True Business Resilience Requires A Culture That Embraces Agility

My colleague David Earlam recently published a really interesting article in the HR Director magazine. The focus was resilience, but he used some examples from a recent book by Bruce Daisley (Fortitude) to shift the focus from resilience to fortitude. 

Bruce Daisley was previously the EMEA head of Twitter, but for the past couple of years he has switched focus to a writing and podcasting career, mainly exploring the modern workplace. His book explores how fortitude is a more exact description for what we usually think of as resilience in the business environment. 

This is because what we are really describing is the ability to withstand shocks and unusual events. The dictionary definition of resilience focuses on the ability to return to exactly how things were before the shock and that’s no longer quite fit for purpose in a highly agile post-Covid business environment.

The focus of David’s article was the need for fortitude to permeate the culture of an organisation. It can’t just be a series of inspirational posters on the wall or automated emails from the HR team. Unless your entire business operates in a way that encourages and nurtures fortitude then it will not work.

A good example is the attitude towards burnout. David said: “Everyone is working longer hours. They feel they must be available at all times. They feel a need to check their email and messages in the evening and at weekends. The result is a stressed and burned out team, but what is the typical corporate response? A training session on how to handle burnout.”

We have all seen this response. Management attempts to resolve a problem by damping down the symptoms, rather than just fixing the underlying issue.

In fact, in many companies this has been the normal situation for years. It could be argued that if they have prospered without ever addressing fortitude then maybe they don’t need to do anything – they have lasted this long right?

I believe this is changing. In the post-Covid business environment employee expectations have changed. People expect more flexibility from their employer. A company that will not even negotiate over flexible hours and working location is now one to be avoided – it used to just be normal.

Consumer expectations have also changed. Most customers want flexible self-service options. They are asking Siri or Alexa for help before ever calling a customer service helpline. Customer journeys are changing dramatically and executives with responsibility for managing customer experience need to appreciate this. Customers want to develop a long-term interactive relationship with the brands they trust and admire.

With a rapidly changing business environment where both customers and employees are adjusting their expectations of brands, there is a lot that needs to be managed. The lesson of David’s article and Bruce’s book is that rigid top-down hierarchies are not agile enough to adapt to fast-changing market conditions.

Either your business embraces the required corporate culture of the 2020s or you will face a very difficult future – especially when trying to attract new employees and new customers. Fortitude will be essential over the next few years, but it comes from embracing resilience throughout the culture of your business, not just sending teams on a training course.

CC Photo by Eden Constantino

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