Why you should build your team’s adaptability quotient

By Robert Half on 30th April 2020

As we move into the future of work, the only constant is change. New technologies are emerging all the time — many of them change consumer behaviour or impact the market at large. During unprecedented times or periods of uncertainty, businesses need frameworks that allow them to pivot quickly. This includes the mindsets of their staff.

Where employers once looked at the IQ (intellectual quotient) or EQ (emotional quotient) of their employees or new hires, attention has now turned to their ‘AQ’. 

With that in mind, here’s how to increase employee adaptability, and how you can use it to keep business activities robust, competitive, and fast-paced.

What is an ‘adaptability quotient’?

AQ stands for ‘adaptability quotient’ and refers to a person’s capacity to deal with change. This is measured by how quickly they can re-orientate and prosper in a climate of rapid, constant change.

How a high workforce AQ can help you get ahead

Current circumstances have seen businesses rush to adapt — not only in their work processes but also their client/customer offering. Our research has found that 94% of employers are planning to actively develop resilience among their employees over the next few years, most notably those in accounting jobs and financial services jobs.

By focusing on building employee adaptability, they’ll have the necessary skills to pivot and continue on an upward trajectory when change inevitably hits the team.

How to build employee adaptability 

1)    Embrace the inevitability of change
The first step in preparing your workforce for future uncertainties is to empower them to accept the inevitability of change. Even during periods of normality, change can occur suddenly and without warning. 

For example, where job roles were once predominantly static concerning tasks and remit, expert predictions show that the most successful professionals are those who are happy to blur the lines, branch out and bring new value to the business in new ways. 

You can coach teams to become more flexible by encouraging them to explore different ways of working, by facilitating upskilling, and by testing them with unfamiliar challenges.

2)    Step outside proven success metrics
Adaptability is based on assessing a situation and seeing the potential for new solutions. Encourage your team to explore new ways of hitting their KPIs, using experimental initiatives or new software. How else might the same result be achieved? Not only will this help to increase employee adaptability, but it also ensures continued business innovation.

3)    Ask hypothetical questions
One of the most effective ways to boost AQ is to urge employees to continually challenge themselves with a series of hypothetical ‘what if’ questions. When they make a proposition or present a plan, ask them what they’d do if X, Y or Z happened. Do they have an alternative solution? 

This gives them a safe way to prepare for possible outcomes and helps exercise the ability to assess a situation and postulate new options quickly.

4)    Find a new ‘business as usual’
The ability to learn, remember, and unlearn behaviours is a key factor in adaptability. Until recently, remote working was an activity undertaken at leisure and the convenience of an office space was relatively underappreciated. Now remote working has become the new ‘business as usual’.

Using this as an example, workforce adaptability could be increased by allowing employees to change their working environment more regularly or by facilitating flexible hours as standard. This provides a regular state of change which makes extreme circumstances easier to assimilate if they occur in the future. 

The world’s workforce is now being presented with the biggest challenge of all. Business endurance will depend on the strong relationships we all have with our colleagues and our teams — together we can rise to the challenge and prevail.

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