How companies build resilience in tough economic times

by Ofentse Sefolo
How companies build resilience in tough economic times

Many companies are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Signs that the economy is not recovering, coupled with a weaker currency and a less favourable outlook on emerging markets are leading many businesses to bury their heads in the sand instead of arming themselves with the attitude, vision and skills they need to, not only survive, but thrive.

What is organisational resilience?
There are two ways to define organisational resilience. The traditional view describes resilience as the ability to recover after a crisis has struck. The other defines it as the ability to “be aware” ahead of a crisis – to act and adapt before you have to, or before it is too late.

Former industry giants such as Nokia and Kodak relied on past best practices, old rules and earlier successes and so continued to focus on doing what they had always done. They did not adapt to their changing environments, which eventually led to their demise.

According to Wharton University of Pennsylvania, the capacity to bounce back from setbacks or to thrive during times of challenge or change is not a fixed trait. The institution says that resilience grows out of a set of “learnable” behaviours with results that interact to make you and your team less vulnerable to stress.

4 factors that can make your business more resilient
We are all resilient to varying degrees, yet everyone can become even more resilient. Simple daily actions can increase your resilience and a wealth of research points to four factors that help people, teams, organisations and countries become more agile and effective under times of stress. These four factors are as follows:

R = relationships. When we are engaged with and supported and motivated by others, we are far more resilient. Being more resilient to challenges lies in our ties to others, which makes people stronger, happier and more creative.

E = efficacy. The root of efficacy lies in having goals and aspirations and the confidence that we can reach them. When people believe they can make a difference, that they have control and that their actions matter, they are able to build resilience.

A = (positive) affect. Our physical stress, including blood pressure, decreases and our bodies relax when we experience positive emotions such as happiness, joy, optimism, satisfaction, gratitude, peace, and humour. Being positive makes people more creative and better able to find solutions and cope with stress.

L = learning. People deal with challenges and traumas in different ways, but when they are able to find lessons – meaning and peace – in traumas, injuries, and stress, they are better able to move on. This learning is at the root of understanding that they have matured and been strengthened as a result of the challenges they have faced.

American author and publishing consultant, Peter Economy, says that you would be amazed at just how strong your company can be if you embrace a few simple leadership practices. In Inc.com, Peter writes that now is the time to prepare your business for the inevitable bumps (or worse) that it’s bound to encounter at some point. Here are some actions that business leaders can take today:

1. Revise your goals and renew your focus
To ensure that everyone is focused on the things that matter most, bosses need to prioritise and re-evaluate the company and employee goals – ideally, by working closely alongside the people who are most responsible for them. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. To do things differently, start by reviewing and revising your company’s goals and closely monitoring everyone’s progress towards meeting these goals.

2. Share information freely
Many times, business leaders remain mute and almost secretive in tough economic times. Whether this is to avoid alarming employees or to avoid appearing as if they are not in control of the situation, this isn’t the time to keep quiet. Employees want to know how the current economic situation or industry challenges will affect their roles and employment. Instead of saying less, say more during hard times. Ask employees about their concerns and share strategic information so that your staff know what the company is confronting and how they are going to tackle these challenges head on.

3. Tap into employees’ potential
This goes beyond asking employees for their ideas. When people are involved in the big picture of what you want to achieve, they can channel their efforts in ways that can make an immediate and big difference to your company’s focus. Tapping into a large group of people’s potential can shift the entire company to do things better, cheaper, smarter and faster.

4. Applaud flexibility and anonymity
People need to have a say in how they do their work in order to find meaning in it. The more you delegate and micromanage, the less engaged employees are likely to become. Encourage your staff to not only suggest ideas, but to run with the implementation of the ideas they suggest.

5. Focus on positive reinforcement
Employee recognition leads to positive results. If you don’t have the budget to give staff who are doing well big bonuses or host lavish parties, that doesn’t mean you can’t give a timely and sincere word of appreciation to recognise staff who are working hard.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.gsb.uct.ac.za, www.businesslive.co.za, www.executiveeducation.wharton.upenn.edu and www.inc.com for some of the information in this article.

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