It’s no secret that the world of work has become more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) over the last three years. Employees today need to be able to adapt not only in the workplace, but to external factors outside of their control to remain successful and competitive in today’s ever-changing job market.
So, how do leaders continue to engage and support their teams in uncertain times? And how do workers ensure their skills don’t become redundant?
Enter career adaptability.
“In a dynamic work environment characterised by constant changes, organisations must recognise and promote employees’ ability to adapt their careers,” says Pam.
“This proactive approach successfully enables organisations to navigate shifting industry landscapes, societal expectations, and environmental factors.”
Embedded in a psycho-socio construct, career adaptability involves a spectrum of behaviours, competencies, and attitudes that empower individuals to align themselves effectively with a job that suits them well, especially during times of change.
This ability to adapt is contained in four adaptive strategies: concern, control, curiosity, and confidence, reflecting a person’s readiness to face the challenges of a dynamic professional world.
Career adaptability becomes particularly relevant in significant life transitions says TW psychologist Tess Collins.
“When faced with a career challenge such as redundancy, career adaptability can help a person adjust, learn and grow from the experience,” says Tess.
“Individuals with high career adaptability are more resilient and better equipped to thrive in dynamic and unpredictable professional landscapes as they benefit from using adaptive strategies like concern, control, curiosity, and confidence.”
Traditionally, financial incentives were the primary drivers of employee engagement and retention. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a paradigm shift towards personal motivational factors such as work-life balance, flexibility, and autonomy.
Organisations that actively promote career adaptability through comprehensive programs retain talent and remain resilient and competitive amid ongoing transformations in the business and employment landscape.
There has been many studies that demonstrate job satisfaction and employee wellbeing lead to higher retention, engagement and productivity. And similarly, research indicates higher levels of career adaptability is linked to increased employee engagement, flourishing, overall career success, and life satisfaction, especially among young workers (Coetzee et al., 2017; Magnano et al., 2021).
The contemporary psychological contract between employers and employees emphasises shared responsibility for career planning, surpassing traditional notions of job security and promotions.
Organisations should implement career programs that encourage individuals to proactively manage their career planning to foster work engagement and employee retention, considering it a vital facilitator for success in the 21st-century workplace (Guest et al., 2010).
Ultimately, organisations should prioritise building career adaptability in their workforce through training and development programs. Aligning personal values with business values and ensuring a good fit between individual strengths and job roles are additional strategies to enhance career adaptability and support successful career transitions.
Organisations undergoing restructuring and resizing need new approaches to maintain and increase engagement, and retain employees and productivity. They can do this by:
Career adaptability isn’t a buzzword; it’s a critical component for individual and organisational success in the rapidly changing landscape of the modern workplace. Organisations that actively prioritise and foster career adaptability are better positioned to address challenges and uncertainties. At an individual level, embracing the adaptive strategies of concern, control, curiosity, and confidence, can help people navigate life transitions successfully and contribute to their organisations’ overall resilience and competitiveness too.
Johnston, 2016; Rudolph et al., 2017; Zacher & Griffin, 2015
Sullivan & Baruch, 2009; World Economic Forum, 2018
Tolentino et al., 2013
Magnano et al., 2021; Ramos & Lopez, 2018
Coetzee et al., 2017
Mendes & Stander, 2011; Tladinyane & van der Merwe, 2016.