Is employee happiness key to building a resilient workforce?

Need to know:

  • A broad wellbeing programme comprising physical, emotional, financial, and social elements will build employee resilience.
  • An employee benefits culture that supports staff in reaching their full potential makes them feel valued, happier, and more likely to be resilient.
  • Consistent messaging on business continuity and long-term recovery strategies across the organisation will help to strengthen confidence and resilience among staff.

The global pandemic will ensure that 2020 is remembered as the year that organisational resilience was tested like never before. Key to a resilient workplace is a resilient workforce that can adapt to or withstand adversity, trauma, and other stress causers.

Resilience is also an attribute that can be learned and developed, however, there is a widespread misconception among employers that resilience is simply about being tough or permanently optimistic, according to Stuart Duff, head of development at Pearn Kandola.

“True resilience is about recognising our own reactions to stressful situations and acknowledging that it’s normal and healthy to feel anger and frustration, while also being aware that these feelings only serve to make us less effective and less energetic,” he says. “To be truly resilient we need to know what we can control and where we can take action.”

Resilience support

Central to all of this is employee wellbeing and happiness, and employer support in both areas is vital. However, a report by consultancy Aon, Rising resilient, published in September 2020, has revealed a significant gap between employer offerings and employee resilience.

Geoffrey Kuhn, FSA chief actuary health solutions EMEA at Aon, says: “Over 80% of employers offer a wellbeing programme, yet only 30% of employees are resilient. Offering more robust wellbeing programmes is associated with higher levels of employee resilience; for example, employees are 45% more likely to be resilient when their employer offers a broad wellbeing programme covering physical, emotional, financial, and social elements.”

With a comprehensive employee benefits programme that offers something for everyone, staff are more likely to take up benefits that will help them achieve their personal goals and, in turn, feel happier in themselves.

John Deacon, head of employee benefits at Buck, says: “When employees are happier they are naturally more resilient as they are often better able to put things into perspective and deal rationally with any potential issues that crop up. Without happiness there is little resilience, so the more an employer can do to treat people as individuals, the more likely resilience will follow.”

Supportive culture

However, a benefits offering alone is not enough. To build a resilient workforce, employers must create a sense of security and belonging, and a framework that allows employees to reach their full potential and to feel a sense of happiness that comes from fulfilment.

With many employees continuing to work from home, replicating a supportive workplace environment of face-to-face interactions, team meetings and social activities, things that bolster staff happiness, has been a challenge for organisations. As a result, feelings of being undervalued, disconnected, and misunderstood may begin to surface, particularly among remote workers.

The impact of the national lockdown on people across the country prompted technology firm Davies Group to develop solutions for measuring the happiness of a remote workforce, and in May, it launched a new app CheckIn.

Stine Nyplass, group communications executive at Davies Group, says: “Without face-to-face interaction it’s difficult to spot warning signs of an employee in distress. The app’s interface prompts employees to choose which emoji best reflects their current happiness level each day, providing a mechanism for alerting management or HR to any issues of concern and then responding to positively impact the mental wellbeing of staff.”

If employee happiness is the key to resilience, a permanent culture of kindness could help to sustain higher levels of both, according to The Power of kindness report, published in August 2020, a collaboration between brand consultancy Hall and Partners, Said Business School, the Global Thinkers Forum and Women of the Future.

The findings reveal that kindness improves employee retention and motivation and keeps people feeling valued, with 58% of global workers saying that the kind actions taken by their employer during Covid-19 made them want to stay longer than originally planned.

With the post-pandemic future still far from certain, employers that communicate with greater clarity on business continuity and long-term recovery strategies can also invoke greater, confidence, engagement and resilience from their employees.

“Employees need to receive a consistent message and experience across the organisation, from leadership through to employee engagement and resilience initiatives,” says Khun. “These are complex issues, that are further complicated by the current environment and changing work dynamics brought about by Covid-19.”