Brain power

Adaptability the key skill for the future of work

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

As the job market grows ever tighter, the ability to find the right candidate becomes that much harder. According to a recent study1 conducted at the University of Michigan, employers across the country are increasingly searching for qualified candidates to fill job vacancies.

In order to succeed in today’s uncertain and competitive work environment, potential applicants must demonstrate their ability to adapt to the specific needs of the company. Specifically, the study identifies four essential skills that employees must possess: cognition, motivation, action, and connection.

Skills for the future

These skills enable employees to meet project demands and respond to changes in the workplace, including technological advancements, economic shifts, and unexpected events like the pandemic or recession. In short, the study highlights the importance of employee skills in helping companies navigate turbulence and succeed in the face of challenges.

“To be nimble and adaptive, organizations now more than ever need their building blocks—the employees who are at the heart of the transformation process—to be adaptive,” the researcher explains.

Being able to adapt requires individuals to be responsive to change across multiple tasks, projects, collaborators, technologies, and time frames. This necessitates the use of a range of broad skills, which employers may overlook in favor of narrow experience and expertise relevant to specific tasks or roles.

To investigate this further, the author conducted two studies involving approximately 230 participants. Participants were asked to consider 24 different skills and to indicate their understanding of each skill and how they related to each other.

Using participants’ responses, the author developed a four-category framework that shed light on how individuals adapt and engage with organizations to accomplish their work. This framework provided a better understanding of the skills needed for adaptability.

Article source: Adaptability The Key Skill For The Future Of Work.

Header image source: Adaptability by Nick Youngson, Alpha Stock Images, CC BY-SA 3.0.


  1. Ybarra, O. (2023). The skills that help employees adapt: Empirical validation of a four-category framework. Plos one, 18(2), e0282074.
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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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