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Why is Everyone Talking about Resilience?

Posted on June 14th 2018 by

Many businesses are now using the American military term VUCA to describe the commercial world and the expectations regarding change. Martha Lane Fox told the CIPD conference last year that the pace of change right now is at the slowest it will ever be again. The world is moving quickly.

V – Volatile

U – Uncertain

C – Complex

A – Ambiguous

If I had asked anyone 5 years ago if they expected the international political world to look as it is today, I don’t think many would have predicted it. Why is this of any interest to me as an HR Practitioner?

Firstly, am I an HR practitioner or someone who works in a world focused on “people” and “performance”? Personally I am keen to lose the “HR” tag. What are Human Resources? Numbers? Although commercial metrics are important, many Directors in my field are moving towards titles reflecting people…

If we really want people to perform we have to create an environment they can perform in. ACAS and CIPD are increasing their focus on wellbeing in the workplace:

We have also seen the government report on mental health in the workplace:

All the above are identifying that keeping a healthy workforce, means having a productive workforce. It emphasises the accountability of employers to concentrate on the wellbeing of the people who work there. There is also a certain amount of expectation that individuals will take responsibility for their own wellbeing. This is where the increase in focus around resilience comes in.

There are multiple models of resilience shared by organisations that focus on this. They all have a number of similar themes. Resilience is the ability to:

  • Recover from adversity
  • Bounce back
  • Adapt and recover despite adversity or change

Therefore the process of change will challenge the resilience of individuals. In order to counteract that reaction, many organisations are providing workshops for their employees to help to identify their level of personal resilience, and resilience in the workplace, and to develop strategies to improve that resilience.

The various theories around resilience focus on:

  • Physical resilience (sleep well, eat healthily, rest appropriately, undertake sensible amounts of physical exercise)

  • Social interaction (at work and outside work, identify support networks and identify that supporting others can improve your own resilience)

  • Confidence (understand your strengths, identify what you do well, believe in yourself and your abilities, don’t fall into negative thinking, control the controllables)

  • Purposefulness (be organised, know what you want to achieve, know your personal value set and ensure your work fits that value set)

  • Adaptability (the ability to change how you react, flexibility of thinking and behaviour, the ability to demonstrate positive emotions when required)

The people who you work with can identify how they manage those areas and how they may need to improve the areas where their resilience may be low. That may require changing the way they think. It also helps if individuals understand our emotional reactions to change.


Finally, the Health & safety Executive reminds us that stress can result in an imbalance in the workplace, and there are guidance notes to support employers around the key 6 factors that impact upon stress in the workplace. These are known as the management standards.

The Management Standards are:

  • Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment

  • Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work

  • Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues

  • Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour

  • Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles

  • Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation

If we look after our workforce and recognise what might impact upon their resilience and ability to be productive, we will have a happier, healthier group of people working with us and we will truly start creating good places to work.

We love working with organisations going through change or workplaces where the VUCA world is having an impact on their people. If you’d like to talk to us about how we can support your organisation, please contact Carolyn


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