With Resilience Specialist Rachel Austen, CPsychol. MBPsS
Leathwaite recently hosted an HR Leaders Roundtable with Organisational Psychologist, Rachel Austen, to discuss trends in resilience and burnout from some of the world’s leading companies. Below we have shared some of the key discussion points from the event.
Rachel shared the latest data from AURA – her proprietary resilience measurement tool – which shows employee resilience has dropped 10% in the past 6 months. The curved purple line represents the benchmark. The average employee is currently in the ‘Languishing’ zone – feeling empty, stagnant and with a low sense of purpose.
Several leaders shared experiences of working in high-performing organisations with an “up or out” culture in which individuals who got to critical stages of burnout would simply leave, leaving an organisation whose employees were all in a “resilient” state.
We discussed how the price of being an organisation that “burns through” employees in this way is the lack of diversity amongst those who remain.
Rachel has been able to use the AURA tool to provide detailed resilience analysis, enabling organisations to pinpoint and address the root causes of stress.
The data shows some prevalent resilience risks are…
Telepressure – the perceived pressure to be available and respond quickly to messages.
We discussed the new “right to disconnect” law in Portugal, which makes it unlawful for employers to contact employees outside of working hours.
Creative out of office messages have been encouraged at one company, to protect hours of the day e.g. “I’ll next be checking my emails at 2 pm, if you need to reach me before then, please call me”.
Messaging around telepressure is no use if management doesn’t lead by example. Leaders in the business also need to model not sending/responding to messages out of hours. An example was shared of a firm where senior management made a Charter on this point.
Pressure to be Perfect – a perception that mistakes are not acceptable, leading to a blame and shame culture.
The “antidote” to this is a growth mindset. The idea that mistakes are learning opportunities, that trainees and managers embrace and collaborate to analyse.
Rachel observed that many organisations say they support a growth culture rather than a blame culture, but when it comes to behaviours, they often do not “walk the walk”.
This may be caused by leaders themselves having low resilience owing to prolonged periods of stress, making it more likely they will lose their tempers with employees.
It was discussed that pressure to be perfect can be both a cause and a symptom of low organisational resilience.
The idea was shared of companies celebrating work that is “good enough” – to make the point that “good enough” really does mean exactly that!
Rachel shared that one of the best ways of addressing this issue is through the evaluation system, ensuring feedback is fair and constructive. One tangible action is to have peers sit in on each others’ appraisals/ feedback in an exercise to ensure integrity across the organisation.
Organisations can change their internal policies to mitigate the detrimental effects of telepressure and pressure to be perfect. However, if external clients do not mirror this a disconnect may arise. It then becomes the responsibility of leaders in the business to diplomatically manage client expectations in order to protect the sustainability of their business.
Case studies of organisations who’ve used resilience analysis
We discussed the emerging trend to use rigorous and scientific tools to provide insight into the root causes of stress to enable a preventative and focused approach to resilience building. Whilst telepressure and pressure to be perfect are surfacing as common resilience risks, each organisation will have its own unique challenges, therefore a proper assessment is required to tailor remedies and hone in on priorities.
An example was shared of a company that used resilience modelling across different departments at the beginning of the pandemic. They found their IT team were dangerously low on the resilience scale. They addressed this through forced time off (not annual leave – effectively time in lieu, but put forward as mandatory) and brought on interim support to cope with short term demands.
Rachel Austen, CPsychol. MBPsS
Rachel Austen, founder of AURA, is a chartered occupational psychologist with over 16 years of experience working for two leading consultancies in the field, SHL and Mercer, providing advice to many large organisations in addressing their people issues.
She is a specialist in psychometric assessment, leadership development and resilience. Having spent 10 years working in Singapore and Hong Kong, she has a wide variety of experience and insight into different cultures.
She now runs her own consultancy with a focus on stress management and resilience.
This event was hosted by Jo Mortimer. Jo specialises in working with HR leaders driving transformation and change in their organisations. Focussing on interim mandates, she works in close partnership with our HR Search team, leveraging her deep network, built up over 10 years working with global companies in the London market.
Jo thrives on listening to clients’ needs and thought partnering, consulting on organisational design and culture change.
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