The workplace can be a challenging environment and can test even the most tenacious employee. Headcount reductions, deadlines, rivalry, and organisational change can all impact an individual’s capacity to cope and thrive at work.
Equally, managers and leaders are often under significant pressure and may not realise how their actions contribute to the levels of resilience of their Teams.
How employees and their managers therefore respond to change makes all the difference whether they will be overwhelmed or able to navigate their way through shifting situations at work.
What is workplace resilience and why is it important?
Resilience refers to the ability to adapt, recover and grow stronger from adverse situations. In a workplace setting, it is the employees’ ability to manage anything from a high workload, how they interact with colleagues and learn from mistakes.
A resilient workforce benefits your business because it enhances motivation and prepares people to bounce back from challenges, which results in lower absence and presenteeism, increases productivity, strengthens working relationships, and enhances acceptance of change.
How do we create a more resilient workplace?
The good news is that resilience is a behaviour that can be learned and strengthened. Every organisation is unique and how resilience resonates within each culture will differ. However, there are common aspects that build and strengthen workplace resilience to ensure Teams survive and thrive during times of change and uncertainty:
- Create a sense of purpose and belonging
The foundation of a resilient organisation is connecting employees’ work to the company’s purpose. When employees feel that their work is meaningful and they understand how their role helps the business succeed, they are more likely to persist with challenges and give discretionary effort to accomplish objectives. Leaders need to help employees have this line of sight and show them how their role makes a difference and contributes to the greater good of the environment which they are part of.
- Ensure effective leadership at all levels
Resilient organisations have good leadership at all levels. Leaders and managers understand their role and help their people to succeed. They clear roadblocks, simplify processes, allow and trust their people to make decisions and hold their people accountable for results and behaviours.
- Create the safety to learn from mistakes and share knowledge
When leaders and managers encourage problem solving, experimenting with new approaches and create the safety for employees to learn from their mistakes, people are more inclined to share their knowledge and change their behaviour to learn new skills and gain new insights. This learning environment supports reflection and the ability for employees to think creatively and innovatively. It enables the organisation to manage risk better, prepare for the unexpected so that it can adapt to changing circumstances and become more agile, which increases its resilience.
- Invest in health and wellbeing practices
Happy and healthy employees are less stressed, anxious and depressed. When employers incorporate health and wellbeing practices at work it is proven to increase staff retention, performance and motivation. Tangible health and wellbeing practices go beyond free fruit, cycle to work schemes and a games room. It is multi-faceted and includes aspects such as requiring managers and leaders to role model the importance of health and wellbeing themselves, training managers to recognise and support mental health challenges within their team, reviewing ways of working, providing clarity how performance is measured and evaluated and providing specialist support for managers and employees through occupational health, employee assistance programmes, counselling and trained mental health first aiders.
- Promote open communication and team work
Human beings do not like or cope well with uncertainty. The absence of communication from leaders and managers fuels this uncertainty which eventually leads employees to generate their own versions of reality, which only creates more anxiety. Regular communication, whether formal or informal, through mechanisms such as 1-2-1 meetings with line managers or team meetings where employees are encouraged to share knowledge, ensure that people feel connected and included which ultimately increases their motivation and productivity.
How resilient is your workplace?
- Where do the biggest contributions to your workplace resilience come from?
- What are the biggest threats and detractors to this resilience?
- What are you doing on a regular basis to help your people build their resilience?
- How do you support, develop and hold managers at all levels of the organisation, accountable for creating an environment which feels safe for employees to own up to mistakes, ask questions and share their knowledge?
- Does your business have a compelling purpose, that is well articulated, easy for your employees to understand and support?
- Do know for sure that your managers are regularly communicating and keeping in touch with employees and their teams?
Resilient workplaces are well prepared, have teams who embrace change, support mental and physical wellbeing of their people and have cultures founded on trust and accountability. These workplaces thrive in adversity, have leaders who show courage during challenging times and their people are never out of the ‘fight’. In today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world, which business can afford not to be resilient?