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Research reveals components of organizational resiliency

Written on Jun 17, 2022

New research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that having prepared leaders who could swiftly size up the crisis' implications, take quick action and engage key staff members and their networks was crucial to helping organizations surmount the challenges that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The research also found that employees can better cope with stress and change when their supervisors and workgroups practice inclusivity. 

The organizational resiliency findings are based on a survey conducted in March with 620 U.S. senior leaders. 

Resilient organizations have the resources needed to withstand emergencies. Such employers were more likely, for example, to have people working in risk or crisis management. They had strong internal social networks: Employees knew who to approach for assistance, and other people were available to fill in if key workers were unavailable. 

Organizations were distributed into one of four categories as measured by productivity, finances and employee attitudes before, during and after the pandemic: 

  • Thrivers. These companies functioned better post-pandemic when compared to their pre-pandemic levels. 

  • Persisters. They exhibited little or no change. 

  • Survivors. These companies bounced back to their pre-pandemic levels. 

  • Decliners. They functioned worse compared to their pre-pandemic levels. 

Findings on employee resilience are based on a March survey with 1,007 U.S. employees working in professional or nonmanagerial roles. Employee resilience was characterized as low, average or high, based on a behavioral measure. 

Among the factors that resilient organizations shared: 

  • Leaders were more likely to make information and expertise accessible to employees and decision-makers and more likely to elicit feedback on how effective their actions were in responding to the pandemic. 

  • Leaders broke down bureaucratic barriers, brought employees on board to enact change and coordinated the workings of the organization more effectively as a way to usher in changes. 

  • Leaders were more likely to empower employees to use their knowledge in new ways and recognize out-of-the-box thinking. 

  • Leaders actively listened for problems before the pandemic occurred, had plans for when unexpected situations arose and practiced those plans.  

  • Leaders practiced inclusive decision-making and supported inclusive cultures. 

By establishing norms to value differences, leaders were likely able to leverage diverse experiences and ways of thinking. Inclusive cultures foster a sense of belonging, which may help employees support one another—and convince employees to stay with the organization during turbulent times. 

A data point of note: changing products or services in reaction to the pandemic did not drive resilience, the report found, nor did having remote or hybrid workforces. There was no evidence organizations were more resilient when these factors were present.