The Employee Resilience Roundtable

You know that a roundtable meeting inspired you when you began to search some of the terminology and tools mentioned immediately after the event. I looked up the iResilience site mentioned by Lisa Hand, People Experience Director at Ogi, one of our key speakers. Lisa was also one of the interviewees that our Content Strategist, Damien Seaman, talked extensively with when designing our latest research-backed HR reports.

I took the forty-question survey and got some extremely enlightening results. Apparently, I’m resilient within my organisation, though there are one or two areas I could work on to improve. Why not try it out yourself?

I mention ‘the organisation’ since one of the critical points that several attendees and speakers made at the roundtable was that they could not measure employee resilience in isolation. Employee A may be super resilient working at Organisation B but fragile at Organisation C.

This approach to people management fits much into my behavioural view of human nature, shared by our moderator, and head of product Tom Catnach, on the roundtable.

And while we’re on the topic, what exactly does ‘resilience’ mean? – according to Iresilience, it is ‘the act of rebounding’. According to a study by Andrea Ovans, at Harvard Business Review, Resilience was defined by most as the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity.

In her report surveying 835 workers in the UK in 2015:

75% said the most significant drain on their resilience reserves was “managing difficult people or office politics at work.”

But since then, we’ve had the Covid pandemic, rampant inflation and now the cost of living crisis. In 2024, a leading cause of employee fragility is poor financial wellbeing.

Mintago research has shown that lack of financial management knowledge and fear of finances in the future are leading causes of poor employee resilience, low employee morale, and productivity, and high turnover. (Employee Financial Wellbeing for the 21st Century).

Another great phrase that I looked up after the event was ‘vulnerable leader‘ which both Tom and I liked. We all know leaders who act like they are invulnerable, have nothing left to learn, and do not require anyone else’s views on how to run their business.

Equally, I’m sure you know leaders who are the reverse – humble, eager to learn from anyone, no matter their position, and if not always ‘happy’ to share their weaknesses, at least willing to do so when necessary. Which type have you enjoyed working with more in your career?

Tom, our moderator, began the roundtable by asking everyone to introduce themselves, starting with our two main speakers, Lisa Hand, People Experience Director at mid-sized Telecommunications company Ogi, and Angie Angie McKenna, Head of People, Culture, Talent, at Asquared, an app software development company.

We had a wonderful mix of attendees, from an HR head at a large insurance company, to a benefits manager at the NHS, to a head of HR at a mid-sized IT Consultancy. They had varying challenges and approaches to solving them, but they all believed in hiring and nurturing resilient talent for their organisations. We covered three main questions during the one-hour, fifteen-minute session. The first was:

Topic 1: What is workplace resilience, and how do you measure it?

According to Angie McKenna, Workplace resilience, for ASquared, is the ability of employees to carry out their roles on a day-to-day basis.

Measurement of Workplace Resilience: Surveys and employee feedback: ASquared uses surveys and encourages employee peer-to-peer feedback to assess their resilience.

Employee satisfaction, sickness levels, and retention: Lisa emphasised the importance of measuring workplace resilience through these traditional indicators.

Psychological safety: The organisation measures resilience by assessing whether employees feel confident and psychologically safe to ask for feedback, take it on board, and act upon it.

Performance metrics: Attendance and engagement metrics are used to measure workplace resilience. They track absence levels and attrition rates to identify potential issues.

According to Lisa, workplace resilience has evolved over the years due to macro-level factors such as political instability, conflict, and the cost of living.

Workshops and Resilience Profile Questionnaires: Ogi conducted a workshop focusing on resilience, including using the iResilience Profile questionnaire, which assesses confidence, support, purpose, and adaptability.

Values-driven approach: Lisa highlighted the significance of aligning recruitment and people practices with the organisation’s values to ensure a resilient workforce.

The discussion also touched on the role of emotional intelligence coaching, with one attendee mentioning the implementation of training in her company to build and encourage resilience.

Workplace resilience, as discussed by the roundtable attendees, involves the ability of employees to navigate their roles effectively, adapt to challenges, and maintain psychological well-being. Measurement consists of a combination of traditional metrics, feedback mechanisms, and tools like the  Profile questionnaire.

