5/24/2020 - Adaptability should be your new hire’s top soft skill. Here’s how to test for it
Employees with high adaptability are better equipped to take on new tasks, learn new technologies, and develop new proficiencies.
BY JILL CHAPMAN
In virtually every profession, workers need demonstrable qualifications and skills to be considered competent. When looking for a new job, candidates may highlight these on their résumés, hoping to stand out from the competition. In the past, employers may have relied exclusively on résumés to determine which individuals to interview. However, as the workplace evolves so must recruitment, and hiring managers can no longer rely solely on résumés to identify top candidates.
Soft skills, those attributes that are often developed through experiences rather than education, can elevate a competently skilled employee to a rock-star staffer. Soft skills are personal traits or attributes that can enhance interpersonal communication and be used in a multitude of ways, ranging from defusing conflict to motivating others. Given the evolving nature of work, these capabilities are increasingly important to employers.
Teamwork, problem-solving, and dependability are all examples of soft skills that are important in the workplace. However, adaptability may be the most important soft skill of all. Employees with high adaptability are better equipped to take on new tasks, learn new technologies, and develop new proficiencies, all skills that provide positive benefits to companies working to keep up with the changing times.
IDENTIFYING ADAPTABLE APPLICANTS
The modern workplace is ever-changing, with flexible work schedules, artificial intelligence integration, and all-remote teams becoming increasingly common. To maintain profitability and engagement, employers should consider testing job candidates for their adaptability quotient, meaning the capability to acclimate and thrive under changing circumstances.
Companies should look for candidates who are resilient, innovative, and calm under pressure. Asking interviewees to share examples of situations where they have demonstrated these capabilities can help employers assess their adaptability.
Consider discussing the following scenarios:
- Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone who was either difficult or had a different work style than yours.
- Have you ever had a project suddenly change after putting in a considerable amount of time? How did you handle this change?
- Describe a time when you were given a task out of your usual scope of work and how you handled it.
- Tell me about a time when you had to learn a new software or work process.
- When starting a new job, what are the biggest challenges?
If the answers trend toward negativity, this could be a red flag. Hiring managers can use the applicant’s responses to gain a deeper insight into the person, how they react to change, if they are quick to make excuses, become defensive, or show disdain for coworkers with whom they may not see eye to eye.
THE BENEFITS OF ADAPTABLE EMPLOYEES
To prioritize adaptability in the workplace, both employers and employees must play their part. Employers should encourage staffers to think about internal processes and ways to streamline operations. Workers should feel empowered to suggest new training, digital tools, or other ideas that could help boost productivity. In turn, managers should be given flexibility to implement suggestions and pilot new approaches presented by employees.
Embracing change and staying adaptable when faced with shifting expectations or demands can also help with problem-solving. Employers and employees who reject the one-size-fits-all approach may be more likely to find a creative or resourceful solution to an age-old problem or hurdle that inhibits business. Fostering a culture that emboldens employees to try new strategies or technologies, typically outside their employer’s norm, can encourage innovation from all levels of the corporate ladder.
ADAPTABILITY IN PRACTICE
Successful businesses give employees the freedom to innovate, while also granting responsibility and autonomy in the daily workplace; this is the opposite of micromanaging. If employers want to encourage innovation and adaptability, incorporating these principles into shared corporate values can help foster the desired culture. Stated values can focus employees and empower them, leading to increased engagement and sense of belonging.
Highly adaptable employees who are able to utilize this skill at work can help create a happier, more productive office environment. When employees and their ideas are appreciated, discretionary effort and overall happiness can rise. Encouraging problem-solving and innovation also shows staffers that it is acceptable to make mistakes at work and can help reframe failure as part of the process.
Employers who embrace and cultivate adaptability can help propel their business forward, ahead of the competition. In many industries and workplaces, change is inevitable. Identifying and hiring employees who welcome change and are sure-footed in evolving situations can help companies stay relevant and focused on the future.
Jill Chapman is a senior performance consultant with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions. For more information about Insperity, call 800-465-3800 or visit www.insperity.com.