Resiliency is one of those words on everyone's lips these days. It's a skill that's in high demand and it's easy to see why. Resilient people are able to bounce back emotionally and mentally from change more quickly than others. They're able to weather the storm, so to speak, without letting negativity get the better of them. That's especially helpful when it comes to navigating stress, something all of us are dealing with right now, and coping with the unexpected. Given our current situation, its clear why any company would want this skill in their workforce but how do you go about improving resiliency on your team if you've never thought about it before?
What is resilience?
Despite what people might think, resiliency is not something we're just born with. It's a skill that can be developed just like any other. Some people might start off more resilient than others, but it really all comes down to how we cope and move through the world, even under stress. A good place to start thinking about resiliency and how to build it is to examine 3 types of relationships you have. Think about:
- Your relationship to yourself: How do you handle your own emotions? Are you confident or do you get overwhelmed easily?
- Your relationship to others: Are you connected with your team? Do you feel alone or like you have people in your corner?
- You relationship to the wider world: How are you handling world events and the impact they may have on you?
Thinking about resiliency in this way can help you identify any areas you may need to work on more directly and also helps you see how interconnected it is to every area of life. It's especially important for our mental health and well-being as resilience is our shield when unplanned circumstances arise. We all have different coping mechanisms, of course, but how we use them can make all the difference in the face of adversity. Let's explore some ways managers or HR professionals can help their workforce develop these skills.
Ways to build resilience
Building resilience isn't going to happen overnight. Like any skill, employees need to be given the opportunity and the tools to develop the ability properly. It's also important to note that it's easier to teach your employees about resiliency skills before they need them, rather than during an ongoing crisis. Given the nature and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching resiliency skills to people already struggling with uncertainty can be more of a challenge than normal. But at the same time, it's a skill that could make a real impact in multiple areas of your employees' lives.
Think about the long term: Often we focus on short term skills. Person A needs skill X in order to meet that important end of year deadline. Now there's no denying that staying on top of short term needs is vital for any company. But when thinking of resiliency, it's important to take a longer term approach. Resiliency isn't about quick wins but rather sustained performance. Fostering employee's passions and helping them expand their skills in areas that interest them can encourage them to seek out challenges and make an impact. It can also help strengthen interpersonal relationships and build a foundation of learning into your company culture. Thinking about the future helps employees see beyond their current crisis to where the company is headed. Being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel helps workers reach it sooner.
Prioritize training and development: If you want your team to be resilient, you need to give them space to learn and grow. Resilience training can happen in any number of ways from workshops to team building activities. The idea is to increase your personal insight into how you navigate the world around you and what you might be doing that leaves you vulnerable to negative thoughts or emotions. You might also want to consider leveraging a self-development assessment which can be a quick yet powerful way of gaining insight into your own strengths and weaknesses. Once you have a better understanding of your worldview, you can identify areas to work on to help strengthen your resiliency.
Value relationships: As we said above, resiliency is all about how you balance your relationships with yourself and others. Not everyone works well together from the start, for example, but part of being a resilient workforce is the ability to bounce back together. Strengthening those bonds between employees is crucial. Employees who feel they are supported by their team or those around them are more likely to ask for help when they need it. They're also more likely to share their next big idea. Spend the time ensuring your team trusts each other and odds are they'll lean on each other when times are challenging.
Build a healthy culture: If your team culture is all about being stronger together than apart, then the company culture needs to match those ideals. It can be the kiss of death for resiliency training if the overall culture of a company is at odds with the training being done. An interconnected team existing within a competitive culture of "every-one-for-themselves" is not likely to last long, for example. It's far more effective to try and build resiliency directly into the core of a company's culture. This goes back to that long term approach to thinking about what a company needs. It's great to training your employees to meet the current crisis but how about training them to meet future ones too? Cultures that support and reward resilient behaviour have a better chance of weathering black swan events because they have a committed group of people who can shake off the negative instead of getting bogged down by it. To embrace resiliency as a culture, try encourage employees to ask questions. Share bad news honestly and stay calm in times of change. Offer support where it is needed and thank people for their help and commitment. Doing this consistently will help you create a stronger culture.
Get your leaders involved: Going hand in hand with building a healthy workplace is getting your leaders involved. Learning resiliency isn't just a skill for employees. Managers and executives can benefit from building this skill just as much as anyone else. In fact, when leadership gets involved it makes everything more effective. Leading by example is a powerful way of teaching and employees who see a model of what effective resilience looks like are more likely to be able to imitate it. Not to mention, when you get your senior team onboard, it's easier to bake resilience into different areas of your company. You could have company-wide events like resiliency days devoted to teaching skills or coping strategies. You could offer programs to support resiliency development like in-house training or lunch and learns presentations. Or you could even tie in rewards for employees displaying resilient behaviour. When everyone is working together to learn a skill, those lessons make even more of an impact.
Hire for it: You should absolutely think about your current company and what you can do to improve your employees' resiliency but you can also think about future hires too. As you bring in new people, think about how they will fit into your already existing culture and teams. Will they add to the work you’re already doing or will they detract from the culture in place? Pre-hire assessments can help you uncover deeper insight into a candidate and their temperament which in turn can guide you in the interview process. Knowing where to probe allows you to gain a better understanding of who your candidate is and how they might handle stressful situations should they arise. They can also give you a better idea of whether your candidate is the right match for your job and culture. There are many factors to consider in the hiring process, of course, but adding employees that fit into the culture and attitudes that already exist in your company can go a long way towards keeping your organization on track.
Resiliency is a skill we all need
The ability to navigate a changing world without being overwhelmed is one that's going to be important for a long time to come. If you're a company who already valued resiliency training and tied it directly into your company culture then congrats, you're ahead of the game. But if resiliency was never a concept you thought a lot about, now is a great time to get started. The goal should be to create a company or team structure where encouraging resilience is rewarded and supporting colleagues is second nature. After all, we all deal with stress even if we might deal with it differently. Knowing you have support if you need it can help you remain calm and think about situations more objectively when they arise. Working in a healthy and positive environment can also improve well-being, mental health, interpersonal relationships, and strengthen your teams. So don't leave employee resilience to chance. Developing a resilient workforce won't just help you deal with the uncertainty of today, but also navigate the challenges of tomorrow.