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Want to Future-Proof Your Start-Up? Boost Your Employees’ Resilience

From euphoric highs to heart-wrenching lows, the ability to pick yourself up is a critical element of success

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BY Tricia V. Morente - 28 Jun 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

In the Southeast Asian start-up ecosystem where, as we speak, technology paradigm shifts are happening and gut-wrenching failures are part and parcel of the whole change-the-world-with-technology package, the ability to learn from one’s mistakes and bounce back stronger from ambiguity will spell the difference between a potential Bill Gates and an anonymous person whose name barely registers on our radar.

That ability to effectively pick yourself up from inevitable setbacks and respond to change is called resilience.

According to Jo Ann Asetre, operations director of talent development and transition company Lee Hecht Harrison, “Resilience is a key capability for remaining effective in a world of work that is characterized by constant movement and unpredictability. It allows people to go beyond survival and actually prosper in environments that are complex and dynamic.”

Throughout her extensive experience running resilience workshops, Asetre finds that employees are often unprepared for change. And as your company’s productivity is largely dependent on your employees, when it comes to building your business’ resilience, Asetre advises to begin with the individual. “The benefits may not be as immediate compared to a change management program where there are business plans and deliverables, but it’s crucial,” she says.

So if you’re really in this for the long haul and want to future-proof your business—sometimes when you think your start-up is no longer in the red, external factors may pull the rug out from under you—here are three ways to boost your crew’s resilience.

1. Nurture their financial well-being

According to Asetre, employees—from rank-and-file to even high-level executives—aren’t immune from making wrong financial decisions. And when they suddenly find themselves out of a job, it hits them hard.

“One of our popular programs now is actually retirement planning, and we’re delivering it to younger employees of our clients,” she says, adding that while this may not directly impact your operations, it’s a good way to show your team you care—and that inspires loyalty and boosts morale. “A lot of companies implement CSR programs, but equally important is to implement something similar within your company. One way to do this is educating employees about financial management,” she points out.

2. Develop their career assets

While there are companies that have good training programs for employees, Asetre points out that most of the time, companies aren’t too proactive about developing the “career assets” of employees. “Some companies tend to scrimp on training—it’s often the first one out when they’re cutting costs, but it’s crucial to developing your employees’ resilience,” she says.

There’s also a gap between what the training department wants to achieve and how employees respond. “Something must be done about why your employees are not proactive about or warmly receptive of taking on training. When they have to face change, a limited skills set won’t let them respond effectively. On the other hand, employees with good career assets will help you achieve business objectives internally—a person in purchasing now may eventually be moved to training, finance, and so on,” says Asetre.

3. Intentionally encourage your employees to go out and network

Leave no room for surprise, at least as far as your industry is concerned. Encourage employees to “know their territory” as this enables them to develop an understanding of the big picture, of the trends and forces that impact and shape the ecosystem where your start-up operates. Seeing where they fit in the greater scheme of things enables them to recognize, prepare and respond to forces outside their control,” says Asetre.

How to do this? Send employees out to conferences and expositions. “At the end of the day, success boils down to who knows you and who you know,” shares Asetre. And while allowing them to network can both work for and against your company—“Once they see what’s out there, it also opens the possibility of leaving,” points out Asetre—but more often than not, the benefits outweigh the costs.

Sending a member of your product development team to a cloud computing conference, for one, will enable them to respond better when you decide to implement changes in your system. “Networking exposes your employees to the latest industry innovations that they can then proactively initiate in your company,” says Asetre.

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