Between Covid-19, inflation, supply chain grunts and geopolitical turmoil, the past two and a half years have already demanded an incredible amount of resilience from all of us. And I don’t think I’m shocking anyone by saying it’s not over yet. Pundits will endlessly argue about the timing and terminology around the word “recession,” but almost everyone agrees tougher economic times are coming.
All of this means that leaders will need their employees to tap even deeper into their already depleted wells of resilience to meet the challenges ahead. Experts suggest that the simple act of cheerleading for more courage annoys everyone and tends to backfire on you. Focusing on preventing burnout is helpful, but only ensures that your employees won’t crumble. This does not guarantee that they will be in a condition to do their best.
So how can you help your employees (and yourself) stay resilient as the challenges keep coming? The ADP Research Institute’s recent global study of resilience and engagement across 25 countries and 26,000 participants offers some insight. The findings, written by ADP Director Marcus Buckingham for The MIT Sloan Management Review, identify a handful of key characteristics shared by the most resilient employees. By strengthening these traits, leaders can build the resilience of their teams.
1. They trust their colleagues.
Buckingham is definitive: when it comes to building highly resilient teams, trust is key. Employees “lucky enough to completely trust their coworkers, team leader, and senior managers, selecting 5 on a trust scale of 1 to 5, were 42 times more likely to be highly resilient,” reports he, explaining that “psychologically, it’s easier to engage in our best work when we don’t have to expend mental resources looking over our shoulders or protecting ourselves against work practices. dysfunctional behaviors that erode trust, such as bullying or micromanagement.”
How do you build trust within your team? Avoiding toxic behaviors like bullying and discrimination is of course essential. But my colleagues at Inc.com also offered a host of more subtle suggestions.
2. They are part of a team.
“It’s nearly impossible to be engaged or resilient if you don’t feel like part of a team,” Buckingham writes. His organization’s survey found that employees who worked in teams were 2.7 times more likely to be highly resilient than those who worked solo, which makes sense given that humans have evolved over millennia to become social creatures living and working in groups.
3. They work anywhere.
If you bet the data would show that in-person employees are more resilient, I have bad news for you. The survey actually found that those who spent the majority of their time working remotely had an edge in engagement and resilience (sorry, Malcolm Gladwell). The takeaway for leaders, according to Buckingham, is simple: “feeling like part of a team is a state of mind, not a state of mind.”
4. They value information over stability.
Many people assume that many changes impact people’s energy levels and coping skills. But what the survey actually revealed was that it’s not volatility that hurts resilience, but the unknown.
“Surprisingly, people who reported five or more job changes [during the pandemic] were 13 times more likely to be very resilient. This suggests that we humans fear the unknown more than we fear change,” Buckingham writes. That means leaders shouldn’t promise stability they can’t deliver, but should instead prioritize clear communication about what’s changing and why. The truth makes people more resilient than empty assurances.
5. They have close personal relationships.
We all know how our personal life can impact our performance at work (for good or bad). The survey confirms this finding. Employees with stable partners and children were more likely to be highly resilient at work.
Bosses can’t do much to help their employees build these close personal relationships, of course, but this data should encourage them to give employees the tools and flexibility they need to have the best chance of maintaining them. . Your employee taking the afternoon to watch his kid’s football game isn’t a distraction that hurts performance. It’s part of the network of relationships that allows him to do his best in difficult times.
Want to know which demographic groups and types of employees tend to be the most resilient? I haven’t included that information here because it doesn’t provide much practical guidance for leaders, but you can check out the MIT article to see the full survey results if you’re interested.