Skills Centre

Adapting to Change

Adapting to Change in a Rapidly Changing Business Environment

Job responsibilities are continually changing, especially as a supervisor or a manager, but all job roles change so you should prepare yourself to adapt successfully rapidly changing environments.

Here are a number of tips that you can use to help you to cope with change in your organisation and also your own career. The primary measures you can take to adapt to change include:

  • Becoming aware of your situation
  • Understanding change
  • Building your skills and knowledge

Become Aware of Your Current Situation

It is essential that when your business environment is changing that you understand how it is changing and how your role will change, if at all. If you are unsure it is important that you take steps to find out. Asking your line manager or the person you directly report to questions will help you to understand the change and also provide you with more information about how you can help your team and also cope with this change. Questions that you could ask them are:

  • What changes are coming?
  • How do these changes impact you or your team?
  • What are your key responsibilities, have these changed?
  • What do they expect of you?
  • Where do you go for support if it’s needed?
  • What resources do you have at your disposal?

People often miss important information when they employ selective perception, habit, and specialisation to keep themselves from being exposed to ideas they might not want to hear. While this is human nature, it is not a good strategy for handling change. Instead, you should face your fears and broaden your sources of information to explore new ideas. By increasing your awareness of change through a willingness to take in new information, you will have a distinct advantage over those who tend to isolate themselves.

Understanding Change

Compare your reaction and a small child’s reaction to thunder. You ignore it, but a child may be anxious and seeks assurances from the nearest adult. It’s only human to fear the unknown, confidence comes with understanding. From experience, you know that thunder is a natural phenomenon that cannot harm you. The child does not yet understand it. That is why an important step toward coping with change is understanding it: what is happening, why, and how.

Is your department being reorganised? Are you worried about the impact on you? That’s natural. But don’t fall victim to rumours, speculation, or the inclination to assume the worst. Wait for your manager to explain why the reorganisation is being done, how the new department will work, and what specific changes will occur. It is likely that the changes represent an improvement of some sort. If your manager does not explain the change to you, ask them about it.

Flexibility and a willingness to embrace change will make you a more valuable member of your organisation, one who can reliably deal with many different opportunities and circumstances. You may not like all the changes that are occurring, but you can be sure that if you resist them, you will not grow. It is fine to voice your opinion and make suggestions, but it is also important to appreciate that competition and technology are constantly combining to force top management to re-evaluate company operations. It is helpful to look on changed circumstances and the challenges they present with the attitude of a new employee and, as a new employee would, take on these challenges enthusiastically and with a desire to learn all you can to perform well.

When you recognise the possibilities created by change, you’re more prepared to exploit them. You will find change not something to fear, but as something to welcome and turn to your own advantage.

Build Your Skills and Keep Learning

Adapting to change frequently requires the effective use of all your acquired skills. In some cases, adapting to change will call for the use of other skills as well, skills which you might not yet have mastered, or even begun to acquire. In a fast-changing work environment, skills also become obsolete. To be prepared to deal with change successfully, it is important to build as many skills as you can before their use becomes essential for organisational survival.

You can never stop learning if you want to maintain your value in the job marketplace. Nor can you wait for your employer to send you to seminars or pay for additional education. You need to take responsibility to educate yourself. Doing so will help you keep your skills current, and it will demonstrate an initiative for self-improvement that makes you a more visible and viable candidate for a promotion or new assignment.

You may also want to consider making lateral moves to learn new skills and become a well-rounded employee. Read trade magazines and attend conferences, when possible. Take refresher training in your area of competence. Enrol on a college course that interests you, even one not given for credit. See if your professional association offers training sessions and workshops. Look into correspondence or distance education. If circumstances allow, pursue an advanced degree. If college is not an option, broaden your reading and personal study. Using the ABMA Education eLibrary will provide you with additional reading you can take advantage of. Join others with similar interests to form a discussion group or study team. Read a technical manual or recent review of research in an area of interest to you.

This is the one of the most important tips for adapting to change, because it places you ahead of the curve: anticipating change and implementing it before many people think to adapt. It is important to keep your learning skills fresh; learning how to learn is also too valuable a lesson to allow it to waste away over time. The bottom line is, the more you know how to do and the more current your skills and your ability to apply them effectively, the more valuable you are to an organisation.


Organisational change is not optional to keep pace with business. All organisations, at one time or another, change some aspect of their business. Supervisors can prepare themselves to adapt successfully to a more rapidly changing business environment by following a variety of tips, as outlined above.