How can HR leaders help employees develop resilience?

Published: 20th September 2019 - 9:27 am

As awareness of employee mental health increases, organisations are keen to ensure conversations about stress and burnout have a positive impact and aren’t ineffective platitudes. These conversations are contagious, and the moods associated with them are too. This is why it is critical we transform workplace conversations from questioning ‘who has the most stress?’ to resilience building to enhance performance. 

Resilience is the ability to take the challenges and changes of life in your stride. When introducing resilience, it’s important to mention that stress and burnout are the product of not acting and that vitality is the result of building your personal resilience.

This enables you to capture the attention of those who are already headed towards burnout and would benefit from taking action, yet still appeal to those who are currently performing well and, if they take action, will have the resilience to sustain high performance and accelerate their career.

Be explicit about how resilience contributes to sustainable performance as you improve your ability to experience pressure yet not become stressed. It also helps to raise your self-efficacy. For example, getting better at managing your emotions improves resilience and efficiency because you are more consistent with decisions you make and are able to interact with others with less friction.

For companies, having more employees who are healthy and productively engaged in their work leads to less interpersonal friction, improved teamwork and stronger financial results. Their employees are happier individuals who are more productive, achieve more and have better self-esteem. The knock-on effect positively affects personal relationships and community spirit too. 

Use a resilience framework 

One way to introduce the theme of resilience is to ask employees to evaluate their current resilience habits using a simple ‘wheel of resilience’ self-assessment and scoring themselves 0-10 across the seven resilience categories (focus, role models, energy, emotions, downtime, optimism and meaning). 

Most people have a ‘wonky’ wheel – knowing where they have strengths and areas for development prompts conversations about sharing best practice and highlights any common areas of need. It is important to encourage employees to develop resilience across all of the categories, rather than master one, this will ensure they have the right resilience tool whatever challenge they face. 

One size does not fit all, so highlight a range of resilience habits and encourage the individual to select and adapt the habit to their needs and job role. Many resilience habits, such as planning your energy rather than your time, are a new way of doing something you already have to do, so take no extra time.

Leaders go first

Leaders and managers are role models for others, whether they seek to be one or not. For resilience practices to become embedded, leaders and managers must be visible about their own resilience practices and articulate what they do that’s not seen. (For example, having an early night). Of course, it’s OK for leaders to also struggle from time to time with developing their own resilience; a degree of openness reassures others that ‘we’re all in it together’ and the target is to make progress, not be perfect. 

The uptake of resilience practices can be improved if people understand the link between increased resilience and sustainable high performance, and are able to tailor their resilience habits to them and see positive role models.

Ultimately, for a business to have the best chance of succeeding, resilience should be a priority for employees, HR and senior leaders alike. 



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