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5 ways to build a resilient team

October 25, 2022 • read

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5 ways to build a resilient team

At work, employees often have to navigate stress, face adversity, and adapt on the fly. The capacity to recover quickly from these physical, mental, and emotional pressures is called resilience. But just what is resilience, and why is resilience so important at work?

For organizations, building team resilience can have many benefits. Not every day at work will go according to plan, but by tapping into their resilience, employees can find a way to weather challenges and bounce back from hardships and setbacks.

According to a study by the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, resilient employees are also more productive, less likely to quit their jobs, and more effective communicators and team players. Moreover, the same study found that they generate lower healthcare costs over time.

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations saw clearly just how important resilience was. Most teams found themselves having to reinvent how they work in a flash, a tumultuous undertaking to say the least. Resilience helped high-functioning teams not only survive, but also thrive and grow.

At the end of 2020, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, directly identified resilience as an essential component of his company’s ability to achieve quarterly earnings that exceeded Wall Street’s expectations despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic. “Even though we’re apart,” Cook said, “teams and colleagues have been leaning on and counting on each other more than in normal times. I think that instinct, that resilience, has been an essential part of how we have navigated this year.”

So how can organizations build a resilient company culture? And what are the habits of resilient teams? Here are a few tips to help you build a resilient organization, with leaders who care about their employees and employees who feel valued in the workplace.

1. Build support systems and foster connections

When the going gets tough, strong bonds and group chemistry can help teams react more quickly to change, develop new ideas, and resolve conflicts. Moreover, employees who have developed solid social connections with their colleagues are more likely to feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback, which can help the team iterate faster.

By emphasizing teamwork and collaboration and providing opportunities for social contact, organizations can help employees become more familiar with their colleagues’ knowledge, skills, and abilities, thus increasing the level of confidence they have in their teammates. In times of crisis, this level of mutual trust means teams are better equipped to improvise and adapt to changing circumstances in real time.

While learning to plan ahead is important, teams can also certainly benefit from being able to improvise while having a common goal. An excellent historical example of this is the Apollo 13 mission team, which had to scramble after one of its rocket’s oxygen tanks exploded 200,000 miles above the Earth. Leveraging their expertise, ingenuity, and collective trust, the team used various objects on the shuttle to assemble a device on the fly that allowed the crew to breathe long enough to safely return home, earning them a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Lastly, leaders should encourage humility. Everyone needs help from time to time, and that’s okay. Employees should be encouraged to ask for help when they need it and use all support systems available to them.

In other words, employees shouldn’t hide their struggles. Instead, they should look to support their colleagues however they can while also being willing to ask for help and accept it from others.

2. Encourage skill development and continuous learning

The world of work is always changing and evolving. Just when employees start getting into a stable routine, a shift occurs that requires them to take on new tasks, work with new colleagues, or master new software tools.

Employees who can learn new tricks and reinvent themselves are a huge asset for an organization, which is why it makes so much sense to encourage reskilling, upskilling, and continuous learning in employees.

Over time, a culture of learning can create teams that maintain a growth mindset, take pride in gaining and sharing knowledge, and aren’t afraid to ask questions to further their understanding. The end result of this emphasis on learning is that employees increase their adaptability in the workplace and become more resilient.

Organizations should reward leaders for taking an active role in developing talent and creating individual growth plans for each employee. Moreover, employees should have access to mentors or coaches, who may be a different person than their managers.

After all, there’s truth to the old adage that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers they don’t like. A Gallup State of the Manager report confirmed this when its findings showed that 50% of respondents had left a job to “get away from their manager at some point in their career.” Providing access to mentors and coaches can not only help employees develop new skills, it can also help them see a path within the organization for them that goes beyond their current manager.

Moving forward, you should expect employee development to increasingly become a key area of focus for organizations, as over 90% of organizations believe they’ll experience critical skill gaps in the coming years.

3. Look for opportunities to take the team’s pulse

Encourage leaders to connect with their employees, make employees feel heard, and regularly ask for employee feedback. This should include taking the time to organize post-mortems for projects that defied expectations or threw the team an unexpected curveball. Team members should be encouraged to speak up and receive positive feedback for providing constructive criticism. This can also be an opportunity for leaders to provide constructive feedback to employees.

Simply put, if an issue isn’t fixed, it will likely affect the team again next time they experience adversity. Careful debriefing and thoughtful reflection can help the team not only bounce back, but bounce forward, increasing their resilience. In the long run, it can also help improve team communication and collaboration.

Of course, teams can also be affected by issues occuring at the company level. To identify and address these issues, organizations can use anonymous surveys to provide employees avenues to give feedback, which can help leaders make more informed decisions. After documenting findings, issues and potential solutions can be brought up and discussed with the concerned teams.

4. Create a psychologically safe work environment

According to the Harvard Business Review, psychological safety at work is critical for resilience. A sense of psychological safety helps employees feel respected and allows them to believe they can share their concerns, ideas, or mistakes without having to fear undue repercussions. In time, it can promote innovation and risk-taking, generate increased employee engagement, and even help unlock some of the benefits of having diverse teams, including better decision-making.

There are many ways leaders can make employees feel safe, including encouraging open expression of ideas and strategic risk-taking, even if these risks end up leading to failure. Leaders can even add a “mistake of the week” game to their weekly meetings where everyone, including themselves, are encouraged to share one way they messed up in the past week and what they learned along the way.

5. Help employees maintain perspective

According to a Zircon BeTalent report, employees and leaders who experience more positive than negative emotions at work and focus on these positive attributes during times of adversity tend to be more resilient. Staying positive, however, doesn’t come easy for everyone. Over time, some employees can develop a negativity bias, inhibiting them from making positive changes to their thinking and behaviour.

Research has shown that resilience at work can be improved through personalized individual sessions. These conversations can be an opportunity to allow employees to reflect on positive experiences they’ve had at work, issues that arose and how they successfully tackled them, and what they’ve learned during a challenging period that will make them better able to respond to a similar situation in the future.

One benefit of these future-oriented sessions is that they can help employees maintain perspective and look past the difficulties of the present moment by reminding them that their situation at work will inevitably change in time.

Conversations like these can help an employee who’s working on a tumultuous project see that the project will eventually stabilize, then envision the kind of work they might be doing once this current moment has come and gone. This can help them cope with the present situation, thus increasing their resilience.

Conclusion

As we’ve demonstrated, the benefits of resilience for organizations are numerous and shouldn’t be underestimated. By making resilience a strategic priority, organizations can develop new ways to stretch, adapt, and weather uncertainty.

One way organizations can support employee resilience is by investing in employee wellness, as research has demonstrated that employee wellness programs directly correlate to employee resilience.

That being said, to foster resilience, the employee wellness solution you choose should also be aligned with the needs of your workforce, well-communicated to your team, and integrated into a work environment that values resilience and prioritizes employee well-being and work-life balance. It should also help and support employees with their mental health.

If you’d like to speak with a member of our team about employee wellness, the impact of a quality virtual care solution on employee health and well-being, and how to bring your employee benefits to the next level, please reach out. We’d be happy to share our insights with you as Canada’s leading virtual care platform.

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