Building Resilience In The Workplace

Supporting Employees Facing Family Violence

Asking employees for feedback and responding  appropriately was crucial to improving employee experience and an organisation’s ability to adapt and thrive during the uncertainties of the pandemic, according to the recent Qualtrics 2020 Global Workforce Resilience Report.

The survey showed that a resilient, high-performing organisation was indelibly linked an employer’s ability to understand its workforce and build engagement.

Results showed workforce engagement rose during the first six months of 2020 from 53 per cent to 64 per cent, and businesses with more engaged employees demonstrated nearly five times more revenue growth compared to those without.

The study included more than 17,000 full-time employees from all levels within an organisation and found that employee resilience was associated with their intention to stay with an organisation. The lower the resilience score, the greater the risk of an employee leaving the organisation.

Connecting resilience to employee engagement, such as turnover intention, underlines the importance of fostering this attribute among leaders, the business and employees for business continuity, improved employee experience and future adaptability.

Previous studies support the link between resilience and workplace engagement. Meaning employees who possess and demonstrate resilience are more likely to be engaged in their jobs, have higher levels of job satisfaction and motivation and be less likely to burnout, which in turn leads to lower turnover and higher profits.

Understanding resilience

On an individual level, resilience is how well someone adapts or recovers from an experience of adversity or trauma. Broadly speaking it describes how well a person manages to make the most out of a bad situation or their ability to ‘bounce back.’

Edith Grotberg in her book Resilience for Today wrote: “A resilient response to adversity engages the whole person, not just aspects of the person in order to face, endure, overcome and possibly be transformed.”

While everyone has a measure of resilience, it is not a trait, rather it is a skill that can be developed and enhanced with time, effort, support and commitment.

Resilience is dynamic and an emphasis on rebuilding resilience may be required following any major event.

According to the American Psychological Association factors that contribute to, and act as markers of, resilience, include:

  • the capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out
  • positive self-esteem and confidence in personal strengths and abilities
  • skills in communication and problem-solving
  • the capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses.

For business, organisational resilience includes the ability to prepare, respond and adapt to disruptions to ensure survival and prosperity. This includes introducing strategies to improve employee experience and supporting workers to manage stress and build resilience through the provision of resources and interventions.

Research published in The Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology outlined three behaviours that help resilient individuals remain focused and optimistic despite setbacks or uncertainty:

  • Emotional regulation
    This skill involves the ability to monitor, recognise, and respond to emotions effectively, so they don’t impede functioning. Developing strong emotional regulation skills builds resilience by allowing people to continue functioning through a wide variety of experiences, including those that are difficult.
  • Self-compassion
    This behaviour focuses on bringing mindful, kind, and forgiving attention to experiences, rather than harsh self-criticism. It supports resilience by enabling people to manage difficult emotions and harness sources of motivation during challenging times.
  • Cognitive agility
    This is the ability to recognise when a shift in thinking about a situation is of benefit and supports resilience by enabling people to continue functioning regardless of the situation. Reframing thinking to something that results in more positive emotions generally creates more possibilities.

Creating a resilient organisational culture

A resilient culture requires full leadership support and is built on the principles of empowerment, purpose, trust and accountability. A two-pronged approach to cultivating resilience would include leaders playing a key role in the workforce experience – creating a top-down approach – and providing accessible resources that are proven to grow baseline levels of individual resilience – a bottom-up approach.

Here are six key practices to help foster a workplace culture of resilience:

  1. Clear company values, which apply as a guideline for all. This is especially true when these values are aligned with employee beliefs and are integrated into daily processes.
  2. Listening and acting on employee feedback was a key driver for improving the employee experience and the ability for a business to adapt and thrive, according to the Qualtrics study. This employee involvement and response approach improved every employee measure in the study: engagement, intent to stay, resilience, wellbeing, and feelings of safety and ensures businesses can take a data-driven approach to moving forward. Unfortunately, only 51 per cent of employees surveyed said they had an opportunity to provide feedback to their organisation.
  3. Strong, consistent and open communication is a critical driver of engagement and helps reduce anxiety during times of change. When communication is lacking, assumptions may unintentionally filter misinformation through the workplace causing uncertainty and anxiety.
  4. Empower managers with the tools and autonomy to manage workloads, adjust targets and to support and take care of their team. Employees who reported manager support were three times more likely to be engaged at work and almost twice as likely to display resilience compared to employees who did not have support from their managers (86 per cent compared to 43 per cent).
  5. Eliminate work overload. Employees cannot thrive in an environment where they are bombarded with too much work. Many tasks can be reallocated, outsourced, or automated.
  6. Provide resources proven to grow baseline levels of individual resilience across all levels within a workplace. This could include workshops, team coaching, connection and social support strategies as well as wellbeing programs.

 Taking care of employees can pay dividends for workplace resilience and may positively shape an organisation’s ability to mitigate and adapt to ongoing challenges caused by uncertainty.


References and further resources:

Working with Resilience: Resilience at Work

Positive Psychology: Resilience in the Workplace: How to Be More Resilient at Work

Deloitte Insights: Bridge across uncertainty