What Businesses Need in Leaders Today: Adaptability in the Workplace

Businesses everywhere are figuring out how to adapt and navigate in this complicated time. They’re exploring ways to keep their employees and customers safe during the pandemic, boost revenue streams in a struggling economy, and help their teams thrive.

In addition to developing skills specific to their career aspirations, today’s students must develop the traits needed for adaptability in the workplace so they can succeed as tomorrow’s employees and leaders. Being resilient matters more than ever! Here’s what students can do.

Prepare for a Changing Workplace

Rachel Bodell, DBA, assistant professor in Azusa Pacific University’s School of Business and Management, gives students this advice: “Focus on developing the type of skills which have been—and will always be—critically important to navigating change.”

She believes that developing a set of soft skills to complement industry-specific skills will be essential to preparing students to adapt in the workplace. And educational programs that value character development and experiential learning can help students grow those soft skills.

Recognize Why Soft Skills Are Important

Simon Sinek, bestselling author of Find Your Why, Leaders Eat Last, and The Infinite Game, says that certain traits are essential for navigating the work world and thriving in business, including:

  • Empathy
  • A belief that your actions matter
  • The ability to manage ambiguity and uncertainty with integrity

“Soft skills are a set of matured personal qualities that lead to a level of emotional intelligence,” Bodell said. “They are the values and experiences which inform our worldview—the lens we use to take in the world, critically think, problem-solve, and engage with people.”

Experts have recognized the benefits of soft skills for more than 100 years. As cited in a Conover report, research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center in 1918 found that about 15% of job success comes from hard skills such as technical abilities and knowledge. That leaves soft skills as key contributors responsible for 85% of success.

What was true more than 100 years ago is still relevant today, even as technology allows for more jobs to become automated. In the Harvard Business Review, Stephen M. Kosslyn argues that soft skills remain the most difficult to codify into programming and continue to give people advantages over automated systems.

And soft skills are especially important now. Businesses don’t know what their workplaces and industries will look like going forward, so building a team of people who are adaptable and resilient will help them face their future challenges.

Understand How to Use Soft Skills

A foundation of soft skills is crucial to thriving in business. With it, you can:

  • Build a positive attitude
  • Communicate across different social situations
  • Resolve conflict
  • Engage professionally
  • Work well with a team

Move Beyond Buzzwords

Bodell explained that businesses that are focused on adaptability in the workplace will expect their future employees to provide clear examples of what motivates them. Buzzwords like “passion” or phrases like “I’m a people person” are not enough to communicate your soft skills to potential employers.

Businesses need people who can understand and articulate their passion and motivation when they’re faced with adversity. “Business leaders are looking for people who are emotionally and socially intelligent,” Bodell said.

To underscore your passion, you’ll need to explain the values and experiences that shape and drive it.

As a “people person,” you’ll need to explain how you’ve learned to engage with people in a way that furnishes meaningful outcomes.

Learn to Lead at APU

The School of Business and Management at Azusa Pacific University helps students build the skills and integrity they need to thrive in today’s challenging workplace. With faith and character integrated throughout each program, students learn to lead, make a difference, and transform the world.

APU offers eight bachelor’s programs in business and accounting as well as three master’s programs—a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Business Management, and a Master of Professional Accountancy.

Are you ready to lead? Learn more about APU’s business and management degrees and find out how to create a future where you can make a difference.