How Do You Train Adaptability?

Training on active listening and problem-solving skills can help employees adapt quickly to changing customer expectations.

People are more attuned to getting notifications on their smartphones, rather than worrying about checking their e-mail every day, right? I thought this was accepted truth these days.

However, in the publishing industry, it is the exception rather than the rule that communication takes place by phone notifications. The largest, most well-known publications do phone notifications, but not most small or midsize publications, even those owned by large companies. In most cases, communication occurs via e-mail and e-mailed newsletters. One reason for this could be cost, but another reason is lack of adaptability in the industry.

There is probably a parallel situation in your industry, whatever that industry may be, in which the majority of companies are behind the times in meeting customers where they are. Like the publishing industry’s slowness to adopt communication via phone notifications, the reasons behind your industry’s lagging-behind-the-times situation probably include logistics, finances, and lack of adaptability.

How do you train employees to adapt—fast—to changing customer expectations? One way is to have a workplace culture and training that emphasize the quality of ideas rather than the person the ideas are coming from. Too often, mediocre ideas from the “right” people are chosen over great ideas from people decision-makers assume to be incapable of having winning ideas.

Promote Active Listening

A blog on Indeed by Jennifer Herrity offers tips for increasing workplace adaptability. Among these tips is active listening. This is a way of sincerely taking in what a person is telling you. When new ideas that would help a company adapt are presented by an unlikely suspect, the decision-maker listening should be attuned to letting the person presenting speak uninterrupted, jot down notes while they are talking (if necessary), and then come up with at least one key question to ask about the idea.

Questions the decision-maker should have in mind as they are listening:

  • What is there to be gained from this new idea?
  • What would it take logistically and financially to implement it?
  • Could implementing this new idea be both a significant opportunity for the business unit and this employee?

You never want to be an organization that takes an employee’s fantastic idea and then gives it to another employee to benefit from. Along with the unfairness of doing that, the company misses offering a development and advancement opportunity to the employee who came up with the idea. Given such opportunities, this may be an employee who goes on to come up with many other tremendous ideas.

Hone Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-solving skills are another area Herrity says can be used to increase adaptability. Those skills can be used to think creatively about getting around any hurdles to implement the employee’s new idea.

In the case of messaging delivered via phone notifications rather than e-mail, the “problem” could be advertising that has been sold as part of e-mail messaging. The creative solution is to have notifications link to an online version of the e-mail. Most e-mails have a “click here for the online version” note at the top. Online versions nearly always exist for e-mails and e-newsletters. The recipient taps the notification and is brought to the online version of the e-mail or e-newsletter with all the same content—including all advertising—with no need to ever open their e-mail.

There’s No Need for an App for That

I also have heard that publications don’t offer the ability to receive messaging by phone notification doing so would require an app. But in reality, it doesn’t require an app. It can be done simply by having readers provide their phone numbers and checking a box when signing up for the messaging to request to receive content via phone notifications.

Yet another objection: People won’t like tapping a notification and then being taken to an online page with messaging and additional links rather than to the content itself. Perhaps, but this way, they never have to bother checking their e-mail to find the messaging. It’s right there when they look at their phone—which most people do all day long. If this is a genuine concern, a solution could be doing both—sending both the e-mail and text notifications. A few of the larger publications I subscribe to, such as The New York Times, send news and alerts by both e-mail and phone notifications.

Creating an “Ideation” Culture

For the behind-the-times practices in your own industry, what are some surprisingly easy solutions you could put into place to move forward?

What do you do to create a culture that is open to great new ideas regardless of where they come from, with decision-makers who are able to actively listen and creatively problem solve to put those great new ideas into action?