Lisa saw aligning recruitment and people practices with organisational values as crucial in fostering resilience. Additionally, she believed that emotional intelligence coaching is a valuable resource in building resilience, especially during challenging times like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lisa also emphasised how crucial it is for companies to support their Line Managers:

” Line managers have such an important role to play and often one of the hardest jobs, so focusing on their development, equipping them with the right tools, and supporting them to ensure they are resilient is key.”

Topic 2: What strategies have you implemented that have helped increase it?

So here’s a summary of how our attendees have tried to increase employee resilience.

Strategies to Increase Employee Resilience: Employee Assistance Program (EAP): Implementing an EAP to support employees dealing with burnout, stress, or personal challenges.

Open Communication: Encouraging teams to be open and honest about their feelings, including work-related stress or challenges at home.

Several attendees talked about ‘matching’ employees to the culture. For example, Lisa Hand admitted that not all candidates suit her company. But it’s best to understand that early on in the hiring process.

Mood Check-ins: Conducting regular mood check-ins using a mood check-in tool. Employees share their moods, and discussions are held during company stand-up meetings.

Individualised Support: Providing individualised support based on employees’ needs and situations.

Flexible Work Arrangements: Allowing flexible work arrangements to accommodate different needs and situations.

Building Trust and Psychological Safety: Fostering an environment of trust, psychological safety, and open communication, where employees feel comfortable sharing their struggles.

One HR manager talked about how he aims to hire employees who will help to drive a trusting work environment. This HR Professional will ask an interview candidate how they handled a situation in which they were given credit for someone else’s work.

Most people have been in this situation, and how you answer that question indicates what kind of employee you may be. Another attendee asks his candidates to describe a time that they failed.

This HR leader told us that If their candidate offered a scenario that did not seem authentic, she may question that person’s ability to be honest and transparent in the organisation.

She wouldn’t necessarily discount that candidate immediately on this one response. However, she would want to ask more questions to better understand the candidate’s values and in-work behaviours.

Inclusive Training: Providing training to current employees on identifying and supporting neurodivergent individuals and creating an inclusive workplace.

Lisa Hand talked about how her organisation does not focus so much on treating employees equally, so much as treating each employee with equity, recognising the different challenges and situations of each employee.

When it comes to financial wellbeing, for example, your company could have one employee who doesn’t even know what a pension is, whilst another has a detailed grasp of finances, including owning a pension, an investment portfolio and even several mortgages.

This makes it hard for companies to adequately support the entire range of their employees needs, especially for employees from deprived or diverse backgrounds.

Personalised Learning Plans: Developing personalised learning plans for employees based on their resilience levels and well-being assessments.

One attendee also discussed the neurodivergent and how they need a tailored approach to handle the challenges and opportunities to shine that such employees demonstrate.

Voluntary Discomfort: Encouraging voluntary discomfort to build resilience, such as engaging in activities outside of one’s comfort zone.

One of the attendees mentioned her company taking part in a ‘tough mudder’ competition, which helped build resilience and confidence, particularly in employees who would never have thought of doing something like that.

Your support network: The attendees discussed how you can’t measure employee resilience in isolation. Much of a person’s ability to cope, their mental health and general wellbeing, come from their support networks. That support network ideally includes your place of work and your team. However, it is also your family and your friends.

As an immigrant (to the USA), one of the hardest parts of working abroad was suddenly having little to no support network. So, that’s an area where HR departments can help immigrants and other employees from deprived backgrounds.

Topic 3: What is the business case for building employee resilience at your workplace?

I was particularly inspired by Lisa Hand’s answer to this question. As the Head of People Experience at Ogi, Lisa Hand, drawing from her 15 years of Human Resources experience, highlighted the people profession’s transformative journey. Initially perceived as a back-office support function, the landscape has evolved significantly during her tenure.

During a recent business roundtable discussion, Lisa underscored a pivotal shift in perspective, notably accelerated by the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. A positive outcome emerged as individuals began recognising the immense value embedded in their workforce. The prevailing scenario reflects an intense competition for talent, a concern exacerbated by a disturbing statistic predicting a decline in the future labour market.

