Adaptation – A Skill and a Necessary Stage

How many times did you change your job over the last 5-10 years?  How many of your friends became disillusioned with what they were doing and radically changed their professional fields?  How many people that you know lost their jobs because their skills were not applicable anymore?

We will face this point many times over our next 10-20-30, and for someone 40 and 50, working years, guided by the rate of advancements in technology, work cycles, or just by a desire to try something new.  And it is not an easy stage when one has to get involved into a field or new workplace.  Everybody takes interest in settling down and getting along with each other.  But who actually devotes purposeful attention to the process of adaptation at workplaces and even in newfound fields?

This article is concerned with the process of adaptation in companies; however, I am sure that it can be applied to new fields as well as to those who make their first steps in entrepreneurship, just with different support institutions.

Why are Separate Adaptation Processes Necessary?

I am from the IT field and here we have a constant fight for resources.  People are relocated to other cities, enticed away by other companies.  Pay rates are exaggerated so much that it becomes difficult for an enterprise to be self-sufficient.  Thus, people who have worked in the field for a mere 2-3 years already get hefty salaries.

Whereas on the other side, there are ex- or current students who know absolutely nothing sensible or practical.  They need to be taught from scratch.  However, they do have a couple of perks: 1. they cost little (as expected), and 2. they haven’t picked up any “wrong” or “unfavorable” for a company work processes yet.  They are ready to adjust and to change, which, in its turn, still doesn’t make the search for sensible people easier.

 

So a company goes through massive efforts (including money) in order to find an employee and in a half a year-a year this employee leaves for a cushier job and we start the whole process all over again and cry about the time and money that we invested into that employee.

For the employee’s part, this situation does not look any better.  One takes a risk.  Not a whole lot about a company can actually be learnt during interviews.  One gets lucky if there is someone that they already know working there, yet, no one can tell how they will get along with their coworkers and manager.  That is not to mention that it is a sheer stress.  In their fear of it, many people keep on going to hated jobs that do not bring them enough moral feel-good or money in their fields.

 

Maria Nashchanskaya
System Technology
(provider of solutions for managing distribution  and control of visiting field teams)
Kaliningrad
Russia

 

How Could It Be Different?

Let’s compare two scenarios in a company: with a proper adaptation process in place and without one.  The level of adaptation skill of an employee can be counted in, too.  The better the skill, the higher the chance that the employee will blend in with the company without a delayed adaptation processes.

Adaptation Skill

There is such a novel “Blindness” by Jose Saramago.  There, a woman’s husband goes blind and then many more people around her.  It becomes clear that soon it will happen to her.  And if we accept that it can affect us, too, maybe, we should start getting ready and not only start teaching our new entries but learn from them.

I went to get bumps and bruises myself and over the last five years already changed more than five jobs and projects, including almost a radical change of type of activity.  At my last workplace, I was re-assigned to a completely different task in just three months.  And here is what I can say.  Firstly, it is a stress.  A drive.  But a stress, too.

 

 

  • The first trap that lies in wait – self-doubt

What if I fail?  What if I am not good enough?  What if I am not up to speed on the project/field quickly enough?  Here one should remember that he/she was taken on for this work/project for a reason.  They believed in me.  They also agreed to almost all of my demands.  They need me for some purpose or other.  And if I haven’t figured out why, then it is probably time to do it.  Or, when I resigned from the job for my project, I also reminded myself why I started doing all this, why I left my previous workplace and what I’d like to get in the end. Just give yourself a chance and see; maybe, it will actually work out.  In short, do not take the panic in your head seriously.

  • Trap number two – not to understand who is in charge here and how to deal with this person

The organizational structure and assumed model of communication at a new workplace can greatly differ from the one you are used to.  We get very much used to our manager, to his/her way of working and adjust to him/her to the greatest possible extent.  That is why we keep on using the same behavioral patterns at the new place while our new manager may practice an entirely different management style.  If one does not consider it, ugly conflict situations can happen without any reason, i.e. not due to incompetency of an employee, but because of cooperation and communication issues.  There is more information about it in the articles “Six Ways to the Goal” by Daniel Goleman, and “Managing Your Boss” by John J Gabarro and John Kotter.  To cut it short, one should mind what the manager needs, how he/she delivers it, and in what form the result/report should be provided.  And don’t forget that we are all humans and all of us have bad days.

  • Trap number three – displease the manager

There is a great article about it “The Set-up-to-fail Syndrome” by Jean-Francois Manzoni and Jean-Louis Barsoux.  When the manager does not like something, he starts keeping a closer eye.  The employee gets more nervous, starts asking less and talks less about his/her problems, takes on more responsibilities and, thus, makes more mistakes.  The manager keeps an even closer eye, the employee copes worse and worse. A vicious circle which can be broken only through a frank talk aimed at figuring out what areas actually require attention and why, and then agreeing on further ways of working.

 

Adaptation of Employees

If applying the above mentioned to a company, then the following is required:

  • Do not forget to tell a new employee what is expected of him/her during the first weeks and months;
  • Explain how everything works, what really matters and who should be informed in what cases;
  • Give timely feedback and clear everything up on the get go.

It would be great if the company has its history, positioning, corporate culture, development strategy, current corporate policy, and coordination procedures developed and noted somewhere so that a new comer could study them up over the first weeks of work in order to blend into the company and accept (or reject) its key targets and values.  Consequently, there are more chances of getting a loyal employee if he/she sees the whole picture right away and understands what is acceptable in the company and what is not, what is appreciated and recognized.  Company structure with photos would also be helpful to a new employee.  An interesting practical activity, reading not dry and general job descriptions, but a list of tasks and areas of responsibilities documented by a previous employee.  A new employee will further update it and add new office duties that he/she in particular would like to take on.  You can read more about this practice in the book “Motivation.  Enthusiasm is Contagious” by Klaus Kobjoll.

 

How to Help a Young Specialist with No or Very Small Experience

Carefully track how fast she/he gets engaged into the project and the technologies used over the first two weeks.  If the progress is slow, then in the next two weeks one should put more efforts into helping, teaching, and giving feedback to a new employee.   However, if there is not result within the first month, then it is better to bid farewell to this employee and get a new one (better already have one in sight).

You might well conclude that if this is an intern without any or with a modest salary, then you can hold off on discharge.  However, firstly, prior to making any decisions, get a rough estimate of how much work time this intern takes up from other employees.  Secondly, he/she can affect overall team spirit annoying everyone by asking many questions or making many mistakes, or by seriously letting someone down in terms of deadlines.  Thirdly, his/her negative impact on the project can seriously increase an already worsening project entropy.

 

If this is an experienced specialist

It is necessary to identify the real reasons why they came to work for you in order to be able to predict how long they are going to stay here.  You should find out what is their biggest interest, what they want to achieve in the immediate future, in what environment they are used to working, at what pace, how they are used to communicating with their management, coworkers and subordinates.  All of this is critical, in order to integrate an employee into their new work surroundings with the utmost comfort.  To achieve this, during the first week you need to get feedback from the new employee and help him/her to overcome the challenges which he/she faces (as well as to identify them).

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Published by the Triple Helix Association  –  ISSN 2281-4515

 

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