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Unless you’ve taken a year long sabbatical and have been living on a remote island (lucky you) you’ll have heard of workplace resilience. Recognising that the world of work is in a constant state of flux, many organisations have implemented workplace resilience programmes. But how many of them have really been effective?

What is Resilience?

Well, it’s not something that there is a standard definition for. Defined as ‘the process of negotiating, managing and adapting to significant sources of stress or trauma’ (Windle & Bennett 2011) and ‘the ability of an individual to adjust to adversity, maintain equilibrium … and continue to move on in a positive manner’ (Jackson, Firtko & Edenboriugh (2007). More than simply ‘coping’ Here at Positive Change Guru, we like to think of it as the ability to bounce back.

Can it be Taught?

The good news is that the research suggests, yes, it can (Waite & Richardson, 2004). The question is, how many workplace resilience programmes actually do what they say on the tin?

The Programmes

Organisations look to resilience programmes during times of turbulence, recognising that change and uncertainty can be a rocky ride for many employees. The more resilient we are, the more able we are to meet these challenges. By nature, workplace programmes are preventative and forward facing, aiming to build resilience before those bumps in the corporate road occur. Unlike mindfulness programmes alone, for example, where stress reduction may be the objective, resilience programmes shine a light on a range of competencies. Typically they promote the development of a profile of skills ranging from positive emotions, meaning, active coping, establishing support and enhancing cognitive flexibility.

Do they Work?

Historically, doubt has been cast on the ‘success’ of many programmes. Either the methodology is weak or the sample group too small to draw any meaningful conclusion. Verification of the efficacy of resilience programmes is not helped by the fact that most of the time, those conducting the research are also delivering the programme. The honest answer is, that for most programmes, the jury is out on how effective they are. But there are ways to make your programme more robust and effective.

How to Create an Effective Programme 

If you’re considering a workplace resilience programme, designing one as we speak, or tweaking what you already have to perfection, planning is crucial. Here’s our handy checklist to help you on your way. If you’re working with an external provider, they will be happy to guide you.

Resilience Programme Checklist

  • Ensure organisational support & engage your stakeholders. Buy in is crucial.
  • Highlight the business case for promoting employee resilience
  • Establish a team of programme champions
  • Decide how you will define resilience, what do you expect to see?
  • Are there particular health and wellbeing issues your programme is trying to address?
  • Take a snapshot of the current picture of your organisation with a needs analysis. Where are you right now?
  • Be clear about your objectives and outcomes
  • Find the right external partners with expertise and experience in building organisational resilience.
  • Measurement is essential, decide how you will evaluate your programme. Will you use qualitative or quantitative measures?
  • If you’re collecting quantitive data, will you need a resilience measure, for example the RAW scale? (There are others depending upon what you are measuring.)
  • What business benefits are you looking for? e.g. associated cost savings or employee engagement. For example, you may see a reduction in staff turnover or stress related absenteeism and it’s important to capture this to evidence ROI.
  • Examine your business practices and systems, do they support resilience or hinder it? Remove obstacles to the programme.
  • Model resilient practices and habits – think about sacrifice syndrome. These need to start from the top down, that means your leadership team.
  • Let people know about the programme, communicate, using programme champions at all levels of your organisation

Windle G, Bennett KM, Noyes J: A methodological review of resilience measurement scales. Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2011, 9: 8-10.1186/1477-7525-9-8.

Jackson D, Firtko A, Edenborough M: Personal resilience as a strategy for surviving and thriving in the face of workplace adversity: a literature review. J Adv Nurs. 2007, 60: 1-9. 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04412.x.

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