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  • Andrew Stephenson

Resilience: Short-Term Need, Long-Term Advantage

Anyone familiar with HBD will know we think a whole lot about the advantages of companies who are proactive. We truly believe in the adage “A penny of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and that shows in our workplace program’s consistent ability to achieve significant reductions in workforce population health risks, injuries, or improved performance measures such as absence rates and engagement scores.

Why be proactive? Innovation and agility are synonymous with modern business success. If your business is always reactive, you’re too slow to capitalize on new opportunities and competitive advantages. I believe this to be true not only in a business’s products or services but also their people management. In order to be innovative, you need healthy and engaged people.

Of course, we didn’t know 2020 was going to turn out the way it did. It had a profound impact on people’s personal and professional lives. Many companies and industries have shown enormous courage and resolve, but what will the longer-term fallout be? How long will shear grit allow some to hang on?

There’s no doubt that resilience has never been more relevant, and while it’s never too late to start, don’t you wish your organization could have had a head start in prioritizing more proactive resilience and mental fitness strategies a year ago?

It’s no surprise we're seeing a spike in demand for resilience training and services, no doubt you’ve talked about it in your organization (is it too early to call the #1 buzzword for 2021?). But is now a good time to implement a resilience program, or have you already missed the opportunity for it to provide the best benefit?

Spoiler alert: It’s definitely not too late.

Resilience is a process, specific mindset, and habits that improve someone’s ability to bounce back. It’s not something that just happens or that someone just learns or activates, it’s something that needs to be built and practiced over time. While we couldn't have anticipated precisely how tumultuous 2020 was going to be, I think it’s fair to say that given the rate of change and prevalence of stressors in modern business, the need for (and therefore benefits of having) a more resilient workforce isn’t going away even once the pandemic wanes.

Implementing a successful long-term plan to build employee resilience and mental fitness most certainly shouldn’t be considered a fad or something that is too late to implement. Sure, it would have been great to get on top of it a couple of years ago, but you can still get ahead by using the pandemic as a catalyst for buy-in. Having a more resilient workforce will continue to pay dividends as we move forward. I encourage leaders not to consider it as a “quick-fix”. There’s not a lot you can do right now that immediately “fixes” everyone anyway. What should be implemented now is something that lays the foundation for a healthier and more productive pathway forward. Something that gives people strategies they can begin to implement immediately for a short-term benefit, but also something that helps them build on those strategies moving forward.

The danger of simply seeking a quick-fix is two-fold. Firstly, quick fixes rarely make a significant impact on long-term outcomes. It may achieve a short-term boost and people may appreciate the sentiment, but we know that the effectiveness of one-off training and short-run campaigns on people’s long-term behavior and skill development are minimal.

Consider Figure 1, representing the concept of memory decay theory. We are bombarded with so much information there’s no way we can retain it all. When we hear something once – even something useful and motivating – unless we practice and reinforce it, the unfortunate reality is that we will rapidly forget it.

Figure 1. Memory Decay Theory

The second potential problem of a “quick-fix” or one-off reactive training option is that your employees may see it as tokenistic. To build real engagement, employees want to be valued and they want genuine personal and professional development. Giving everyone a quick “stress management training” probably doesn’t achieve this. But providing a plan for a progressive program that more genuinely aims to help people build resilience is far more meaningful.

Why should you bother? The modern business landscape is ever-changing, fast-paced, and stressful. Your people face relentless internal and external pressures. Resilience isn’t about ignoring or avoiding stressors, it’s about being able to better adapt to them. But resilience isn’t only about our reactivity to stress or negative events – it’s so much more powerful than that. It actually enables a much more positive approach to normal work (and life), which in turn enables better problem-solving and helps maintain motivation. Aren’t those qualities you want in your workforce long-term?

Yes, the need for helping employees learn and implement strategies that can improve resilience now is immediate, but the mentality shouldn’t be a “one and done” model. Instead, seek an approach that can build long-term skills and behavior change. This requires an approach that progressively educates and reinforces strategies for implementing new behaviors.

When education is structured and you use approaches such as information chunking and spaced learning then people are more likely to retain information (see Figure 2.) and by extension, become more equipped to make the changes necessary to become more resilient.

Figure 2. Memory Retention with Spaced Learning

HBD has a number of behaviorally focused resilience, mental fitness, and health and high-performance programs. Our approaches to health and wellness programming achieve some of the highest rates of behavior change and measured risk reduction outcomes globally. Learn more here, or hit the link above to contact us.

Images in this post were obtained from an open-source document on SlideShare and were not referenced. The Decay Theory originates from Ebbinghaus and is sometimes referred to as "the forgetting curve". You can find more information about it with a web search.


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