Employee Resilience Starts with Leadership

Lately, topics such as resilience, wellness, and burnout have become buzz-worthy in the corporate world. More and more companies have countless offerings tailored to improve employee resilience and well-being – from trainings to on-staff therapists for individuals to take advantage of. Undeniably, all of these initiatives are worthwhile endeavors. 

But when we frame resilience as an individual imperative and put the onus on employees, we deny the very real role that leaders, organizations, and systems play in creating resilient organizations and alleviating burnout. For you as a leader, bolstering resilience and curbing burnout are not only in the best interests of the people you lead, but also foundational to your business success. 

What is a resilient organization?

According to Gartner’s2020 Strategic Road Map for Business Continuity Management”:

“Resilient organizations are those that rebound and prosper after business disruption, because they’re resistant to the impacts of disruption (through good risk management), as well as adaptive, elastic and sustainable in the face of disruption. Response, recovery, and contingency are the basis of resilience.” 

At its core, resilience describes an ability to be flexible and sustainable in the face of transformation or disruption. Most importantly, a resilient organization is able to respond, recover, and prepare for change. 

In this sense, resilience is much more than an individual personality trait meant to combat fatigue and burnout; it can define a group, community, organization, or culture. But that culture must start at the top, with organizational leaders championing resilience at all levels. Without it, businesses stand to lose out, not only in terms of employee engagement, but also in terms of the bottom line.

A resilient culture is a business imperative

Now more than ever, things are changing rapidly all around us and the global pandemic has only accelerated that change. To succeed in such a volatile and turbulent environment, and ensure employee health and stability, organizations and their leaders must be more adaptive and agile. That’s why organizational resilience is so important. Several key components of resilient organizations include the ability to:

  • Create and adapt structure: Think about the transition most of us made to a remote environment in March 2020. While it was undoubtedly challenging for everyone, a more resilient, forward-thinking organization might have had contingency plans in place to adapt to such a change quickly and precisely. An organization with no plan in place likely struggled to adapt and lost productivity in the process. 
  • Boost safety and certainty: Though most people are wired to stay in their comfort zones, a resilient organization creates the safety and certainty people need to take calculated risks with confidence. 
  • Manage emotions: Change is constant but undue stress doesn’t have to be. By embedding resilience in the fabric of an organization through its leadership, organizations can ensure the overall health and well-being of their people.
  • Foster a diverse and empowered work environment: Diversity is only limited by the level of empowerment people receive from their leaders and working environments. So, if organizations create a culture of resilience and strong leadership, they can achieve a well-connected, grounded, and prosperous workforce.
  • Learn and grow: Resilient organizations invest in the necessary training infrastructures (either physical or digital) to keep themselves competitive, adaptive, and flexible to on-going changes in the environment.

Put together, resilient organizations have
cultures grounded in trust, accountability, and agility. They tend to have foundational values that unite team members in their growth. Because they have a desire to grow, remain competitive, adapt, and innovate, resilient organizations are longer-lasting and navigate change and adversity better than anyone else. That’s why, year after year, organizations that prioritize resilience are more likely to show more consistent and above-average profitability. But none of this is possible without strong leadership. 

Employee resilience starts with leadership

We know what characterizes a resilient organization but what can you, as a leader do to help build that culture of resilience within your workplace? 

  • To be effective, remain engaged: One of the most important contributing factors to organizational culture is leadership. Resilient cultures demand leaders who are engaged with and understand employees. In the virtual world, create spaces within your intranet for employees to interact directly with their managers, particularly through periods of change and transition.
  • Prioritize transparency and communication: To establish a resilient culture, employees must be able to trust the people they work with and for. As with any relationship, the key to trust between employees and employers, is open communication.
  • Build a more social and safe work environment: Nearly 30 percent of our lives are spent working. In the remote work environment, the line between work and life grows thinner, making maintaining balance more challenging. As a leader, it’s important to create outlets for your employees to interact as social beings to keep people engaged and connected to one another, even if it’s over Zoom.
  • Be open to innovation: Change can be daunting. But the foundation of resilience is response, recovery, and preparation, or in other words, adaptation. As a leader, be open to adopting new methodologies or technologies if it means a more effective response, quicker recovery, and better preparation for change or disruption. 
  • Increase cooperation by sharing information: Though technology grows ever more complex and intelligent, the beauty of this age is the ease of sharing knowledge. Build solidarity, empowerment, and resilience within your organization by use of digital tools for collaboration and networking. Realize that if knowledge is power, then sharing information is empowering others. 

Leaders have a significant role to play in building resilient organizations and cultures. Issues like disengagement, burnout, and fatigue don’t exist in a vacuum – they are a symptom of a larger problem, not the problem themselves. As a leader, you can treat the source with small but far-reaching changes in your thoughts and behavior. 

Rather than putting the onus of developing personal resilience on employees, it’s time to develop leaders who have the skills they need to create a healthier work environment. And you don’t have to do it alone. The coaches at Sounding Board, Inc., can help you achieve your goals of leading with resilience in mind. Our coaches understand that building a resilient culture takes time and adaptation, the key to resilience itself. But we know that the personal and fiscal benefits of a healthy work environment are worth the effort.

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