Now, more than ever, teams and organizations must anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and adapt to large-scale change in an effective way. This capability is commonly referred to as organizational resilience, and it’s possible to intentionally and persistently build resilience at work, even in the midst of incredible upheaval.

Organizational resilience can feel daunting to tackle right now. Everything feels like a priority—crisis management response, IT readiness, business-continuity planning, the list goes on. At the center of it all, and the thing successful organizations put at the top of the list, are people. 

Truly resilient organizations are a function of how leaders, teams, and individuals build habits that help them thrive in the midst of distress—habits like regular check-ins, agile goals, forward-looking feedback, and focused action. In this post, I’ll equip you to understand and improve your organization’s resilience.    

Characteristics of a resilient organization

A recent Harvard Business Review study identified four common characteristics of resilient teams. Understanding these characteristics can help you develop and reinforce the strengths of teams as well as help your broader organization build your resilience muscle. 

Resilient teams execute well together. 

Members of resilient teams collectively believe they can effectively complete tasks together. There are three factors you can readily influence to improve a team’s actual and perceived execution efficacy.

  1. Role Fit: team members are in roles that are an excellent fit with their innate strengths, skills, and abilities. 
  2. Collaboration: team members cooperate well in accomplishing the team’s goals. 
  3. Decision-Making Speed: decisions are made in a timely manner.

Resilient teams share common understanding and alignment. 

Members of resilient teams are on the same page with their roles, responsibilities, and the way they interact with each other—especially during times of adversity. Here’s what that looks like. 

  1. Clear Expectations: team members are clear on the expectations of their own roles and the roles of others on their team.
  2. Focus: team members share a common understanding of how their work creates value for the organization and its customers.
  3. Accountability: everyone contributes to, and is responsible for, achieving results.
  4. Transparency: open, honest communication for the greater good.

Resilient teams are able to improvise. 

Members of resilient teams are able to develop new ideas and ways of handling adversity, supported by two important factors. 

  1. Empowerment: the ability to make decisions and take action on what impacts their work.
  2. Learning from Mistakes: the team understands that mistakes can happen during times of distress, and views them as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Resilient teams have psychological safety. 

Members of resilient teams have a shared belief that it is safe to take interpersonal risks—such as offering unusual or creative ideas—without fear of being criticized by fellow team members. This leads to a greater diversity of ideas at a time when it is needed most. The following factors support psychological safety. 

  1. Belonging: the feeling of affiliation and acceptance.
  2. Innovation Encouragement: new ideas are encouraged.
  3. Opinions Valued: people feel their opinions are not only asked for, but they are also heard.

Understand your organization’s resilience today 

The first place I suggest you start looking is your organization’s employee engagement survey results. While employee feedback is no crystal ball, it can uncover strengths and weaknesses that enable you to prepare for and respond effectively to change through your people.

In an environment of uncertainty, many organizations are hesitant to launch a broad employee engagement survey to gain these insights. The good news is that most engagement surveys include some resiliency-focused topics, and it is likely that one of your recent surveys can help you understand capabilities at both the team and enterprise level. Equipped with this knowledge, you are ready to evolve your approach to change in a way that is tailored to your unique culture and circumstances. 

Taking a fresh look at recent survey results around team execution, alignment, improvisation, and psychological safety gives you insights to understand if and where your organization is able to anticipate, prepare for, respond, and adapt to large-scale change and sudden disruptions in an effective way.  

For example, your organization can use recent survey data to identify an area of opportunity, such as decision-making speed. You might discover that bureaucratic processes are slowing down decisions and getting in the way of teams’ ability to execute. By changing processes to remove roadblocks, you can speed up decisions and reinforce resilience, helping teams get more done.

Beyond examining survey results, be sure you are having actual conversations with your people—and not using surveys or survey data as a proxy for meaningful conversations. Two-way conversations at all levels of your organization will help determine the unique needs of your people, teams, and organization. 

Are you interested in learning more? LinkedIn Learning offers free courses to help with resilience in challenging times