How to: Developing resilience strategically

Resilience should be high on the leadership agenda as more and more people fall victim to the pressures of stress and change at work. Read our guide on why and how to do it.

As more and more people fall victim to stress and the pace of change, resilience should be high on the leadership agenda for a culture of wellbeing, performance & growth

Developing resilience at the organisational level is reliant on an understanding of the need to develop resilience at an individual level. Consider these facts:

FACT: 76% of employees don’t have enough resilience according to recent data from Leadership IQ

FACT: 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope (Mental Health Foundation survey 2018). 

FACT: 66% of employees claim their performance declined as a result of toxic workplace culture (Harvard Business School study 2015) 

Resilience is clearly a crucial issue for all organisations serious about safeguarding their most important assets so we would like to offer a five-step plan to establish a resilience strategy in your organisation.

1. Take responsibility - wellbeing isn't an initiative, it's a culture

Leaders and HR professionals are ultimately accountable for the wellbeing and engagement of their people. The danger with the increasingly common wellbeing initiatives such as mindfulness, physical health checks and nutritional advice, is it focuses only on wellbeing on an individual level, placing the emphasis on the ‘employee,’ rather than the ‘employer.’

Wellbeing needs to stop being treated as the responsibility of the individual and their experiences. These initiatives cannot address the hidden issues often responsible for poor management practice or toxic working environments. We recommend that organisations develop a policy on developing resilience that moves beyond personal responsibility and gives people the skills to maintain their own personal, team and organisational wellbeing and resilience. 

" Wellbeing needs to stop being treated as the responsibility of the individual and their experiences. These initiatives cannot address the hidden issues often responsible for poor management practice or toxic working environments. "

2. Analyse the current human reality and risks

Organisations need to re-focus on data that allows them to keep track of their employee’s wellbeing and resilience by asking themselves: 

1. How confident are we that reputational risks are protected in terms of the employee experience? 

2. What aren’t we doing that might compromise our reputation as an employer of choice? 

3. What effect is hidden stress, poor management practices or a toxic culture having on our engagement, attendance and productivity? 

4. How often do we collect: 

  • Engagement surveys 
  • Absence rates – specifically stress related (low rates in addition to high as your people may be coming in sick) 
  • Staff turnover (high rates suggest something is not working) 
  • Productivity (even if its measured subjectively) 
  • Client complaints (if your people are unhappy and un-resilient it will reflect on your clients) 
  • Stress and anxiety levels (using standardised tests) 
  • Burnout risk assessments 

Leaders need to ask themselves: 

  • How confident are we that our key assets (our people) are engaged and mentally healthy? 
  • How confident are we that our key assets have the skills to manage and develop their own resilience? 
  • Do they know how to grow and adapt during times of change? 
  • Do they know how to avoid burnout? 
  • What effects could an un-resilient culture have or what could a resilient culture create? 

Doing this will help you to implement suitable controls and determine what good practice looks like. Repeat the procedure regularly to continuously re-assess the effectiveness of your measures. 

3. Get the fundamentals right

On the surface, broad-brush wellbeing initiatives seem like a win-win but developing resilience strategically involves a move away from the one-size-fits-all approach towards a change in individual and organisational mindset through: 

1. Giving people the skillset, mindset and resources to collectively manage their wellbeing and resilience – they need to think, manage emotion and connect. 

It doesn’t matter what field you are in or your experiences, the ability to use and leverage your talent and technical skillset is down to your mentality and thought processes. On that basis alone it means they should be developed concurrently. At some point mentality will fail and unless you have the skillset to correct it what do you do? 

2. Listening and speaking to your people 

Culture is made up of habits, beliefs and behaviours and if you want to drive your business forward the only people that can do it are your people. So do not neglect them. Often leaders are guilty of looking up rather than down. Get down in the dirt with your people and ask them, talk to them and engage with them in order to understand their needs. This may sound obvious, yet a large number of managers and leaders still fail to do this as they juggle the demands of doing more with less. 

3. Make small changes that are in your control 

In order to get different results, you need to do something differently. After gathering the data do something with it and make changes to drive your people and business forward. A change in direction or strategy may be required to get the results you want/need. 

4. Manage the risk

Resilience underpins wellbeing and performance and a key enabler for the successful management of risks associated with change and transitions and poor culture, typically ‘band aided’ by traditional wellbeing initiatives. Developing resilience requires a long-term and sustainable view to boosting productivity, engagement and reducing absence and turnover. 

Find the right provider of resilience training and they will work with you to focus on why people disengage, the core skills to spot it when it happens and what to do about it. Resilience is as much about propelling forward as it is about “bouncing back.” Ask providers for case studies and measurable outcomes. Resilience training is not ‘soft and fluffy’ but an investment which should clearly align with your organisational objectives and offer a direct and meaningful ROI.

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