The coronavirus crisis has given us all pause. Things changed suddenly for everyone—individuals, employees and businesses alike. But it isn’t the only large-scale change of recent times, nor will it be the last. Some disruptions happen slowly, like the generational shift to a new workforce population, and some happen with a fixed deadline, like the GDPR. What these changes have in common, however, is that for businesses they bring both challenges and opportunities.
Why Resilience is important
In a business context, resilience can be defined as a company’s capacity to absorb stress, recover critical functionality, and eventually thrive in altered circumstances. In other words, a resilient organisation is one that can rapidly adapt and respond to disruptions, no matter the scale, while safeguarding its people and assets, and maintaining, shifting or even expanding its business operations.
In the case of COVID-19, the potential fragility of supply chains, business models, data oversight and other systems has been tested and brought to the front of every leader’s mind. Many leaders plan to build back their businesses more resiliently, but not everyone knows how to get started. Up until recently, leaders had been focused on financial performance, growth and expansion. As a result, very few companies have explicitly designed for, measured, and managed resilience.
However, the business environment is becoming more dynamic and less predictable—from the acceleration of the digital revolution, to the greater interconnectedness of the global economy, to broader issues such as social change, species depletion, and climate change.
How to build a more resilient organisation
Unstable times are opportunities for positive change. This isn’t the same as capitalising on disaster. Rather, it can provide a reason to stop, take stock, and reimagine the future—whatever that may look like. Consider starting with these ideas:
Look for possibilities: It’s not enough to only mitigate risk or try to put things back the way they were. Instead, think about how you can play to your strengths and put your existing resources to new use.
Look forward: In the short term, responding to a new situation can seem to warrant only a tactical and operational response, but a smart and resilient organisation also plans for the opportunities that can result.
Seize opportunities: This may be the perfect time to initiate or accelerate that long-term transformational change you’ve had on your mind for some time.
Take a collaborative, systematic view: In stable times, businesses focus on maximising performance and growth. But to plan for a time when resilience is needed requires the prioritisation of good processes and systems. Talk to your systems people (HR and IT, for example) about how they can support your vision.
Ensure your own oversight: At any time, it’s critical for leaders to know the state of their organisation, and this means its people—from competence, performance and succession plans, through to absence, furlough, and sick leave. This data should be available to those who need it, when they need it, and that means it needs to be secure, high quality, and well maintained.
Change is the default
Everywhere you look these days, people are talking about “the new normal”, but does a new normal even exist? Well, that depends how you define normal. It’s quite possible that a state of flux, rather than stability, is the closest we’ll get to normal in the future.
Pandemics aside, resilience planning is less about occasional adjustments under extreme circumstances and more about building an organisation on systems that support and adjust to constant change and experimentation. The strength in this way of thinking is that you avoid rigidity and instead become agile enough to withstand any change, be it market-based, political, external or internal.
Deliberate, iterative, incremental adjustment is far less risky than a huge once-off readjustment.
Resilience planning is visionary thinking
While others may still be focused on managing and tracking performance, you have the opportunity to make your organisation stand out as well as giving it a strong foundation to hold strong against any instability that may come your way. Resilience represents not only a way to mitigate risk but also an opportunity for competitive advantage for enterprises who choose to focus on it.
Throughout the second half of 2020, we will be exploring the possibilities of resilience planning by offering special training, workshops and blogs with the specific aim of helping you fortify your organisation.
To get started, why not download our new e-book, Building a Resilient Business for a Changing World: How digital HR keeps your organisation on steady ground.