Adaptability in the Workplace

Christy Pettit Adaptability in the Workplace, Assessments, Change Management, Employee Engagement, Measurement, Mentoring, News, Pollinate Insights Leave a Comment

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Cross-pollinate talents and personalities for an adaptable workplace

Work and workspaces are certainly interesting “places” these days. My network connections and the mentors and mentees I am speaking with tell me of mass resignations and small rebellions at work – some large departments losing 30% of their workforce; people pushing back around companies’ return to physical offices; managers at newly acquired companies who never get to meet the new owners in real life. 

Some executives leaving their companies say they feel these companies are squandering their knowledge by choosing not to spend adequate time understanding the wisdom gained, and by assigning managers who are already overtaxed to take over. We leaders are in a spot. Compounding the shifting sands of people and the ongoing Covid-19 saga, in North America at least, supply chain issues are upon us and it’s never been a more important time to innovate, to cultivate light structures, and to be purposeful and adaptable. 

Your action plan should be assembled from the kaleidoscope of your people’s capabilities.

If your strategy has to pivot (I know we’re all tired of that word) around the changing market, then your action plan should be assembled from the kaleidoscope of your people’s capabilities. Of course, teams are already formed and reformed in your organization. Now that the workforce is more fluid and your top talent may be running out of capacity this becomes more difficult.

How do you re-shape the kaleidoscope to meet your current, and evolving, needs? Who can you put together to get the job done? How much untapped talent can you find and develop quickly? As a CEO of a growing company asked me recently, “How do we create culture in this environment?”

Employees are replaceable, but they’re not interchangeable

While all employees may be replaceable – although some take more time to replace than others – people are not interchangeable. The foundational pieces for an adaptable workplace and culture include knowing people in new ways: developing an inventory of skills, experience, tendencies and preferences is key, and putting the right people together is imperative.

Deloitte defines an adaptable organization as “living and breathing enterprises organized around networks based on how people work and behave, distributing and maximizing human potential.”

At Pollinate we specialize in putting the right people together for mentoring programs, and in teams and networks that get things done. 

We do this by gathering “population intelligence” using a strategic intake and our Knowledge Transfer Index (KTI) psychometric assessment to predict pairs and teams that can:

  1. Bring the skillsets and the knowledge needed, with complementary individual preferences and tendencies
  2. Develop knowledge by co-mentoring each other through the course of working together
  3. Self-motivate to stay tied to the “mission” of the team and to be deliberate to focus on the positive aspects of your culture

Knowledge Transfer Index Matching elements

The KTI personality assessment is a powerful, validated instrument for this work. It measures each individual’s core motivations, natural talents, reference point, physical learning style, resolution style, sorting style and ideal interaction level to determine who will work best together for quick traction and results.

Core Motivations include an individual’s needs for influence, relationships, coherence, achievement. As a manager, you can make it a practice to start noticing how the people around you interact to see if you can detect their internal ‘drivers’ – what motivates them? Think about what they focus on, and what questions they ask.

Natural Talents are the strengths that tend to be the ‘go to’ actions for dealing with any new project, issue, action or information. Everyone has different degrees of talent for facts, order, action and building (creating models and prototypes).

Reference Point is an individual’s frame of reference for making decisions and seeing the world. It’s how we process and decide the starting point for action and learning, using our gut, head, heart, hands or a blended approach.

Physical Learning Style describes preferred individual strategies for absorbing information. All of us have some degree of visual learning. Other styles include auditory, kinesthetic or a blended approach.

Resolution Style describes the preferred time frame for decisions to be made or issues to be brought to a close, from a “hard closer” who wants things resolved as quickly as possible to someone who likes to keep the discussion open as long as possible.

Sorting Style describes how people sort new information. Research tells us that 80% of the population is skewed to sort for similarities – to look for what is the same about new information or events as compared to existing information and past events. 

People who sort for differences make up the other 20% of the population (although, anecdotally, this percentage may be rising among Millennials and Generation Z). People who sort for difference evaluate situations in terms of how different it is than what they have encountered, understood or experienced before.

Finally, Ideal Interaction Level speaks to how much interaction best facilitates learning and working together, a scale ranging from very limited to very plentiful. It’s important to be aware and respectful of different learning and working needs.

These insights, combined with individual and organizational goals, are the key to successful matching and cross-pollination among individuals for almost any endeavour, from teamwork to mentorship programs to the establishment of networks and ecosystems at an industry level.

Pollinate feeds all this data into our Cross-Pollinate AI matching algorithms, refined over more than a dozen years, to put people together based on having the right balance of similarity and difference. Ideally we want people who are similar enough to readily understand each other for immediate productivity, while being different enough to make their interaction dynamic, interesting and challenging in the best way possible for high engagement and innovative outcomes. 

Pivoting with the people you have

This deep understanding of the skills, experience, tendencies and preferences among employees is key to workplace adaptability. It allows you to pivot quickly and make the most of the strengths that exist among your current employees – mixing and matching individuals as specific needs and new circumstances arise, to cross-pollinate and fully maximize their knowledge, expertise and other strengths.

Let me offer an analogy: the articulating lawn mower. These are those lawn mowers you see that can whip around trees on a dime and seem to be part centipede. These machines have the wheels pivoting independently to follow the machine, not the machine following the wheels, enabling the flexibility to get the job done with the highest degree of effectiveness.

Articulation provides some key advantages:

  • The machine turns instead of the tires. This prevents damage to surfaces from friction. 
  • The articulation also adds maneuverability.
  • Smaller tractors can use the articulation to help hold slopes more effectively, like innovation teams. 
  • There is a balance between the tractors’ front and rear axles to create the optimal ground pressure for better traction. The articulation then allows us to turn our tractor while maintaining even balance.

Our goal is to create systems that enable us to have a highly articulating workforce for constantly shifting terrain. 

How do we create workplace culture that “articulates”?

Constant movement of knowledge and the creation of wisdom that is passed on is a hallmark of an adaptable, innovative culture. You get there by promoting, teaching and acknowledging the mentoring and co-mentoring that is going on, including informally – and you build up those knowledge transfer skills as a priority.

A recent McKinsey & Company article on adaptability in the workplace observes that “The power of adaptability grows when the entire organization reinforces [desired] cultural norms and behaviors,” recommending that organizations establish learning communities that “create networks across the organization and a deeper sense of belonging.”

At Pollinate, we define mentorship as both a learning system for knowledge transfer and as a social support system that builds strong relationships that connect people across an organization. A mentorship program is a must-have strategy for every organization that wants a healthy culture, including supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Through mentorship, leaders are able to know, assess and recommend people they might not have otherwise encountered, while mentees benefit from exposure to new opportunities aligned with their interests and capabilities. 

People connect and learn from each other in tangible and intangible ways in mentoring relationships, cross-pollinating workplace adaptability and their ability to pivot together.


Christy Pettit

Christy Pettit is Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Pollinate Networks Inc.

For 25 years, Christy has developed new approaches and best practices for agile, effective organizations worldwide. She is an expert on matching people and organizations for applications including knowledge transfer and mentorship programs, flexible virtual and hybrid teams, and productive organizational and business ecosystems and networks.

 


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