Thursday saw me at the CIPD’s Festival of Work, participating in a session on the future skills required in an ‘age of automation’.
Each of the five speakers in my session had five minutes to make their key points, after which we participated in an open Q&A session. I focused on psychological flexibility as a key skill in an age of automation. As I’ve outlined here and on the podcast previously, the evidence base for this set of skills is strong, and it contributes to workplace wellbeing and resilience.
That said, five mins doesn’t give enough time to make all relevant points! So I summarised the three key themes of showing up, letting go and getting moving.
During the Q&A session, one of the questions from the audience promoted me to elaborate on an earlier answer: emphasising the need for workplace resilience, while not paying attention to job design or cultivating a healthy workplace, is problematic.
If you emphasise resilience as a prerequisite for working in your organisation, I think it says a lot about your organisation. In my view, it’s important to create a workplace that supports health, wellbeing and sustainable working styles, while also giving employees the skills they need to deal with inevitable challenges and set backs.
Not instead of.
This was summarised and shared on Twitter and obviously some of the detail got lost in the brevity.
If people say ‘you have to be resilient to work here’ I say ‘why? What kind of hellish workplace have you created??’ says @dr_mackinnon You shouldn’t launch wellbeing and resilient programmes until you’ve sorted job design #FestivalofWork
— Jenny Roper (@JennyRopes) June 13, 2019
But the point still stands. Employee resilience is not an alternative to a healthy workplace, well-designed jobs and meaningful work.
Are we getting it wrong?
If your organisation uses the term resilience a lot, you might find it useful to reflect on the following questions. While your emphasis on resilience may be coming from a good place, you might be unintentionally making the situation worse.
• Are you emphasising employee resilience to help them deal with poorly designed jobs? In other words unsustainable workloads, lack of clarity over responsibilities or lack of tools to do the job?
• Are you providing resilience training instead of looking at the organisational root causes which erode resilience? These include management skills and attitudes, organisational change and climate and challenging workplace relationships.
• Are you providing resilience training before conducting a training needs analysis? Is it perhaps a knee-jerk reaction to employee feedback? You may be wasting valuable time and money on an unsuitable intervention.
• Do you emphasise resilience as part of your talent attraction processes, because you think you should? Do you have any evidence that more resilient employees perform better in your organisation? Are you aware of how your recruitment literature can inadvertently ‘turn off’ otherwise suitable candidates?
• Are you suggesting that employees should be able to cope with unsustainable workplace pressures because they’ve had resilience training?
Can resilience be trained?
It’s worth remembering that resilience is not the preserve of the few – the Olympic athletes and mountain climbers we’re all familiar with. It consists of a set of thinking and behavioural skills, which can be developed by anyone. But all resilience training is not equal and our friends at Science for Work have outlined the critical factors associated with successful resilience building initiatives.
They point out that resilience-building training is associated with increases in performance, subjective well-being, and reduction of psychological disorders. They emphasise the importance of a training needs analysis in advance, plus the need to make the training as relevant to participants’ working experience as possible. This includes ensuring that concrete examples are covered in training and that a follow-up is conducted in the months following the training.
This is because that training impact can diminish over time if the skills aren’t used, so the opportunity to put the skills into practice in the ‘real world’ is of paramount importance.
If you’d like to discuss how we can support you in building the resilience of your employees, check out our Wellbeing Courses or get in touch to arrange a call.