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Leadership can help their staff be more resilient.Sharon Dominick/Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Does your organization's success really depend on its people?

If the answer is truly yes – than leaders needs to ask themselves this: what is your organization actively doing to protect your work force's physical and psychological health? And are you reaching every employee?

Here's an example of why companies need to pay attention to the resilience of their work force.

Consider the following example. Company ABC has 1,000 employees it expects will come to work every day to do their best work, and, when asked, the company's leadership felt that it would be pleased with employees doing their best work 80 per cent of the time they are on the job.

But stop and think for a moment what that means. That can be translated into meaning that there is one full day each week where employees are not really working.

Many employees come to work feeling unwell either physically or mentally and then are unable to perform at their highest level. This presenteeism – being at work but not able to perform well – can have a major impact on a company's productivity.

Company ABC may be lucky on any given day to have 800 employees actively engaged and contributing to the top and bottom line. This loss of productivity costs and can be what makes company leadership highly motivated to figure out how to help their staff become a more resilient work force in order to increase productivity and cut lost time costs, which includes sick days, short-term disability, long-term disability and Worker's Compensation Board claims.

The first step for leaders is to understand what resiliency is, and the key differences between resiliency and coping skills. Leaders also need to know what the link is between resiliency and health, engagement and productivity as well learn about practical steps the company can take that can positively impact employees' resiliency. (Click on this link to register for a free webinar on this topic).

Resiliency is how you are able to manage your daily energy reserves amid the various stressors that affect you while at work or on the home front. It's the ability to know when you need to stop and boost your reserves so you can stay in control, push through setbacks toward a solution. The fuel that recharges resiliency levels comes from mental and physical health, work and life (family, social supports, physical fitness, financial health, among others).

Coping skills are the skills you have at your immediate disposal to solve problems and make decisions under pressure.

A resilient work force is developed through a two-way accountability framework – there are things that both employees and employers must own and do. A work force will flourish when all employees and the employer are working in a partnership with a common goal and both are motivated to take responsibility for what they can control.

Resiliency is not a skill that employees are born with. But it is a skillset that can be taught that is primarily influenced by behavioural choices. Resiliency can help employees keep up with the daily demands put on them both at home and at work. There is no guarantee a resilient employee may not breakdown or have a mental health issue, it is more of an insurance policy to help mitigate risk.

Consider resiliency as an outcome of some action like charging your cell phone. The more energy and time put into charging the phone, the longer it can last and persevere.

The resiliency of a work force will depend on how actively involved each employee and the employer are with their intentions to promote total health every day in both big and small ways.

Total health is defined by four pillars:

Physical: physical activity, nutrition, sleep, risk factors such as smoking;

Mental: general mental health, burnout risk, coping skills;

Work: psychological and physical safety, workplace experience, leadership;

Life: financial, relationships and work-life balance or blending.

What leaders can do:

  • Engage all employees in the conversation on resiliency and total health by providing employees the opportunity to complete a total health assessment. One of the biggest barriers to promoting total health is a lack of awareness on both the employee and employer part with respect to how total health is impacting the workforce’s health, engagement and productivity.
  • Support employees who have gaps in resiliency and coping skills to give them opportunities to develop these skills.
  • Become knowledgeable on the cost of doing nothing and how resiliency can positively impact work force productivity.
  • Align total health strategy and programs to create an evidence-based framework that measures program impact and links total health resiliency initiatives to financial results.

Leaders who are looking for ways to help build a more resilient work force have the opportunity to join a complimentary webinar on Tuesday, Oct. 31 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. hosted by Bill Howatt, chief research an development officer for work force productivity at Morneau Shepell. Click on this link to register for the free webinar.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto.

This article supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell’s Employee Recommended Workplace Award. This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience. You can find all the stories in this series at this