Keep Calm and Carry On – Why we need to support resilience in the workforce
Authors: Stephen Bevan
Professor Stephen Bevan
08 December 2011
There seems to be no let-up in sight to the gloomy economic outlook. Growth is stagnant, unemployment is growing, fear of job loss remains high and pressure on workers and their families is building. Business continuity – making sure that businesses keep on track when hit by external shocks – has also become one of the major challenges of our time. Resilience is a key characteristic of organisations and indeed whole communities.
Many businesses today are realising the benefits associated with investing in the physical health of their employees, but there are many other organisations which fail to invest in building a resilient and psychologically healthy workforce. This is because the knowledge and technology required to achieve this are not yet commonly available. Yet research has already shown that:
- Resilient sales staff deliver higher sales and deal better with setbacks
- More resilient organisations have better cash-flow, return on investment and profitability
- Improving psychological well-being by one point (on a 5-point scale) is associated with higher employee engagement and an 8% increase in productivity
- Positive perceptions of leaders by resilient employees improve performance by 10%.
- Better psychological wellbeing improves creativity
- Absence management processes often increase ‘presenteeism’ – but having a healthy and resilient workforce drives both down
- High levels of emotional resilience are related to greater employee persistence, effectiveness and task completion.
Many businesses have engaged with the idea of resilience through training or e-learning, but very few have integrated it into their HR strategy and processes. This means that they have just scratched the surface in terms of what’s possible when you get resilience right.
To take our understanding and practice to the next level, The Work Foundation has joined forces with Robertson Cooper to put together a major new initiative to help organisations unlock the potential of resilience - through a collaborative, practical and applied programme of work. I am speaking on this theme at the Robertson Cooper Business Wellbeing Network event today.
Our programme of research on resilience will last 18 months and we are looking for up to ten organisations from a variety of sectors to join a consortium to invest in the research. Participants will influence and benefit from new solutions, processes and approaches that enable them to ‘mainstream’ resilience into everyday business and HR practice. The focus of the programme is leveraging the qualities associated with resilient workforces (such as sustained high performance, balancing challenge with support and bouncing back strongly from setbacks) to deliver measurable improvements inside your organisation. More broadly, our mission is to move current thinking on so that resilience becomes a quality from which all organisations, employees and society at large can readily benefit.
We already know that resilience makes a difference throughout organisations, and the research will examine:
- Whether it is possible to recruit for resilience – so the workforce is resilient from the start
- How to build resilience into induction, performance management and personal development processes
- How to make resilience a coherent and high-impact aspect of a corporate health and well-being strategy....and, in turn, the employer brand
- How to achieve measurable improvement in the performance of sales teams
- How to create a population of resilient leaders and managers – who in turn create a business culture of resilience
- How improved resilience can support the effective implementation of change initiatives
- The relationship between resilience and innovation in teams
- How the psychological contract or ‘deal’ which organisations have with their employees can be enhanced – employers create the conditions for resilience and employees take responsibility for using pressure positively.
Moving into an uncertain future without a resilient workforce is a risky, and potentially costly, business. Many employees are facing increased workloads and increased pressure and uncertainty from their lives outside work. Backing initiatives which support the nurturing and maintenance of workforce and organisational resilience represents a strategic insurance policy which every organisation will need in the next few years. We are confident that our research with Robertson Cooper will provide a defining contribution to the knowledge base in this vital area.
To find out more about the Resilience research, please contact my colleague Louise Shevlane.
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