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Organizational Resilience: 5 Areas to Focus On

At the closing session of the 2020 Perceptyx Innovation Conference, three CHROs were asked about their buzzwords for 2021. The resounding response was “resilience,” with “empathy” as a close runner-up.

In our research work with global industry analyst Josh Bersin, Perceptyx has repeatedly demonstrated the importance of organizational resilience. The ability to be agile, support employees, and enable managers is essential to building an organization ready to tackle whatever comes next.

In our latest research, we probed further into the data to identify the specific areas organizations should invest in to achieve resilience. Five key areas emerged:

  • Teamwork
  • Diversity, equity, & inclusion (DE&I)
  • Well-being
  • Psychological safety
  • Communication

We believe organizations need to reconsider these familiar topics to ensure real and lasting resilience within their workforce.

Wish you could gauge your employees’ sentiments around these topics? Download the People Analytics Playbook to find out what questions to ask to uncover your organization's biggest obstacles to achieving resiliency.

“What is organizational resilience?”

Organizational resilience can be the difference between bouncing back and growing from challenges, or failing to rise to the occasion presented with major obstacles. Leaders can foster organizational resilience with the goal of emerging from a crisis stronger than when they started. To do this, leaders must model resilient behavior themselves and actively encourage it within their organization.

1. Teamwork

Effective cooperation between departments has a huge impact on not only an individuals’ level of resilience but on their entire team. When there is effective cooperation between departments, these teams can deal with any obstacle that comes their way; without this, stress and pressure start to seep in. Furthermore, communication breaks down, relationships can become toxic, and teams crumble.

Resilience can protect teams from the potential negative effects of pressure and adversity, and those that show resilience tend to thrive versus teams that do not. It’s not about a team’s ability to “firefight” and ride through storms successfully, but more about their level of overall unity, trust, cooperation, and communication, as well as the quality of the resources they have in place.

2. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I)

DE&I contributes greatly to resilience. DE&I within the workplace brings together different perspectives, mindsets, and knowledge, and supports innovation. When organizations are faced with challenges, having these diverse perspectives and making use of unique talents can lead to better problem solving and build resilience. An organization lacking in DE&I is more prone to overlook information, make incomplete diagnoses, or arrive at short-sighted conclusions.

It has been argued that DE&I can improve an organization’s ability to prepare for the unexpected, and that resilience is achieved through preparation. While DE&I cannot ensure that organizations will anticipate all challenges, it does put them in a better position to observe these difficulties and adapt, therefore building a higher level of resilience.

3. Well-being

Well-being is about finding the right balance between pressure and respite. That means ensuring there are sufficient pressures to prevent a sense of rust-out, while avoiding sustained pressures such as unhealthy work relationships, job insecurity, and lack of resources that can cause burnout.

Your work-life balance is a crucial component of achieving a healthy and productive work environment, whether remote, on-site, or a hybrid scenario. By having managers who support and model ways of working that prioritize work-life balance, you will be more likely to reap the benefits of a healthier, more productive workforce with lower rates of sick leave, better retention of talented people, and more satisfied customers.

It’s also important to consider how your employees perceive the overall pace of work and the support they are afforded in making decisions about their health and well-being. If your people constantly feel the need to work crazy hours, are compelled to be “always on,” or simply fail to unplug and recharge, their opportunity for a healthy work-life balance is diminished. This reality can be mentally draining, especially when the physical differentiation between work and home has become blurred for so many of us. Ask yourself, “Am I working from home or living at work?” to better understand why it's important to proactively monitor your employees’ well-being.

4. Psychological Safety

Psychological safety refers to being able to openly voice opinions or mistakes, and ask for feedback and support without fear of negative consequences. Having a psychologically safe environment for employees has many benefits: it enhances communication, innovation, a sense of belonging, and leads to high performance and a learning culture, just to name a few.

So why is psychological safety important for resilience? As resilience acts as a buffer against stress and burnout, and enables us to adapt to challenges, every mistake or knock-back at work becomes an opportunity to develop resilience. However, these opportunities can become prohibitive if employees do not feel psychologically safe.

For example, if employees are working in constant fear of speaking up or asking for support, their levels of stress greatly increase which in turn, negatively affects their well-being. Working in a psychologically safe environment is therefore a crucial factor for building resilience. Although creating a psychologically safe environment takes effort and commitment to behavioral changes, the positive impact on employee resilience will be worth it.

5. Communication

Open communication throughout all levels of the organization builds a culture of trust and connection. What frequently separates superb managers and highly engaged employees from the majority, are dynamics of the employee experience that relate to communication — anything from leaders communicating an inspiring vision of the future, through to creating an environment where individuals feel they can communicate openly amongst their peers.

While there are many factors that lead to effective communication, we should not underestimate the power of vulnerability. Imagine a leader who openly shares the challenges they are experiencing. It sends the message that they are not super-human; it builds connection and is likely to make others feel empowered to share related experiences. This openness creates an exchange, resulting in solutions that can have an incredibly positive effect on well-being.

These fundamental components are the foundation of organizational resilience. As organizations survey employees, listen to business needs, and plan talent initiatives, these topics should be front and center in the conversation to ensure you are building resilience.

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