Adaptability in the workplace – how to be more adaptable at work

What is adaptability in the workplace? 

Showing adaptability in the workplace means being able to handle changing conditions and quickly learning new skills. An adaptable employee approaches situations with an open mind and picks up on fresh concepts, methods, and technology with ease. 

Flexible workers can also tweak current strategies and procedures to suit a changing environment, which is an important skill to possess when the way in which we work rapidly changes. This article will explain why this soft skill has become so crucial in this new post-pandemic working world. 


How to be adaptable at work 

In this changing working world, it’s important to show you have adaptability skills even before you start a job. Today, 60% of employers think that adaptability has become more important over the past ten years. However, 44% of employees don’t believe they possess adaptability skills, and only 15% of applicants highlight their adaptability skills on their CVs.

But most of us have had to adapt to change at some point, so it’s likely you’re more flexible than you think. Here are a few buzzwords to add to your CV to illustrate your level of adaptability.


  • Open-mindedness

An open-minded person can come up with new ideas and explore various ways of working when needed. They are conscious of their environment and can offer a new viewpoint and tackle issues with a creative and strategic mindset. 

Open-minded people also consider the bigger picture and don’t solve problems with temporary quick fixes. They understand that sometimes they may be required to completely change their working methods and have the ability to do so.


  • A creative thinker 

Creative thinkers can experiment with new ideas, improvise when needed and think about the result of their efforts. Creative thinkers are especially important in a hybrid work setting, as they can come up with novel ideas to communicate with colleagues, ensure briefs are shared and understood and keep teams on the same path, despite working from various locations.  


  • Eager to learn new skills 

As new technology is changing the roles of many workers, candidates who are open to learning new things and grasping new technology are highly desirable. Take AI, for example. According to Forbes, 50% of Americans are excited by AI, while the other 50% are fearful about it. Being afraid of the unknown is natural, but those who adapt to revolutionary new technology get the best out of it.      


Adaptability in the workplace is more important now than ever 

As Charles Darwin once said, “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change.” 

164 years later, Darwin’s quote remains relevant. Today, adaptability is one of the top five characteristics employers search for in a new recruit.  


How to improve adaptability skills 


Keep cool during uncertain times   

Uncertainty in the workplace can range from the massive worry of whether you’ll win much-needed new business to feeling unsure if you’ll meet an important deadline in time. We’re all human, and human beings tend to find uncertainty rather unsettling. A 2016 study shows that people find uncertainty even more stressful than knowing something bad will definitely happen. 

Uncertainty triggers a fight-or-flight – response, which can cause a tense office atmosphere, rushed work and poor results. But people with the power of adaptability can deal with unforeseen circumstances by taking control of the situation, keeping a level head and maintaining a calm, productive and peaceful workplace. 


Be prepared to kill your darlings

Having our ideas implemented by management gives our egos a huge boost. But we must remember that not every idea will be a winner.

Adaptable people know when to let go of their ideas that have proven to be counterproductive. 

That’s not to say you shouldn’t give up on an idea you believe in every time you face rejection. But if your colleague or manager clearly has a newer and more efficient way of doing things, don’t be afraid to embrace the change and try doing things differently. If it doesn’t work out, you can always politely suggest ideas for improvement. 


Help out with other tasks 

Performing well at work isn’t only about being the best at your own role. Rolling up your sleeves to help a colleague on a tight deadline or handling an unfamiliar task beyond your job description shows that you’re flexible, that you care about achieving fantastic results, and, most importantly, that you are an excellent team player.   


Don’t pigeonhole yourself

The global pandemic and digital technology have dramatically changed the way we work in a few short years. People’s job descriptions look very different to what they did five years ago. Many workers need to upskill and reskill, even to stay in their current profession.   

For adaptable and resilient workers, developing new skills and educating themselves about new technology and working styles is viewed as a necessary challenge or even a fun new adventure. A more rigid-minded employee will likely spend more time panicking than learning and adopting new methods.


Don’t speak to your manager, customers and colleagues in the same way  

Many workplaces have become less formal and more equal over the past few decades. Today, the idea of calling your boss sir or madam seems rather silly. 

But don’t let addressing the CEO of your company on a first-name basis steer you away from professionalism. The modern office requires employees to adapt to their audience. 

Speaking to a CEO requires a professional tone and language that assures that you know what’s going on while speaking to a customer often requires you to use empathetic tones and language without being overfamiliar. 

Talking to your colleagues requires flexing your power of adaptability, too. Some workmates may be happy to talk casually about their life outside work, while some might rather keep their work life and private life separate. 


The bottom line 

Global pandemics, recessions, trade restrictions and conflicts have massively changed the way we work in a very short period of time. Now, the skill of adaptability is highly sought after by large and small companies alike. After all, it’s the people most adaptable to change who survive and flourish.  

To learn more about your soft skills, visit our Joy at Work platform and see for yourself.



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