Analyses & Studies  •  HR Focus

Resilience: How to understand, identify & develop it

Individuals and organisations have been through stressful and even traumatic times in recent months. As we all seek to recover, one crucial factor is the amount of resilience we are able to draw upon, including:  

  • Individual resilience: the ability to recover from adversity and failure
  • Organisational resilience: an organisation’s ability to maintain key functions during major shocks and thrive in a context of change

Recent research in organisational psychology has linked resilience to many positive traits and behaviours in employees including increased engagement, commitment to change and consistent performance. In difficult economic times and organisational crises, resilient employees are those who can remain engaged in challenging situations.


What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to recover from failure and disappointment, to keep trying in difficult situations, and to learn from change, uncertainty, and negative outcomes. It’s a key life skill; adaptation to new and stressful situations has helped humans survive and evolve. Resilience is often a result of self-efficacy, or belief in the ability to complete a future task even if it feels challenging. Resilient people tend to take a realistic view of their situation, look for how they can derive meaning from it, and track down the resources and support that can help them get through.


How can employees build their individual resilience?

  • Get perspective. Building resilience can help people reframe difficult situations and see them in a more detached and neutral way. One way people can get perspective is to ask themselves how they might feel about the situation in a month, a year, or five years. Will they laugh about it? Will they see it as a turning point? Will they even remember it? 
  • Another way is to look at the situation as external, specific, and temporary. Instead of “I’m terrible at technology and I’m never going to succeed if I have to work remotely,” people can tell themselves, “I’m doing my best, and my work has otherwise been solid. I’m going to learn new skills from this situation.”
  • Look for meaning. People in difficult situations can benefit from gaining more perspective by asking themselves about the big picture meaning of what they’re doing. That meaning may be in the lessons they learn or in the values they hold on to as they work through a difficult situation. 
  • Build a support system. Being resilient is ideally a team sport; even when people know how to do it, it’s not easy to bounce back from failure alone. Individuals should build a group of friends and trusted colleagues who can help them gain perspective, find meaning, and look for ways to avoid difficulties in the future.


What is organisational resilience?

Organisational resilience is the ability to recover from major shocks and deal with stress, return to essential functions, and thrive in a context of change. It involves the ability to not only recover financially but also create sustainable working conditions that enable team members to manage stress and perform over the long term. There are two types of organisational resilience: one simply returns the organisation to its situation before the shock; the other—more desirable—results in growth and transformation due to the lessons learned from the traumatic experience.


How can organisations build resilience?

  • Look beyond the immediate. While it feels natural in a crisis to focus on immediate needs and “putting out fires,” organisations that have proven themselves to be resilient have been able to take a step back and look for ways they might benefit, from new markets to new ways of working. Looking at the long term even in times of uncertainty can help organisations build new strengths and correct weaknesses that have been exposed by the shock. Planning for resilience in the long term means assuming that change will be the norm and thus building systems and structures that can withstand and even thrive in constant change.
  • Manage human resources sustainably. Building systems that are resilient to change and uncertainty means supporting a workforce who are susceptible to stress and exhaustion due to their shifting responsibilities. A Praditus survey shows that a majority of employees were experiencing stress due to a change in their work and/or workload—and that their organisations were not providing them the support they needed to manage those changes. Many organisations are choosing to train their team members to assume new responsibilities within the new context. Lateral moves within the organisation are another way that team members can learn new skills and become more adaptable. However, these programs can also cause strain if they are associated with further uncertainty and/or new responsibilities being added to current duties. This can be avoided by an effort to avoid overworking team members over the long term and to provide support and guidance to employees adapting to new positions.

By taking a long-term perspective and focusing on their mission, values, and team wellbeing, organisations can go a long way toward building their resilience and gaining strength to withstand and learn from any future shocks.


This article is an extract from a white paper by Praditus, produced by Maria Crawford, who leads the Praditus Academy as a member of the research team. The full paper can be requested

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About Praditus
Praditus supports your teams as a transformation enabler through self-awareness & soft skills development. Their unique blended approach brings together on-line and personalised experience to enhance collaboration, remote management, well-being, performance and engagement. They ensure better anchoring of your leadership models and competency framework, and also provide remote in-house or external coaching and training interventions, working with clients globally in seven languages.

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