3 Soft Skills to Develop in Staff to Adapt to Change Effectively

By Simon Choi

As a small business owner, you are probably going through a lot of change right now. Your business will suffer if you and your employees are unable to adapt to change. Technology for example, has played a huge influence on how we work as well as satisfy customers.

Adaptability relates to an individual’s ability and willingness to respond to change. It is more important than ever in business to develop good soft skills and character traits in employees rather than only technical skills. This will enable the small business to better handle change and continue to grow.

So here are three vital soft skills to adapt to change effectively.

Problem Solving

Problem solving is an aspect of cognitive ability. All employees must be able to solve problems daily especially in a small business. For example, customer issues are presented to employees and must be resolved effectively.

You can of course help staff by providing sufficient training and coaching. However, you can still do things culturally such as instilling a sense of confidence in staff that it’s OK to make mistakes as long as they learn from them. If you’re worried about the risks of a big mistake being particularly costly then set rules in place for scenarios when staff should escalate issues.

A good way of doing coaching with staff is to run through potential customer or operational scenarios with staff. Ask them how they would assess the issue, think about potential solutions, carry out the best solution and then evaluate results.

The better they become at this process and the more you practice different scenarios the more confident staff will become. They will also get to learn how you’d deal with the issues. You may also learn and adopt better solutions raised by your team!

Communication

You are probably thinking: OK, communication is a no brainer. However, not only is communicating critical but how we communicate. In a high-pressure environment where your team is dealing with multiple changes, it becomes more important to have succinct communications.

How you role model and coach staff to communicate is critical, as well as the culture. In terms of being succinct you need to be able to coach staff to understand when communicating what is critical. For example, you may set norms around communicating customer issues between staff including categorizing the issue, the solution and how they need to communicate efficiently as a team to solve problems.

The way you communicate in day to day interactions will set the scene so be mindful of role-modeling. You also instill the culture as a leader. For example, if your team communicates very casually and like a good laugh you don’t want to lose that camaraderie. However, you may need to better draw the line when it’s time for solid work and when staff can act a bit more casually. 

Accountability

Once you’ve provided training, coaching and role modelled the behaviors you want to see make staff accountable as individuals. Every staff member of course is at different levels of experience and development however ensure they are achieving their potential. If you notice poor behaviors or resistance to change than have a one to one discussion. Ask the staff member why. Change is difficult especially where a staff member has become accustomed to doing things a certain way over a long period.

Realize that people handle change differently, support them, coach them, however ultimately make them responsible for owning their personal growth. Considering individual circumstances whilst setting individual expectations is an important aspect for good accountability as a leader.

Improve the strength of your business and development of your employees by encouraging them to be accountable for developing leadership skills. This can be combined with improving the team’s ability to deal with change as a whole. For example, if your team is having specific issues with a new customer relationship management software and you know a team member exceling with it, have them present a how to workshop with staff. With every team member and yourself even, you will have strengths and improvement areas so this approach will encourage team accountability for dealing with change.

Ultimately, as a business owner you want the business to run smoothly even if you’re not available or need to take some leave. Utilizing the above advice and developing these three important soft skills among your employees will significantly improve your business’ ability to deal with change effectively.

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Simon Choi
Simon Choi owns Standout Bands, a third-party Apple Watch Bands online retailer. Simon has a former career in Change Management including a range of projects in Consulting firms (EY, KPMG) and Australian Banks. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.

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