A five-hour educational program can promote employee resilience in companies facing downsizing and restructuring, according to a study in the April Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

Rudi Meir, Ph.D., of Southern Cross University, East Lismore, NSW, Australia, and colleagues evaluated a newly developed program to increase employee resilience, at a workplace dealing with an upcoming merger.

One group of employees was randomly assigned to receive the resilience intervention, which consisted of five weekly workshops held during lunch hour. The workshops focused on concepts and techniques to enhance resilience in the context of the workplace.

Participants showed improvement in several aspects of resilience, versus a group of employees who didn't attend.

Participants showed improvement in several aspects of resilience, compared to a group of employees who didn't attend. Program participants had higher total scores on a previously validated Resilience at Work scale, and on subscales measuring some key aspects of workplace resilience: "finding your calling," "maintaining perspective," "managing stress," and "staying healthy."

Especially at times of organizational change, many companies use resilience programs to help employees cope with the changes while reducing the potential for negative effects on workforce and business outcomes.

The intervention evaluated in the study focuses on improving resilience as a "specific capacity within the work environment," rather than as a general personal attribute.

While the study can't provide data on how well the improvements were maintained over time, the results do suggest that a short-term, inexpensive program can promote resilience in the workplace.

"Employee resilience can be improved via specific educational and skills training requiring a total time commitment of just five hours, making this intervention feasible for most working environments," the researchers write.

Fostering Resilience

If you’d rather avoid spending time and money on a resilience training program (and there are plenty out there), other, less formal ways of helping employees become more resilient have proven effective.

Resilience is, obviously, one of the most important psychological skills a person can have.
In a recent article for Forbes, Mark Murphy, founder of Leadership IQ, defines resilience as, “the psychological skill that allows people to effectively handle stress and anxiety. If you can manage change without freaking out, or immediately try again after a big mistake, you’ve got resilience.

"Resilience is, obviously, one of the most important psychological skills a person can have."

Based on a Leadership IQ study involving 30,000 employees, Murphy says that there is a clear causal relationship between leaders’ willingness to encourage and recognize suggestions for improvement from their employees and employees’ resilience—particularly their ability to bounce back after making a mistake.

“Leaders who encourage and recognize suggestions for improvement are displaying their own kind of resilience,” he says.

“After all, bouncing back after a mistake requires openly admitting the mistake, changing behavior, and then trying again. And when a leader models resilience, employees are more likely to reflect that same behavior.”