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Why did some employees handle the Covid-19 crisis better than others? According to Deloitte, the employees who coped better with rapid change worked for companies that promoted key ingredients of adaptability, such as empowered decision-making.
This isn’t a surprise: Companies with adaptive cultures consistently rise to the top of the leaderboard. Take Amazon, for example. Since its inception, the ecommerce giant has consistently adapted to fluctuating markets and consumer preferences, introducing new products and services to stay ahead of the competition.
Related: Success Is the Biggest Benefit of Being Adaptable
Your business can also create a culture characterized by openness, respect, collaboration, creativity, innovation and pragmatic risk-taking. However, you might encounter some challenges. Changing a culture takes time and effort, not to mention a great deal of patience. You may need to modify your responses and choices to set an example. After all, it’s easier for people to demonstrate resilience if they see a good role model in leadership.
Regardless of any initial hurdles, creating an adaptable culture makes sense. We’re in an era of rampant industry disruption where digital transformation is critical for survival. Without an inherently adaptable culture, it’s almost impossible to respond quickly to dynamic changes from inside or outside your organization.
To begin your company’s journey toward adaptability, try the following strategies:
1. Highlight your company’s vision and mission to encourage strategic risk-taking
A culture can only become adaptable once everyone works from the same playbook. Our company’s leaders routinely discuss the business’s overarching vision and mission. This ensures our North Star guides our team members’ efforts.
Providing clarity around goals also helps our employees feel comfortable making mistakes. They know that even if something flops, they won’t experience retribution or harsh judgment as long as they’ve acted in earnest based on the company mission.
Refrain from assuming all workers understand your mission and vision statements just because they’re documented on your website. You have to talk about them during coaching sessions, performance one-on-ones and companywide meetings. Repetition isn’t overkill in this instance; it’s necessary to shape everyone’s attitudes toward change.
Related: How to Establish a Vision Statement Employees Will Get Behind
2. Solve any collaboration or communication bottlenecks
In order to create a culture of adaptability, you must ensure team members are on the same page. If they aren’t communicating and collaborating, your company can’t adjust quickly to take advantage of new opportunities. So, give employees the tools to form easy connections with their peers.
This is especially important if you have remote or hybrid workers on staff. According to Owl Labs research, 70% of virtual workers find it challenging to contribute during video meetings, and 62% say their employers haven’t upgraded their technology systems or equipment to make collaboration more seamless.
The fastest way to identify and solve communication gaps is to send out a questionnaire. Identify where the bottlenecks are for your workers, and then troubleshoot to resolve them. Side note: Remember that you must also adjust your communication habits. Your team members will feel less compelled to speak their minds if you aren’t forthright and approachable. And speaking up is critical to improving your workplace adaptability.
3. Give and receive feedback in a healthy, compassionate way
You want your team members to flex their innovative thinking. Yet, they might be reluctant to give their honest opinions without a bit of prodding. If you want people to be vulnerable and share their ideas, you need to ask for feedback and then react to it in a healthy, compassionate way.
For example, if someone disagrees with you, resist the temptation to take it as a personal affront. Instead, listen to what the other person says. Show respect and gratitude. You might still decide to go ahead with your original plan. However, your team will see that you took a dissenting idea seriously.
When it comes to providing feedback, make sure what you say is specific and helpful. Your employees will become more resilient if they get constructive feedback meant to make their work easier or help them be more productive and successful. What’s more, a Harvard Business School survey shows that 71% of executives say adaptability is the most critical leadership quality. By helping your team members make self-improvements through change, you set them up for future promotions.
Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Use Effective Feedback to Stay Resilient and Agile
4. Set SMART goals around building an adaptable culture
By now, you’ve probably heard of specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (aka SMART) goals. Setting these kinds of goals allows everyone to gauge where they’ve been, where they are and where they’re going.
What SMART goals could you set around building an adaptable culture? Consider ones that relate to the creation of new ideas, workflows, products and services. Be sure to set these goals alongside your team members. Collaborative goal-setting promotes a greater sense of urgency around completion.
Not all goals need to be productivity-driven, either. Celebrating successes or mistakes can be a goal, too. You can learn a lot from failure, which is why successful organizations — including Pixar — reward employees for taking thoughtful risks, according to McKinsey & Company. Imagine how your culture would change if more employees leveraged losses to promote learning-fueled momentum toward business goals.
Adaptable cultures are cultures built to survive. If you lack adaptability across your organization, try these four tips to help weather future industry disruption.