How to Practise Adaptability in the Workplace

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 January 2023

Published 26 May 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 a key personal quality that employers look for when hiring job candidates. It shows that you can handle multiple workflows while learning new strategies and encouraging others to do the same. Adaptability is an important skill for leaders in the workplace, too. Setting a good example motivates others to push through changes and meet organisational goals. In short, a healthy business is one that can adapt, learn and grow.

In this article, we discuss what adaptability skills are, the different types, how to practise them and how to highlight adaptability skills on your resume, cover letter and in an interview.

What are adaptability skills?

Adaptability is a soft skill that allows you to quickly learn new skills and behaviours in response to changing circumstances. Someone who is adaptable can manage their emotions and expectations when faced with a challenge. They can navigate changes with flexibility and pool their resources to complete tasks efficiently.

Employers usually look for job candidates with this trait because of the dynamic quality of our current business environment. With new market trends and strategies arising every day, as an employee, you need to learn fast on the job and adapt your approach to stay relevant in any industry. Recruiters are more likely to hire these candidates because they take on new roles and responsibilities with a positive attitude.

Types of adaptability skills

Adaptability consists of several other soft skills that together facilitate a more flexible approach. Depending on the circumstance, you need to adapt your approach by discerning which skills would allow you to respond more effectively. Here are some important skills that can make you a more flexible person:

Related: Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

Ability to learn

Learning happens when you overcome your fear of failure. It's an essential step that trains you to trust your experience and ability when adapting to changing circumstances.

Another way to be more flexible in the workplace is by accepting constructive criticism to strengthen your existing skills. Learning from others and taking risks to develop yourself in a professional capacity will help you remain vigilant at all times.

Here are a few additional soft skills that can improve your ability to learn:

  • Critical thinking

  • Attention to detail

  • Observation

  • Collaboration

Related: How to Highlight Fast Learning on Your Resume (With Skills)

Persistence

Adaptability does not come easily, it requires you to persist through your own emotional barriers and challenging work environments. In fact, adaptable individuals get excited about these opportunities. It makes them more determined to achieve their goals. They work well under pressure and encourage their co-workers to stay focused too.

Skills that are typical of persistence include:

  • Resilience

  • Stress management

  • Self-motivation

Resourcefulness

Often when we have a goal to achieve, we need to be resourceful enough to navigate the changes and challenges along the way. Resourcefulness allows you to find creative solutions to problems and discover new strategies to traditional ways of thinking. The two biggest barriers in the workplace are often a lack of personnel and funds. Adaptable people use novel technologies and strategies to see past these limitations.

Resourceful people demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • Creativity

  • Innovation

  • Problem-solving

  • Time management

  • Analytical

  • Initiative

Curiosity

Curiosity can drive learning, and also requires you to have a sense of wonder and self-initiative to investigate how things work. Curious people don't fear things that are different or unknown to them. Curiosity makes them more open-minded to new ideas, suggestions and ways of working.

Here are some traits curious individuals possess:

  • Active listening

  • Communication

  • Open-mindedness

  • Optimism

How to practise adaptability in the workplace

Consider the following steps to help you become more open and adaptable to change in the workplace:

1. Create a dynamic routine

When we follow the same work routine every day, it's quite easy for complacency to set in. Bringing more flexibility to your workday trains you to be more adaptable. It helps you go outside your comfort zone so that when a challenge arises, it doesn't seem as daunting. If you are a business leader, this is a great technique to practise because it gets your co-workers in the habit of accepting change too. It keeps them engaged even during the most ritualistic of tasks.

Here are a few ideas to help you change up your routine:

  • Be more flexible with the structure of your work meetings to foster creative thinking

  • Switch around product displays to make them appear fresh

2. Embrace new environments

The more you take on new opportunities, the less scary change will seem. You want to embrace new training opportunities, technological advances and strategies to foster enthusiasm about learning. This not only pushes you outside your comfort zone to cultivate your skills, but it also helps you develop a growth mindset.

