Building a Culture of Workplace Resilience
NEW ORLEANS – Professor David Denyer of the Cranfield School of Management defines workplace resilience as “the ability of an organization to anticipate, prepare for, respond and adapt to incremental change and sudden disruptions in order to survive and prosper.” 2020 proved sudden disruptions can make an enormous difference in our businesses and day to day lives. How did your company respond?
Most business owners and Human Resources professionals agree, for an organization to be resilient, company culture must be intact. Company culture is a leading indicator of organizational performance. This is not a “human resources” agenda item, rather this is an “everyone” initiative and it begins with leadership. Organizations can build resilience by building their cultures and focusing on their people.
An organization with a terrible culture and low morale equals terrible customer service and low productivity. This is not resilience! Our challenge, like many others, is to be more resilient against future crises. This begins with identifying areas centered around employees:
- Identify your biggest contributors (your top talent).
- Know your largest threats (or detractors) to your future plans.
- Develop risk management opportunities on a regular basis.
- Understand how you succeeded or failed in the last year.
Shoot for the Moon (Consider: Who’s Your Moon Crew?)
Earlier in my HR career, my organization wanted to expand operations and my CEO asked me who I would take with me “to the moon” to start my new company? Technically, we were expanding into New Jersey, but the moon sounds more exciting. I had to think about the limited space on the shuttle, who was my top talent? Did I know? Did they know how special they were to me? The same mentor asked me what would stop me from going to the moon? Perhaps employees that were holding me back from accomplishing my goals, for one reason or another. Could it be that employee that has been on a rotating 90-day performance improvement plan? Now, what can I do to make sure I am constantly developing my team and minding my own skills gaps?
Take Time to Reflect on 2020
What worked for my business, HR NOLA, in 2019 DID NOT work for me in 2020. I lost and gained employees, I became more flexible and forgiving and I also failed to hold people accountable, perhaps when I should have. I had no excess dollars to spend outside of making payroll. We are a start-up; we suffer for every penny. What did I do right and wrong? How did I lose that perfect client? How did I gain all these new clients? These are questions I am responsible for answering.
How would your employees respond when asked how you have managed the last 12 months? Would you rank favorably with your employees for communication and health and safety measures? What areas would your employees find most unfavorable about your business? Do you understand the full impact of work-life balance today? Were you transparent in your business initiatives?
Here’s What We Know
Challenging times put company culture to the test. Leader’s decisions are scrutinized. Employees immediately judge whether actions are in alignment with the values of the organization and with their own. Workplace culture also affects the bottom line. Even if a company manages to attract the best employees, a negative workplace culture can contribute to a higher employee turnover, decreased motivation, and overall decreased productivity. Twenty years of positive culture can dissolve overnight if values are abandoned when crisis hits.
Here is how your business can become more resilient.
- Encourage connections within your teams. Allow your employees to be authentic and behave in a way which is in alignment with their values and beliefs. Encourage managers to work with their teams to understand how much connection, and in what ways, their teams prefer. Modify your worksites and hours as needed.
- Anticipate and react to change. Employees are juggling more than ever before—it’s nearly impossible to continue ‘business as usual’ given external and environmental stressors at the moment. Whether this means rethinking performance reviews, adding paid time off, or allowances for work from home equipment. Adapting to current challenges of your workforce will give more space for success.
- Offer comprehensive resources. Get employees help with managing stress and self care. Benefits are not “one size fits all.” Rather try the “one size fits most” approach to gain the most employee participation. For many, work is a constant presence. By actively engaging in self care and nurturing themselves after a stressful incident, employees may avoid burnout. And we all know what that leads to – lack of productivity!
- Establish clear channels for communication and feedback. Consider implementing regular surveys, check-ins, or polls to understand the impact and success of your offerings. Instead of encouraging employees to keep to themselves, build a more social and safe work environment. Lastly, and most importantly, listen to your team. There is no playbook for supporting employees through a pandemic. The best we can do is offer a robust set of resources, learn from our experiences, and elicit feedback from employees.
One thing is for certain: organizations that are best positioned to respond to a challenge like COVID-19 have been reinforcing the right cultural attributes long before this virus hit. For these organizations, managing conflict, communicating effectively, and supporting one another through change comes as second nature. These ways of working are so prevalent as part of the cultural composition that people do not think of behaving any other way.
Amy Bakay is the founder of HR NOLA, an HR consultancy firm with offices in New Orleans and San Antonio.