14 Practical Solutions for Building a Culture of Adaptability

Members of Young Entrepreneur Council offer their best advice for creating and promoting adaptability in your company culture during uncertain times.
Young Entrepreneur Council
Expert Contributor
August 2, 2020
Updated: August 11, 2020
Young Entrepreneur Council
Expert Contributor
August 2, 2020
Updated: August 11, 2020
Headshots of YEC members
Top, from left: Keith Shields, Adam Mendler, Ashley Merrill, Jared Atchison, Kalin Kassabov. Middle, from left: Daisy Jing, Amine Rahal, Chris Christoff, Syed Balkhi, Kelly Richardson. Bottom, from left: Bill Mulholland, Stephanie Wells, Vikas Agrawal, John Hall. | Photo: Young Entrepreneur Council  

In times of uncertainty, businesses must adjust to changing circumstances to successfully weather the storm. This process begins with building a culture of adaptability across the board, in which staff are well-prepared for and even embrace change in the workplace.

As successful business owners, the members of Young Entrepreneur Council have not only demonstrated flexibility during uncertain times, but they have also built flexibility into their workplace cultures. Below, they share 14 ways to help your organization develop its own culture of adaptability.

1. Hold Creative Brainstorming Sessions

To be adaptable, you must exercise creativity. Adaptability requires coming up with new solutions and new ways of doing things. For this reason, creativity brainstorming sessions are valuable. For example, when our team faces a challenge that requires us to think in new ways or shift how were doing things, well meet to bounce ideas around and consider the situation from a variety of angles. Keith Shields, Designli

2. Decentralize Your Decision-Making

An important way to cultivate a culture of adaptability within your organization is by decentralizing decision-making. If only the people at the very top of the chain of command are authorized and empowered to make decisions, your organization will lack the necessary flexibility to shift to the currents of change in times of uncertainty. Leaders must empower the people they lead. Adam Mendler, The Veloz Group

3. Make Adaptability a Cultural Value

People struggle with change, and so to encourage it we need to codify it as a cultural value and reinforce it often. Growth is one of our company’s cultural values, and we try to get people more comfortable with it by highlighting times we’ve made mistakes and how we’ve evolved as leaders to normalize it in company retrospectives. We also make it one of the main talking points in reviews. Ashley Merrill, Lunya

4. Welcome and Accept Failure

If youre so scared of failure that it keeps you from moving forward and adapting, especially during uncertain times, your business will eventually collapse. As a business owner, you need to learn to accept failure as an option and even welcome it. That doesnt mean everything has gone to waste or theres no getting back up. Rather, you acknowledge the hardship and you work through it. Jared Atchison, WPForms

5. Encourage Cross-Training

Cross-training employees makes them more valuable and helps them gain a big-picture view of the company. When people are doing the same thing every day, they can get tunnel vision. Cross-training encourages a mindset of constantly learning, which makes employees more well-rounded and adaptable. Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting

6. Hire a Diverse Team

Diversity brings different viewpoints into your company, so although having the same values is important, diversity helps you think outside the box. When I say diversity, I dont necessarily mean ethnicity, age or character I mean it in terms of different ways of thinking. Colorful ideas and mindsets, when turned into a strategy, are advantageous to the bottom line. When you have a diverse team, adapting is the norm. Daisy Jing, Banish

7. Make Roles Fluid

From the outset, you should explain to your team members that their roles are fluid and may be subject to change and ongoing retraining depending on external conditions, such as changes in the broader market. Make it clear in a memo or email that your employees arent at risk of losing their jobs, but that they may be retooled to better serve the changing needs of the organization. Amine Rahal, IronMonk Solutions

8. Make Communication a Priority

If you want to learn to adapt in uncertain times, communication is a must. Remote and physical teams should meet up at least once a week in a video conference to talk about everything going on within the company. Use this time to talk about goals, key performance indicators, and more. The meetings help you quickly identify when things are going off track and it’s time to change and adapt. Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

9. Encourage and Recognize Innovation

In our business, we like to recognize and share the creative and innovative ways that people solve problems. Theres no contribution thats too small to share and love. We also highlight employees who use tools well and find new solutions to problems. This makes for a culture that rewards initiative, which makes it easier to thrive when things do become difficult. Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

10. Take Control Instead of Reacting

Many people go through their lives merely reacting to things. Instead of letting the situation take control of you, start proactively taking control of things. Although many people are scared and staying in isolation, businesses should take this opportunity to pivot and adjust their business to prepare for growth and success. Kelly Richardson, Infobrandz

11. Think Through the What-Ifs

Your mindset should always be what do we do if.... Set up your company network to be accessed remotely. Employ a phone system that can be forwarded to a cell phone. Your keyboard is out of batteries? Use voice transcription. Your scanner is broken? Take a pic with your cell phone! Once you instill the mindset that adapting is easy, employees will naturally embrace it. Bill Mulholland, ARC Relocation

12. Incorporate Flexibility Into Your Operations

Your company culture is so important and sets the tone for what its like to work for you. During times of uncertainty, it helps if you've already established a flexible company culture that allows for change and even welcomes it. You can train your employees to adapt to change and think about it positively so it doesnt hit them in the face. Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

13. Play to Win, Not Just to Survive

Many organizations play very defensively and conservatively during any crisis. But playing defensively will have a steep price to pay once the economy recovers. Businesses that have learned how to pivot and adjust their activities can fast-track their growth better than any business that’s just playing to survive. Taking calculated risks is crucial. Vikas Agrawal, Infobrandz

14. Be There for Each Other

Now more than ever, its important to be there for each other. Ask how you can be helpful and encourage others to do the same. Dealing with change can be hard, so being there for support, whether its work-related or just being a shoulder to lean on, is greatly appreciated. Were all dealing with our own things right now, so its crucial that we go the extra mile for each other. John Hall, Calendar

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