Teams now operate in a variety of work contexts and roles—from temporary to permanent, short-term to long-term, and gigs vs. jobs. Learn how to develop workers in different roles, and the challenges and opportunities you will face.
- As a manager of adaptive workers, you're going to find that your team will likely be operating in a variety of work contexts from full-time employees to temporary gig workers and you'll need to learn how to help all of them to become more adaptive. I actually started out my career as that temporary gig worker. I've never spent much time in college so I found a series of odd and sometimes extremely odd jobs in my early 20s. I would go to a temporary agency in my area and I would ask them for the hardest temp job they had to do with computers.
I'd then go to the client's office in the morning, I'd read the computer manual and often be teaching their staff how to use the computer better by the afternoon. I found that I thrived on the opportunity to continually learn something new and to be productive with that work in a really short time. You're likely to find that people who work regularly in temporary roles are either naturally drawn toward impermanent work situations because they're automatically good at it or they've learned how to be good at it through practice because that's the only kind of work they thought they could find.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you'll often find that people in long-term permanent roles especially those doing work that's repetitive or doesn't require a lot of creativity may not be the most practiced at adapting to new situations. They may be naturally inclined to have a stable, predictable income and a set of tasks to perform. In fact, studies show that a large percentage of the work force are in that second bin. They like reliability especially of a paycheck and benefits and adapting to dynamic change isn't necessarily something that they've signed up for.
When specific problems you needed to solve recur again and again and you have the budget and other resources for a long term full-time worker, you're likely to craft the traditional role for that person, what we often think of as a job. On the other end of the spectrum, if you have a very, very short-term problem for a person to solve for an hour or a day, you'll likely only want to pay for the person's time or if it's an internship or volunteer work, you might not want to pay for it at all. In between roles like permanent part-time, temporary full-time and temporary part-time, depending upon your field, there's also shift work where a worker may come in for a single shift, gig work where you find a worker through an app and piece work where someone delivers a result for you like building part of a desk or part of a website.
As a manager, you'll probably find that your ability and to some extent your interest in developing adaptive workers will depend on a combination of how much you'll have the worker around, how much you're paying them and how much you're responsible for them versus another manager. Now, as I found in my 20s, it's also common that because short-term temporary work is often entry level work requiring fairly basic skills to perform, those are often the roles that young people or people without college degrees will take. Unfortunately, those are exactly the people who can benefit the most from training that could help them to rapidly learn how to be more adaptive.
For the sake of this course, I'm going to assume that you have someone on your team where the incentives and the opportunity for you mean you have the time and the inclination to help them to become more adaptive even if they're only working with you for a finite period of time. No matter what the range of work context might be represented on your team, here's a brief exercise. On a piece of paper, list your team members. In one column, put the amount of time you typically interact with each worker in an average week then in another column, rate each member of your team by how adaptive you think they are.
Try using H for highly adaptive, A for adaptive, S for somewhat adaptive and N for not very adaptive. Now, step back and look at your list. Check out those you rated as not very adaptive and somewhat adaptive. How much time do you regularly have with them? If it's a lot of time then these are probably the workers where you need to focus most of your efforts but if it's comparatively little, these are the workers you'll need to do some serious thinking about to determine if you have the time and ability to help them learn greater adaptive skills.
- Characteristics of adaptive workers
- How to be an adaptive manager
- Honing self-management skills
- Developing proactive workers
- Importance of goals in adaptive work
- Developing and supporting remote workers
- Empowering adaptive workers to solve problems
- Collaboration and adaptive teams