Current & Emerging Trends of the Adaptable Workplace

Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

Technology and culture are always changing, but the rate of that evolution today is unprecedented. With an inability to adapt resulting in the loss of qualified employees, this lesson outlines ways to build an adaptive workforce and retain talent.

The New Normal in Business

The common metaphorical phrase, ''The only thing constant is change,'' is a casual but accurate description of today's business environment. Of course, the business environment is always changing, but the internet and other Information Age technologies have put the business environment into an extremely accelerated rate of change. Some non-technology changes also exert influence on the scope and rate of business change.

If you work for an organization with an adaptive workplace, this could be your office.
Remote Work

Adapting to the New Normal

To adapt is to recognize environmental changes (often changes that the individual cannot control) and make the necessary modifications to continue to thrive despite the change. Taken together, it is complexity that is forcing today's businesses to revolutionize the way they do just about everything. In this context, complexity describes how the business environment has to deal with hundreds of outside influences, relationships, and regulations. An adaptable workplace is an organization that has the ability to make whatever dynamic changes are necessary in order to thrive.

Globalization plays a large role in establishing a need for robust organizational adaptation. While it is a tremendous benefit for companies to be able to leverage talent and revenue worldwide, the increased level of interconnected entities means that complexity is heightened even more. As well, international relationships are subject to cultural, political, and even religious influences, so companies doing business in the global space will also be required to adapt to these complexities.

Trends That Compel Adaptation

There is a laundry list of workplace trends that compel employers to adapt, but some factors are more significant than others. Similarly, the degree to which employers can influence these trends is directly related to how strongly they must respond to the trend. Let's look at a few of the more substantial trends.

The Old 'Normal' The New Trend
Employee longevity with individual companies was relatively high. People change employers frequently.
Wages and benefits were key motivators for employees. Work-life balance, flexibility, and advancement opportunities are key motivators.
Professional communication was by telephone or face-to-face contact. Email, texting, and virtual meeting platforms dominate corporate communication.
Employees sharing similar roles or assignments were located together geographically. Virtual teams can accommodate workers who live nearly anywhere in the world.
Full-time roles dominated the employment landscape. Contract, part-time, and consulting roles are on the rise.
Retirement was the ultimate goal, and many workers relied on a generous pension agreement as retirement income. Retirements are delayed, and employer pensions have all but vanished.
Vertical governance structures, with most key decisions being made from the upper echelons of the organization. Horizontal structures, with key decisions made in collaboration with front-line staff deep within the organization.
Most business was done locally or regionally, and talent was sourced locally. Business can be conducted internationally with limited barriers, and talent can be recruited from nearly anywhere in the world.

Who Needs to Adapt?

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the need for an adaptive workplace is its scope. Some industries, like health care or technology, experience such rapid change that they are constantly adapting in the normal course of their business. They know all about the need to adapt and often embrace it without a second thought.

However, the drivers requiring adaptation have extended into sectors not generally acquainted with the need to adapt, such as the government sector, nonprofit organizations, and skilled trades. The significant nature of the required adaptations can be difficult to sell and execute.

When Organizations Fail to Effectively Adapt

One of the compelling reasons to embrace the adaptive workplace is the negative consequences associated with the pool of qualified employees. When most of the organizations in a particular sector are not adapting, qualified candidates may consider all potential employers equal. However, when potential employees have the opportunity to choose between an adaptive and non-adaptive workplace, the majority will choose to work for the more adapted employer. This means that a sector like government must become adaptive or it will see its pool of qualified candidates shrink, and it will also increase the number of employees who leave the organization in search of better conditions.

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