emotions that come with their manager leaving and continue to do their work.
The benefits of adaptability are two-fold. On one hand, adaptable employees are more likely to complete their work and stay productive during potentially stressful times. On the other, employees that are more adaptable are often more positive and less stressed in general, which is good news for their overall wellbeing at work.
Many different personality traits fall under the umbrella of adaptability. Some of them include the following:
- Critical thinking
Though these might seem like innate qualities that people are born with, it is possible to practice these traits. By providing a communicative and respectful workplace, employers can also build these traits in their teams.
How to encourage your employees to be adaptable
Workplace adaptability starts with communication, positivity and a cohesive workforce. You can encourage employees to build this skill by remaining transparent and open to questions throughout any workplace changes.
Encourage employees to ask questions
A good manager is also a good communicator. Being open to questions can help clear up any confusion happening in the office while also making your employees feel heard and seen throughout the process.
There are many ways to encourage effective communication in the office. For one, you can host a town hall or schedule meetings with your direct reports to clear up any miscommunications or misunderstandings.
You can also set up a virtual platform like an anonymous feedback form, Slack channel or email thread where employees can submit any questions they have and you can provide answers in meetings or online.
Tip: Keep a running index of questions and answers that your employees can access so you don’t have to keep answering the same questions and your employees can get their answers quickly.
Encourage communication among employees
Though spouses, friends and family members might be willing to lend an ear, coworkers going through the same change are the most likely to fully understand any concerns or questions an employee has.
Cultivating a bonded workforce that spends time together can help each of your employees have a built-in support system that can help guide them through any large-scale office transformations.
Encourage communication among your employees by first working on improving company culture. Barriers to effective workplace communication often stem from a confused, disengaged or disinterested workforce. So, the first step to fixing this issue is creating a workforce that cares.
You can do this by hosting events for your team outside of work, encouraging team lunches, and facilitating communication by including icebreakers in your meetings or virtual communication platforms.
Tip: A mentorship program in your organisation is a good way to give new hires a person to look to for communication and understanding.
Integrate mindfulness practices
Mindfulness is a helpful practice in and out of the office that focuses on the acknowledgement of emotions, positivity and calm. By putting a focus on mindfulness, you’ll take a direct approach to improving the mental wellbeing of your workforce, which can in turn improve your profitability and employee engagement.
You can foster mindfulness at work by providing access to mental health services, encouraging employees to take occasional days off to focus on their mental health and bringing in a mindfulness professional to lead workshops on the topic.
Mindfulness also goes hand-in-hand with communication, so check-ins with your employees can help develop a mindful workplace as well.
Tip: Remember that mindfulness looks different to everyone, so gauge your employees’ comfort level with any practices you implement.
Changes are usually the product of a need being addressed or a problem being solved, so you should look at them as a positive thing and encourage your employees to do the same. Communicate the exciting possibilities of the transformation and let employees know the benefits coming their way.
Though you might also feel stressed as a business leader, you should avoid letting these feelings spill over onto your employees. When dealing with employee-facing communication or notices, keep the energy positive and the momentum strong as you approach anything that will impact their day-to-day.
Tip: Avoid communication if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or angry. Try to keep things light and exciting for your team.
Be collaborative and open to feedback
When a change is announced, your roster’s gut reaction might be distrust or anger. This might stem from feelings that their wellbeing or perspective isn’t being taken into account. You can mitigate these feelings by reaffirming your team that they are valued in the office and creating a collaborative environment where everyone is free to brainstorm together.
As you work to set yourself and your team up for success during a transformation, hold collaborative brainstorming sessions to get them involved in the process.
This is key when you encourage your employees to be adaptable. Take their needs and feelings into account and consider shaping your move-forward plan around what would make your roster feel the most supported.
Tip: Some employees might not feel comfortable voicing concerns or ideas in meetings. To accommodate their needs, consider setting up an anonymous feedback form where they can share their thoughts.
Hire a diverse team
There are many benefits to a diverse workforce, and increased adaptability among your team is just one. Creating a diverse workforce can help bring many different perspectives into your office. As a result, each employee will have a new perspective on office changes that can help make the change more productive for everyone involved.
Diverse offices are often more engaged, collaborative and flexible from the get-go. So by taking steps to become more diverse before any changes occur, you can make your team generally more prepared in the event a shake-up is on the horizon.
To become more diverse, make a concerted effort to establish yourself as an equal-opportunity employer, ask for referrals from your current roster and recruit on diverse job boards.
Tip: A hybrid schedule can help encourage diversity at work by opening your roster up to global employees, those with kids or those with alternative lifestyle needs.
Adaptability is a soft skill that helps employees adapt to and thrive in the face of organisational changes at work. You need to encourage your employees to be adaptable, first and foremost means developing effective communication channels, staying positive and practicing mindfulness.
Doing so will not only help your team through a large-scale change but will also make your office stronger in the long run.
About the Author
Emily is a content creator for Velocity Global living in Austin, Texas. Her work focuses on how business leaders can connect their offices to efficient and productive global teams, staying compliant with international regulations. When she isn’t researching advice for business owners, you can find her outside camping or hiking.