Improving workforce morale: How do you adapt?

Traitify explores the principles around which the new age of Employee Experience will take shape, continuing with an in-depth look at adaptability.

These days, not only are professional lives stressed, everyday life outside of work is disrupted. This presents a call to action for organizations. To maintain productivity and achieve the nimbleness required by a challenging marketplace, leaders need to prioritize Workforce Morale. In our multi-part series, we explore strategies to approach this key objective. Today's focus is on adaptability.

Adaptability has received increased attention from psychologists in recent years. Researchers define the concept as the ability to change one's thinking and behaviors to suit the demands of an environment, a social situation, or a task. One study found a relationship between adaptability and a general sense of well-being. Another demonstrated that among college students adjusting to campus life, more adaptability was associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety.

The takeaway is clear: there is value in being able to "adjust as you go." In the twenty-first century workplace, adaptability has risen in importance. Individuals now face increasingly complex workplace demands, shorter tenures in given roles, and as we now see, urgent public health priorities. Adaptability is as important as it's ever been.

Building resources

How can employers promote adaptability in their workforce? One answer lies in thinking of an individual as having a certain set of psychological resources. These are a person's coping "bank." When the pool of resources is abundant, workers have the mental space to be more adaptable.

Among these resources might be social supports, such as friends and family who provide companionship and encouragement. Other resources might be favorite methods of self-care, or the ability to pursue a healthy lifestyle with nutritious foods and opportunities to exercise. Employers should consider what they can do to add to an individual's bank of resources. Here are some suggestions.

Ensure that employees have their practical needs met on the job:

  • Invest resources in safety measures
  • Provide sufficient time for training
  • Keep coffee and water well-stocked in the break room
  • Subsidize commuting costs

Encourage social connections at work:

  • Establish an online chat group
  • Create a bulletin board with photos and bios near employee lockers or other common areas
  • For those now working remotely, keep up with live meetings via video chat platforms, and hold social "events" for your team members to communicate with each other

Create good matches between tasks and people:

If individuals are routinely assigned to tasks for which they are not a good match, their satisfaction and performance are likely to suffer. Use personality assessments to gain insights into your workforce. For example:

  • You'll find that some workers are low in the personality dimension of "Openness." These employees thrive when implementing long-established procedures and can tolerate doing the same tasks from shift to shift.
  • Someone who is especially high in Openness? They're a much better fit for piloting an untested approach.

Unlock the power of motivation

Leadership strategist Jeff Boss offers a method one can use to increase adaptability. The trick is to consider a workplace stressor within a framework that emphasizes what is naturally motivating. Here's an example. Let's say Enrico is a licensed vocational nurse who places a high personal value on "keeping positive." Changing needs at his organization require him to begin work on an urgent and challenging task with a new team whose members he does not know well. He focuses his mindset on his natural interest in positivity and brainstorms ways he can encourage others to be positive. He shares an inspirational message from time to time with his team. He focuses on team spirit. That helps him get through the aspects of the situation that are more difficult, such as the urgency and difficulty of the tasks.

There's another way in which motivation may be related to adaptability. Research in psychology has discussed different patterns of achievement motivation among students and other learners. In general, those who are motivated by the opportunity to learn fare better over the long term than those whose motivation lies in appearing to perform well, such as with evaluations and grades. To bolster adaptability, play the long game and create a culture that values learning. Managers should use phrases that start with "I learned..." Ask workers what they learned in a given week or from a particular project. Overall, provide opportunities to engage in learning on the job. Further examples include:

  • Short-term goal-setting
  • Informal mentoring among team members
  • Requesting feedback from employees

In the age of COVID-19, leading employers recognize the value of investing in their workforce and shifting priorities to emphasize morale. Promoting a culture of adaptability is one important step.


To learn about other principles that can improve Workforce Morale, follow the links below:


To learn how you can boost your Workforce Morale through the power of personality, connect with Traitify.