Human capital needs to take an active approach in fostering change resilience in employees
By Mamcy Letuka, Human Capital Executive, Altron Managed Solutions
It goes without saying that the past 18 months or so have been a rollercoaster, with perhaps more downs than ups. The COVID-19 pandemic – the health fears, personally and for loved ones, coupled with shutdowns that create financial uncertainty and the psychological impact of it all – has had a major impact on the emotional resilience of everyone. Throw in things like concerning socio-economic and political trends globally, local unrest and restrictive economic conditions and you find the conditions for major psychological impact.
Employees are not robots; they are people, and people cannot simply switch everything off when they come to work. There’s no way to separate “human” from “resources”, nor should we: Our ‘humanness’ is the resource. But that means taking a human approach to managing people.
In quantifying the capacities of people, we have long looked to IQ and, in recent times, have expanded this to look at EQ. It’s time that we begin talking about AQ – “adaptability quotient” – in relation to people: How well can a person adjust to the changes around them? Why is it important? Without a doubt, resilient employees are the foundation of business resilience.
Sure, it’s crucial for businesses to have processes and policies in place that expect change and disruption with well-developed business continuity plans and proactive strategies. But ultimately, it is people who roll them out effectively, which is why it is necessary to build teams and individuals who can cope with adversity and adapt to challenges quickly. There are countless studies that have shown that workplace volatility causes a drop in productivity and has an immediate and direct effect on the bottom line.
So, whose job is it to foster resilience and nurture the AQ of employees? Leadership must take the lead, but it's HC that must drive the process of helping equip employees to deal with today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment, personally and professionally.
For starters, you need a baseline. Consider asking employees to evaluate their current resilience habits using a ‘resilience wheel’ self-assessment. This process asks individuals to score themselves across the following categories: Focus, role models, energy, emotions, downtime, optimism and meaning. Most people will have an uneven result, but knowing, both as an individual and as an organisation, where your strengths and weaknesses lie is the way to start.
Once you have that baseline, the way that you communicate and consistently engage with employees – not only as HC, but as a business – is important. Authentic, regular communication from leadership lays the groundwork for a resilient workforce because employees trust leaders who keep them informed and keep up with how they are personally doing.
This is even more important in a world of remote working, where employees may lack the peer support or interaction that comes with an office environment. Identify strategies that fill in these gaps, or amplify the way you talk to employees, like company message boards or collaboration apps. Don’t forget to develop a listening strategy too – communication is a two-way street, after all. Keep your finger on the pulse of where your employees are at with surveys or input sessions, communicating back to teams how leadership is responding to this feedback.
This communication strategy is the channel through which you reinforce your company culture, enabling employees to connect with your mission, goals and values. Ask yourself: Are our values people-focused? Because employees are not just a cog in the wheel – help them align with your culture, and this better understanding will serve as a stabilising force during crisis or times of stress. Ensure that you assess policies and expectations against people-focused values and design rewards or recognition programmes that further entrench your employees within your culture.
Beyond this, empower your teams with tools and resources – not only for business skills, but with training that targets their well-being and ability to cope with diversity. Don’t make the mistake of slowing down these training offerings during challenging times.
It’s also important to make sure that leadership is not left out of the process. Managers at all levels should be equipped to adapt their leadership styles during periods of disruption. Leadership needs to make change-support a priority and treat individuals uniquely because one size certainly does not fit all.
‘Adapt or die’ is a saying often used in business. That may sound harsh, but the reality of change is that it can be harsh when we are unprepared. HC plays a central role in preparing people (and aligning processes and policies) to create a resilient ecosystem that can survive the VUCA world we live in. Perhaps, though, the saying is too reactive. Maybe, let’s rather say: Adapt and thrive.