4 ways to build a more adaptable, resilient culture

by Ana Lopez

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Why have some employees handled the Covid-19 crisis better than others? According to Deloitte, the employees who could handle rapid change better worked for companies that did promoted key ingredients of adaptabilitylike making decisions.

This is no surprise: companies with adaptive cultures consistently rise to the top of the leaderboard. Take Amazon for example. Since its inception, the e-commerce 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 flexible

Your company can also create a culture characterized by openness, respect, collaboration, creativity, innovation and pragmatic risk-taking. However, you may run into some challenges. Changing a culture takes time and effort, not to mention a lot of patience. You may need to adjust your answers and choices to set an example. After all, it is easier for people to show resilience when they see a good role model in leadership.

Regardless of any initial hurdles, creating an adaptable culture makes sense. We are in an era of rampant industry disruption where digital transformation is critical to survival. Without an inherently adaptable culture, it’s almost impossible to respond quickly to dynamic changes from within or outside your organization.

Try the following strategies to begin your company’s journey to adaptability:

1. Emphasize your company’s vision and mission to encourage strategic risk-taking

A culture can only become adaptive if everyone works from the same scenario. Our company leaders routinely discuss the company’s overarching vision and mission. This ensures that our North Star guides the efforts of our team members.

By providing clarity about goals, our employees also feel comfortable making mistakes. They know that even if something fails, they will not experience retaliation or harsh judgment as long as they acted seriously on the company mission.

Don’t assume that all employees understand your mission and vision just because they are documented on your website. You should talk about it during coaching sessions, performance reviews, and company-wide meetings. Repetition is not an exaggeration in this case; it is necessary to shape everyone’s attitude towards change.

Related: How to create a vision that employees will get behind

2. Resolve any collaboration or communication bottlenecks

To create a culture of adaptability, make sure team members are on the same wavelength. If they don’t communicate and work together, your business won’t be able to quickly adapt to take advantage of new opportunities. So give employees the tools to easily connect with their colleagues.

This is especially important if you employ remote or hybrid employees. According to research from Owl Labs, 70% of virtual workers find it challenging to contribute during video meetings, and 62% say their employers have not upgraded their technology systems or equipment to make collaboration smoother.

The quickest way to identify and resolve communication gaps is to send out a questionnaire. Identify where the bottlenecks are for your employees and then fix them. Side note: Don’t forget that you also need to adjust your communication habits. Your team members will feel less compelled to express their opinions if you are not forthright and approachable. And speaking up is critical to improving your adaptability in the workplace.

3. Give and receive feedback in a healthy, compassionate way

You want your team members to stimulate their innovative thinking. Still, they may be reluctant to give their honest opinion without a little prodding. If you want people to be vulnerable and share their ideas, you need to ask for feedback and then respond to it in a healthy, compassionate way.

For example, if someone disagrees with you, resist the temptation to take it as a personal insult. Instead, listen to what the other person says. Show respect and gratitude. You can still decide to continue with your original plan. However, your team will see that you took a deviant idea seriously.

When it comes to giving feedback, make sure what you say is specific and helpful. Your employees become more resilient when they receive constructive feedback designed to make their jobs easier or help them be more productive and successful. This is also evident from a study by the Harvard Business School 71% of executives say that adaptability is the most critical leadership quality. By helping your team members improve themselves through change, you prepare them for future promotions.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Use Effective Feedback to Stay Resilient and Agile

4. Set SMART goals for building an adaptable culture

By now, you’ve probably heard of specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (aka SMART) goals. Setting goals like this allows everyone to measure where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re going.

What SMART goals could you set around building an adaptable culture? Consider those related to creating new ideas, workflows, products and services. Be sure to set these goals with your team members. Joint goal setting fosters a greater sense of urgency around achievement.

Not all goals need to be productivity-driven, either. Celebrating successes or failures can also be a goal. 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 advance learning-driven business goals.

Adaptable cultures are cultures built for survival. If you lack adaptability throughout your organization, try these four tips to help weather future disruptions in the industry.

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