Resilience is a crucial characteristic in this unpredictable world

We’re delighted to welcome guest author Kate Feather, executive vice president of PeopleMetrics to our site. PeopleMetrics primary purpose is to enable organizations to systematically take the best actions to secure and engage customers and employees. They are an interesting organisation with an impressive list of clients and a passion for engagement and service. This article was first published on David Zinger’s employee engagement network and we’re grateful to David and PeopleMetrics for permission to reproduce it here. We found the article useful, practical, and enjoyable, and we hope you will enjoy it and use it too.

Resilience is a crucial characteristic in this unpredictable world. Trees survive terrible storms if they can bend in the wind. Species who cannot adapt to new conditions die out. The natural world’s proclivity toward flexibility is also rewarded in humans. Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Eventually, resilient individuals can achieve success, sometimes after hundreds of attempts at their dream. At its core, resilience is the spark of determination that empowers us to get up and try again, no matter what the circumstances. We have seen time and again that the most successful businesses are resilient enough to bounce back from any crisis. What’s less clear is how such successful firms encourage resilience in their ranks.

It may seem like all that’s required for organizational resilience is a widespread “Try, try again,” company mantra, but actually nourishing resilience in an organization is much easier said than done. Today we’ll explore various ways of encouraging resiliency. To direct our review, we’ll list a technique or two for each of the characteristics of resilient organizations, as established in our previous post on resilience. Consider the following methods for increasing your organization’s resilience:
a. Resilient organizations have a Clear and Compelling Company Purpose.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins suggests that those who are looking for a compelling purpose ask themselves the following three questions:

1. What am I most passionate about?
2. What can I be the best in the world at?
3. Now, how can I make money?

Although these questions were meant for the individual, they can certainly help your firm develop a clear and compelling company purpose.

As you zone in on the concept that expresses why you are in business, look for things you would do even if they didn’t bring you any money. Aim for a simple, short sentence that expresses your reason for being. A company purpose should be brief, customer-focused (what will you do for the customer?), broad enough to last through technological and societal shifts, and attainable through effort. Here are examples of two effective company purpose statements to get your brainstorm brewing:

Disney: “Keeping alive the magic of childhood.”
Western Union: “Connecting friends, families, and businesses around the world.”
b. Employees at resilient organizations have a Strong Trust in Leadership.

Steven Covey has recently turned his attention to the lack of trust in modern society. According to his article at Leadership Now, “Research shows that only 49% of employees trust senior management, and only 28% believe CEOs are a credible source of information.” In addition to making trust an explicit objective within your organization, Covey recommends that leaders who wish to be trusted follow these 13 behaviors of high-trust leaders worldwide:

1. Talk Straight
2. Demonstrate Respect
3. Create Transparency
4. Right Wrongs
5. Show Loyalty
6. Deliver Results
7. Get Better
8. Confront Reality
9. Clarify Expectation
10. Practice Accountability
11. Listen First
12. Keep Commitments
13. Extend Trust
c. Resilient organizations are defined by their Open Communication.

Your company cannot effectively respond to adversity if employees don’t feel comfortable speaking to one another. It’s no surprise, then, that many of the world’s largest, most enduring companies have an uncompromising dedication to open communication. General Electric has 14 divisions around the world, but it is all tied together through one person: the CEO, to whom all 14 division heads report directly. A clear, established line of command helps GE keep internal communication humming.

One more example: Google is consistently voted one of the best companies in the world to work for. One reason is that employees are given a plethora of tools for communicating internally. As described at Google Blogoscope, Google employees have access to a broad company intranet, a special page for communicating new ideas, a project database to allow employees to see what their peers are doing, and much more. Even if your organization doesn’t have Google’s technological capability, you can still improve operations by smoothing out the lines of communication within your firm.
4. Supportive Management in resilient organizations helps employees solve any problem.

Due to widespread dissatisfaction with management, Boss Day is one of the most lackluster holidays in the US. A recent Adecco survey revealed that 53% of American workers think their boss is dishonest. In the same survey, 89% of those interviewed linked job satisfaction to their relationship with their boss.

Sincerely supportive management, therefore, has a huge impact on your organization’s resilience. If employees feel comfortable with management, they are far more likely to bring up opportunities and problems.

A simple way to encourage supportive management is to increase the amount of positive interactions managers have with employees. How many times a day do managers simply wander through the work space greeting and socializing with employees? When was the last time that managers honestly thanked employees for their contributions? Any recipe for supportive management is based on delivering consistent communication and positive feedback. To learn more about effective employee recognition, see our post on Five Effective Real-World Approaches to Employee Recognition.
5. Employees in resilient organizations have Adequate Tools and Resources to help them produce their best work.

Today’s economic hardships have tempted many companies to scour their books for opportunities to cut costs. Unfortunately, such budgeting often reduces the resources employees have for doing their best work, which usually has a long-term impact on profitability. Slashing employee resources damages your organization in two ways. First, employees who lost their tools for success feel undervalued, and often become embittered about their workplace. Second, there are practical implications of reducing employee resources. Outdated resources may save a few pennies today, but leaders should also think of the potential revenue that is lost by limiting your employees’ output. Leadership in resilient organizations recognizes that investing in employees’ performance yields better products and services in the long run. If you must cut costs, bring employees into the discussion.

As you can see, organizational resilience springs from the general work atmosphere. If employees feel supported and empowered to do their best work, they will see problems as challenges. A common, cherished company purpose enables leadership and employees alike to accurately direct their response to difficult situations. Open communication and trustworthy leadership allows employees to tackle crises confidently. In the end, as all of these factors also contribute to employee engagement, effective Employee Engagement Management may be the most comprehensive approach to encouraging Organizational Resilience.

~Kate Feather, Executive Vice President

Presenteeism versus Productivity

I’ve never been a fan of the former, and I’ve always believed in the latter. My first boss in BT would expect us to return to the office in Croydon after meeting a customer in Wales/Toddington/Leicester, anywhere. He would rather stare out of his office at the back of our heads (with no knowledge of what we were actually up to) than permit us to return home after the meeting and be productive there. Wasted time, wasted fuel, no trust, no….well you get the idea.

Things change – and before leaving BT in 2009 I and they enjoyed the prodiuctive benefits of flexible working. I know companies will never please everyone but on this I think BT tries hard and does well, most of the time.

Most recently, we’ve seen our old enemy fear lurking in the dark corners. Oh dear, am I being watched? I’d better nail my backside to the chair all day. I’d better get there before everyone else. I dare not leave first. It seems that the recession has caused an overload of presenteeism, and indeed, binge working. My work’s bigger than your work, you get the picture.

I believe in many things. I ask many questions. “What’s the least I can do to have a meaningful impact?” I’m not proud of input per se, (though I see the benefit of research, preparation, training etc.) I love output.

Katherine Wiid runs a wonderful people management business called Recrion. She has written a lovely short piece on the power of productivity and brevity which I think you might like. Have a read, then maybe go for a short walk and have a think. Go on, it’s OK, the lurker has turned its back, and I’ll keep an eye out for you.