Building organizational and individual resilience: a combination of process and people

Published: Thursday, 27 May 2021 07:49

Individual resilience drives organizational resilience – and vice versa says Julia Johnson. In this article Julia explores ways to strengthen both of these key areas within your organization, ensuring that your business continuity planning takes into consideration the breadth and depth of human fragility.

The latest Horizon Scan report from the Business Continuity Institute highlighted the new and emerging risks – with the legacy of COVID-19 seeing political risks and concerns around violence returning to the risk top ten for the first time in three years.

This annual survey of business continuity and resilience professionals has also seen longer term trend analysis coming to the fore, with businesses seeking to be better prepared for so-called ‘grey rhino’ events (events which are highly probable and will have a high impact but are overlooked) or ‘black swan’ events (events which are impossible to predict, have a major effect, yet often appear obvious in hindsight).

This desire to anticipate what is coming over the horizon and an awareness of long-term trends is something we at Instinctif Partners are seeing a growing demand for from our clients – it was one of the standout issues raised in our own recent Client Satisfaction Survey.

But anticipating and dealing with the unexpected isn’t just about dealing with events through processes – it’s also about people.

A culture of resilience

Planning for and managing a crisis is incredibly difficult but breeding a culture of resilience throughout your organization from the start is a powerful tool. Your people are the most important asset when navigating a crisis and it’s their loyalty, commitment and advocacy that will play a pivotal role in your organization’s post-crisis recovery.

Given the events of the past year, it’s also no surprise that mental health issues and staff morale has also made its way up the list of business risks. So, how do business leaders look out for their staff, while also protecting their business? How do they look out for family and friends as well as their own health? How do they reassure external stakeholders whilst preparing for recovery?

Employees are individuals and need to be given time and space for self-care. A work culture and policies that compel employees to give up their personal lives and identities causes stress and can lead to reduced productivity and an increase in staff turnover. Employees who get the ‘me time’ that they need are more likely to come into work eager and motivated.

The more learning and experience a person has, the better equipped they are with the knowledge and abilities to face change or a crisis head-on. Continuous learning, by enabling your employees to go outside their comfort zones and learn new things is key, as is cross-team collaboration.

In a large organization, it can be hard for individual employees to see their worth and importance in the bigger picture. Show you believe in them and they are valued, give credit where it’s due, and offer incentives like recognition or wellbeing programmes – it isn’t always just about money.

Your organization’s principles and values should always guide actions, and this is especially true in a crisis. Empower your employees to act in accordance with your principles and your wider stakeholders will recognise this and help champion your story.

Encourage bold and dynamic thinking, and an environment built on collaboration and openness where people to do the right thing, at the right time, because they want to. Ask yourself what your senior managers can learn from employees at other levels of the business.

More than anything else, people, not things or processes, are what make up your organization. When a crisis hits everyone is affected, and leaders can play a key role in bringing people together by reassuring them that ‘we are all in it together’, and that the leadership team is there to help them play their part. Individual resilience drives organizational resilience – and vice versa.   

Process, procedures, and policies

However, while it’s people who manage a crisis, it’s also important to remember that process is still a fundamental element of crisis response, and all processes, procedures, and policies should support your management strategy. That is why it is important to identify the roles of the crisis team and ensure that appropriate deputies are appointed. Ensure that you have enough resource to manage a long-running crisis, such as a pandemic, and ensure that you build capacity to allow members of the crisis time to rest and recover.

This is even more reason to ensure that your organization’s business continuity planning asks the right questions and takes into consideration the breadth and depth of human fragility.

A good start is to measure your resilience against industry best practice, including your approach to communications, culture and people. One quick and easy way to do this is by using CrisisOptic, our unique diagnostic tool which accurately measures your organization’s ability to respond in a crisis. With gaps and areas of vulnerability clearly identified, you can focus resource where it matters most and build resilience against potential disruption.

What we’ve seen as COVID-19 has developed is that uncertainty and fear has led to human beings adopting a far more ‘primal’, self-preservation mentality. That is a greater focus on the basics – the wellbeing of their immediate family, their own and their loved one’s health, and a greater affinity with their local communities. All of these things are something employers need to factor in.

Breeding a culture of preparedness will help your employees feel reassured and ready to help your organization face challenges, whether they be from a grey rhino, or a black swan.

The author

Julia Johnson is a member of the Business Resilience team at Instinctif Partners. Contact her at Julia.johnson@instinctif.com