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7 Min Read

How to Build a Resilient Workforce

Nicole Klemp

From constantly shifting cultural and economic factors to the everyday pressures of work and personal life, employees today carry a ton of stress on their shoulders. This compounding pressure can prevent employees from doing their best work. When this happens, business suffers. Building a resilient workforce is the best way to help your people stay healthy and keep your business intact during a crisis. Resilient workforces can bounce back when setbacks occur and continue making positive changes even after issues are resolved. 

The first step to encouraging resilience in your employees is understanding what’s holding them back.

3 employee concerns during uncertain times

To coach your people to become more resilient, it’s important to know how they feel and empathize with their struggles. 15Five recommends taking an ongoing pulse check of your employees through weekly check-ins and engagement surveys to learn their unique pain points. 

But to look more broadly, here are the top three issues that most employees deal with during times of stress and uncertainty.

1. Burnout

Employees, especially those working remotely, often struggle to set boundaries between their personal life and their work. Allowing work hours to bleed into evenings and weekends is a fast track to employee burnout. And burnout can be detrimental to a business.

Over 62% of people are currently experiencing burnout at work, and 76% of employees experience burnout at least sometimes. Not only is an overworked employee likely to make more mistakes, but they’re also more stressed, depressed, and can account for a large portion of employee turnover.

2. Lack of clarity

Especially in times of uncertainty, employees may have a lot of questions about the state of your organization, industry, or the future of their job. While you may not always be able to give them perfectly satisfying or concrete answers, you can over-communicate the things that you do know. 

Even a small amount of reassurance can help employees regain a sense of control. Transparent leadership can go a long way in building trust and clarity among employees.

3. Need for emotional support 

Everyone processes challenges and times of stress differently. Maybe you’ve noticed some employees acting differently, or even seen a shift in attitudes across the organization. 

Instead of allowing frustrations to boil over, understand that your people could be dealing with more than they can handle, and approach situations with kindness and positive intent. HR teams can also be instrumental in making sure employees are aware of and have access to critical resources when needed.

Training your workforce to become more resilient

Resilience is a learned behavior, not a fixed personality trait. And the best way to teach your people how to become more resilient is by modeling the type of behavior you wish to see emulated. 

Here are some unique characteristics of a resilient workforce that you can begin practicing today:

  • Optimism: Resilient individuals use positivity to overcome obstacles. “They shift the label of failure of something negative to something helpful instead. With feedback and motivation, we can each work to get better and ‘fail forward,’” says
  • Growth-oriented: In addition to maintaining a positive attitude, resilient individuals also have a growth mindset. People with this mindset adopt a continuous love of learning and believe that everyone is capable of growing their skills and overcoming their current challenges.
  • High trust: The process of building trust starts with vulnerability, according to research by Harvard Business School professor Jeff Polzer. Sharing your feelings with employees can encourage more open communication and create highly collaborative and engaging work environments. 
  • Meaningful work: Connecting your employees’ work to the company’s purpose creates a deep sense of belonging. When your people feel their work is meaningful, they’re more likely to persist and go above and beyond to accomplish their goals.

When leaders help their people become resilient and overcome their unique issues, organizations can speed up the rate at which they recover from the impact of both internal and external disruptions. 

Resilient teams need resilient leadership

How do your top performers respond to challenges? Chances are, they meet new demands head-on and tend to bounce back faster than their more reserved counterparts. 

This isn’t a coincidence. While there are many characteristics that make up an excellent leader, one trait they often share is emotional resilience, or the ability to quickly adapt to stressful situations or crises. And because the lines between work and personal living are more blurred than ever, emotional resilience is a necessary life skill for employees — and (especially) people leaders.

Why is emotional resilience so crucial at work?

Emotional resilience isn’t just a trending skill. It has proven to contribute to an organization’s overall success. But it first begins at the very top. According to research by the Center for Workplace Mental Health, leaders who promote employee resilience can increase productivity, lower healthcare costs, reduce absenteeism, and decrease turnover. 

Few individuals are born with emotional resilience as their top skill. Luckily, like any other skill, it can be developed with determination and practice. And through resilient leadership, you can encourage, educate, and inspire team members to build their own resilience in the workplace.

Building resilience begins with mindfulness

15Five’s Co-founder and Chief Culture Officer Shane Metcalf participated in a webinar with people leaders from Wellness Coach and Morgan Stanley to discuss what it means to be a resilient leader and what goes into building a resilient workforce. And it all starts with mindfulness

Some characteristics of mindful leaders include:

  • Effectively managing change
  • Taking the time to self-reflect on one’s thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors
  • Focusing on one’s health, energy, and stamina
  • Finding a healthy balance between intuition and rational thinking

It’s important to remember that mindful and resilient leaders don’t just focus on the well-being of others. They also practice deep compassion for themselves.

The missing step: self-compassion

The old adage is true; you can’t pour from an empty cup. To become a resilient leader, you must check in with yourself and tend to your own needs before you can effectively support an entire organization.

“When we’re in survival mode, we do not do our best work,” says Shane. Acknowledging when we’re all going through a tough time and showing yourself compassion can help turn breakdowns into breakthroughs.

Once you’ve embraced this mindset shift, you can move towards growing your own resilience and, in turn, building a resilient workforce.

Tips for becoming a more resilient leader

To support you in leading a successful organization through challenging times, we’ve compiled a list of four helpful practices we believe are vital to becoming a resilient leader and building a resilient workforce.

  1. Practice gratitude. Start each week with a gratitude exercise. Whether it’s sharing with a colleague or keeping a gratitude journal, you can push yourself to become more resilient by regularly focusing on the positive.
  2. Meditate together. Whether in the office or virtually, connect your teams by meditating together. 15Five begins every Monday all-hands meeting with an employee-led, company-wide meditation session. This encourages creativity and allows employees to try various approaches until they find the one that works best for them.
  3. Find your purpose. As a leader, make your company’s purpose known. Motivation levels will inevitably nosedive if your teams aren’t connected to the company’s mission. Remind employees that they’re valuable in helping drive that mission forward. 
  4. Be aware of your breathing. This is a simple tip you can practice anywhere and at any time. If your breathing becomes shallow, give yourself a moment, and try to deepen your breaths. This can instantly ease any feeling of panic so that you can continue your day without unmanageable stress or anxiety.

Let the chaos of going through challenges as a team shape your organization’s future. Accept the disruptions as catalysts for developing grit, mindfulness, and resilient leadership, all of which will positively affect your organization and overall mission.

Watch the webinar with Josh Bersin

Learn more about resilience leadership training and how you can create a more resilient organization in our webinar with Josh Bersin, “Managing Performance During a Crisis: Time for a Big Reset.”

Listen on-demand >