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

Learning Always Breeds Loyalty

People love to learn and they form a close bond with the organisation that helped them learn. We see this in schools, colleges and universities which have strong alumni networks. Many organisations could use this link to engage the workforce and create a powerful bond.

Here’s an exciting example of learning creating great results.

As a motivation technique (usually called Innovation Time Off), all Google engineers are encouraged to spend 20% of their work time (one day per week) on projects that interest them. Some of Google’s newer services, such as Gmail, Google News, and AdSense originated from these independent endeavours. In a talk at Stanford University, Marissa Mayer, Google’s Vice President of Search Products and User Experience, stated that her analysis showed that 50% of the new product launches originated from the 20% time.

I am surprised that more organisations don’t spot this powerful connection and do something about it. Too often the personal development opportunities offered by an organisation to its staff, serve to benefit only the organisation. They make the person better at doing what the organisation wants, with little or no regard for the person as a whole. There’s nothing personal about that.

Given the strong bond between learning and loyalty, opportunities for real personal development could be a useful way to engage and motivate staff. Much more fulfilling than the usual morally suspect financial incentives we tend to see trotted out. Pay people a decent salary; maybe include within that salary a small development fund. Give people time to develop, work on projects that interest them, and watch them grow into satisfied employees, acting as genuine advocates for the organisation.

Bored with the Board?

I struggled to stay awake as the BT board bored us with the cost cutting blah @ the AGM this week. It may well be necessary but boy is it dull, haven’t they got any other tricks up their sleeve?

I recall the CEO of Global Services showing us all the downward trend in mobile spend and expenses on a recent webcast and pointing to this as a success. We all know that these costs can be very easily and quickly driven to zero. I can’t believe he really sees these things as sustainable success, as a shareholder I sincerely hope not.

Rather than just squeeze until the pips squeak, what else might you do to get people fired up and enthused in these difficult times? Before I left BT I posed a few questions to the Global Services leadership team, they were:

How are you going to motivate your people?
How are you going to get them to give the discretionary effort that’s so vital in delivering a great customer experience?
How are you going to get your people to trust you, and each other?

Referencing the first question specifically, Roy Saunderson drew my attention to the following interesting analysis from the USA and Canada. It would be convenient to dismiss it just because it’s not from our own backyard, but I think it’s worth a look, and a think, and a do. My experience in BT Global showed me that simple basic recognition is poorly executed. Less than 3 out of 10 could strongly agree with the statement “In the last 7 days I’ve received praise or recognition for good work”. That’s despite the fact this statement is widely acknowledged as a critical key in the link between managers and staff. BT is not alone as the data below suggests and as I said to Ian Livingston (BT Group CEO) before I left, just think how powerful BT could be if it could get just one step ahead of the herd in these vital areas?

Have a read, have a think and do. The sad news is I saw little evidence of action when on the inside, and if the board are to be believed, that attitude persists. The great news is this can be easily fixed, in any company. I hope you enjoy changing it and I wish you every success in doing so.

Recognition definitely needs leadership at the helm, so lead on!!

Check out this latest study from Ipsos Reid which is highlighting that recognition or the lack of recognition maybe impacting lowered engagement scores in Canadian workplaces.

Apparently Canadian employees are becoming less loyal to their employers. According to these recent findings from Ipsos Reid’s Build a Better Workplace syndicated study, 22% of Canadian employees are expressing decreased loyalty to their employer.

“Loyalty to one’s employer is very dependant on recognition,” says JB Aloy, Ipsos’ resident expert on employee engagement and author of the study. “Staff who feel their involvement is not acknowledged are more likely to become disloyal.”

Interestingly, Recognition Professionals International, has “Management Responsibility” as its second Best Practice Standard for recognition practices and programs.

A few years back Roy Saunderson asked managers in the public sector across the United States and Canada how important it was for them to have senior leader involvement in recognition.

How important is it to managers to have Senior Leader involvement with Employee Recognition?
* 93 percent of managers indicate Senior Leader involvement is very or extremely important
* 75 percent of those managers stated Senior Leader participation was extremely important

Now consider the harsh reality when they asked what percentage were REALLY involved:

Actual level of Senior Leader involvement
* 21 percent of Senior Leaders are very involved
* Another 58 percent are somewhat involved

*(Source: Roy Saunderson, “Survey on the Effectiveness of Employee Recognition In the Public Sector”, Public Personnel Management , Vol. 33, no. 3 (2004): 255-275)