Where Does Business Resilience Truly Begin?

employees discussing business resilience

Laura Schroeder is the Head of Brand and Comms at Personio. In this post, she details the fundamental ways that businesses can start building resilience into their organization. In short, it all begins with operational excellence.

As with so many conversations surrounding HR, the one I want to walk you through today begins with people. After all, people are the not-so-secret sauce of any business — it’s people who bring their creativity and talent to work and help your company innovate. 

People develop your products to bring them to market, they interact with your customers to create positive (or not-so-positive) experiences. That’s why the role of HR is so crucial because when we think about total employee experience, it all starts in HR. Therefore, excellence in people operations is an essential pillar of business strategy.

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Resilience Can Be A Competitive Advantage

In truth, people and organizations that are developed to become resilient have a competitive advantage over those that are not. It’s why resilience is such an important business topic because it can make or break your business in both normal times and times of crisis. 

Behind the scenes, though, HR teams often don’t have the time to think about organizational resilience and how to build it. That’s because they are often overloaded with administrative tasks, and the larger a company becomes, the more complex these tasks become. 

Think of it as a vicious cycle: Your HR teams are trying to keep their heads above water to help your business grow, and as it grows the tasks become more complex, and they need even more time to simply keep up. Ultimately, resilience suffers when something unexpected comes along.

Let’s Define Resilience…

Now that we’ve outlined how resilience can be a game-changer for your organization, we need to approach a more thorough definition of what it is in the first place!

Resilience is, effectively, a quality. It enables an individual, or an organization, to:

  • Recover from setbacks 
  • Adapt to change 
  • Pursue through adversity

According to the Harvard Business Review’s article, What Resilience Means and Why It Matters, resilience is defined by the co-existence of three qualities: 

  • An acceptance of the world as it is, as opposed to ‘as it should be’ 
  • A higher sense of purpose that carries you through difficult times
  • The ability to improvise when things don’t go according to plan 

Now, here’s the tricky part. I just mentioned the influence that people have on the success of your business. But, it turns out that they are also the biggest drain on organizational resilience.

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Where We See Resilience Slip

In a survey of more than 800 employees in the United Kingdom, the biggest detractors to resilience were workload and, to a greater extent, difficult work relationships. In other words, it all comes down to people! 

As the function directly responsible for people strategy, HR is well-positioned to reinforce resilience across every aspect of the business. 

But, and this is a big but, at many companies, administrative activities still take up too much of HR’s overall time. Failing to digitize, or having too many digital solutions can result in delays, and even increase blind spots when it comes to resilient people strategies. 

Throughout the course of the pandemic, we saw these challenges reveal themselves in real-time. We saw the impact of delayed investment, as teams struggled to rapidly adjust and adopt flexible work arrangements. 

And, on the other hand, we saw how digitally-mature HR teams were well-prepared to respond to these same challenges. 

At Personio, we conducted a survey of 500 HR leaders in the UK. Not surprisingly, digitally mature HR teams were better prepared, but even in an overall-digitally-mature market like the UK, 71% of respondents struggled to access their people data, and less than half had a proper recovery plan.

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The Four Key Dimensions of Resilience

There’s still more to be done when it comes to building resilient organizations. But, these can be supported by HR across four key dimensions:

  • Agile teams and processes that can adapt quickly to change
  • A future-ready workforce with the right skills to remain competitive
  • Access to reliable HR data to support strategic decisions
  • Excellence in people operations, so HR has time and information to develop strategies that support organizational resilience

Each of these requires an investment in people operations. The transformative effects, though, can be felt very quickly. In fact, in our conversations with companies across Europe, the process occurs in leaps and bounds, and not baby steps. 

In this article, we expand on the four key strategies to help improve business resilience.

What Are The Future Ways Businesses Are Driving Resilience?

As companies come out of the Covid-19 hibernation, and back into growth mode, we’re already starting to see some interesting trends and opportunities develop. These include…

1. Partnering With Employees

The first opportunity is to partner with employees to create a more personal and engaging experience. In a survey of 93 respondents across company size, industry, and regions, employee inclusion in experience design had the biggest impact on employee engagement and employee engagement metrics (source: Design Thinking and EX, Schroder and Cameron, UNLEASH London 2019).

2. Minimizing Distractions

Online fatigue is all too real, which introduces a second opportunity for HR in the form of driving higher levels of productivity. How? By helping employees set realistic boundaries on their time spent in meetings to avoid fatigue and eventual burnout

Although applications like Zoom have made it possible for teams to meet and collaborate remotely, being always visible takes a toll on mental health. As the champion for mental health and wellness, HR can lead the charge on process automation and human-centric workflows.

Ultimately, working with technology is important, but multiple solutions can be distracting and fatiguing. HR has the opportunity to not only think about mental wellness, in this case, but how they can reduce the effects of attention fragmentation and micro delays.

3. Spread A Little Magic Dust

Research from OC Tanner’s Global Culture Report revealed some fascinating insight when it comes to employee engagement. They discovered that HR teams might see higher levels of impact if they put more focus on creating peak experiences. 

In short, ‘peak’ experiences are those that stay with employees twice as long as ‘valley’ experiences. Think of it like this: Instead of asking ‘what’s wrong’ and trying to fix it, ask ‘what’s right’ and seek out more of it.

HR Has A Key Role To Play

All told, HR teams that excel at people operations are better suited to future-proof their entire organizations, while eliminating barriers to resilience across the business.

This means that resilience truly begins in HR, and HR’s ability to get it right.

Laura Schröder

Laura Schroeder is a brand and innovation strategist who has worked and advised in the HR technology space for 15 years at leading global organizations. As Head of Brand and Comms at Personio, her focus is helping HR teams scale operations, reduce complexity and work more strategically.

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