How To Help Employees Build Resilience To Succeed In Unpredictable Times

Albert Galarza is the Global Vice President of Human Resources at TELUS International.

Over the past two years, we have seen and experienced how exogenous factors beyond our control may impact not only our companies but also other aspects of our lives, such as our personal and professional development and our career paths. 

The lesson? Being able to adapt to change — oftentimes very quickly — is an essential element of sustainable success for businesses and employees alike. 

Constantly shifting priorities are difficult for even the most seasoned leaders to navigate, particularly when trying to set longer-term goals and plan for the future. However, by supporting their teams in the appropriate ways and teaching them to be resilient especially during unpredictable times, leaders can empower them and the organization to thrive.

A big part of the process for leaders is viewing resilience as a muscle that needs to be exercised, and the following three factors can help them ensure their teams are ready to take on new challenges and achieve success today and for years to come.

Keep employee well-being top of mind.

There is no question that the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s mental and physical health. From juggling work and children to caring for sick relatives or even just managing our own well-being, these have been exceedingly trying times. 

Thankfully, over the past two years, we as a society have learned to normalize and become more accepting of prioritizing our mental and physical well-being. My organization, TELUS International, found that, in 2021, “78% of American employees feel empowered to let someone at their company know when they aren’t feeling physically or mentally well.” Compared to the survey’s 2020 findings, that’s almost twice as many employees. Moreover, a recent article in HBR shared that nearly two-thirds of respondents from their Mental Health At Work Report talked openly about their mental health to someone at work in the past year. 

Although a majority of respondents in our survey said they believed their employers were genuinely empathetic, they also believed they could be doing more to support their well-being. Flexibility with working hours is prized by most workers, with many of them saying their employers could do better on giving them more freedom to set their working hours, according to our survey. On top of this, more than half of survey respondents said the idea of returning to the office was a major source of stress. Additionally, 39% said they’d like to have access to a therapist, psychologist or counselor through their employer. 

The same HBR article shared that companies are finally investing more heavily in mental health support, noting that employees are using accommodations to a much greater extent. This includes day-to-day support such as extended breaks from work and time during the workday for therapy appointments.

If you expect your employees to perform well, remember: People can’t pour from an empty cup. By supporting their sense of well-being, you are helping them — and by proxy, your business — to better equip themselves to handle unpredictability with greater ease and confidence.

Build culture with communication.

Distributed workforces have put some employees at greater risk of feeling isolated and disconnected from their colleagues as well as from the wider company strategy and culture. However, as company leaders, there are things we can do to establish a framework for employees to build authentic connections with their colleagues and managers. 

Beyond the usual suspects — more phone or video check-ins, more frequent praise for good work, all-hands meetings, etc. — there are opportunities to help colleagues connect virtually as they would have in the office. These touchpoints can range from virtual lunch-and-learn workshops, group exercise or stretching sessions during scheduled breaks, company-sponsored volunteer events, and online games or contests.

This type of team-building with colleagues helps build camaraderie and shows employees that they belong to a community despite the physical distance. Moreover, it offers them a wider view of the company to see what others are doing to contribute to the achievement of the company’s overall objectives and strategy. Additionally, these touchpoints help to widen employees’ networks and break down silos, which can encourage greater collaboration and connection.

Give your talent the opportunity to grow.

When teams have numerous deliverables, it’s sometimes easy for learning and development goals to take a backseat. By helping them manage their workload to be able to upskill and further develop their careers, they’re likely to be happier and more loyal to the company. Leaders need to do what they can to support employees by training them in skill sets that benefit their careers and their lives. As reported by Silicon Republic, “Thanks to the rise in remote working, career ownership now lies with the individual. But in the competitive and dynamic world of technology, organizations (leaders) must help every member of staff thrive and develop the right skills for the future.”

As you explore different learning opportunities, be sure to consider flexible programs that meet employees’ lifestyles. A mix of virtual, in-person and hybrid courses should cover all of your bases.

Build a more resilient team.

There’s a lot you can do as a business leader to improve employee success and engagement, but perhaps the biggest factor to help drive this is encouraging an open, honest and consistent feedback loop. However, it must be noted that while receiving regular feedback is crucial, actually incorporating it into your planning and actions is equally, if not more, important as it shows that you value and respect your employees’ suggestions. 

Creating a safe and trusted space and giving employees frequent or ongoing opportunities to share ideas or tell you what support they need — and then discussing and implementing those ideas — is a sign of a healthy, people-focused company. That kind of openness and flexibility is essential to resilience, both for your teams and your business.


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