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Here are the 6 types of adaptability skills you and your team need now

August 9, 2022 - 14 min read

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What are adaptability skills?

6 types of adaptability skills

How to know if you’re an adaptable worker

How to apply adaptability for goal attainment

How to teach adaptability

The importance of adaptability for mental health

Patience and adaptability will get you closer to your goals

Your comfort zone is safe and reliable, making it hard to imagine ever wanting to leave. 

But brand new situations can send you way outside of your comfort zone. Then, you’re faced with important questions: What will you do? You can opt to embrace change with a positive attitude and go with the flow or retreat in the face of a new challenge.

Let’s take that second option off the table. It's time to learn all the types of adaptability skills and how you can embody them.

Adaptability is a soft skill that's useful for all work environments, particularly in our constantly changing world.

But people didn't become adaptable overnight. Developing this skill takes plenty of time, self-awareness, and hard work. 

What are adaptability skills?

First: a definition of adaptability skills. These skills allow you to adjust to new situations and change your actions as needed. Being adaptable means privileging strategic thinking when you meet new challenges — big or small. It's about being open-minded when encountering new opportunities, even if you didn’t ask for them.

Constructive criticism, unexpected changes, and worst-case scenarios happen in any work environment. That's precisely why adaptability is important. It aids your decision-making and helps you decide how to set goals. If you’re adaptable, you can continue moving forward instead of dwelling on the issues you face. 

Adaptability differs from flexibility because it demands new circumstances. Working later or accommodating team members suggests flexibility and openness to adjust. But adapting means that you’re facing a new scenario or situation, no matter how prepared you are. 

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6 types of adaptability skills

Within your adaptability skills, there are plenty of other related skills. They make up all the different types of adaptability. You can’t use one universal skill or formula to become an adaptable person, but there are several related skills you can strengthen. 

Here are six adaptability skills examples:

1. Resourcefulness

Being resourceful means being innovative and creative while working toward your goals. Your goals might be straightforward, but the journey isn't. To be resourceful, you must have solid problem-solving skills. When issues come your way, you need to know how to solve them. And you need to be able to take the initiative to get started or know when to ask for help. 

2. Ability to learn

How do you manage to learn new things? You may find yourself learning independently or through collaboration. Critical thinking is often required. Time, too. Learning is continuous. Frequently welcoming feedback as you receive it improves your learning opportunities.

3. Communication skills

Don’t underestimate the importance of communication skills. It's also important to be a good, active listener when others communicate with you. Your interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence are also tested when talking with others.


4. Organizational skills

Being organized shows us where our resources are — from our contact lists to our availability. Organization will show you what's necessary to achieve your goals or finish your work. In today’s world, you’ll need to keep both your physical and digital space organized. 

5. Teamwork skills

When you work as a team, personality types and opinions can clash. But that shouldn't matter if everyone on the team sees the value in having a diverse group of people and perspectives at work.

Conflict may occur, but working as a team means you can resolve conflict with your problem-solving skills and still produce great work. And an adaptable leader can inspire a team to thrive under pressure with their calmness and sureness.

6. Curiosity

Being curious leads you to be open-minded about new opportunities and indicates a growth mindset. Finding a new way to complete a task? Sounds great to you, since you approach things with a positive attitude and take on new projects with excitement. You're also probably willing to take risks if it means you can experiment and explore your curiosity.

Continuing to learn new skills isn't always easy. BetterUp can help you identify your strengths and chart a plan that makes sense for you as you continue to learn new skills every day.

How to know if you’re an adaptable worker

What is an example of adaptability skills in action? You might just be an adaptable worker already. If you aren't, that's OK because this is a skill you can develop. Here are four signals that you're an adaptable person:

  1. You're a present person: Rather than dwell on the past or worry too much about the future, you put mindfulness to the test and embrace change as it happens.
  2. You love positive self-talk: Your attitude says "I know I can do this with hard work" rather than thoughts of self-doubt and poor self-esteem.
  3. You see the bigger picture: You can see your goals and identify why they're important. When challenges arise, you don't forget and keep working hard.
  4. You like to experiment: Doing things the same way forever doesn't level you up, and it gets boring. You look for new ways of doing your work, and you learn something in the process.


How to apply adaptability for goal attainment

Adaptability can apply to any goals you hope to achieve, whether they’re personal or professional goals. But this ability is especially crucial for your career because all industries face uncertainty and change. When things change at work, or in your industry, it can require even long-term goals to evolve.

Research has found that careers are full of lifelong learning and coping with change. One 2021 study found that 52% of American workers are considering changing careers, with 44% having plans in place. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, 51% of workers planned to change jobs

New jobs mean new challenges, regardless of why you switch. Adaptability strengthens your motivation and performance. This, in turn, furthers your career advancement.

We can't stress enough that things won’t always go your way. Something could always throw you off course, but the willingness to experiment and problem-solve things helps combat this.

Plus, take advantage of all available resources. You can lean on people for support and advice and network using platforms like LinkedIn. Taking advantage of accessing new technology or other tools, to choosing to work in a calm, more focused environment rather than a distracting one may help you achieve your goals.

How to teach adaptability


If you’re a manager or have a leadership role, it’s often advantageous to teach adaptability skills to other team members. It's a skill that will carry on with them even as they step outside the office. These skills take time, however. Employees might look at you and say, "What is an example of adaptability skills?" You may have to start at the very beginning, but it’ll be worth it.

Here are five ways you can teach your employees how to be adaptable people:

  1. Have them visualize what their offices and workdays could look like if they were to be adaptable
  2. Give them a tour of all the resources they have access to
  3. Hold monthly seminars where you practice problem-solving things together
  4. Create a board, whether it's virtual or physical, where you share new findings or exciting information
  5. Set up specific, organized lines of communication, like Slack channels called #questions, for them to use

The importance of adaptability for mental health

Anyone can benefit from being more adaptable — not just workers. It doesn't matter what occupation you have, either. Students, teachers, doctors, engineers, and professional athletes all face the same struggles

That’s why it’s good to know what resources are available and the best ways to communicate your feelings. If you’re adaptable, you’ll find it easier to progress forward even if things don't work out exactly as expected. Whatever your personality type, career, or goals, adaptability is important for mental health. It also makes a difference to your overall life satisfaction. 


One study found that life satisfaction, our ability to adapt, and our support system are all connected. People can better adapt to change when they have a solid social support system to help them. As these participants’ environments changed and new things came their way, they could adapt easier. 

Adapting with a support system in place helps if you need to process grief or have struggles at work. It can encourage and motivate you to seek help when your well-being isn't healthy.

Patience and adaptability will get you closer to your goals

Adaptability doesn't just click and happens instantly. 

All the types of adaptability skills that we've discussed take time and, most importantly: patience. 

Being patient as we learn new skill sets forces us to pause and become more self-aware.

Finding someone to support you as you experience change is a game-changer. At BetterUp, our coaches will support you and provide the guidance and accountability you need to become a more adaptable, patient person.

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Published August 9, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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