In the last issue of the PAS-It-On, we reviewed the concept of resilience and considered its importance for people both individually and within the workplace. This issue will expand on the topic of Resilience by looking at how components of resilience can be developed in your workplace.
Joel Bennett, PhD, president of OWLS–Organizational Wellness & Learning Systems–proposes five primary components of resilience (the 5 C’s):
These components have been alternately described by others using somewhat different categories and terminology, but by and large, the gist is the same: resilience is the product of a combination of personal skills and environmental supports.
Each of these components has both an individual and a communal aspect and can be developed within your organization through training, modeling and cultural integration.
Centering can best be described as a pattern of wellness, adequate stress management, active spirituality and balance in work and life. The natural result of centering is an increased ability to cope with stress.
People must personally commit to pursuing healthy lifestyles that support wellness, such as good nutrition and exercise; they must practice spirituality as a personal matter even if within a faith community.
At the same time, the workplace can promote skill-building in this area by offering training in stress management, nutrition, wellness and fitness, and by implementing workplace strategies that encourage work-life balance, health and safety.
Confidence is built as the individual develops competence, and draws on inner strength. In addition, individuals need to know their limits, become adept at self-control and develop courage to face problems as they arise.
Courage cannot develop without challenge, and in most cases, challenge is an environmental factor. The workplace is an ideal environment for employees to experience challenges that build confidence. The key is to balance stress levels adequately so that employees are challenged but not overwhelmed; stimulated but not paralyzed. Also, challenges need to be viewed organizationally as positive opportunities for growth rather than negative threats to future stability.
Identifying purpose, direction, goals, and dreams, are all pieces of this component. When problems arise, people need to know why they should strive to overcome and bounce back. In almost every story of adversity, the individual can vividly remember his or her thoughts of “why I knew I had to get through this”.
Even with less traumatic troubles, commitment is still valuable. It keeps people focused on problem-solving, on remaining aligned with their organization’s mission and goals.
Alignment with a community or organization—in your case, the workplace—is a win-win proposition. Individuals need a sense of belonging, value and support in order to be resilient in the face of changing times and challenging stressors. Your organization needs group cohesion and invested employees to meet goals and be optimally productive.
People in community are able to give and ask for help. They know how to refer their friends and peers to other sources of help when necessary. Resilient people are able to care for others and trust that they will be cared for when the need arises.
Your workplace can strengthen community in many ways. For example, effectively communicate employee benefits and wellness services, encourage employees to seek help when necessary, model caring by organizing groups to support a co-worker who is ill or dealing with a death in the family, promote team-building and community events, model generosity in the community.
It might be argued that compassion is the wellspring of character. Those who empathize with others to the point of acting on behalf of their neighbors, co-workers, family and community, are developing character traits of servant-leadership, integrity, and generosity. They are people who choose to take action rather than default to inaction and victimization. They live out their convictions.
Compassion can be developed within an organization top-down. Initiatives include employee recognition, policies that facilitate transparency and openness, employee involvement in work group decisions, implementation of psychologically healthy workplace practices, and availability of support resources to employees for coping when stressors increase.
Integrating the 5 C’s in the Workplace
First, assess the demographic of your workforce. What is meaningful to them? To what types of messages are they likely to respond? Initiatives and training will need to be tailored to your specific workforce culture.
Second, the importance of maintaining a psychologically healthy workplace cannot be overemphasized. Employees will only be as healthy, as resilient, as able to cope with challenge and stress, as the surrounding environment allows.
According to the American Psychological Association, psychologically healthy workplaces have:
- employee involvement
- work/life balance
- employee growth and development
- health and safety
- employee recognition
To integrate the 5C’s in the workplace, involve employees in the process. The most effective place to begin developing the 5 C’s of resilience is within discrete work groups or teams. Offer training related to cohesion and teamwork. OWLS, as well as other groups, including PAS, offer organizational development services (e.g. Team Resilience training) and consultation in this area.
Employee involvement in work group direction, improvement projects, participative decision-making, communicate to employees that they are part of Community, that Commitment to the team is valued, and that there is reason to have Confidence in themselves.
Wellness programs, EAP promotion, work/life balance initiatives and safety programs provide mechanisms for employees to develop Centering and coping skills. They also communicate to employees that they are part of a Community that depends on them. Wellness programs encourage employees to build Confidence, self-control and self-assurance and help provide very real resources for very real life problems.
Identify and offer opportunities for employee growth and development, either individually, or as a work group. Skills training, continuing education, coaching, mentoring, all communicate Commitment to employees and foster employee commitment as well. Help employees set goals, offer priority and time management training, encourage employees to focus on what they value. Their resilience to stress will increase significantly when they know what they value and they are passionately committed to that.
Model, encourage and reward Compassion. Really listen to what your work group is saying to you. Actively respond to what your employees need in order to succeed at their jobs. Model generosity by looking for ways to help others succeed rather than just focusing on your own success. Recognize and incentivize group charity activities, helping co-workers at times of serious illness or significant life events, or participation in community service.
Provide access to coping resources for your employees through your EAP and other wellness benefits. Offer training on mindfulness meditation, relaxation techniques, yoga, problem-solving skills. Educate on the importance of balanced and healthful nutrition, sleep, relationships and laughter. Model attitude management by demonstrating that challenges are an opportunity for growth. Become familiar with the concepts of positive psychology and engage each employee’s strengths in your work group such that they experience the satisfaction of team success, Community, Confidence, Commitment, Compassion, and Centering.
Your entire workforce will begin to develop increasing resilience. Even those who are not immediately or actively involved in trainings or Resilience Initiatives will begin to benefit by a “trickle-down” effect. Both the organization and your employees individually will benefit from increased “hardiness”.