Skip to main content
Blog Post

How to build resilience during times of uncertainty

This is a moment that matters

April 1, 2020

The way organizations lead and manage in times of uncertainty is critical to business performance and their ability to remain competitive and relevant.
Future of Work|Health and Benefits|Diversity Equity and Inclusion|Talent|Ευεξία|Employee Engagement
Risque de pandémie

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis has only magnified and accelerated the fact that organizations are facing widespread uncertainty, ambiguity and transformation as we shift toward a more global and digital world. At the same time, employees are expected to keep pace with the evolving workplace (in many cases virtually), adopt new technology and processes, actively fine-tune their skills and competencies, and stay engaged and productive. With the employee experience at the center, the way organizations lead and manage in this new normal is critical to business performance and their ability to remain competitive and relevant.

The more rational elements of change, like process, technology and governance, are typically the main areas of focus and comfortable defaults for organizations and leaders. But what often gets overlooked are the more emotional factors like loss of autonomy, behavior change and culture change — which are critical to the employee experience. This is where resilience comes in.

Resilience is defined as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. Bounce back. Get up again. It’s a concept organizations need to master to make it in this moment of unprecedented and historic global turmoil. We may emerge from this change very different — as workers, managers, leaders and human beings — but with resilience we can come out stronger and better for it. So, what are organizations doing to build their resilience muscle? Probably not enough.

Why does resilience matter?

As organizations pay much more attention to culture and purpose, leadership, inclusion and diversity, and wellbeing as critical elements of the employee experience, it’s evident that resilience needs to be part of the organizational DNA in order to be sustainable. According to our Future Chief People Officer study, 99% of respondents believe the HR executive must have agility and courage to evolve, and the steadiness to support the organization through future complexity. A resilient and agile workforce can help drive organizational success by creating transformational readiness and adaptability to change, instilling new behaviors, and increasing engagement and retention of your talent.

With lines blurred more than ever, the change people face at work is compounded by stress in their personal lives. This is exactly the situation we’re facing with today’s COVID-19 crisis. The result is high healthcare claims costs, lost productivity, absenteeism, all which is driving the move beyond physical wellbeing and into emotional wellbeing. Some companies have built resilience into their wellbeing programs. It’s showing up in mindfulness and meditation programs, and leader and manager skill-building. But this is just a start.

How can organizations build resilience in these times of economic uncertainty, increasing demands, complexity and change?

Demonstrate organizational commitment to wellbeing

In today’s uncertain environment, employee wellbeing is now at the forefront of employers’ minds, ensuring that individuals are healthy and resilient both at work and at home. There are many ways organizations can make this a reality, easing employee stress, such as offering flexible working arrangements, fostering strong team cultures, and encouraging individuals to make healthier choices and maximize available health and wellbeing programs. Communicating openly and often about the ways you’re committed to the health and wellbeing of your employees is essential. Leaders and managers play a key role here as role models and messengers so making sure they’re equipped with the right information and resources is critical.

Focus on emotional wellbeing

Organizations are focusing more on the emotional wellbeing of their employees as issues like stress and more serious mental health conditions drive costs and impact productivity. According to the 2018 Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey, 61% of participating organizations plan to establish a companywide behavioral health strategy or action plan. This includes promoting programs like counselling support or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and resilience and stress management workshops.

Many organizations also are putting point solutions in place that offer personalized coaching platforms like meQuilibrium and Sleepio to help ensure that employees have access to resiliency methods tailored to their individual needs and preferences.

During times like this, it’s important that people feel connected and not alone. Storytelling is an effective way to reduce the stigma and normalize the issue of mental health. Many organizations are hosting Ted talk-like videos and podcasts to highlight stories of people who learned and grew from dealing with challenges and significant change in their work and personal lives and how they rebounded from adversity. This type of positive messaging sparks and inspires confidence among individuals, and may also leave them wanting to inspire others, too.

Build trust

A culture that fosters trust, accountability and flexibility is a catalyst towards resiliency. Leadership can help create the right atmosphere and practices to allow room for resilience to be nurtured and developed among individuals. Employees need opportunities to take care of their needs and tend to different aspects of their lives to allow them to achieve balance.

It also helps to promote a nurturing workplace that invests in the health and wellbeing of employees and their families, creates a thriving work environment, and sets reasonable and realistic expectations across all teams and employee levels. When all of these exist, it contributes to an agile, high performing and sustainable organization through improved productivity, retention and engagement.

Listen to your employees

Keeping a pulse on the voice of your customer is important, especially now. Using a variety of listening activities like one-on-one interviews, focus groups (virtual and in-person) and pulse surveys helps in understanding employees and gaining their point of view. The results from these listening activities will help develop strategies aimed towards change readiness, delivering a holistic employee experience and sustaining engagement.

Keep your inclusion and diversity (I&D) strategy front and center

I&D is more than just fulfilling a moral imperative — research has proven how I&D propels organizational performance. Organizations that generate diverse and expanded ideas from employees can innovate better, take risks, and solve problems more creatively. In turn, employees need a work environment where they feel safe so they can speak up, bring their full selves to work, contribute in their own ways and according to their own abilities, succeed and be challenged.

Put programs in place that help build resilience

The organizations of tomorrow develop and nurture resilient employees by focusing on measures that support them as they navigate an ever-changing world. While workplace disruption is inevitable, employers must embrace a human-centric approach and remember that every person deals with change differently.

Tailored initiatives and engaging employees during times when they need it most will go a long way in making sure that your organization’s greatest asset — your people — can thrive despite adversity.


Managing Director, Employee Experience Business
email Email

Contact us