How to build resilience

The capacity for quick recovery is a quality for which successful businesses and entrepreneurs are renowned.

Resilience currently requires entrepreneurs to engage in two somewhat contradictory activities, all while the rules for survival and success are unclear and changing:

1.     Bouncing back from challenges, like recession and broken supply chains

2.     Finding new markets, innovating and tapping talent

Many businesses have been in fire-fighting mode and have barely been able to pause for breath over the past few months. Yet, they also need to use this emergency as an opportunity to create resilience in the long term.

Long-term resilience +

Eleanor Murray, senior fellow in management practice at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, has outlined three key areas which businesses should focus on to build long-term resilience:

  • Consider what ‘adaptations and redundancy’ they need to design into global supply chains, production, facilities, human resource arrangements, and communications.
  • Consider diversification. This is an important feature of long-term resilience, in terms of spreading risk across products, markets, services, and investments.
  • Develop industry alliances and business networks. This creates capacities and capabilities beyond organisations that provide greater resilience to future disruption.

Smaller businesses and entrepreneurs should build a workplace culture that nurtures and develops these three key areas in order to strengthen their business’ resilience.

Leadership +

Building business resilience is a team sport. It requires management to develop a wide network of relationships, taking in all stakeholders, from customers and suppliers to the local community.

This will likely involve engagement with government at both local and national levels to try and work in partnership to foster economic growth.

But it’s a personal thing too. It requires a positive mindset and the ability to learn lessons from inevitable setbacks.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple in 1976, wrote of his dismissal in 1984:

“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life… Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.”

Innovation +

The development of new products and services, as well as broadening its digital presence, are crucial elements for any business seeking to succeed.

According to a report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)Link opens in a new window, 16% of small businesses developed their online presence during lockdown, while 10% developed new services and 6% new products.

Furthermore, remote working has unleashed creativity. According to the Chartered Management Institute, 66% of managers have reported increased levels of innovation among staff during this time.

Flexibility +

British businesses are having to show unprecedented levels of flexibility in adapting to the coronavirus crisis.

As well as fostering an adaptable mindset it has accelerated the adoption of flexible working as the ‘new normal’ for most workers. This in turn has resulted in more collaborative, empathetic styles of management.

As the Chartered Management Institute notes:

“This rapid take-up has been an intensive stress-test for management practices that will be needed if flexible working becomes more normalised post COVID-19. Among these, retaining the human dimension in terms of management and employee communication is crucial.”

Yet, it also brings benefits, as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) explains:

“Flexibility helps more people access the labour market and stay in work, manage caring responsibilities and work-life balance, and supports enhanced employee engagement and wellbeing.”

In that respect it undoubtedly benefits national resilience.

Could it also improve productivity? The CIPD appears convinced:

“Employees and managers agree that flexible working increases individual performance and is more motivating than a bonus!”

Additional support +

The Better Managers manual Link opens in a new window

A practical guide from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) on managing in the new normal and how to navigate the impact of coronavirus.

Flexible working: the business case Link opens in a new window

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has released a business case detailing the benefits of flexible working.

Regional support

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