In the current global climate, our life and work environments are changing at a rapid pace. More now than ever, it is vital that employees at all levels are agile and resilient. Business leaders who provide working environments which facilitate and support resilient employees are likely to witness the benefits of doing so on a large scale.

What is resilience?

The word resilience originates from the Latin word resilire, which means ‘to leap back’. It generally refers to the capacity or ability to cope with and recover quickly from difficulties. Research conducted into resilience as a characteristic or trait agrees on three overarching characteristics of resilient individuals:

  • Individual disposition/attributes
  • Family support and coherence
  • External support systems outside the family.

The concept enjoyed a renaissance following the economic calamities of 2008 and in response to natural disasters and other emergencies and crises. There is no doubt that employee resilience is going to play an important role for businesses during the current pandemic.

Characteristics of resilient employees can include:

  • Conscientiousness
  • Emotional stability
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Optimism
  • Openness
  • Self-knowledge, self-acceptance
  • Adaptability
  • Innovation
  • Extroversion
  • Flexibility
  • Determination
How can businesses encourage resilience in employees?

Businesses who invest significant resources into creating a culture of health and wellbeing across the entire organisation, do so knowing that it will lead to improved employee engagement and retention, with consequent gains for performance and productivity.

Research and experience tell us that employees who are more psychologically resilient will contribute significantly to bottom line improvements. Organisations want mentally healthy employees who can cope with difficult situations now more than ever. Most employees want to work for organisations that care about the mental health of their employees and are prepared to focus on minimising stress and adversity, and helping employees recover from setbacks.

While individuals can increase their own resilience and coping skills through training and support services, it’s also important to help vulnerable employees or those who have experienced trauma. The most successful interventions prioritise organisational measures that address the causes of workplace stress, combined with employee-directed measures.

What role do managers play in fostering resilience?

From a leadership perspective, we should focus on making sure our leaders themselves have a high degree of resilience and have the support and training they need to understand and cope well with their own stressors and help their teams do the same.

Even better, they should be able to proactively manage their teams to shield them from situations that are likely to push their reserves to the limit. In times of uncertainty, leaders need to work with their team members to help them identify troublesome situations and enhance their coping ability.

Individual resilience – Supportive team manager – Organisation that actively promotes employee wellbeing

Regularly monitoring performance against organisational health indicators, and making sure senior managers are aware of any changes, will help you identify emerging problems before it’s too late and focus on improving resilience and wellbeing across your entire organisation.