Resilience in the Workplace

There is a lot of talk these days about ‘resilience’. Sometimes millennials are described as having no resilience, as being part of the ‘snowflake’ generation and they are unfavourably compared with the war generation who it is said showed courage and resilience. So what do we mean by the term resilience?

Resilience is all about staying strong and positive when faced with threats and disruption. In today’s world organisations face multiple threats. The UK High Street is facing disruption because of the growth of internet shopping. Retail stores are closing or struggling.

Organisations also face potential cyber-attacks from criminals, hackers or foreign states. And of course global warming has increased unfavourable weather conditions. Hurricanes, typhoons and the associated flooding can seriously disrupt an organisation’s infrastructure as well as affecting their staff’s ability to get to work and to carry out normal business.

The terrorist threat is also a constant threat almost everywhere.

Faced with this variety of threats, organisations have to be prepared. They need to set up crisis management centres and develop an internal resilience, so they are aware of potential threats and have identified strategic goals to cope with them.

That’s all on a macro level.

On a micro level within an organisation it is staff who need to show resilience. Problems with mental health appear to be affecting more and more people, social media is blamed for increasing young people’s episodes of depression and also contributing to their lack of self-esteem. The gig economy, lack of social housing, sexual harassment and bullying all make for a toxic mix that impacts on people’s lives causing distress.

This is why personal resilience has become such a big issue and why many training courses have sessions explaining the topic and focusing on staff wellbeing. Resilience is not necessarily something you are born with. Although some people do appear to be able to naturally cope better with disasters and traumas, there are techniques that can be learned and the first of these is self-awareness.

Key to being resilient is openness and good relationships. The lesson for organisations is that they need to nurture their staff and encourage teamwork and involvement. All too often different departments within an organisation work in isolation – the so-called silo mentality. This type of working means that information is not readily shared, different departments often behave as though they are rivals and employee motivation and morale take a dip. Bad for the organisation; bad for the individual.

Overcoming silo thinking and creating a more open and integrated workplace is the first step to building a resilient workforce. Next, everyone needs to be very aware of the exact nature of their job. Job descriptions are all too often set up when a person joins a company only to be filed away and never looked at again. Jobs are continually evolving and this needs to be reflected in the job description and checks made so that the job is still relevant and that it still matches the organisation’s strategic goals.

Staff need to know their level of authority and their priorities – and where the boundaries of their job begin and end.

Communication is essential so everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing, where they fit into the organisation and where their contribution fits the ‘big picture‘.

Once all these factors are in place staff will have a more confident and positive attitude. They should then be encouraged to be pro-active in their work, to take ownership of the job and of their departmental goals.

This means they need to demonstrate leadership, making suggestions for example, and point out when they see processes can be improved.

When staff are clear on their job and the organisation’s goals they are likely to be more resilient because they will be confident in themselves and their role. And further training can encourage them to identify when resilience is needed and what strengths they have that they can draw upon to be able to cope.

So, organisations need to be aware at both the micro and macro level of what needs to be done to withstand the inevitable ‘shocks and alarums’ of the modern world.