How to Build a Resilient Workplace




  • — July 17, 2019

    You’ve certainly heard the phrase that “change is inevitable.” This statement is particularly true when it comes to the business arena. Business research, and first-hand experience, makes it clear that change within the workplace is not only inevitable – it’s a constant. Whether we’re talking about large-scale adjustment through a merger or company restructuring or a small-scale modification due to the introduction of new technology or procedures, change in the workplace is the new normal.

    The question then becomes, to what extent organizations are prepared to weather the impact of this inevitable change? Typically, companies riding the wave of change experience higher levels of employee stress, lower productivity rates, and increased turnover. However, change does not need to be the harbinger of gloom. The key to having an organization that can thrive through change versus one that allows change to cause massive disruption is to the extent to which they have established a culture of resilience.

    Building a resilient workplace doesn’t happen overnight but a clear path does exist to support this transformation.

    What is a resilient workplace?

    The definition of resiliency is the ability to “recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.” When it comes to the workplace, resiliency speaks to the extent to which your employee body is able to “withstand or recover quickly” from change, whether planned or unplanned. Essentially, established resiliency in the workplace means that despite the level of stress, pressure, and change occurring within the company, your employee body continues to perform well and contribute to organizational success.

    Steps to build a resilient workplace

    Having spent the last 2 decades focused on the science and practice of developing strong organizational culture, I know first-hand how the act of intentionally building culture revolutionizes the workplace. With a well-defined and aligned culture in place, companies not only maintain productivity during periods of change, but thrive as they bend and shift with each change they encounter.

    Here’s a look at four actionable steps you can take right now to start building a culture of resiliency.

    Define and align company core values

    The strength of a company’s culture is directly related to the commitment the company makes to defining and aligning against its core company values. After all, it would be impossible to expect your team to embrace a culture that they can’t define. The first step to achieving resiliency is identifying a small set of core values (best practice suggests three to six) that serve as guiding principles for ways in which the company operates.

    It’s vital that these company values are well-established using a thoughtful process so they can be leaned on during periods of change. Once identified, everything, including company practices and business goals should be aligned with these core values. This step will provide consistency for your workforce and offer a sense of stability.

    Utilize employee feedback

    Once the cultural foundation is clearly set, it’s crucial to monitor the employee experience before, during, and after periods of change. Whether positive or negative, feedback provides a great way to monitor the pulse of your team – the extent to which people are experiencing stress, fear, confusion, or dissatisfaction. Real-time employee feedback can help to identify and address problems before issues disrupt the workplace.

    Identifying hot spots in the moment, however, necessitates having a baseline to compare against. Collecting employee feedback on a regular basis makes it easy to quickly pinpoint an issue as soon as it arises, before it grows into a more intractable problem. Regular feedback can be collected through pulse surveys, check-ins, and one-on-one interviews. Having both a baseline and a process for regularly gathering employee feedback allows for differentiating between everyday issues and potential problems that are stemming from changes occurring within the workplace.

    Develop effective communication strategies

    Strong communication between leadership and the rest of the organization is key to building a resilient workplace because robust communication fosters trust, a critical driver of engagement. While leaders and managers may not be able to share all details regarding changes taking place, being as transparent as possible reduces anxiety and increases employee confidence in a positive outcome.

    When change is afoot and there is a lack of communication, human beings naturally start to make assumptions, often erroneous, and may even unintentionally filter misinformation through the workplace. If left unchecked, a gulf of communication during times of change can leave employees fearing for their jobs, speculating about the future of the company, and losing sight of the company’s overall goals and mission. These concerns can, in turn, lead to lower workplace morale, reduced productivity, and higher turnover.

    Having a strong communication strategy in place can help to reduce worry and concern during times of change, thereby fostering a culture of resiliency. While transparent discussions during challenging times may be difficult, the end result will be well worth the effort spent communicating with employees.

    Invest in employee recognition and rewards

    Employee recognition and rewards are valuable drivers of a resilient work culture. Ensuring that employees feel valued and appreciated is particularly critical during times of change because change of any size brings with it a level of uncertainty. When change hits an organization, employees can experience uncertainty about the stability of their jobs and even wonder whether the company values their role in the workplace.

    A consistent and meaningful employee recognition and rewards program can help to dissuade these thoughts and ensure that employees understand their true value to the company. Having an established employee recognition program in place that allows for management-to-employee and peer-to-peer, real-time recognition can go a long way in easing these uncertainties.

    Change is a given in today’s business arena and the pace of change will only increase in the years to come. Fostering a culture of resiliency to fortify organizations against the potential pitfalls of change increases the likelihood that change can be effectively weathered and success achieved. Don’t wait for the negative impact of unexpected change to occur before building a resilient workplace. Instead, take effective steps today to establish a workplace that is strong and nimble enough to handle both large and small changes as they manifest.

    Learn more about the importance of creating a resilient workplace by attending my speaking session, “Building a Resilient Workplace: Adapting to a Rapidly Changing World” at ACE 2019 from September 10-11 in Chicago. Hope to see you there!

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