November 10, 2021

Is your company allowing resilience to grow?

The landscape of work is changing. Employees are in the driver’s seat now more than ever, looking to own their professional development. As this shift unfolds, amidst an ever-changing world of work, employers need to provide the necessary resources, like coaching, to support employees in their development and their ability to continue adapting.

Employee expectations are shifting; they’re increasingly demanding that employers offer new levels of support. The resources provided to an employee must support their professional development and individual needs to maintain performance. A key component necessary to supporting employee success in these changing times is fostering and building resilience in the workforce. Sarah Sheehan, President and Co-founder of Bravely, recently hosted a webinar with Bravely Pro Maureen Crawford-Hentz to discuss how leaders can support employee resilience. 

Maureen Crawford-Hentz is a professional career strategist with more than 20 years of experience teaching people how to find work and flourish in their jobs. According to Maureen: “Coaching isn’t about giving advice, it’s about being with a person and offering solutions. Coaching is asking an individual, ‘what do you need and how can we set you up to go and get it?'” Sarah Sheehan observed that “people are no longer going to allow themselves to exist in a culture that asks them to show up as something other than what they are, or pretend that they aren’t struggling. Employees are being clearer about what they want going into a company, and when they’re in there, they will press the org to deliver on those promises. If companies don’t deliver, you won’t retain talent.” 

Allow people to be imperfect and still achieve.

Maureen Crawford-Hentz, Bravely Pro

Burnout and stress are on a steady incline.

At Bravely, we’ve seen a 700% increase in sessions about stress and burnout since 2020. Employees are feeling alone, depressed, and increasingly stressed. In our sessions, we’re noticing complaints about a lack of respect for an individual’s boundaries. Many employees report to Bravely Pros that they feel like a “cog in the wheel that keeps turning.” The question has been asked in myriad ways: How do leaders maintain sensitivity to the challenges all around us while continuing to drive performance? If leaders expect individual contributors to continue performing, they must do more to build resilience.

People are no longer going to allow themselves to exist in a culture that asks them to show up as something other than what they are.

Sarah SHeehan, Co-Founder and President, Bravely

Resilience is about digging deeper and finding the strength to carry on in the face of hardship. Maureen asks the question so many HR leaders have been asking themselves over the last 18 months: “How do we lighten the burden for the people we serve? And how do we find the strength to support ourselves?” 

The first step to cultivating resilience is teaching people how to identify their needs, express them, and then ask for help from their leaders in meeting those needs. Maureen advises that “so much of what we do is outcomes driven. Resilience is about how you get from here to there, achieving despite the obstacles.”

Are you failing? Or are you just stressed? 

Many employees are quitting because they feel like they are failing. With coaching, we can help the employee understand what is causing the stress and burnout, help them find ways to communicate clearly with their managers what is going on, and find solutions that result in their retention. “We’ve always had individual needs, we’ve just hidden them or made it so we are only bringing one component of ourselves to work,” Maureen says. 

To be asked what you need is a powerful acknowledgment of your humanity.

Sarah Sheehan provided a personal example of experiencing stress and feelings of failure. “I was a new mom, back to work for two days post-maternity leave when the pandemic hit [in March 2020]. For the first 15 months of the pandemic, I was without childcare and navigating this new, remote world of work. I was so hard on myself, but looking back, I am amazed at my own strength. I was sure I was failing, but now I can see how much stress I was under and I see that I wasn’t giving myself enough credit.” With coaching, Sarah was able to communicate her needs to her team and overcome some of those obstacles that were adding to her stress. She was able to sort out her own needs, ask for help, and back away from feelings of failure. From her new vantage point on the other side of those obstacles, she understands that she was not failing but up against some monumental stressors. 

Methods for Building Resilience

To foster resilience and build a culture that supports employees’ needs and their ability to communicate the requirements of their success, leaders must create the policies and procedures for resilience into their overall culture. 

  1. Structure Your Goals: When setting goals, identify the potential obstacles and possible solutions at the outset. Reconsider the baseline goal and add stretch goals from there. Often managers set the stretch goal as the baseline goal, which creates more opportunity for failure.
  2. Performance Conversations: Separate performance critique, calibration, and correction (“You’re not doing this right.”) from performance development and investment conversations (“What do you want to do next? What obstacles are in your way and how can I help you overcome those obstacles?”)
  3. Create a Safe Environment: Cultivating psychological safety continues to be key to employee success. By creating an environment where employees feel free to express their struggles and needs, managers can meet those needs quicker and more effectively. 
  4. Get Vulnerable: Acknowledge when the circumstances or the goals themselves are challenging. Remind them that failure is expected and welcome, and encourage employees to fail forward. Reassure employees that they have done hard things before and they can rise to the challenge again.
  5. Personalize Support: Create an interactive dialogue by asking people what they need and offer to do what you can to support those needs. Ensure that individual contributors have what they need to find success. The most critical element: if they ask for something and you never give it to anyone ever, you’re building frustration and resentment, not resilience or trust.
  6. Make It Equitable: “People feel equity when you take the time to care and to ask what they need,” says Sarah. That’s the future of how we structure offerings for our employees. What does one person need vs. another? Not everyone has the same support mechanisms, and addressing individual needs allows people to advocate for themselves and their personal circumstances. 

To be asked what you need is a powerful acknowledgment of your humanity. Maureen implores leaders: “Allow people to be tired and frustrated. Allow them to be imperfect and still achieve — we will change the way work happens.” 

Resilience is not about stuffing down painful experiences and soldiering on. Resilience is vulnerable; it requires individuals to know themselves, identify their needs, and express them to their managers and teams. As leaders, it is your job to create an environment for employees to express their needs and then follow through with actions and efforts to meet those needs. Resilience is about building connection and camaraderie to overcome obstacles together.

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