Employee resilience in a turbulent world.

April 2, 2019    Ann Clarke   

If the ongoing uncertainty of Brexit has taught us anything, it’s that resilience is an increasingly vital characteristic to have both in our personal and professional lives.

Uncertainty and flux have become the new societal norm.  Whether that’s due to economic instability, political jockeying or digital progression, today’s workforces need to become adept at change if they are to survive in the face of adversity and embrace all the challenges and opportunities it presents.

However, in ensuring a workforce is resilient, robust and change-ready, you must first acknowledge how change makes employees feel. Make a significant change to the way work is done, how teams are structured, the work environment or even what’s happening in the wider economy and it can leave employees disorientated, confused and fearful.  Left unaddressed and these feelings can quickly turn into diminished productivity, reduced employee engagement and eventual staff attrition.

It is perhaps not surprising that finding ways to mitigate the fear of change and create a workforce that takes flux and uncertainty in its stride is now big business.  In some of the largest plcs, dedicated change managers are being appointed to lead change programmes, prepare staff for disruption and address the emotional resilience of the workforce – a subject of growing importance for the UK’s business leaders.

New research[1] has highlighted that 94% of CFOs believe resilience will be particularly important over the next two to five years.   Brexit and digital innovation are largely responsible for this concern, with 51% of CFOs saying that digital change is the catalyst for needing greater resilience and 47% citing Brexit preparations as responsible.

Against this backdrop it’s important for business leaders to ready their workforces and instil positive mindsets, resilience and new behaviours in their people.     Here are five key foundations to make employees future change-ready:

  • Invest in wellbeing – Spanning, emotional, mental and physical health, wellbeing is an increasingly important concern for progressive employers. Actively investing in wellbeing programmes and support, such as access to counselling, workplace buddy-systems, mental health days, fitness programmes as well as nutrition and even financial advice all have a part to play.  Making employees feel fully supported in all aspects of their lives will help to give them resilience, stability and an important anchor, which can be particularly effective during transition.
  • Good communication – Regular and clear communication about business goals, individual expectations and workloads, opportunities for progression and how decisions are made, help employees to feel invested in a company and involved in its direction. If good open communications practices and a two-way dialogue are in place it will help to support employees through change however large and will give them the assurances that they are important, well-informed and able to ask questions.
  • Commitment to upskilling – To survive change we must stay relevant. Investing in the skills and capabilities of employees shows that their contribution matters and helps to prepare them for what’s to come. The more equipped, trained and supported employees are, the more able they are to take new challenges on with ease and bounce back from adversity.
  • Culture of support – People rarely leave jobs they don’t like; they leave workplace cultures that are toxic or unsupportive. Creating a positive culture where employees are encouraged to work together with shared goals and values helps to stimulate the camaraderie and belonging that is so vital during periods of change.
  • Flexible environments –Agile working models and activity-based working have done away with ‘assigned spaces’ in favour of letting employees choose which part of the work environment suits their task. Flexible work environments help to make change a small yet core part of the ‘every day’.

Change is the new world order. It requires a new set of behaviours, traits and attributes of businesses, those that lead them and the people they employ.  The organisations that thrive in the face of adversity will be those that had one eye on the future all along.  They will have laid the right foundations, recognised the importance of their people and invested in a workforce with the skills, outlook and resilience they need to succeed.   It is time to ask, are your people ready for change?

[1] Research by Robert Half UK as quoted in Workplace Insight.  https://workplaceinsight.net/need-for-employee-resilience-heightened-in-a-time-of-constant-change/

Interested in finding out more? Download our whitepaper – ‘Workspace transformation: The importance of taking your people with you.’




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