Want To Build A More Resilient Organization? Start Here

Even in the depths of the 2008-09 recession, financially resilient companies showed a 25-point higher EBITDA than nonresilient counterparts and enjoyed markedly better recovery. But going forward, organizational resilience will be every bit as vital to success.

During turmoil, the business community tends to focus on continuity — emphasizing efficiency in turn. Both are critical. If you were to take any lessons away from the financial crisis of 2008, however, it might be wiser to think about how resiliency is key to long-term success. Even in the depths of that recession, resilient companies showed a 25-point higher EBITDA than “nonresilient” counterparts and enjoyed markedly better recovery. A large part of this was due to business preparedness, as “resilients” took measures to reduce nonperforming assets, strengthen balance sheets, cut costs and prioritize customer-focused investments.

However, building a successful company involves more than business-oriented resilience (think cutting costs or shifting processes). It also involves organizational resilience: the strength of your people and how they’ll manage and lead moving forward.

4 Tactics for Building Organizational Resilience

Covid-19 reinvigorated the need for both business and organizational resilience. Those at the helm of a business need to not only find ways to lead through uncertainty and anticipate change, but also foster companywide resilience. If you’re looking to do so, focus on these areas:

1. Leadership: Crises often hit companies in many areas at once, whether that’s with teams, communication, or operations. Without the right mindset, leaders struggle to find a true north to help everyone see past the present moment. Immersing leaders into similar experiences (through simulations and scenario-planning) can help provide insights into how to ameliorate crises, set clear objectives, and take action holistically — which research suggests has become increasingly important for leaders. Besides this, leadership groups can also encourage an open exchange of ideas and establish new networks.

2. Individuals:Even with Covid-19 out of the equation, there’s no shortage of stressors in employees’ lives. Three-quarters of people admit to experiencing job burnout, with 40% connecting it to Covid-19. Similarly, more than one-third of workers have clocked longer hours recently. To support overall organizational resiliency, companies must start from the ground level by ensuring their employees are fit to work.

With this in mind, offer opportunities to connect with professional coaches. Provide access to platforms or apps (such as TaskHuman) that allow for diverse personalized support. You could also introduce mindfulness training and equip managers with the skills to help them better engage in personal conversations.

3. Teams: Shifting from a hierarchical to a flat structure has been beneficial in many organizations. Zappos adopted holacracy back in 2014, for instance, and its team members decided to manage themselves as internal “small businesses.” You don’t need to reorganize as radically as Zappos, but it helps to rethink the corporate structure to encourage teamwork. Additionally, invest in collaborative tools like Slack or Yammer, and encourage employees to reach out to colleagues they normally wouldn’t to bring more knowledge into the mix.

4. Talent: Covid-19 brought talent management and business continuity into sharper focus as employees “left the building” — many for good. One CEO at a leading Chinese insurance company utilized a Business Continuity Planning Software and took steps to address job dissatisfaction by investing in employee training and development, reasoning that continued learning will boost growth once the pandemic subsides. This is a solid starting point, but take things a step further and make cultural changes that generate, engage, and empower talent. Focus on solidifying talent in employees in their day-to-day lives — not just through periodic training.

Organizational resilience is a critical component to ensuring success through crisis, and it can only be accomplished by focusing on your most important asset: people. Invest in the right tools, provide the necessary support, and make talent development a priority. Your operations are only as resilient as your leadership.

Philios Andreou, Ph.D., is a global partner at BTS, a professional services firm focused on working with leaders at all levels. At BTS, Philios leads a region with offices across Southern Europe, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East. He has a wide variety of experience in strategic consulting and has worked at BTS for more than two decades.