There are many benefits to having a resilient workforce.
“Resilient employees are more positive, risk-taking and can adapt much more quickly to organizational changes, avoiding costly delays,” says Kimberlee Williams, CEO of change-management consulting firm Ignite M. “This assures implementation proceeds as planned and increases the likelihood that the business benefits of major initiatives will be achieved.”
“Resilient employees work harder during tough times,” says Dave Popple, president of team-building and leadership-development consultancy Corporate Insights. “Non resilient employees will become less productive during stressful times, which is exactly the opposite of what is needed. The difference is that there is a sweet spot for stress. If our anxiety is in the sweet spot, we become incredibly effective, but if stress goes beyond that sweet spot, productivity decreases. Resilient people have a wider sweet spot, so the stress that would debilitate one person will motivate the resilient person.”
“Personal resilience means being able to effectively adapt to disruptive changes at work and in life,” Williams says. “Though not everyone’s personal preferences predispose them to resilience, it is a skill that can be learned. Because of that, it is worthwhile investing in programs that help employees become more resilient, especially if you anticipate large-scale change in your company or industry.”
Williams says offering programs in problem solving (such as operational excellence or Lean Sigma), collaboration and networking can help build employees’ confidence and their ability to take on challenges. She also recommends providing job rotations and project leadership.
“When you make changes, such as fostering more collaboration or offering job rotations, be sure to tell employees what you’re doing,” Williams says. That way, they’ll see the connection and be motivated to participate. “By helping employees understand the feelings they will likely encounter, specific tactics they can take to deal with those, what is/is not changing, etc., employees experience a heightened sense of indirect control and can more effectively adapt in the moment.”
“It’s also important to run your organization in such a way that projects have a clear ending point,” says Popple. “People have an extra store of willpower or resilience that they can use when they see the end. Runners who see the finish line know this better than anyone.”
“In addition, ensuring that your work environment makes it easy for people to take breaks can help build resilience,” Popple says. “If people can work for 50 minutes and then do something completely different for 10, they will be more resilient.”
“Reducing unknowns is also important,” Popple says. “The brain hates open loops and uses up a lot of mental energy worrying about the unknowns. It is actually better to know the bad news than to wonder and be held in limbo.”
Williams says it’s important to remember that resilient employees aren’t necessarily complacent. “Resistance is common among all employees, resilient or no. Asking questions, articulating concerns, suggesting alternatives, and venting frustration are all normal. But resilient employees are able to work through those and ultimately adapt.”
“Employees who aren’t resilient may take passive-aggressive actions such as taking unnecessary sick days,” Williams says. They may also act out by engaging in bad behavior or even workplace misconduct. “The end result is an organization whose people cannot adapt quickly enough to make the vital changes it needs to be successful,” she says.
Resilience is the staying power that means your organization can make it through the bad times just as it thrives in the good. Making a concerted effort to build resilience in your employees can help make your whole organization stronger and protect it when challenges arise.