In January, I attended a very interesting and helpful half day event for learning and development professionals, exploring Resilience At Work. The event was organisation by CIPD Gloucestershire’s branch and the subject is clearly at hot topic at the moment because all tickets were sold and the room couldn’t squeeze in another person. Those of you working in organisations probably won’t be at all surprised to hear how popular the event was. Workplaces are demanding places to be these days. Many organisations are going through constant change, more seems to be expected from fewer people and demands for results and higher performance are increasing. Going to work has many benefits, but for many, going to work also has health and wellbeing implications, which in turn affects results and performance.
I think maybe it used to be called ‘stress management’. Nowadays we are talking about ‘resilience’, and organisations are realising that having staff who are ‘resilient at work’ is a good thing. So whose responsibility is resilience? The member of staff? Their manager? HR? The organisation as a whole? Work colleagues? It might sound like a ‘cop out’, but I think there is shared responsibility for building resilience amongst staff. It starts with everyone understanding what being resilient actually means, recognising what causes someone’s resilience to reduce and identifying what measures can help to maintain or rebuild resilience.
So what does resilience actually mean?
An article on HBR.org called ‘What Resilience Means And Why It Matters’ by Andrea Ovens defines resilience as ‘the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity‘.
Ah – yes, resilient staff are definitely an asset to an organisation then! But what responsibility does an organisation have to equip staff to deal with the setbacks, change and adversity that surround the modern workplace? It surely isn’t enough to expect everyone to naturally have the same amounts of inbuilt resilience, and what happens when things happen in other parts of people’s lives that causes their resilience to take a hit? Life happens. Bad things happen. Is it enough for workplaces to simply expect people’s inner resilience to get them through with no support or input from the employer?
At the CIPD event we looked at three different approaches to building resilience at work.
- The first approach focused on working with people 1-1 to help them explore resilience through the metaphor of rowing a boat across water. If water levels are sufficient, then you can row easily. If water levels are low, you can metaphorically ‘crash on the rocks’. Sue Davies of Charlton Associates invited us to ask ourselves what circumstances would cause our own ‘water levels’ to become depleted, and equally, what circumstances enables us to ‘restore our water levels’. The point of this exercise was to raise self-awareness so that as individuals we can each build strategies to restore ourselves if we become depleted.
- The second approach was introduced by Emma Carroll of Choose To Grow. Emma uses a psychometric model R@W Sustain 7, that explores how actively an individual is employing seven different components to sustain resilience. The components are ‘Living Authentically’, ‘Finding Your Calling’, Maintaining Perspective, Mastering Stress, Interacting Co-operatively, ‘Staying Healthy’ and ‘Building Networks’. Gaining an insight into how individuals and teams are employing each component could be a good way of spotting priorities that need addressing across a business and teams.
- The third approach was introduced by Lesley Roberts who shared some recent work on resilience from Ashridge Business School. Ashridge are advocating a 4 step approach to improving resilience at work: Wake Up, Control Your Attention, Detach and Let Go. Lesley showed how Mindfulness enables those 4 steps to be achieved in a simple and short walking activity.
Building resilience isn’t straightforward as everyone’s individual ‘resilience-ometer’ will be different. But learning about three different approaches to building resilience has illustrated how different solutions might work for different people. That means organisations and their leaders have a role to play in raising awareness of what resilience means, what affects resilience and who can do what to help re-build resilience when it has been reduced. It isn’t good enough to simply hope that the resilience time bomb will defuse on its own. Interventions are needed now and everyone must take responsibility for their part in managing resilience at work.