March 13, 2020 – a day that will be etched in our memories forever. For millions around the globe, it was a day that marked the end of “life as we knew it” and ushered in a “new normal.” Health dangers and economic uncertainty like we have never experienced before accompanied an altered existence in which the freedoms we’ve always taken for granted were challenged to their core. And terms like social responsibility, mental well-being and resilience took on whole new meanings!

What Does Resilience Mean?

Resilience in positive psychology refers to the ability to cope with whatever life throws at you. Resilient people are knocked down by challenges, but they return stronger and more steadfast than before.

A resilient person works through challenges by using personal resources, strengths and other positive capacities like hope, optimism and self-efficacy. Overcoming a crisis via resiliency is often described as “bouncing back” to normalcy.

Family Relationships Form the Foundation of Resilience

Family relationships play a vital role in building resilience. This starts at a young age when we are heavily influenced by our guardians and parents. More resilient children are raised with warmth and affection in a family that’s structured and supportive. Family resilience has been defined as a family’s ability to “withstand and rebound from disruptive life challenges, strengthened and more resourceful.” Dr. Froma Walsh, one of the leading authorities on family resilience, has identified nine processes around the beliefs, organization and communication of families that can shape their response to adversity, using it as a catalyst for growth. It’s about enriching relationships and making family members more skilled at coping with future stresses.

Similarly, organizational resilience is the sum total of individual employee resilience and is contingent upon strong employee engagement and a unified sense of purpose.

Defining Organizational Resilience

According to Deloitte, resilient organizations plan and invest for disruption and can adapt, endure and rebound in a way that enables them to not only succeed in its aftermath but also to lead the way to a better state.

A resilient organization:

  • Rebounds and resumes decision-making quickly.
  • Manages and mitigates organizational risks on a continuous basis.
  • Is communicative, collaborative, cooperative and creative.
  • Fosters a diverse and empowered workforce.
  • Invests in an adaptive and flexible infrastructure.
  • Has committed leadership and program management.
  • Embeds resilience into the culture of the organization.

Resilience in the Workplace

In the modern workplace, success relies on an individual’s capacity to cope and thrive amid stress. Individuals can build their resilience in the workplace by developing a variety of effective strategies that reduce vulnerability and susceptibility to stress.

There are six different resilience competencies organizations should seek to develop to cultivate a resilient workforce, including:

  • Self-awareness allows an individual to recognize their strengths, identify their weaknesses and enhance their skills. This allows an individual to take charge of their personal and professional development.
  • Self-regulation is being able to regulate your thoughts, actions and emotions. According to Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee in their 2002 book, “The New Leaders: Transforming the Art of Leadership,” people who self-regulate see the good in other people and are able to identify opportunities in different situations. They are good communicators, hard workers and are able to keep going when times are tough.
  • Optimism is having the ability to be realistic and hopeful. It’s about having confidence in oneself and one’s teams. Such people are natural leaders and are able get work done.
  • Strength of character is being able to use your strengths to be a good leader and create good leaders.
  • Mental agility is the ability to do creative troubleshooting and adapt in dynamic situations. Such people have a growth mindset and are able to transform along with their organizations.
  • Connection is about having strong relationships and effective communication skills. In the workplace, connections mitigate conflict and drive client relationships, team effectiveness and employee engagement.

Resilience is not only important for its impact on burnout, adaptive workplace behaviors and protecting against workplace stress; resilience is also a contributing factor to physical well-being.

How to Build A Resilient Organization

As each organization transitions to a post-pandemic workforce, the need to anticipate, strategize, plan and execute at speed increases significantly. Chief human resources officers (CHROs) need to build resilient, flexible and responsive organizations in which resources, operations and processes can sense and respond to change.

According to a Gartner report, CHROs are currently faced with three urgent priorities: How do we get the right skills in the right place at the right time? How can we redesign processes and structures to adapt better to disruption? How can we respond to demands from our customers, as well as leadership, managers and workers?

