“In the age of automation, adaptability rules.” That’s according to the 2018 Workplace Learning Report from LinkedIn Learning, which polled 200 executives, 400 people managers, 1,200 talent developers and more than 2,000 employees about their learning and development priorities for the year ahead.

The report is unequivocal on the primary skills focus that will help to nurture adaptability in the global workforce: “Each group in our survey,” it states, “identified ‘training for soft skills’ as the Number One priority for talent development in 2018. In the age of automation, maintaining technical fluency across roles will be critical. But the pace of change is fuelling demand for adaptable, critical thinkers, communicators and leaders. As technology accelerates, soft skills are in high demand to fuel people and business growth.”

It goes on: “Soft skills – which are needed to effectively communicate, problem solve, collaborate and organise – are becoming more important for success as the workplace evolves socially and technologically.”

A similar view has emerged from US entrepreneur Jan Bruce – CEO of online stress-management system meQuilibrium. Writing in Forbes, Bruce notes: “As we face unprecedented growth potential in this era of digitisation, globalisation [and] transformation, we are losing opportunity. At the root, employees lack one key skill essential for the workplace today: adaptability.”

She adds: “Adaptability allows an employee to be flexible and handle changing work conditions. As organisations, we need to help our workers build an agile mindset.” Bruce urges employees to become more adept at “the science of resilience”.

But what are the various attitudes that underpin that resilience?

The Institute of Leadership & Management's head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper explains: “The key here is to not be afraid of change; to be comfortable with uncertainty, because you know that you have the capability to find a new way of working when the circumstances around you are being reshaped. If you look at the unadaptable mentality, it’s essentially about trying to keep everything the same as it is, or once was.

“That’s very much a fear response: the worry that you’re not going to be able to cope with the new. So you try to either pretend it’s not happening, or dig your heels in to prevent it from happening.”

Cooper adds: “What’s really important here is a tolerance for ambiguity: we may not know the answers yet, but we know the ways of finding them. At the Institute, we recognise adaptability as a key achievement – and achieving leaders are, essentially, adaptable.”

For further insights into the subject of adaptability, BOOK NOW for our upcoming webinar with business consultant Sylwia Gudima, set to take place from 5:00pm to 5:30pm on Wednesday 21 March