How do organisations best provide targeted training, appropriate nudges and effective frameworks to strengthen resilience in teams? And ensure that resilience habits and skills are integrated into business-as-usual activities?

Last month we highlighted the importance of assessing individual and team resilience before embarking on any resilience development initiatives (see November newsletter).

This assessment process identifies the targets for effective training or other strategies to strengthen resilience. Importantly, robust assessment ensures that new strategies and tools build on existing strengths, as well as identifying areas for resilience development.

After the assessment, the next step is to build and sustain resilience. In our experience the right climate and culture are crucial in creating the “scaffolding” for enduring individual and team resilience. Therefore, creating and supporting a resilient-supportive climate and culture are a primary target.

Effective scaffolding ensures people can not only maintain but also in fact strengthen or improve their resilience skills during business as usual, as well as in times of high challenge. Scaffolding makes it possible for people to thrive during challenge and helps teams pull together rather than pull apart under pressure.

What are the components of this scaffolding?

  1. Organisational commitment. This means making a positive, active and ongoing commitment to supporting resilience as a key component of overall business strategy.
  • Policies and procedures that strengthen resilience are in place and are implemented.
  • Organisational goals and objectives include employee resilience.
  • Resilience is viewed as a key part of business as usual, rather than an add-on.

Some great examples of organisational commitment in action include personal and team resilience goals in management performance reviews; active support for reasonable hours of work and regular recovery breaks; job crafting that helps people use personal strengths and find a sense of meaning in their work; and a culture where effective working is valued and rewarded over “hours at desk”.

  1. The behaviour of leaders. In any organisation, leaders are powerful role models as well as influencers. With regard to organisational culture, we know what leaders do has much more impact than what they say.
  • How leaders build and sustain their own resilience will impact on how others look after theirs.
  • How well leaders support the resilience of others will determine the success or otherwise of any resilience initiative.

In reality, this means leaders need to prioritise their own resilience, in order to be able to demonstrate and support resilience behaviours in others consistently and credibly. Once they have their own resilience habits flowing, they need to identify the specific leadership behaviours that will support their teams to actively practice resilience skills.

  1. Applying the principle of “choice architecture”. Set up the environment to support and “nudge” the behaviour and choices you want people to make. The environment includes but isn’t limited to the physical environment. As noted previously, the organisational culture and climate, and the behaviour of leaders are important components of environment.

Examples of choice architecture in action include providing standing desks and encouraging walking meetings to support people to be more active; team and organisational acknowledgements and celebrations of success; encouraging new ideas by actively seeking them; and providing resilience resources and reminders to practise that are easily accessible and visible.

The purpose of the scaffolding is to ensure that individuals and teams are more aware of what supports and strengthens their resilience, and that cultural and climate barriers to resilient behaviours are removed. The scaffolding also encourages skill use. When people use and refine their skills in advance they are better prepared to use them when unexpected pressures occur. When this skill use is rewarding it’s more likely to happen again in the future. Repetition and reward are key ingredients to habit formation.

Habits require less energy and effort to use. They are automatic patterns of behaviour that are well established, which require less cognitive and emotional energy and effort to use. Establishing resilience skills as automatic individual and team habits is therefore both useful and energy saving.

Once the climate and cultural scaffolding is in place, the focus on other resilience targets is more likely to bear fruit. Core resilience skills that we want people to be using regularly include:

  • Physical health behaviours
  • Flexible and optimistic mindset
  • Managing negative emotions effectively
  • Experiencing positive emotion
  • Strong relationships
  • Smart working and other recovery strategies
  • Engaging in activities that provide purpose and meaning.