Adaptability, agility, and resilience have become mantras for many organizations in the wake of COVID-19.
The ability to survive and stay solvent drove many companies to adopt agile methods, implement large-scale organizational changes, restructure their existing operations, and more.
While the global economy appears to be on a path to recovery, there are still reasons to stay adaptable and agile.
McKinsey, for instance, found that highly successful agile transformations resulted in:
- 30% improvements in customer satisfaction, efficiency, employee engagement, and operational performance
- A 3X greater chance to become top-quartile performers when compared to organizations that did not invest in change
- 5-10X increase in speed in driving change and decision-making via simplified operating model
In short, agile transformations can result in a competitive advantage that fuels growth, improves organizational performance, and more.
Below, we’ll look at some key characteristics of adaptability from two angles – from the level of the organization and from the level of the employee.
How to Improve Employee Adaptability
Adaptability at the level of the workforce improves employees’ ability to operate successfully in uncertain environments, support change, and even become change leaders.
To cultivate adaptability among the workforce, it is important to focus on qualities such as:
Instead of focusing on a specific skill or a specific set of skills that the workforce needs, focus on upskilling in general. That is, focus on embedding an advanced and agile employee training program into the workplace.
The world is changing rapidly, after all, so employees need to continually adapt and adopt new skills to stay productive.
Employers should therefore consider adopting just-in-time training solutions such as a digital adoption platform (DAP). These tools can be continually adjusted to provide training on any platform or tool, so there is no need to reinvest in new training software if the digital ecosystem changes.
Attitudes and mindsets are just as important as skills.
If employees are not open to change, for example, they will not be supportive of new organizational transformation efforts.
Less adaptable employees, as a result, will contribute less to the organization’s performance the more the business changes.
If the organization changes and digital ecosystems evolve, digital workflows should also be able to change.
Some have even adopted the view that workplaces should be composable – that is, modular. When workflows can be adjusted without hindrance, employees can continually optimize and improve them.
To do this, new modes of thinking should be introduced, such as agile methods. Also, it is important to remove barriers, such as policies and expectations, that could prevent employees from making change.
From one perspective, employee adaptability can be thought of as a bottom-up approach to adaptation. Since individual employees are the force that power the organization, it is crucial that they be able to adapt at the micro-level.
However, the organization – its strategies and processes, for instance – must also be changed in order to adapt.
How to Improve Employee Adaptability
The organizational approach to adaptability takes a top-down, structural view of agility. This perspective focuses on areas such as the vision, mission, strategy, and operations.
When investing in agile transformations, it is necessary to design a change program that focuses on both types of change – change at the organizational level and change at the individual level.
Here are a few areas to focus on:
Vision, Mission, and Strategy
Certain circumstances may call for an organization’s vision, mission, or strategy to change.
While these should certainly not be as mutable as some other areas of the business, business leaders should be willing to change them if needed.
If the business becomes misaligned with the market or customer expectations, for example, it should be willing to make adjustments.
COVID-19 is one example of a drastic situation that required many companies to rethink their core principles from the ground up – some companies not only had to adopt new remote work practices, they had to adjust product lines, shift strategies, and reimagine the very purpose of their business.
Enterprise Change Management
An organization’s ability to change depends on its ability to manage and execute change projects.
This capability is known as enterprise change management.
Mature change management functions have adopted a set of best practices that they then implement during any organizational change project. On the other hand, companies that lack change management maturity take an ad hoc approach – and, as a result, the outcomes of their change projects often suffer.
The maturity of this function will determine how the organization approaches change, manages change, and, ultimately, how successful those changes are.
Technology is the machinery of the modern organization.
Since technology continually evolves and since technology-driven change has become the norm, digital maturity should become a top priority for any company.
The more digitally mature an organization is, the more technology will increase efficiency, productivity, resilience, and adaptability.
For example, composable software, such as no-code DAPs, can dramatically improve workforce agility, as mentioned above. Likewise, composable IT infrastructure can improve IT agility and adaptability.
Outdated software, on the other hand, can reduce agility, organizational resilience, and performance, while also increasing risk.
Ultimately, organizational adaptability and employee adaptability are two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, the organization itself must have flexible processes and strategies – but if employees themselves cannot adapt, it will be difficult for the organization to evolve.A holistic approach to change management should therefore encompass both a big-picture perspective of change, as well as a bottom-up perspective.