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Adaptability in The Workplace

Adaptability In The Workplace: 7 Examples For Managers

In the early 2000s, Netflix, a now leading brand and employer, faced a peculiar challenge. The streaming era was a big red flag for a company that envisioned itself as a DVD rental-by-mail service. But things turned around because Netflix did, too! Hastings, the founder, and his team recognized the changing media consumption landscape. Soon enough, Netflix emerged as a leader in the streaming industry, surpassing traditional cable and satellite TV providers. What was the key idea guiding this success? Adaptability. This skill can be the difference between success and failure for teams and your professional journey.

Adaptability in the workplace enables managers to overcome unforeseen challenges in novel ways. It also counts among the most in-demand skills at work in the 21st century.

What is Adaptability in The Workplace?

Adaptability is the ongoing process of cultivating a learning mindset and developing leadership capabilities that enable individuals to seamlessly adjust and thrive in response to evolving circumstances, changing situations, and the diverse demands of dynamic environments. It involves continuous self-improvement, a proactive approach to acquiring new skills, and the capacity to emerge as effective leaders who inspire and guide others through varying challenges and uncertainties.

While being rigid can often be easy and comfortable, here’s the catch: it limits your success big time. As we saw in the case of Netflix, adapting to the needs of the future gave them a new life. But things have not always gone so well. Blockbuster, a once-dominant video rental chain, failed to adapt to the rise of digital streaming services. The company resisted the shift away from physical rental stores to online streaming. This lack of adaptability led Blockbuster’s decline while streaming services like Netflix became industry leaders.

However, adaptability is not essential solely for big organizations. It plays a massive role in your professional success, too. The team at Barclays LifeSkills lists adaptability among the seven critical skills identified to prepare for the future of work. Gillian Gray, Head of Marketing Strategic Projects at Barclays, explains, “A lot of us are going to have to retrain, potentially several times throughout our careers,” highlighting that adaptability is going to play a key role in success,

Yet, up to 63% of leaders struggle to find adaptable candidates, as pointed out in a PwC study highlighting the lack of recognition of this critical skill. As we move toward a new way of work, with the intermixing of AI and management, things are set to change more for management and leadership professionals, bringing out the need for adaptability in everyday instances.

7 Examples of Adaptability in the Workplace for Managers

Adaptability in the workplace can manifest itself in a variety of ways. For example, it may mean being open to new ideas and concepts. It may also mean the ability to work with people from different departments or backgrounds. Being adaptable means being willing to change your approach if necessary to reach your goals. Let’s learn about about adaptability in the workplace with the help of some detailed examples below.

adaptability in the workplace

Adapting to a Change in the Mode of Work

While traditional offices ran from buildings that housed multiple corporates, there has been a significant shift in the manner of work lately. After the pandemic-induced push, many teams have remained in hybrid mode. Further, many new teams are catching on to the hybrid trend due to its flexibility and comfort, and managers who adapt to this change show higher satisfaction. Similarly, their teams are also more secure and safe at their jobs. This way, adaptability in the workplace facilitates productivity by creating enabling conditions.

Shifting to New Technologies and Processes

There is never a dearth of new technology and techniques to adapt to in the modern workplace. For instance, more people are now working remotely, necessitating new soft skills like effective communication through video calls or chat software. Similarly, on a greater level, there can be a shift in the technology that a team uses for manufacturing its product. Being swift in adopting the new and promulgating a move from the old is where the adaptability skills of a manager will shine.

Creative Problem-solving

When faced with a challenging problem, adaptable managers are able to think creatively and innovate solutions. They are able to see the big picture and identify opportunities for improvement, even in the face of uncertainty.

Responding to Changing Priorities

Priorities can shift quickly in the workplace, and managers need to be able to adapt to these changes. This might involve reprioritizing tasks, reallocating resources, or reassigning team members to different projects. Adaptability in such daily instances ensures that workflows are not disrupted and your team can still achieve goals

Openness to Feedback

An adaptable leader ensures that their team’s feedback is heard and executed. For instance, a manager who receives feedback that daily stand-up calls do not add enough value to the process can look for alternatives. They may consult the team to devise other ways to sync up regularly. Adaptable managers are open to feedback from their team members and other stakeholders. They use this feedback to make changes, adjust their approach, and improve their performance. On the other hand, a non-adaptable leader would stick to their ideas and force the team, breaking cohesion in the process.

Learning from Failures

A leader oversees a project that faces unexpected challenges and setbacks. Instead of assigning blame, the leader encourages the team to analyze what went wrong, learn from mistakes, and adapt strategies for future projects. The leader demonstrates adaptability by learning from the situation and remaining open to changes instead of sticking to conventional ideas.

Handling Unexpected Situations

In the midst of an urgent client request, unforeseen technical issues arose. Two team members quickly adapted their approach, brainstormed alternative solutions, and effectively communicated with both the client and internal stakeholders. Their flexibility and problem-solving skills helped meet the client’s needs and reinforced trust in the team’s capabilities.

Adaptability in the workplace also means adapting quickly to changes in organizational structure, such as mergers and acquisitions. Sometimes, these structural changes can require employees to take on roles they may not be comfortable with. However, by adjusting quickly and learning new skills, employees can stay ahead of the curve and maintain their jobs.

If you are not adaptable, team dynamics will be challenging due to mismatches between how things are done on the team and what is acceptable within the workplace culture or company norms. It could lead to tension, conflicts in teams, and eventually poor performance on the part of team members.

Why Do You Need to Become an Adaptable Leader?

