Rolling with the punches

What’s your default reaction when change is announced? Are we so used to it now that we go with it more easily than we may have done 5 years ago, or is there a natural period of entrenchment and regrouping while we work out what it means for us and the rest of our team? In short, how resilient are we to roll with the punches?

It’s easy to say ‘we need to be more resilient’ and the phrases we so often hear of ‘man up’, ‘just go with it’ or ‘you can’t change what you can’t change’ only work for so long. When we’re faced with constant change, how can we help people be more sustainably resilient? What tools and resources do they need? At the CIPD we wanted to find out what our colleagues felt resilience actually meant. Strength, pluck, hardiness, bounce-back-ability, flexibility, mental toughness, strength, determination, endurance and grit, all came up.

So how do we develop these capabilities in practice and make change an easier pill to swallow? If only it was as simple as cranking up the Kelly Clarkson hit of “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (or “When the going gets tough” for the Billy Ocean fans). Getting people on board with change, embracing the potential opportunities rather than resisting new ways of working is a constant theme in our member feedback so we have developed a new conference dedicated to building and understanding resilience. It’s on 14 October in London (Kensington) and we’ve got a great line-up of senior HR speakers who will share their experiences of building a resilient culture and HR’s vital role in making it a reality. As well as looking at the business case for investment in resilience, we’ll also address the challenge of how you can then demonstrate the commercial value that doing so gives your organisation.  I’ll be chairing the conference and it’s going to be really interactive - we’ve asked our speakers to focus on practical examples of what they’ve done in their organisation to help employees build on their personal resilience. 

Our 2014 Absence Management Survey found that two-fifths of employers said they had seen an increase in stress-related absence during the previous year and a similar number said they’d seen an increase in reported mental health problems. And wider research suggests that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year which is a staggering figure, with anxiety and depression among the most common problems experienced. In the Absence Management survey HR professionals rated organisational change (both the amount people are experiencing and the way it is managed) as a significant factor affecting both these issues. We also asked employers what they were doing to support people: 29% of respondents told us they offered resilience training to all employees, 10% to line managers and 8% offer this training to senior management. It will be interesting to see if employer focus on resilience has increased when we profile our 2015 survey findings at the October Resilience conference!

So, what else can we do to help the workforce engage with change and make the most of opportunities rather than resist them? Is it about more empowerment to make decisions, better communication, or more senior level visibility? Getting hold of this intelligence about how we can move from resistance to engagement can be difficult, but it’s clear that many organisations are sitting on a wealth of data that’s just not used. Employee engagement surveys are often used to identify trends but we’re not combining that data with other data sources to draw out real insight about what’s influencing individual performance. And some organisations are still pausing their engagement surveys when they’re undertaking large-scale change – this feels a missed opportunity. Of course there is a likelihood that scores will go down, but that’s still valuable intelligence if we can tap the reasons for that. And what if the scores don’t go down – that tells us even more about employee views during change.

 

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  • Great blog Jill, agree with you entirely. Prof Cooper and I have just published a couple of papers on Resilience Training Efficacy, and up in Lancashire (Police) we are looking at our People Data through a different lens, trying to capture some of the elements you rightly point out using a GAIN model (General Analysis, Interventions and Needs) to capture and inform options. We need more pro activity without doubt, but this involves a huge departure from traditional HRM approaches (for us anyway).

    Ian Hesketh

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I agree Jill that it is a wasted opportunity if companies don't use their engagement surveys to track the impact of change. We can make loads of assumptions about how people 'will be/are' affected by change and we all know what assumptions can make of us! Data is knowledge and knowledge gives you the power to really make a difference to those on the ground.


  • I work in Government and this sees a continuous amount of change caused by the introduction of new IT systems, streamlining, and change of Government or simply a new manager who wants to make a mark and tick the box to say that they "changed something".   Stronger communication and staff engagement is required. I say show a little respect and value the wealth of talent that you have. You never know ...they may actually have some good ideas on how to bring about change positively...send out positive messages instead of negativity and above all listen and don’t see staff as wingers but as constructive people who want a say in what’s going on and really do want to support management. A happy workforce is a more productive workforce, instruct not destruct


  • I work in Government and this sees a continuous amount of change caused by the introduction of new IT systems, streamlining, and change of Government or simply a new manager who wants to make a mark and tick the box to say that they "changed something".   Stronger communication and staff engagement is required. I say show a little respect and value the wealth of talent that you have. You never know ...they may actually have some good ideas on how to bring about change positively...send out positive messages instead of negativity and above all listen and don’t see staff as wingers but as constructive people who want a say in what’s going on and really do want to support management. A happy workforce is a more productive workforce, instruct not destruct


  • Why do we fear change and make it such a fetish? If you are not changing you are dead (literally) so lets change (sic) the mindset. It's like that "engagement" challange - when you focus on the symptoms the impact on the organisation and on the people within it is limited at best and more often simply wasted effort. So, by all means, help your employees build mental toughness or resilance, but the real issue is the place of the employee in the organisation, the relationships that they experience, and the values and purpose that are lived out day by day


  • As an independent coach and change expert, I find that a lot of the challenges people come to me with are related to finding ways to be more resilient.

    I decided to address this by designing a workshop using NLP techniques to empower participants to rediscover and appreciate their own resourcefulness and resilience. It's amazing to experience people shifting from being really 'stuck' to buzzing at the end of the session. www.annabellcoaching.com!events/c1hm7

    In my view it's one of the most important investments an employer can make, integrating resilience as a topic within structured development programmes as well as making it available as a stand-alone workshop.