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Oct 26, 2020

If companies weren’t sure of the value of resilience before the pandemic, they certainly are now. These past several months have proven just how important it is to have employees who can weather adversity, maintain their emotional equilibrium among great uncertainty, and find solutions for unexpected challenges. We’ve all seen how colleagues with high resilience have continued showing up for their companies, while others with low resilience may be struggling. 

But while the case for cultivating resilience among your workforce may be clearer, the best way to accomplish that goal is often less so. Organizations know they want to build resilience, but many are unsure how exactly to define, measure, and build this important quality. 

Recent research by BetterUp — which surveyed tens of thousands of American professionals about their attitudes, motivations, and behaviors both before and during the current pandemic — reveals insights on cultivating resilience. At the same time, many organizations make common mistakes in pursuing a culture of resilience:

1. They undervalue resilience. 

Some leaders view resilience as a “nice-to-have” that benefits a team’s mood and mental wellbeing. But data shows that resilience has concrete, measurable effects on an organization’s performance. A workforce with higher resilience correlates with three times higher year-over-year revenue growth, and 60% higher five-year revenue growth. In other words, responding well to adversity shows up in the bottom line. 

Resilience also affects individual performance. Highly resilient workers are 31% more productive at work than those with low resilience. They are more creative and contribute to more innovative teams. Finally, they experience 40% higher social support, which helps them show up as their best selves and leverage their networks to greater effect for their companies. 

2. They misunderstand what resilience is and how to grow it. 

Many people think of resilience as the ability to control or shut off your emotions in times of stress or crisis. Our research shows the opposite is true — the most resilient workers aren’t unemotional. On the contrary, those with the highest resilience are also the most empathetic and skilled in taking the perspective of others. 

Resilience isn’t about being stoic and strong. In large part it’s about fostering open communication, clear thinking, and a feeling of community and mutual aid so that colleagues can better support each other. The leaders of the most resilient teams model self-insight and mutually supportive behavior rather than a stiff upper-lip, go-it-alone attitude. 

And because resilience is a set of behaviors and attitudes rather an unchanging character trait, it is a skill that workers can cultivate. It’s not that people are naturally resilient. Instead, highly resilient people invest in themselves, taking the time to learn, develop, and grow so that they are prepared with the skills and strategies they need to cope when adversity strikes. 

Organizations can foster this growth. Data shows that key skills for building resilience — like emotional regulation, self-compassion, and cognitive agility — can grow 88%, 72%, and 75% percent respectively over just three to four months, particularly with the help of a professional coach. 

3. They only focus on individuals, not teams. 

Building resilience has clear benefits for organizations. The good news is that companies are well-placed to increase this critical capacity among their workforce. 

By supporting the resilience of leaders, companies can boost the resilience of their entire teams. Resilience trickles down naturally from managers to their direct reports when those at the top model effective strategies for overcoming challenges. 

Our research shows team members of highly resilient leaders are an impressive 176% more resilient themselves compared to those who work for leaders with low resilience. They also experience 57% greater purpose and meaning in their work, are 52% less likely to experience burnout, and perform 31% better as a team overall.   

That means companies can maximize resilience-building investments by focusing on both the team and individual level. By helping leaders cultivate their resilience, they can create positive feedback loops where leaders model strategic thinking and mutual support for individual contributors, and individual contributors reflect and amplify these efforts among their peers.  

The end result is a team-wide culture of resilience and a stronger, more effective, more profitable organization that’s better equipped to handle whatever challenges the future may bring.