Employees that show a commitment to professional growth receive more opportunities to climb the corporate ladder. They are constantly refining their talents and trying out new things. Their satisfaction and motivation don't come from financial rewards, rather they arise from their passion to adapt to new experiences.

Related:

  • How to Adapt to Change in the Workplace (With Tips)

  • Types of Change: 12 Changes You May Experience at Work

  • Resistance to Change: What It Is and How to Overcome It

3. Control your fight-or-flight response

Research shows that people with high emotional intelligence and resilience are significantly more likely to adapt to new and changing situations. Thus, working on your ability to remain calm and manage stress can improve your adaptability skills.

For example, if your organisation is about to merge with another, some people may perceive it as a fight and, therefore, a threat. Others may respond by running away and avoiding the situation entirely. Both methods are unproductive.

Thus, it's important to be more flexible. Adaptability encourages you to see opportunities where others may see none. Positively interpreting change empowers and motivates your co-workers. These benefits have a combined impact on the profitability of an organisation.

4. Set goals for yourself

Another method to help you develop adaptability skills is setting personal targets. Clearly structured goals get you in the habit of learning while equipping you with essential tools to be more flexible. Practising goal setting throughout your career helps you overcome the fear of change. It moulds you into a more capable professional.

5. Ask for feedback

Speaking to your manager, co-worker or mentor about your strengths and weaknesses can give you some direction on how to improve your adaptability skills. For example, once you have completed a project, ask your supervisor about their thoughts on your performance to help you adapt your approach to a similar task in the future.

How to highlight adaptability skills

During the hiring process, it's important to bring attention to your adaptability skills so that employers know that hiring you will make for a smoother transition. Recruiters value adaptability because it implies that you are self-motivated and capable of handling your own responsibilities. Follow the steps and examples below to learn how to highlight your adaptability at every step in the hiring process:

Related: The First 90 Days and How to Succeed in Your New Job

1. Adaptability skills on a resume

Consider listing adaptability in the skills section of your resume. Remember to mention similar soft skills that work alongside this trait, such as critical thinking, creativity and resilience.

Read the job description to determine in what capacity you need to be flexible to succeed in the role. Ask yourself if you will need to handle multiple ongoing projects or solve problems on behalf of their customers. Use this information to provide relevant examples of how you demonstrated adaptability in your previous roles.

Follow this example to learn how to exemplify adaptability skills in the work experience section of your resume:

Work Experience

I.T. Support Assistant
XYZ Company
June 2018 - Jan 2021

  • Managed time effectively to provide daily technical support to over 20 team members

  • Attentively listened to coworkers to diagnose and fix network issues

Related: 139 Action Verbs to Make Your Resume Stand Out

2. Adaptability skills in a cover letter

In your cover letter, you can go into greater detail about the adaptability skills that directly contributed to your accomplishments. Maybe you successfully solved a technical problem on a software development project, or maybe you found a creative solution to a customer's problem. Discussing these achievements in your cover letter is a great way to catch a recruiter's attention.

Here's an example of how you can communicate your adaptability skills in a cover letter:

'I enjoy working in fast-paced environments. They inspire me to grow and push me to deliver under pressure. My previous job required me to adjust quickly to new projects as we were expanding exponentially across Australia. It taught me to always be ready for change and embrace the opportunity to learn something new'.

3. Adaptability skills in an interview

A common interview question most hiring managers will ask you is to explain how you responded to a problem in the workplace. This question is a great opportunity for you to highlight your adaptability skills. When preparing your answer, provide some context about the situation you were in and quantify your accomplishments using impressive statistics. Here's an example:

'Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my previous organisation had to cancel six major conferences. While we spent a lot of time and effort on planning these events, I had to put my emotions aside and adapt to the new economic situation. Within two weeks, my team notified all our customers about refunds and helped onboard them onto a new virtual conferencing app. My open-mindedness helped me adapt to new technology and work processes in the event space.'


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