Change Management Christopher SmithOctober 18, 2021

How Do You Create a Resilient Workforce?

How Do You Create a Resilient Workforce?

What are the biggest traits of a resilient workforce?

More importantly, can you instill these traits in your employees?

Why Is Resilience Important?

Business continuity and organizational resilience became trending topics in 2020. And as the pandemic wore on, many managers and leaders understood why it is also important to have a resilient workforce.

Employees who had never worked remotely were being required to work from home full time. Although many enjoyed this experience, it also came with stresses, such as:

  • Social isolation
  • The pressure to learn new digital workflows
  • Increased cyber security risk
  • Distractions at home
  • Difficulty collaborating with coworkers
  • Feeling pressured to work more
  • The inability to unplug from the internet 

This is only one example of a case where resilience can be critical to employee performance.

Resilience is also key to maintaining workforce cohesion during disruptive changes that can include:

  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Organizational restructuring
  • Technology adoption
  • Natural disasters

A wide variety of other factors can impact employee performance, including day-to-day stressors – poor management, poor working conditions, ineffective organizational communication, and interpersonal conflict are just a few examples.

In all of these cases, resilience can be key to maintaining performance and morale.

But what exactly makes an employee or a workforce resilient?

How Do You Create a Resilient Workforce?

Psychologists say that resilience is adapting well in the face of tragedy, threats, or significant stressors. 

From this perspective, it is clear that individual resilience, closely tied to mental health, cannot be entirely controlled by the employer. An individual’s psychological wellbeing, after all, is a personal health matter and not the responsibility of the employer.

That being said, there are ways to support employees psychological well being, their mental health, and, as a result, their resilience.

Here are a few:

Provide robust training programs

Disruptive change is a common part of today’s workplace. New tools, new ways of working, and new ways of thinking are affecting the way we work and interact.

As a result, employees must become perpetual learners.

Employers can support that learning by implementing employee training programs, modern training tools such as DAPs, and by continually improving their training efforts over time.

Instill agility into the workplace culture

Agility is a set of values based on responsiveness and adaptability. 

This set of values grew out of the software development industry and quickly became a dominant software development model. 

But it quickly spread to many other disciplines and is now being applied even at the level of the organization.

Organizational agility, however, depends on workforce agility.

This means implementing processes and ways of thinking that are based on adapting to circumstances in real-time.

Agile practices often revolve around principles such as:

  • Continuous collaboration with customers and stakeholders
  • Responding to change, rather than following predetermined plans
  • Functionality over documentation

During 2020, many research firms, such as McKinsey, advocated for agile business practices as a way to cope with the disruption of the pandemic. 

In the same way, agility will help workforces stay more resilient in the face of future disruptions, regardless of their nature.

Provide access to employee assistance programs (EAPs)

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are benefits provided to employees. 

Much like medical or dental, they provide employees with subsidized support, only their focus is on issues such as mental health, addiction, workplace conflict, and similar issues.

These programs can offer support to employees who may be under stress from disruptive events, without breaching employees’ privacy.

Invest in an employee wellness program

Employee wellness programs also focus on improving employees physical and mental wellbeing.

Also called corporate well-being programs or corporate wellness programs, these programs usually focus on bringing health activities into the workplace.

The nature of the programs can vary considerably, depending on how the organization chooses to implement them. Commonly though, they can include benefits such as yoga classes, exercise classes, free massages, corporate retreats, teambuilding exercises, and similar activities.

Adopt systems built on continuous improvement

Business improvement methodologies such as lean and Six Sigma are built upon the idea of continuous improvement. 

Although these systems are more linear and limited in scope than agile, they do integrate the concept of ongoing change and systematic improvement into the organization.

Lean, for example, focuses on reducing waste, improving, process quality, and maximizing customer value.

Six Sigma, on the other hand, focuses on reducing process variation and minimizing defects.

Each of these systems can inculcate the concept of continual performance improvement and the need to continually adapt and improve the organization.

Final Thoughts

As we have seen, employee resilience can be bolstered through several different approaches. Encouraging resilience among employees and impressing its importance upon them is necessary. But at the same time, it is necessary to implement systems that are agile and resilient.

Finally, it should be noted that employee resilience is not the only type of resilience to pay attention to. It is also critical to build organizational resilience from the top down. To this end, business leaders should invest in structured organizational resilience projects that prioritize business continuity, security, human resources, emergency planning, and other similar activities.

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