What is ‘AQ’ and why it matters to employers

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
(Getty Images)

For a long time, employers relied on IQ and EQ to determine whether a potential hire would be suited to a job. While IQ refers to analytical thinking, memory and mathematical ability, our emotional quotient refers to our interpersonal and communication skills.  

In recent years, however, more attention has been given to the concept of AQ. Otherwise known as the adaptability quotient, it is a subjective metric used to measure our ability to adapt and thrive in our ever-changing working environment. 

It’s no secret that technology is changing at an exponential rate. The way we work is also evolving, with more people working remotely than ever before - particularly amid the spread of Covid-19. As a result, we are required to learn faster than ever before to adapt quickly to these changes. 

Why is AQ important? 

“Ongoing digital transformation which is sweeping across the world of work means it’s more important than ever that professionals are flexible and adaptable,” says Carmena Wood, director at the recruitment firm Hays. “If we are not proactively learning, upskilling and embracing new technology that is inevitably going to keep emerging, we won’t be able to adapt to the changes and benefits this will bring.” 

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“The world of work has evolved constantly over the years, if we think back to just ten or fifteen years ago, there was much less direct access to the internet and intuitive software to help us do our jobs,” she says. “Digital technology is having a huge impact on both society and the workplace and is generating constant change in every industry.

In addition, the growing levels of automation, adoption of artificial intelligence and introduction of robotics software across many industries is transforming the world of work. This too requires us to be adaptable and open-minded. According to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, between 75 million and 375 million people around the world may need to change occupational categories and acquire new skills by the year 2030. 

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We are also part of an ageing workforce where our retirement age is rising and we have a more diverse group of ages working side by side. “Those who are able to adapt to working alongside colleagues across different generations will be the ones who thrive in an age-diverse world of work,” Wood adds.  

Is it possible to develop your AQ? 

Pretty much every profession will require adaptability and flexibility in the future. While your AQ may be tricky to measure in the traditional sense - compared to doing an IQ test - it is certainly something you can work on and develop, experts say. 

“Given the change that is occurring in the workplace today, I’d urge professionals to try and make themselves as adaptable as possible,” Wood says. “To achieve this, it’s important professionals push themselves out of their comfort zone and see change as an opportunity for growth and innovation. Whenever something new is proposed or put forward, embrace it, adjust the way you work, and help others in your team to do the same.” 

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First things first, it’s important to keep up-to-date with the changes in your industry. “Be aware and responsive to changes which are happening which you can find out about through LinkedIn groups, industry events, networking functions, webinars and podcasts,” she advises. “Also keeping an eye on what your organisation’s competitors are doing will help you stay on top of current trends and adapt accordingly.” 

You can also make yourself adaptable by exercising resilience, Wood adds. “If your first solution is turned down, come up with alternatives,” she explains. “Coming up with new solutions to problems will help you cope with change and grow your career every step of the way. 

“In light of the widespread change which is happening across our world of work, professionals who demonstrate that they are adaptable and open-minded will stand out to employers across industries and thrive in today’s world of work.”