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Building Resilience and Bouncing Back

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The speed in which COVID-19 impacted people and organizations throughout the world was unprecedented. Almost every single company was affected one way or another by the pandemic. For some organizations, their entire workforce had to become remote in a matter of hours. For others, their services were considered essential and they had to ramp up operations to help combat the virus. And many others switched their entire business models to assist with the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) or to focus their efforts in developing an effective test and vaccine. To say we all scrambled is an understatement. 

Despite the odds, United States stocks are showing some resilience. In June, consumers started to buy more autos, furniture, clothing, and electronics. The 2021 Ford Bronco First Edition already has sold out and it hasn’t even been manufactured yet. People are returning to select stores and restaurants to shop and eat with some sense of the way life used to be. Global stocks have maintained their recent gains. The $90 trillion (U.S. dollars) global economy was rattled, likely shaken and stirred, but it shows signs of renewal. Even if the economy takes a W shaped return instead of a V, several governments are ready to purchase stocks to avoid potential bankruptcies as we continue to ride out the ongoing uncertainties. Like many of you, I am watching closely to determine when we can cross the magical line of safety and declare, we made it!

We have been dealing with both an economic and a humanitarian crisis at the same time. The uncertainty of COVID-19 and the level of unknown is a factor that has made it difficult for many organizations to make decisions and for people to make any sense of what is happening around them. On top of the stress and anxiety that these events have placed on us as individuals, and as a community, we have been tested time and time again on our ability to overcome a crisis and to prioritize our people.

The impact of the pandemic forced us to accelerate many changes that we were considering or starting to implement, such as reducing hierarchy, operating in smaller networks, more cross-functional collaboration and remote work. These were good changes and I hope to see them become even more prominent.

Shifting Priorities

As we continue to navigate these unchartered moments (sadly we can’t just fast forward 2020) we now find ourselves in a different phase. Our organizations are once again required to respond and be resilient. It is time to bounce back with whatever we can collectively maneuver.

Resilience, well-being, and momentum are our goals for the next few months. The impact of the economic downturn has created additional stress on top of the health concerns, so we are still operating with higher levels of anxiety. Well-being is now at the frontline of almost every company and certainly in the minds of every family. As leaders, we navigated through the first series of issues by reacting quickly to keep people safe, delivering relevant information, working to remain viable and learning how to work within the new boundaries of our employees’ anxieties, fears, children and even pets.

We have started our journey from immediate response and continuity to a revival phase. And to successfully reach that goal, our organizations will have to be equipped with resiliency without defaulting back to previous patterns. The next few months will not be anything near a walk in the park and it will take every single one of us to become pathfinders for our organizations. Our ability to lead our organizations will determine way more than your organizations future, it will inevitably test your humanity and resolve.

Psychologists define personal resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as COVID-19. They go on to state that as much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from difficulty, it can also involve profound growth. The more each of us knows about resilience, the more we will see opportunities for our employees, our customers and ourselves. We don’t have to like anything about 2020, but we do have to find the growth and opportunity that came along with it.

Business resilience is the ability of an organization to quickly adapt to disruptions while maintaining continuous business operations and safeguarding people, assets and overall brand equity. Business resilience goes a step beyond disaster recovery by offering post-disaster strategies to avoid costly downtime, reduce vulnerabilities and maintain business operations in the face of additional, unexpected breaches. 

"We have started our journey from immediate response and continuity to a revival phase. And to successfully reach that goal, our organizations will have to be equipped with resiliency without defaulting back to previous patterns." – Scott Cawood, president and CEO of WorldatWork

Organizations had to demonstrate increased agility and elasticity first, to quickly react to the uncertainty of the situation; and second, to best support their workforce while remaining operational. It has been especially important to address the health concerns of our people, as well as the stress and anxiety that the pandemic has caused. Shifting our priorities has been the momentum driver during this time. Elasticity and adaptability are key for a successful return to the so-called “new normal.” Things are never going back to where they were. And if they do, we have learned very little about ourselves. 

In the Center of Total Rewards Conversations

As we all return to the workplace and refocus on our tasks, total rewards will be a key function that will help us lead a more dynamic workplace. COVID-19 has shown our ability to adapt and move faster to support our customers’ needs. Our resilience stage will include working on issues that we had not previously addressed or were short of resolving. Equality, diversity and inclusion, and well-being will be in the center of total rewards conversations. It has become evident that mental health will be one of the top priorities and we must be ready to address a beleaguered workforce. Stress, fear, and anxiety caused by the pandemic will force our organizations to take a deeper look at mental health in the workplace.

Returning to the office in this new normal brings new challenges as leaders and total rewards professionals. How do we deal with the inevitable burnouts? How do we address performance issues? How do we promote collaboration and camaraderie? While the technical aspect of hiring and onboarding can be mastered in this remote world, how do we help create a sense of belonging for our new hires? How is our organization’s culture affected by a virtual workspace?  

The New Narrative

As you plan your next few steps, consider what it means to help your workforce be resilient. Being connected is at a premium. Understand that we all feel like the world is ending, even though it isn't. COVID-19 is not insurmountable, and we are going to win. Avoid being wishy-washy, make faster decisions and adapt instead of waiting for more information. Start your new narrative — moving yourself and your teams from potential bystanders of the pandemic to champions of your new future. 

We have to remember that we are stronger and better together. And together, we can build something better than we had in 2019. As you outline your next steps, I invite you to join us every Wednesday for our “Total Resilience Virtual Conference & Exhibition.” There are things happening there that you need to know and people attending from around the world. From now until Sept. 2, we are coming together virtually each week to find solutions and connections that will impact the future of your workforce. I hope to see you there!

About the Author

Scott Cawood Bio Image

Scott Cawood, Ed.D, CCP, CBP, GRP, CSCP, WLCP is the president and CEO of WorldatWork.


About WorldatWork

WorldatWork is a professional nonprofit association that sets the agenda and standard of excellence in the field of Total Rewards. Our membership, signature certifications, data, content, and conferences are designed to advance our members’ leadership, and to help them influence great outcomes for their own organizations.

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