Adaptability is the key concept of KUYAP. But adaptability in business is a quite new approach that should be explained.

So here we would like to clarify the meaning, the approach, the content of adaptability in business, and the previous European Union’s experience in this field.

Adaptability has been defined in numerous ways in the sociological and economical litterature. However, at the most basic level adaptability could be defined as an effective change in response to an altered situation. This definition presumes that to behave in an adaptable fashion, an individual must recognize the need to change based on some current or future perceived alteration in the environment and change his or her behaviour as appropriate.

Considering business environment, first of all we would like to emphasize as globalization, new technologies, and greater transparency have combined to up-end the business environment. Consequently sustainable competitive advantage no longer arises from positioning or resources. Instead, it stems from the four organizational capabilities that foster rapid adaptation:

  • The ability to read and act on signals of change
  • The ability to experiment rapidly and frequently—not only with products and services but also with business models, processes, and strategies
  • The ability to manage complex and interconnected systems of multiple stakeholders
  • The ability to motivate employees and partners


Adaptability is further fostered by various EU policy documents among which the Europe 2020 Strategy which puts a strong emphasis on education and training to promote “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”.

Adaptability is the third of the four pillars of the European Employment Strategy. In fact, the Employment Guidelines adopted at the Special Luxembourg European Council Summit (the ‘Jobs’ Summit of November 1997) were grouped around four ‘pillars’:

  • employability,
  • entrepreneurship,
  • adaptability,
  • equal opportunities.

The adaptability pillar is entitled ‘encouraging adaptability of businesses and their employees.’ It covers adaptability in terms of the organisation of work, working patterns and contracts, as well as adaptability in terms of regulatory and training systems. It recognises that a balance must be struck between the need of businesses for flexibility, and the needs of employees for security and employability (Commission Green Paper Partnership for a new organisation of work COM (97) 128 (Final)).

 The EU more recent Employment Strategy now comprises three main objectives:

  • 1. Full employment;
  • 2. Improving quality and productivity at work;
  • 3. Strengthening social cohesion and inclusion.

Following these are 10 ‘priorities for action’ to be implemented by the Member States in pursuit of the main objectives. Especially relevant is the third of these priorities that is to ‘address change and promote adaptability in work.’

Adaptability as it is understood in this framework refers to facilitating transition to a high-value added and diversified production structure and institutionalization of SMEs. Adaptability is especially applicable for those SMEs having a certain growth potential and qualified employees with a final aim of more innovativeness, higher competitiveness and much more employability.

In practice, for those companies adaptability is a leverage for becoming more moneymaking.

In fact, the capacity to anticipate change and manage adaptation to it in a timely and acceptable way is one of the key success factors for competitiveness and wealth creation of companies and economies as a whole. But this capacity requires a general acceptance of change as a fact of life on the part of the individual and the company, coupled with a willingness and ability to adapt work organisation, skills and competencies, organisational strategies and leadership styles.

This adaptable mind-set could result from a specific training involving employers and employees.

Specific innovative measures can improve company performance through human resources development strategies as training, exchange experiences and best practices programme, study visit in different business environments.

Since 2000 European Union Member States used the European Social Fund support to address the adaptability of their enterprises and the continuing training of their workers. The ESF is currently supporting adaptability interventions in all 27 Member States. The Fund further enhanced its support to the adaptability of enterprises and the continuous training of workers for the 2007-2013 programming period.

The result of this support in developing adaptability among European employers and employees is that, despite the worldwide recession, SMEs are still now the backbone of the European Union economy. Actually, there are around 23 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the European Union – that is 99% of all enterprises. In addition, SMEs provide over 100 million jobs in Europe*, 67.1% of private-sector jobs, and in some sectors account for more than three-quarters of all jobs (I.E. the manufacture of metal products, construction, and furniture). Also, in the last ten years employment grew in EU countries thanks to small and medium firms ability of better adapt their businesses to the global changes. Most of EU SMEs are too a continuous source of innovation of equipment, products and processes. In the end, SMEs generating more than half (57.3 %) of EU Gross Domestic Product (GDP).


Accordingly, KUYAP point out that to develop adaptability becomes one of the priorities for keeping Turkish SMEs alive and competitive, especially those operating in the less developed regions of East Anatolia. In fact, even the most remote region is now affected by the global changes. In that framework, the development of adaptability by means of vocational education and managerial training as well as lifelong learning is essential not only for Turkish enterprises active in the global market, but also for those active only at national/local level.

In fact, having a captive market in a niche or a limited area, or holding low labour costs are not any more an essential competitive advantage that preserve a small firm from a more aggressive external competition. Production itself it is not the main issue considering how many low costs manufacturing producers there are in the world. Knowledge business has become more important than producing

The existence of all local SMEs depends upon their ability to adjust to the current needs of the market, due to the increased competition, the emergency of new, international competitors, and the relocation of production lines abroad. Adaptability as receptiveness to new business and organisational models as well to new customers’ needs and new technological solutions becomes new ways of gaining and maintain competitive advantage for SMEs.

Working on adaptability means to design the future of company taking into consideration how the economic environment will change, including customers’ needs, in the next future: in this regards Regional Development Agencies are and essential source of knowledge. We should involve them as testimonial in our training sessions for popularize the results of their research and strategic plans.

Consequently training should be facilitating owner-managers in considering innovative business models that imply innovation on production process, on product itself, and related services. With respect to those issues, KUYAP could offer to employers and employees a range of best practices coming from a specific research among West of Turkey successful companies. The guide discussion of those examples could be completed by an exchange experience programme KUYAP will run moving SMEs employers and employees to visit successful companies in West of Country and in EU countries.

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