In navigating this competitive talent landscape, Lisa delved into the critical question of recruiting and, more importantly, retaining personnel. She emphasised the role of resilience and the necessity to invest in a dynamic people agenda. Lisa highlighted the evolving nature of the workforce, with the unprecedented coexistence of four or five generations.

The imperative for organisations lies in continually adapting their people strategy to align with the evolving needs of the workforce. Recognising the importance of resilience in this context, Lisa emphasised the broader significance of investing in the resilience agenda.

From her perspective, the crux lies in linking these strategies to business performance, emphasising key performance indicators (KPIs) such as employee satisfaction, turnover rates, and sickness metrics. Lisa asserted that these factors, when managed effectively, contribute positively to the business’s overall bottom line.

Angie Mckenna, Head of People & Culture (ASquared), said that she is increasingly noticing financial instability as a driver of poor employee resiliency and that it is having a major negative impact on the range of employee wellbeing indicators.

Financial instability creates stress and worry for the employee, increasing their fragility and inability to ‘bounce back’ from adversity.

Indeed, the cost of living crisis is a significant concern for most HR leaders. In addition, 2024 is just around the corner, and many employees are looking to leave their organisation at year’s end.

This year, employees’ declining financial situation will undoubtedly be a pre-eminent driver for their desire to seek new work. That’s why Mintago has implemented programmes like Grocery Salary Sacrifice as part of our overall financial wellbeing platform.

Business Case for Increasing Employee Resilience

Individual Well-being: Recognising that employees’ well-being is crucial, and investing in resilience initiatives helps them navigate personal and professional challenges.

Managerial Role: Emphasising the role of line managers in supporting employees, acknowledging that people often leave jobs due to issues with their managers.

Equity vs. Equality: Highlighting the importance of equity over equality, understanding that different individuals may require different approaches for support.

Middle Managers: Recognising the significance of middle managers in maintaining employee well-being and ensuring their development and support.

Employee Satisfaction and Retention: Addressing the business case by understanding that satisfied and resilient employees are likelier to stay with the company.

Improved Performance: Recognising that resilient employees are better equipped to handle challenges, leading to improved overall performance.

Positive Workplace Culture: Focusing on creating a positive workplace culture, where employees feel valued and supported, contributing to overall organisational success.

Despite revolving around a central topic and three subsidiary set questions, we at Mintago find each roundtable unique, moving in fascinating directions we’d never anticipated. During the final ten-minute wrap-up, Tom Catnach, our head of product, summarised the main themes of this roundtable:

The challenge of measuring resilience

While traditional metrics fall short, the dialogue suggests a tailored approach is crucial. Strategies such as midweek mood check-ins and participation in physical challenges like Tough Mudder underscore the diverse ways resilience can be nurtured. Angie highlighted the importance of individualised support, recognising that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be effective.

Organisational Resilience

Angie contributes insights on organisational resilience, emphasising that recent challenges, such as COVID and the Cost of Living Crisis, have naturally tested organisations. Those with established resilience programs weathered storms more effectively, shedding light on the direct correlation between organisational resilience initiatives and preparedness for unpredictable events.

Strategies for Building Resilience

The discussion revealed a spectrum of strategies organisations can adopt to enhance resilience. From mood check-ins to voluntary discomfort exercises, the variety underscores the importance of finding the right fit for each individual. Tailoring initiatives to individual needs emerged as a key theme, emphasising the uniqueness of each person’s journey toward resilience.

The business case for building employee resiliency

In a world becoming less predictable (we even have a new word to describe this state – ‘Permacrisis‘), cultivating a workforce ready to navigate uncertainties is paramount.

The business landscape is evolving rapidly, presenting unforeseen challenges that demand a resilient workforce. Tom emphasises the significance of understanding resilience in the context of the dynamic and unpredictable nature of today’s business environment.

The notion that plans alone won’t suffice resonates, highlighting the critical role of equipped, agile, and resilient workers.

Resilient employees possess three characteristics — a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by firmly held values, that their work is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise.

You can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three. These three characteristics hold true for resilient organisations as well.

Our roundtable achieved some outstanding actionable insights on that core predicament – how can companies help their employees develop and maintain this much-needed resilience?