Organizational Resilience

By Sindhujaa for The Economic Times


We have now entered a white ocean business world. Given the rapidly evolving enterprise landscape that the global pandemic has thrust us into, cultivating employees who can bounce back, and even grow, from challenges and adversity- is a key strategic priority to keeping businesses afloat.

In times of disruptive change, ‘resilience’ provides the buffering capacity for organizations to remain profitable. Organizational resilience is created at the level of ‘individuals’, through: 1) Emotional Regulation 2) Compassion 3) Cognitive Agility 4) Physical well-being

In exercise, we have a phenomenon called PTG (Post Traumatic Growth). When we place muscles under stress through weight-lifting, the muscle breaks down and tears up. Then, it slowly regroups and stitches itself back- bigger, stronger, harder than before. Similarly, humans have always demonstrated PTG in life, where difficult and disruptive events have them falling to their knees, but when they rise, they rise stronger, better and improved from their previous functioning. This applies to business as well. We can use this downshift as a means for increased empathy, positive shifts in perspective, collective responsibility, increased ability to relate to others, an appreciation for life and more personal strength. This ‘bounce-back’ capacity is ‘resilience’, that yields results at the organizational level but can only be sowed at the individual level.

Research demonstrates that resilience impacts behaviours, work attitudes and work outcomes. Considering the fast-paced, uncertain and ambiguous terrain the economy is in, resilience will continue to be the key human trait for peak performance. Employees with low resilience – who cannot bounce back from day-to-day challenges thrown at them from their professional and personal lives – are 4 times more likely to burnout. It dictates their commitment, engagement and satisfaction.

1) EMOTIONAL REGULATION – is the ability to monitor, recognize and respond to one’s emotions. This allows people to continue functioning through a wide variety of internal personal experiences, including the challenges, by navigating them with wisdom.

2) COMPASSION – involves bringing mindful, kind and forgiving responses to each other. It allows people to read beyond trauma, soothe difficult emotions and harness powerful support systems during difficult times.

3) COGNITIVE AGILITY – is about letting go of rigid thinking and be able to quickly shift their thinking to approaches that benefit them. Even seemingly hopeless situations can be turned around with this attitude and the creative force it unleashes.

4) PHYSICAL WELL-BEING – Stress and fear take a physical toll on the body causing fatigue and chronic diseases. Sleep (improves resilience by 42%), nutrition(improves resilience by 35%) and exercise(improves resilience by 39%) can act as a buffer against stress and help people recover more quickly, producing brain-supportive neurochemicals that support problem-solving as well as better moods to maintain positive work relationships.

These 4 tools from the arsenal of Emotional Intelligence carries over into leadership behaviours and impacts both engagement and performance. This is more crucial for leaders since it has been proven that these 3 capacities influence their skill in sharing optimistic visions of the future, boosting morale, problem-solving, encouraging participation, setting new goals and creating confidence to reach those goals. A lack of this causes them to burnout and falter in responsibility.  Some activities that organizations can take up to increase Resilience are:

1) Engage experts – neutral outsiders – to conduct workshops for emotional stabilization, well-being, energy management, self-management, cognitive therapy, reflection, openness and extraversion to heal work culture, fun activities to break out of rigid predispositions and create new neural pathways, moderate creative brainstorming sessions etc. Such activities add a blast of refreshing energy to the workplace(on-site or virtual). Our research revealed that coaching and wellness programs can improve resilience by 24% in 2 months.

2) In-house meet-ups to reframe challenges as ‘opportunities’ instead of ‘threats’ – discuss the meaning and magnitude of difficulties, and go on a collective ideating rampage for out-of-the-box solutions. You never know what may emerge. Every successful business knows how to turn setbacks into comebacks. Reframe of a situation results in feelings of energy, anticipation and excitement, tending to mobilize people for action and problem-solving.

3) Safe space to understand personal and family demands of workers- When the organization truly cares, it shows. It carves new pathways. Shifting col-blooded businesses into people-friendly, humane spaces entices respect, loyalty and performance. Once the company commits, it is only natural that hundreds of work-life balancing solutions appear.

4) Support Networks – Being there for each other as a COMMUNITY and providing a sense of belonging, understanding and support – can do wonders for keeping the business afloat. Providing access to therapists and virtual helplines etc. can also help.

5) Collective progress – strategies for more equitable profit distribution, conscious capitalism, workplace democracy – is the way forward. This is the only way to re-balance the world and create a better future for all.

Change is inevitable.

It is impossible to have an agile and resilient organization without agile and resilient individuals. By targeting protective factors, facilitating cognitive processing and coping skills, you can increase the resilience of employees and organizational success. 

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