Resilience Reflections

Initially published on 14 Oct on Net E-Learning

The CIPD Resilience Conference finished a couple of hours ago. I have lots to reflect upon as I have a quiet evening prior to the workshop tomorrow. Some of this is quite deep and personally resonating, for reasons I might blog about some time in the future. But for now, here are my initial reflections.

I decided to attend from a viewpoint of healthy scepticism. We've done 'stress awareness' training, seen health and well-being initiatives (some quite shiny), and striven for excellence in 'employee engagement'. So is 'resilience' the next big thing? Could increasing employee resilience actually be The Answer - to productivity, to absenteeism, to presenteeism, to harmonious employee relations...? I wasn't so sure, and I certainly did not think it was something that could be taught per se. I was also wondering what kind of work environments we have created that mean that you have to be resilient in order to survive them?

The day started superbly well with definitions, some biology and the evidence from numerous studies laid out for us very clearly by Prof Ivan Robertson. I definitely plan to spend some time exploring  Although towards the end the point was made that some senior leaders are naturally very resilient, see the world through their own lens and therefore simply don't get it, the link between positive employee well-being and productivity seems to be very conclusive. His main take away, other than needing to build a strategic approach was that psychological well-being at work is driven by demand, control, resources and support. Basically a high level of demand on you in your role is a good thing, as long as it is not excessive and you have control over how you do what is required of you, balanced with the resources and support you need.

Then a number of speakers, mainly from large global corporates, shared their examples of employee well-being initiatives and how this impacted positively on business. Many different ideas were presented and I need some time to think their application through. A common thread was the major importance of skilled leadership and management as the most important factor in how employees feel about work. This was probably followed by awareness raising and destigmatisation - we saw some lovely examples of well-being campaigns that have taken off and thereby encouraged much more open dialogue and acceptance that we all struggle sometimes. 

All good stuff - but it seemed to me to be more about well-being, especially psychological and emotional, than resilience? As Prof Robertson said, resilience is about psychological well-being and health AND being behaviourally effective and capable. Speakers did cover how they were measuring the impact of their initiatives, but as some acknowledged, that this needs fine tuning. 

Resilience training, the aspect I was most sceptical about was covered, and several examples given. I think my view on this has taken more shape. I still don't think it can be taught as a skill, especially not on line alone (RobertsonCooper's research found this), but knowledge about what contributes to well-being can be taught, and through effective leadership, coaching, mentoring, and having someone you trust at work or through an EAP who you can talk to, resilience skills can be developed. 

I was also wondering (and lamenting) why work environments have become places where you need to be resilient to cope. Some speakers focused on what they were doing to make places or patterns of work more flexible and employee friendly. The most memorable was from the only small business, Man Bites Dog, which is so small that employees have really shaped their work space (socially) and their roles despite working in the highly commercial and pressured world of PR. I think by the end of this session, many of us wanted to work there, if we like pink and love dogs.
Other speakers acknowledged that there is pressure, and there always will be, so the trick is to recognise this and to find ways to work differently to accommodate this.

Not all of the examples we heard about would require lots of financial investment. In fact we looked at cost free ideas in the interactive Man Bites Dog session. Finally, we heard from the Group HR Director of Servest, a very rapidly expanding facilities management company. I was very interested in her perspectives on what HR are there to do and not to do. I wholeheartedly agree that HR are not there to collect 17000 appraisal summaries, but are there to make connections and offer opportunities. This is not a cash rich world by any means and I know facilities companies often operate very tightly costed contracts, so it was great to hear that they embrace Social Media for example - with employees preferring Twitter to internal Yammer. They had even turned a negative employee tweet about not being paid into a positive, as the CEO saw it, responded to say it would be sorted straightaway, and it was. This was widely retweeted.   

So, as I risk starting to ramble, if I am not already, there was lots to ponder, and examples to follow up, explore, examine and learn from. Developing resilience, with a focus on employee well-being  and its impact on the bottom line, definitely seems to be the way forward. There's a range of approaches and new ideas emerging and evolving all the time, so that something to suit the every  organisation's unique culture and budget should be possible to achieve.


Popular posts from this blog

Remembering the human beings at the centre of HR change processes – PART 1

Remembering the human beings at the centre of HR change processes – PART 3

Unconference Mini Wisdom