The main actions to build a more resilient organization are:

  • A dynamic approach to reskilling.
  • Rethinking work, workforces and workplaces.
  • Adopting agile practices to reboot human resources and people operations.
  • Developing new types of leaders.

Continuously Build Skills in the Flow of Work

Since the future of work is unknown and the pace of change is so fast, the skills strategy that organizations adopt must be dynamic and drive quick results. The strategies outlined in a 2018 IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study still apply today:

Leverage digital tools to create personalized learning experiences for every employee

Organizations need to understand the current skills of every employee, know where the company needs to progress and personalize learning paths. Companies should take time to understand the needs of the market, the business and their workforce, creating deeply personalized skilling experiences in the flow of work.

Aim for deep visibility into the skills you have today

Signal to employees the roles and skills that are growing in demand, and provide employees with engaging, meaningful ways to cultivate their skills in the areas that matter most. This approach assesses and measures the skills of the workforce on a regular basis. The outcome is an objective, reliable skills baseline to monitor a company’s skills position over time and provide necessary details for targeted workforce planning.

Curate content and a marketplace for skills-driven learning

To remain competitive, companies must adopt an open technology architecture, and select partners able to take advantage of the latest advancements. Within the organization, build agile teams, and create a culture where learning becomes viral. Creating a talent marketplace provides opportunities for job sharing and internal mobility that focus on skills development.

Continually identifying the key skills needed for success and aligning future skilling strategies throughout the entire employee lifecycle – from recruiting to compensation – is essential to keeping employees and learners relevant. 

Redesign Work to Enable Employees to be More Responsive

Organizations can use their new work priorities to rethink and reconfigure their workforces with evolving business needs. The future of work involves considering the work, workforce and workplace comprehensively.

Hybrid workplace will be the norm

The work environment must adapt to support the new hybrid workforce and work culture. The environment itself must be intelligent and dynamic, connected and secure, and independent of time and place. The workspace must enable access to corporate resources and support collaboration to allow all workers to effectively contribute.

The composition of the workforce will change

The workforce composition will transition to a blended model made up of both full- and part-time employees and another dynamic group made up of strategic partners, consultants, contractors, interns and gig workers. This approach allows for organizations to be agile and draw upon a skilled talent pool. The future of work is about rethinking the way work gets done. 

Humanity at the Heart of the Cognitive Enterprise

As new technologies, business models and global disruptions converge to transform the enterprise, it has become more important than ever to elevate the work and skills of employees and teams. According to the IBV study, “Accelerating the journey to HR 3.0,” business executives agree that HR must be radically redefined. Personalization, skills, data-driven decision making, transparency and agility are at the core of this new HR. The analysis revealed 10 priority action areas.

Invest in the New Role of Leadership

Leadership today needs to focus on collaboration, listening, and the ability to navigate uncertainty. Leaders put the team first and exhibit behavioral traits such as agility, communication and adaptability. They are seen as coaches, empowering their teams to innovate.

Build a sense of psychological safety and personal autonomy

During crises, leaders need to create cultures that acknowledge and allow for the mental and emotional pressures people face in their daily personal and professional lives.

When people have autonomy, they have more freedom to take advantage of breakthrough methodologies. As a result, they are in a better position to help themselves and their organizations stay ahead.

Encourage people to develop career resilience

Drive a culture where each employee takes responsibility for building their knowledge by cultivating a growth mindset. Develop the resilience they will need to expand their networks and remain relevant in the future of work.

Leading Forward

This past year revealed that the most efficient organizations able to weather disruption were the ones that had already started preparing for the future of work. These organizations had embarked on a transformation with their employees at the core of their strengths and capabilities. Their ability to adapt with courage and flexibility is a testament to the competencies engrained in their people. These resilient organizations learned how to navigate turbulent times, reinvent themselves and discover new ways to achieve greater outcomes in the future.