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Employee wellbeing and resilience competencies of HR professionals are rising to the top of the priority list for employers.

“Resilience rises.” So starts a video tweet from NASA on November 15, 2020, marking the successful liftoff of Resilience, the first NASA-certified commercial human spacecraft system in history.

The phrase, it turns out, is also an apt headline for a movement closer to home: resilient human resources. Much has been written this year about the importance of workplace resilience, resilient leadership, and employee wellbeing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. What emerged as a best practice during the lockdown, it seems, is now being touted as a best practice for doing business. Now, employee wellbeing and resilience competencies of HR professionals are rising to the top of the priority list for employers. Here is a closer look at four top executive HR competencies and skills you’ll need to lead your resilient HR movement.

1. Advocate for Employee Wellbeing

Most HR professionals are naturally driven to make work a place for employees to thrive. They support fair and generous compensation and benefits; inclusive and inspiring cultures; and a practice of lifelong learning that benefits employees and companies alike. 

No surprise, then, that as COVID-19 emerged, businesses around the world turned to their HR executives to guide employee wellbeing programs and practices. You are likely one of many leaders who ably created program goals, policies, and practices to advance physical and mental health in unusual times.

According to a new report from Accenture, COVID-19 simply accelerated an underlying shift in executive focus, with employee wellbeing replacing operating efficiency. It found that companies focused on making employees “Net Better Off” are growing at more than five percent this year, while the GDP dropped by over four percent. “In other words,” explains HR and business analyst Josh Bersin, “when you focus on making employees’ lives better, the business gets better as a result.”

With this development, your long list of skills and competencies of HR professionals might include “advocate for employee wellbeing” prioritized at the top. 

2. Inspire for Alignment

It’s not enough to understand the connection between employee wellbeing and organizational resilience. You know that someone needs to connect the dots and tell the story — to inspire others to get on board and act. 

Most HR executives are well-practiced translators. They routinely assess organizational goals and realities to create programs that work. A move to resilient HR is an initiative that begs for an HR voice. 

Start by talking now about the value of resilience. Outline a picture illustrating that individual employee resilience is laudable and desirable, but not enough on its own. 

When IBM took its own journey to adopt resilience this summer, the company defined resilience as “the ability to handle challenges; bounce back smarter; and thrive in the face of changing demands, stressors and opportunities.” They understood a need to align the:

  • Leadership mindset, to foster personal and team resilience
  • Skillsets to build healthy, productive, engaging work environments 
  • New practices to engage, support, and enable people to thrive and flourish through crisis, and 
  • Broader company/social policy environment to extend these benefits beyond the individual.

Though IBM is a massive organization compared to most others, you might share their experience and lessons learned in a way that informs and inspires your teams, too.

3. Drive Change Management

HR executives have been at the forefront of a number of recent organizational shifts. As Millennials and Generation Z made up a larger part of organizations’ workforces, it was largely HR who pushed to tie company missions to a higher purpose through charitable giving and community connections. Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are typically guided by the HR team. And in the mass move to work from home during the COVID outbreak, HR led the review/refresh of work-from-home policies, flexible work schedules, remote time reporting, virtual employee performance management, and more. 

With a new emphasis on resilience at work, HR leaders are once again charged with helping to define and lead the path to change. HR executive skill sets will need to include defining and communicating a vision, outlining and executing a plan, and monitoring progress as employee wellbeing moves to the forefront of how to do business. In short, you’ll need to hone those change management skills and competencies.

4. Develop Leaders

HR execs have long developed, or curated, leadership development programs designed to help managers help their employees to be efficient and productive. Increasingly, managers will be tasked to help employees be well: to be resilient.

For many, it’s a giant leap from measuring employee productivity to supporting employees through emotional or mental health challenges. To be honest, many managers will be uncomfortable. They’ll wish that the new responsibility would remain with the HR professionals who have been providing this kind of support for years. But it won’t work unless managers get involved. 

The good news is that there are an increasing number of leadership development models available to help you help your managers take on this new area of responsibility. With the right support, role modeling, practice, and policies, managers can become proficient at asking about employee health while checking on their ability to get the work done. They’ll be better able to spot concerning behavior patterns. Together, your managers will become essential catalysts for employees becoming more resilient, operating collaboratively and adaptively to changes and opportunities.

If you’re just starting to explore how to tie employee wellbeing to organizational resilience, read our white paper: How to Unleash the Power of Competencies for tips on defining and aligning resiliency competencies. Want your senior leaders, HR leaders, and managers to develop the skills, knowledge, and experience they need to build workforce resilience? Contact us to find out how Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™ can help.


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