15 May 2019

The resilient employee – workshop 1 notes (15 May 2019)

Defining resilience

  • It’s a flexible concept that means different things to organisations. It can have unintended connotations with “invincibility” or “never failing” which can be problematic and off-putting for employees

  • The important point is for each organisation to define what resilience means for them, creating a clear statement that resonates with the organisation’s culture

  • This statement / definition should be produced with staff and not set by management

  • Measuring a resilient organisation is also tricky. It is subjective and the measures may not tell you what you need to know. People may not be truthful about the reasons they are absent due to a perceived stigma of declaring a mental health related issue

  • Policy is one thing, but the culture of an organisation is important, as are the values and behaviours demonstrated by leaders


  • Having good leadership is crucial to help people stay resilient

  • This is about leaders understanding the needs of the team and showing empathy

  • Talking is important. We heard examples of where some organisations have used staff surveys, quarterly business briefing meetings, focus groups and team meetings to listen to what staff have to say and how they feel. The benefits can be great and the upfront investment can pay off in terms of improving morale and reducing sickness/turnover. “Prevention is always better than the cure”

  • However, there is a balance between being an empathetic manager who creates the environment for employee wellbeing and knowing the boundaries – no-one can be made to seek support, only encouraged to do so


  • Never underestimate how difficult it is to influence and change an organisation’s culture. However, bear in mind that employers (generally) share the intention to look after the wellbeing of their employees, so start from this position

  • One example highlighted an organisation’s high sickness level and churn. To address this, they used staff surveys and wider staff engagement over two years. Both churn and sickness improved after setting up a quarterly review with staff, incorporating questions about mental health. Business updates are provided each quarter inviting comment and questions from teams. The organisation has also introduced mental health first aiders, trained to support staff wellbeing, plus employee advice services. The level of engagement has subsequently improved ten-fold.

  • Social connection is important in the workplace, so fostering opportunities in and outside of the work environment for staff to work better together is important. Two models were mentioned in this context: Suffolk Mind’s “Needs Met”, which considers why an individual’s need(s) is unmet and how this impacts on their mental wellbeing and the five ways to wellbeing. See https://www.suffolkmind.org.uk/services/suffolks-needs-met/ and https://www.healthysuffolk.org.uk/projects/5-ways-to-wellbeing

  • We also talked about the stretch vs stress concept (see accompanying slides)

  • It’s important to remember that no two individuals deal with workplace stressors in the same way – important to realise we may have developed different coping mechanisms

The product

  • Paul outlined the purpose of the workshops leading to the development of useful, practical resources for businesses to support resilience in the workplace. This product (which may or may not be called a ‘toolkit’) will be based on the tiers of organisation by size (see below) and will likely comprise a combination of practical case studies about what works well, signposting services and support and providing structured suggestions about how to create a culture of resilience, leadership and effective communication


  • Crucially, small, medium and large employers need a different approach, including policies, which reflect the size and function of their organisation

  • Growing businesses need to know how to engage with staff. Many Suffolk organisations are upscaling and how staff are supported during periods of considerable structural and organisational change would be a helpful focus of a future workshop

  • Rather than creating something entirely new, it’s important to signpost existing support and services. What is out there and what already works well?

Useful resources/links relating to workshop 1

Business views on how they hope the workshops will help them: