Emma Nicol, Head of Employee Experience Practice, discusses how you can supercharge your organisational immune system to become resilient

While we are trying to imagine the future of work it remains true that no organisation can operate to its full potential without resilient people. New teams come on board; new business streams open, operations or production sites launch or close; new markets develop, and technology is introduced. All of this provides fresh opportunities – and risks. 

The best analogy I’ve seen of people-focussed resilience planning reframes employees as your organisation’s immune system, ready and prepared to anticipate risks and ensure they can tackle challenges, fend off illness and bounce back more quickly.  So, how do you supercharge your organisational immune system to become resilient?

Start planning now

COVID-19 has helped many organisations realise they were not as prepared as they believed themselves to be. Now is the time to take stock and reset for the future.

Planning for change can help reduce employee stress, anxiety, and overall fear, boosting the confidence of staff and stakeholders. Think about conducting and then regularly refreshing a strategic business impact analysis, look at your employee engagement scores, dig into your customer metrics and explore the way people work alongside your behaviours and culture. This research will help to identify what you really want to protect, the risks that you need to plan for and what you need to survive during disruption. Don’t forget to ask your employees for their input. In many cases they are closest to critical business areas and already have ideas to make processes and systems more robust.

Revisit organisational purpose

Purpose, values and principles are powerful tools. By putting your organisation’s purpose and values front and centre, you provide clear decision-making guidelines for yourself and your organisation. One noticeable characteristic of companies that adapt well during change is that they have a strong sense of identity. Leaders and employees have a shared sense of purpose and a common performance culture; they know what the company stands for beyond shareholder value and how to get things done right.

Revisit your purpose and values. Understand if they have been internalised and are proving useful. If so, find ways to increase their use. If not, adapt them, however necessary, to help inspire and guide people and to help immunise yourself against future disruption.

Design your employee experience  

The most resilient, adaptive and high performing companies are made up of people who know each other, like each other, and support each other. Adaptability requires us to teach other, speak up and discuss problems, and have a collective sense of belonging. Listening to your employees is a powerful and disruptive thing to do. It has the potential to transform the way you manage your organisation. Enlisting employees to help shape employee experience, motivates better performance, increases employee retention and helps you spot issues and risks sooner. More importantly, it gives employees a voice so you can get active and constructive suggestions to make your business more robust.

Leaders who care

If you want to build resilience, you must build on a basis of trust. And this means leaders who listen, care, and respond. Companies like Unilever, Salesforce, Novartis, IBM, Microsoft and many others understand this. These companies’ entire business models are built around trust and empathy.

But, you can’t “invent empathy” - it builds over time. You can, however, help develop it. Is it time for you to revisit how you identify and train your people to encourage qualities that build strong, empathetic leadership; self-awareness and control, communication, kindness and psychological safety? Assess how these qualities show up in your teams.

Resilience is the glue that binds functional silos and integrates partners, improves communications, helps you prepare, listen and understand. Most importantly, people-focused resilience helps individuals and teams to think collectively and with empathy - helping you respond and recover faster.

Emma Nicol is Head of Employee Experience Practice at Ogilvy UK