Adaptability in the workplace is key to success in any field. In fact, it’s even more critical for leaders and managers of teams. When you are adaptable, you can change your approach when necessary to meet the needs of your team members. It can be a challenge, but it’s essential for success.

  • To handle change: One of the biggest advantages of adaptability in workplace is that you can change your approach to change. When things are new, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and stress of the situation. However, with adaptability skills, you can stay focused on what’s most important- meeting team needs. This skill sets you apart from others and allows teams to work better.
  • Adapt to new circumstances: When things change- whether it’s a new team member, a new project, or a new boss- adaptability in the workplace is critical. You need to be able to adjust your approach and get back on track quickly. This skill set will help you succeed when things are tough. It is also great for adapting to rapidly evolving external circumstances.
  • Always be on top of plans: You’ll always be one step ahead of your rivals if you have adaptability skills. You’ll know the latest changes and updates that are happening so that you can better plan for the future. Adaptability for leaders also means quickly adapting plans when things don’t go according to plan- no matter how small the change may seem at first glance. Contingency planning is key to overcoming novel challenges, and adaptability enables it big time. This skill set allows leaders and managers to keep their teams safe and productive.
  • Promote innovation: Innovative thinkers are always looking for new ideas and ways to improve their work. When you have adaptability skills, you’re more likely to come up with great solutions that others haven’t thought of before. It helps your team stay ahead of the competition by staying on the cutting edge. So don’t be afraid to embrace new things- make sure they’re done in a way that benefits everyone involved.
  • To succeed professionally: Adaptability is a critical skill for managers and leaders. Remaining adaptable means quickly working around new situations and solving challenges in real time, setting yourself apart as a great manager who goes beyond the processes. It also ensures that your skills and competencies are relevant through changing times.
Read more: Managing from the bottom up: 7 strategies for managers driving innovation and collaboration

Adaptability in the workplace

How Can You Develop Adaptability Skills?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as everyone must adapt. However, some things you can do include:

Cultivate a Positive Attitude Toward Change

Although change can be tough at first, it’s essential to stay positive. It will help you adapt better to new situations and challenges. It’ll also make others more likely to work with you- because they know you can adjust even when things get tough. One of the best ways to deal with change is to approach it with a positive mindset. Rather than dwelling on the negative aspects of a new situation, focus on how you can adapt and make the most of it. This way, you’ll be less likely to let stress get the better of you.

It’s having that mindset that’s going to set them up to be adaptable, to learn from their mistakes, and to continue to develop.

Kate McGoey, Senior Project Manager for LifeSkills at Barclays
Read more: 5 Tips on Creating a Growth Mindset Culture in Teams

Do Not be Rigid

One of the biggest mistakes people make when adapting is being too rigid. When you’re resistant to change, it can be challenging to adapt in a positive way. This mindset often leads to frustration and conflict, which only worsens things. If something isn’t working for you right now, that’s fine- but don’t refuse to move on because it was once how things were done earlier. It’s important to keep an open mind when adapting- otherwise, you risk becoming stagnant and unable to grow professionally or emotionally.

Become Emotionally Intelligent

One of the keys to adapting well is being emotionally intelligent. This means recognizing and managing your emotions healthily. When you’re able to keep your emotions in check, it’s much easier to adapt in a positive way. Rather than reacting impulsively or out of anger, take some time to calm down and think things through. It will help you make better decisions- both professionally and personally- and ensure that you can handle change effectively. Moreover, it will allow you to move forward with circumstances instead of sticking to the present.

Plan for Contingencies with Agile Teams

When things change rapidly in a team, it’s important to have contingency plans in place. It doesn’t mean you need to panic- but rather that you should be prepared for any eventuality. For example, if someone on your team leaves, find a temporary replacement as quickly as possible to keep the work going. Similarly, if there is a sudden increase in work or project deadlines- expect the unexpected and prepare accordingly. Having a plan will help minimize stress and maximize the adaptability of your team overall. Building agile teams designed to adapt to change is the key to doing this.

Wrapping Up

Adaptability undoubtedly stands as one of the most critical skills for managers and leaders. On top of the basic ideas, it is crucial to recognize that building adaptability in oneself and a team is challenging. More often than not, we are terrified of how things can go wrong, and this attitude presents itself as the biggest hurdle to creating adaptable teams. So, let go off your fears and prepare to take calculated chances that can enable more significant growth. If you ever feel stuck on this journey, head to Risely for a free coaching session with Merlin, the AI coach for managers and leaders. You can share your situations and discuss issues to grab expert advice and tips for success.

For many executives, taking a team to the next level can be challenging.

To find out if your communication style could use some improvement, try taking this free assertive communication assessment.


Adaptability in the Workplace FAQs

Why is adaptablility important in workplace?

Adaptability is crucial in the workplace because it allows individuals and organizations to respond effectively to changing circumstances and new challenges. Those who are adaptable are better able to learn and apply new skills, adjust to new roles or responsibilities, and navigate complex situations. They are also more resilient in the face of adversity and can help foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

How to measure adaptability at workplace?

Measuring adaptability in the workplace can be challenging; following are some of the approaches that can help you are: Assessing an individual’s response to change or ambiguity Evaluating their ability to learn and apply new skills Examining their willingness to take on new challenges Reviewing their track record of success in unfamiliar situations Soliciting feedback from colleagues and managers.

What is adaptability in the workplace?

Adaptability in the workplace refers to the ability of employees to adjust, evolve, and thrive in response to changing circumstances, new challenges, or shifting demands. It involves being open to change, willingly learning new skills, and embracing challenges with a positive attitude to effectively navigate dynamic and unpredictable work environments.


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