When the iPhone 6 Plus was released, you may recall that it raised a certain furor. I am talking, of course, about “BendGate”: the tongue-in-cheek name given to the multiple reports of iPhones physically warping in the pockets of their owners.
While there were a lot of opinions on how much the phone’s physical malleability affected the quality of Apple’s products and reputation, there’s one thing professionals can all agree on: Like the iPhone 6 Plus, a great team is flexible.
Break Down the Silos
Similar to the tall metal structures for which it is named, a silo mentality — if it exists in your organization — will loom large, casting ominous shadows on team performance. While it’s important to find a candidate who has both skills and cultural fit, it may be even more important to find candidates who are open to new experiences and changes.
“Silo mentality” is another name for the infamous “that’s not my job!” mindset. When an employee with silo mentality faces a task that falls outside their traditional purview, they reject it outright.
Some big corporations can get away with employees who hold this mindset, but most teams need individuals who see a problem and offer a solution, whether the problem is in their wheelhouse or not.
If your organization seems to be suffering from silo mentality, consider your own habits. Make a point to ask how team members are doing in their projects and offer to help when they seem stumped. If they don’t need help today, they’ll remember your offer next week when a problem does arise. It’s important to remember that no matter what you are doing for the company, you and the other employees are all working for the same goal.
It is very difficult to feel comfortable doing anything outside your role when you have little or no knowledge of the process. A culture and office structure cannot be flexible when there is no initiative to make it such. The good news is that by cross-training people, you can create a team of ready-for-anything employees.
A successful cross-training venture can start small. Simply pulling an employee with room in their schedule into small tasks on a weekly or monthly basis is a step in the right direction. Even if you’re not a decision-maker who can implement formal cross-training opportunities, you can still contribute. For example, you could ask your cubicle mate if they knew the company ATS had a template-building feature and offer to show them how it works.
Encourage your own learning by asking knowledgeable coworkers how parts of the their jobs work. Express interest in learning more about things you find confusing or think you might have a knack for. Before long, conversation will move on to the more intricate processes, new talents will surface, and hindrances caused by reliance on coworkers will dwindle.
Hire for Tomorrow
When all is said and done, some people simply aren’t fond of change. That’s why specifically hiring employees who have a capacity to be flexible is such an important step. Startups and small businesses rely on their employees to go with the flow, and not everyone is cut out for that.
When a new position opens up, consider the skills needed to fill it. Then think of other departments that are lacking or could use a boost. Narrow your candidate pool by looking at applicants who have some of the skills and experience needed for the initial position; then, in the interview, ask about other interests or knowledge they have. Be transparent in each interview about how much you value versatility and adaptability.
Though Apple’s stock suffered from its flexible phones, your company will benefit from flexible employees. Just getting by is no way to boost productivity and will leave your office stagnate and unmotivated. Support current employees who are learning new skills, encourage constant learning, and hire people who are open to both.
A version of this article originally appeared on Red Branch Media.