HR’s Role in Creating Resilient Organizations

Creating resilience in organizations: the definition of HR’s role

Whether you are a one-person HR department for your business, or a CHRO leading hundreds of HR professionals in multiple specialties across a global organization, you know your role is the CRO – Chief Resilience Officer!

While it may have never been more apparent than during the last several months, employees have been asked to demonstrate their ability to embrace change and pivot to continue to deliver for their organizations. Resilience within organizations is the essence of what HR is expected to provide to help organizations navigate changing times. But resilience is built over time – like exercising a muscle. And it takes going through some tough times to build that muscle and come out the other side.


What does it mean to be resilient?

Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.

Dr. Lucy Hone*, a director of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience, a research associate at AUT University, and a published academic researcher, succinctly identified three skills that can be learned (building muscle) for resilience: 1) realizing “!@#%” happens; 2) knowing where to focus attention; and 3) asking is what I am doing helping or hurting.

As the CRO, how are you developing your Core Leaders to support these mindsets across your organization?


“!@#%” Happens

Resilient organizations and leaders do not engage in magical thinking. Yes, we have a global pandemic that is causing people not to be able to work in confined spaces or travel. Acknowledging that this is challenging is important. Do your organizational communications reflect reality? (e.g. It is disappointing not to be in the office and frustrating to not yet know when we will all return. But it is important to let you know what we are doing.) How are you helping your organization accept what it can control, as well as what it can’t?


Knowing where to focus

Resilient organizations have employees who know what’s important. What are the priorities? Individuals in organizations want to know that from their leaders. All employees look to their organizations for clear communication on where the organization as a whole is focusing. Resilient organizations are very clear on where they are focused and where they want to expend energy. How is your organization doing this? Are your leaders of others (supervisors, managers, directors, executives) communicating priorities to their teams that clearly connect team member goals to the overall organization?


Is what I am doing helping or hurting?

Resilient organizations evaluate and make adjustments to their thinking and behaviors. Is what I am doing right now helping or hurting? This is a powerful question for HR to be asking at an organization level, for leaders to be asking at a team level, and for individuals to be asking themselves. How can you in HR help the most senior leaders build this into their resilience practice? Are you asking this question regularly in terms of how the organization is supporting employees? Does the culture you have, or want to create, have leaders that will give you feedback on what is helping or hurting?

Like exercise, these practices take time. But the good news is that they all can be learned. What is one thing you can start today to help your organization become more resilient?


*Tedx (2019, August). Dr. Lucy Hone: 3 Secrets of resilient people.