Adaptability: An Essential Skill for Changing Workplaces

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 14 June 2022

Published 6 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Adaptability is the ability to be flexible and adapt to changing work conditions and scenarios. In the present context where volatility of markets give rise to uncertainties and complexities, adaptability is key. Organisations increasingly seek employees who can demonstrate this skill by being flexible to adjust to the ever changing situations and work demands.

What Is Adaptability?

Adaptability as a skill means the ability to change or adjust to new circumstances. It implies how you respond while anticipating a change, both to risks as well as to opportunities. In a workplace it is considered a skill to be flexible with the demands of the job. Look beyond your own perspectives. Adaptability implies how easily you adjust and if you are a quick learner it is a good indication of this skill set. It is a soft skill that can be transferred across various industries and careers and implies working without any fixed set of boundaries.

When applying for a position, even if you are not an exact match for a role, there can be requirement for certain traits and soft skills in the candidate and adaptability skills feature high on that list.

Consistency, optimism, creative thinking, organisation, flexibility, interpersonal communication and problem-solving are some of the attributes of adaptability.

Various Types Of Adaptability Skills Are:

Communication skills

To adapt in the workplace you need to communicate effectively with your co-workers and teammates. Communication skills help you to understand the environment that you are in and successfully convey your ideas to others. While being adaptable with your colleagues, you can still tactfully disagree if you think that the ideas and suggestions might be ineffective. Successful communication skills imply how convincingly you convey your message without getting into a conflict.

Non-verbal communication skills and active listening are also important adaptability features in the workplace. It shows that you are attentive to your colleagues and can navigate changes in the team dynamics.

Problem-solving skills

Being adaptable implies the ability to deal with issues better. Be open to unexpected challenges. Problem-solving means you have to be open to practical, innovative, diverse and creative solutions to address the issues. To demonstrate your problem-solving skills to your managers, find solutions without being limited by any set boundaries. By being adaptable, it shows that you remain positive in the face of adversity. Using the capabilities and skill sets of relevant people help you to resolve the problem and get the job done.

Interpersonal skills

Adaptability is driven by your own initiative and not imposed externally. Interpersonal skills are the characteristics and tactics you use to interact with others effectively. Good interpersonal skills are particularly sought after in the workplace these days. To develop your interpersonal skills further in the workplace, try to have a positive working relationship with your co-workers. Understand their differences and emotions and give and receive constructive feedback. Even under challenging workplace situations, positive interpersonal communication skills contributes to a more healthy work environment.

Strategic and creative thinking skills

Creative thinking skill helps you to identify unique growth opportunities within an organisation. Through creative thinking you can resolve problems by finding unique solutions. Identify the problem first which might not be obvious and then follow it up by definite planning.

Creative thinking requires strategic framework where you can gather information, understand the relationships and equations, find the solutions, evaluate and then implement the strategies.

Adaptability requires both creative and strategic thinking. Question standard practices, relax your assumptions and learn to analyse the situation from another's perspective. Understanding from your past experiences also help to create empathy while you brainstorm creative solutions to a problem.

Teamwork skills

Adapting to diverse personalities and working scenarios call for teamwork within an organisation. Teamwork is the ability to work across different backgrounds, experiences and skill sets. Team adaptability evolves with time. Team dynamics is often influenced by the complexity of the task which the team is working on.

The ability to adapt to different people within a team and positively adjust to their variety of ideas, personalities and dynamics shows how developed your teamwork skills are. Tasks vary in intensity on how much load they put on individuals and teams and the extent of adaptability required. When the task load is high then intervention might be required to adjust strategies and coordinate a team to address the issue. A lighter work load would imply that the team members can develop their own strategies, goals and processes to achieve the desired outcome.

Organisational skills

To develop your adaptability skills, organisational skills are essential. Depending on your role or the nature of your workplace, organisational skills can take on a different meaning. Usually, having this skill would imply that you maintain your workspace efficiently, meet deadlines and effectively communicate with your teammates or colleagues.

Being organised helps you to adapt to any changes that might come up in your organisation. Time management while working under pressure, delegation of duties while setting goals, making analytical choices, taking strategic decisions and communicating with the team are some of the skill sets that is required to be well organised.

How To Develop Adaptability Skills

Adaptability is a must-have soft skill that requires practice and commitment. While being flexible to change might not always be easy, the following steps might help to develop your adaptability skill.

Recognise the changes in your surroundings

Being aware of the changes happening in your workplace helps you to adapt easily. Remain open-minded and relevant to your role and organisation. You can stay abreast of the latest changes taking place in the processes, practices and procedures within the firm. As changes occur very fast in your surrounding workplace, you need to be resilient and continuously adapt to it.

Be willing to learn

Having a curious, growth-oriented mindset helps you to learn new things regularly and stay adaptable. Observe the changes and be flexible to learn from others. Ask well-researched questions to mentors and colleagues. It can help you to navigate ideas and adapt better. Continue to learn both from within the organisation and from external opportunities. While learning from co-workers you will understand how the skills are best applied to the organisation and its people.

Regularly exploring new avenues to develop your skills and contribute to new plans and projects can demonstrate to your employer your commitment to the firm. By having the right growth mindset, you can continue to learn about the skills and processes that are best utilised for optimising efficiency.

Have clear goals

Setting goals for learning and development helps to increase your overall adaptability skills. If you need to sharpen certain skill set, try not to procrastinate the job which requires that skill but make it a goal to work towards it. Have a goal to contribute to collaborations and team meetings. This will increase your ability to adapt to diverse and difficult situations.

Be open to feedback or constructive criticism

Be open to feedback to learn from the mistakes and take it forward positively by working on your weaker skills. While errors are normal, understanding what is the learning outcome and how you attempt to resolve the issue helps to make you more adaptable. Constructive criticism helps to motivate the employee to perform better as they can then reframe the focus and review the strategy. The more you engage in this process, the easier it gets to deal with challenges and adjust accordingly.

Accept change

Learning to adapt to changes and accepting them can be very helpful for your career. It is important to be open-minded as change is inevitable. As an employee or a team leader you have to motivate your team to remain focussed and positive even in challenging times. Solutions to problems can be found under all circumstances and situations.

How To Demonstrate Adaptability Skills In A Job Application

Adaptability skills should be highlighted in a job application as it is shows the different skill sets of the applicant.

1. Resume

In a resume you can highlight how certain traits and skills like communication, leadership or team building helped you to distinguish yourself in the organisation. Match these to the relevant skills required for the job.

Related: 6 Universal Rules for Resume Writing

2. Cover letter

In a cover letter demonstrate how your adaptability skills have helped to achieve your goals and finding solutions to problems, which optimised your efficiency.

Related: How To Write a Cover Letter

3. Interview

During an interview, demonstrate with the help of examples how you were able to adapt to the changing needs and challenges faced by the organisation. Using proof from your experiences and accomplishments show how adaptable you are and how you have achieved success in your role.

Adaptability is not only about adjusting but how you respond to change and adapt to it in an effective manner without causing any major setbacks. Learning how to use your soft skills to adapt is a life skill and it will be appreciated both in your personal and professional roles.

Related: How to Crack a Job Interview

Explore more articles