Business team discussion / Unsplash

Adaptability to change and resilience are two skills that need to be fully grasped by both prospective job candidates and employers, local business coaches and consultants have told MaltaCEOs.mt.

In today’s dynamic world, businesses are constantly seeking employees who can withstand periods of uncertainty, being open to learning new things and take on new challenges. This is particularly the case when considering elements such as technological advances, changing processes and shifting regulations.

However, job candidates are also simultaneously requiring employers to be more willing to undergo change and better placed to navigate the uncertainties that have characterised the post-COVID-19 pandemic years.

Last week, Eurostat data revealed that being able to adapt to change ranked top of the skills most requested by employers in Malta in online job advertisements in 2022. Out of the 32 job categories assessed, 27 requested adaptability to change the most, with such occupations including administration, sales, marketing and public relations, as well as finance roles, among others.

Following this, MaltaCEOs.mt reached out to Elaine Dutton, a Business and HR Consultant and Founder of The Change Agent, as well as JA Malta CEO and Coach Matthew Caruana, to highlight the significance of these findings.

Dr Dutton remarked that while it is a positive sign that employers are recognising the importance of adaptability and being mentally flexible in the face of change, she said that the resistance to change “often comes from the top.”

Elaine Dutton / LinkedIn
The Change Agent Founder Elaine Dutton / LinkedIn

She noted that she frequently meets business leaders who speak of “the good old days” when people were thankful to have a job and when job mobility was minimal. “While some – grudgingly – accept that times have changed, few seek to truly embrace this new reality and seek to identify new opportunities that may capitalise,” Dr Dutton said. She added that there are others who are not in touch with new technological trends, leading to innovative suggestions from employees to be met with scepticism.

Mr Caruana was in agreement, saying that there are employers who have a fixed mindset, and that adaptability has to take place “across the board.”

“Gone are the days where you have a team, and it stays with you for 10 years. Nowadays, companies are constantly changing and altering their teams,” he continued.

Matthew Caruana cropped
JA Malta CEO Matthew Caruana

In some cases, employers would want employees who are not scared of change and hence would have a growth mindset and a desire to learn and push themselves. However, they are often perceived as pretentious when they request a bigger training and development budget from their employers. This is also the case for remote working, as even though a number of organisations have embraced this reality, others still do not have full trust in their teams to do their work away from the office.

“If you want employees who are adaptable in the face of change, ask yourself: Are your organisational culture and leadership team able to successfully leverage the mindset and skill of said employees? If you want a sailing boat instead of a rowing boat, you better know how to sail,” Dr Dutton commented.

Mr Caruana pointed out that while companies need to make sure employees align with their culture and that certain principles are followed, companies also need to be “adaptable and adjustable” in certain areas.

“The reality of life has changed,” he stressed.

From where should job candidates learn such vital skills?

Mr Caruana also stated that skills like adaptability and teamwork need to be made a priority by educational institutions, with the Eurostat survey being evidence of the need to address this gap in school portfolios.

“Our schools still have a curriculum that is very heavy on content and theory, which is obviously good. However, there is not enough time for students to have experiences to learn other skills as mentioned in the survey. Sometimes, you need to put them in the deep end, rather than having them constantly listening or reading,” he said.

Dr Dutton said that schools need to work on reaching a balance between reinforcing good behaviour through compliance to rules while also harnessing creative energy for students to use for innovative solutions, problem solving and to be encouraged to debate and challenge ideas. “Perhaps one can talk of whether schools encourage students to push out of their comfort zone, from being asked to stand up and present an idea to the classroom to trying out a new sport,” she added.

Mr Caruana said that given the heavy curriculum, the aforementioned skills often end up being seen as “secondary and pushed to the side.” He said that there has to be an increase in experiential learning, that of learning by doing.

“There needs to be a greater focus on tasks such as projects and presentations. These enable students to work more in teams and have discussions,” he added.

However, Dr Dutton remarked that at the end of the day, it is not just down to the educational system, but parents are ultimately the “first form of authority children meet,” and therefore these skills need to first and foremost be fostered at home. She questioned whether children are encouraged by their parents to push out of their comfort zone or to challenge their parents’ beliefs.

“Resilience and adaptability are like muscles that need to be exercised and developed. They are learnt over years and years in the same way that passivity and compliance are learnt over the years. If the workplaces of today are already requiring it from their workforce, helping our children develop these skills is paramount if they are to be successful in the society of tomorrow. I wouldn’t wait for the school to do it for me,” she reaffirmed.

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