Resilience Training in Organizations: Learning to Thrive in Challenging Environments.

Team IIBP Anveshan, Business Psychology, Employee wellbeing, issue 43, Organizational Development, Training and Development, Volume 4

When Covid-19 pandemic hit us hard, posing significant health, economic, and social challenges, many companies across globe recommended their employees to take up the HBR online course on “Ernest Shackleton and his historic Endurance expedition”.

Well, who is this Ernest Shackleton and how can his expedition help us with the unprecedented issues we faced with COVID-19? To understand this, let us know the Shackleton story first.

Shackleton is the legendary Antarctic explorer. His most famous expedition is the Endurance Expedition of 1914-17, which was thwarted even before reaching the continent it had intended to cross. During the journey, Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, was clenched in the jaws of the frozen ocean for 18 months. He and his 27-strong crew were stranded 1200 miles from civilization with no means of communication and no hopes of rescue.

Unlike most polar expeditions of the day, where most people never returned from the dangerous journey, every one of the 27 men survived. It is important to note here that the 27 men not only survived but they “happily” survived amidst the adversity they faced.

The HBR course explains to the participants that the main reason behind this happy story is the “resilient strategies” of Shackleton. He made sure that despite the adversity, his crew members were given emotional and social support throughout the journey. He focused a huge amount of time on arranging

Shackleton ensured that in spite of the adversity, his crew members were given emotional and social support throughout the journey. He focused a huge amount of time on arranging things that encouraged engagement and cohesion among the team members. He created space for socializing, playing games, and engaging in theatricals. Shackleton referred to these activities as creating mental medicine and cohesion, things that could make his team members feel productive and hopeful.

I hope now it is clear why companies recommended their employees undertake the HBR course during COVID-19. The course is available at no cost. Please click the link below to take up the course:

Resilient Leadership Course

Though the threat of COVID-19 has weakened with the invention of vaccines, we encounter adversity and hardships in every walk of life. The challenging nature of work with AI’s presence, competitive environments, and work-life imbalances pose enormous challenges. We can’t eliminate these challenges, but resilience can be developed to help us navigate and overcome them.

Resilience is the ability to deal with and bounce back from difficult situations such as adversity, stress, or trauma. Resilience training is a process where people learn to adapt to difficult situations. The training focuses on building a positive outlook on the events occurring around them.

In the workplace, resilience means employees respond well to pressure, overcome challenges, discern options and solutions, and turn obstacles or mistakes into learning opportunities. Here are some examples of what a resilient workplace looks like:

A project manager loses a key staff member in the middle of a complex project. He navigates the stress by hiring and training a new team member while keeping workloads manageable by utilizing resources from cross-departments, strategizing the work, and handling the clients.

A marketing executive loses out on a big contract to a rival company. While the loss stings, she takes the opportunity to look at the competitors and learns what they had that won the contract.

In the above examples, we can see that there is a negative experience handled with thoughtfulness and a willingness to learn from the adverse experience – in short, the situations are handled with resilience.

In a systematic review (a research method where all the relevant literature on a particular topic is evaluated to derive conclusions about the question under consideration) of workplace resilience training, Robertson et al. (2015) demonstrated that resilience training has a positive impact on employee well-being, psychosocial functioning, and performance.

Martin Seligman, known as the father of positive psychology, has developed a resilience training program. This training program has been adopted by the United States Army to help soldiers deal with PTSD and other issues arising from serving in the military. The program is called “Master Resilience Training” and is based on positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment.

A 2021 systematic study was carried out by researchers focusing on the program characteristics and study design of resilience training programs offered by organizations. The study highlighted that most of these training programs were designed for high-risk contexts (e.g., police officers, military members, or doctors) rather than for employees in regular business settings. They also highlighted that the programs covered a broad range of training content, including psycho-education about various health-related topics, relaxation techniques, social support, reflective thinking, goal setting, and problem-solving.

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