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The Importance of Strategic HR Management to Organisational Resilience

Organisational resilience demands a firm grasp of potential long-term risk drawn from an holistic understanding of a business’s strategic needs. At the same time, resilience requires an ability to react immediately to short-term challenges and make rapid decisions under stress.

Strategic HR management provides organisational leaders with the foundations on which this short- and long-term approach to resilience can be built.

Organisational resilience and crises

The Deloitte report Standing up through the storm: Make your organisation crisis resilient outlines the nature of a crisis as an “unprecedented or extraordinary event or situation that threatens an organisation and requires a strategic, adaptive, and timely response in order to preserve its viability and integrity.”

The coronavirus pandemic has put organisations across the globe to the test while laying bare the flaws in the mechanisms they have in place to respond effectively, and their ability to adapt with resilience. Unfortunately, Deloitte’s study highlights just how few businesses rose to the challenge: while nearly all of the 250 executives questioned for the survey believed organisations can prepare for a crisis (93%), only 56% regarded their organisations as prepared.

Why are some organisations struggling to adapt and respond quickly and effectively?

And how can these obstacles be overcome to create a business which is resilient to future shocks?

Unrealistic optimism leads some leaders to believe that potential crises won’t impact their company, leading to complacency when it comes to putting in measures to protect against risks. Others fail to implement a robust process to protect against high-impact events on account of a reluctance to change how things are done.

Organisational resilience requires an holistic approach, and strategic HR management can also be drawn upon to counter a lack of coordination between individuals, teams and leadership, creating resilient employees who understand the challenges their organisation faces.

Let’s examine how business leaders can best overcome these challenges to build an organisation capable of responding and adapting to a crisis, using strategic HR management to bolster resilient leadership, and pairing a strategic long-term vision with an ability to act quickly and make tough decisions in a crisis.

Supporting resilient leadership with strategic HR

Resilient organisations require resilient leaders, and effective strategic HR can provide the tools and insights necessary for leaders to deliver a compassionate understanding of the challenges faced by employees, matched with an ability to act resolutely when required.

Strategic HR management can facilitate resilient leadership in a number of ways:

  • Keep leaders informed of the long-term goals of the organisation, allowing them to anticipate potential new business models which might emerge, while giving their employees the space to innovate and adapt at short notice.
  • Provide the framework required by leaders to communicate goals effectively both within their departments and teams and across the wider organisation, breaking down silos to ensure that everyone is working towards the same objectives.
  • Facilitating the necessary conversations to ensure that employees’ concerns are heard and understood with compassion, strengthening a sense of wellbeing within the organisation, and arming employees with the tools to rise to the challenges posed by a crisis, both in terms of their mental and physical wellbeing.
  • Helping leaders to manage energy rather than time. Energy management is one of the key ingredients to delivering results, and a strategic HR management program can be used to direct the information which matters the most to leaders so that they can channel their energy accordingly.

Defining a strategic long-term vision…

A holistic view of potential challenges coupled with a proactive vision of the business model is required to navigate uncertain waters. Strategic HR management can be used to help build a coherent long-term vision:

  • Brainstorming a wide variety of potential future scenarios so that managers and leaders can put into place contingency plans. Whether a crisis intensifies or abates, these long-term strategy plans give the organisation the capacity to respond effectively and maintain their resilience.
  • Planning ahead for potential illnesses in case key positions need to be filled, including succession plans relating to key leadership positions. This also means a clear understanding of the distribution of skills between teams and departments so that a long-term strategy can be crafted which understands where talent lies and potential skills gaps which may arise in the future.
  • Implementing systems for tracking and updating long-term goals, with the necessary Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to ensure progress is made and difficulties identified and addressed. Putting the appropriate performance management tools in place to ensure that these objectives can be tracked in real-time, and employees obligated to meeting targets are consistently up to date on their responsibilities.
  • Fostering resilience skills throughout the workforce as part of an ongoing and evolving process. The long-term approach fostered by strategic HR allows managers and leaders to deliver the training and resources to individuals and teams to allow them to deal with stress, brainstorm solutions in the heat of the moment and conduct their own long-term preparations for unexpected outcomes and future crises.

… Matched with rapid decision-making

Continuous conversations and communications to allow leaders, individuals and teams to react to new challenges instantaneously, meeting the need to make critical decisions under conditions of extreme uncertainty. Long-term resilience enables organisations to be proactive, while short-term resilience allows leaders to use this knowledge to react with well-informed responses.

Tools for facilitating, modeling and engaging in ongoing conversations and decision-making are essential for managers and leaders to gain the necessary insights to make these informed decisions.

Multi-channel communications with critical alerts

In an era in which much of the workforce is disconnected due to remote working, traditional communications methods are no longer sufficient. Multi-channel communications which allow messages to be delivered via email, SMS, or in-app push notifications to mobile and desktop devices provide the framework through which rapid decision-making can take place.

The ability to send critical alerts instantly to those who need them removes the possibility of delays in communication, giving reassurance that the message has been received through digital receipts. By integrating performance management tools with Microsoft Teams, managers and leaders can compartmentalise teams to ensure that the right employees are connected to one another.

Newsfeeds and social intranets

Newsfeeds are an effective tool for keeping the day’s conversations on topic while providing employees with up to date news, resources, articles and other communications relevant to their role. Instant staff updates and company news roll outs can help bolster an individual’s relationship with a company’s culture, consequently improving engagement and morale.

Some performance management software allows managers and leaders to customise a Today Screen feature, allowing them to pinpoint the day’s priorities at a glance, deal with objectives and feedback, and communicate more effectively with departments, teams and individuals.

Dashboard reports for KPIs

Customisable performance dashboards allow HR leaders and managers to monitor individual performance in real-time, as well as understand how this ties in to the overall performance of the business. With each member of staff having their own objectives dashboard, goals can be recorded and monitored and shared with colleagues.

Progress towards KPIs can also be tracked across a wide range of parameters, linked to the review process so that managers can address any concerns with employees during upcoming review sessions. This allows for rapid performance related decision-making and a resilient approach to tracking and achieving objectives.

Monthly and quarterly reviews combined with regular check-ins

The fact sheet on strategic human resource management from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development notes that “highly skilled individuals with valuable human capital can only generate value if they also have positive relationships with their managers in a supportive environment with strong values.”

Continuous conversations through monthly and quarterly reviews in conjunction with regular one2one sessions provides the mechanism for strengthening those positive relationships with managers and providing the support needed to be resilient employees. Recurring monthly or weekly reviews to discuss progress towards objectives, overall performance and expectations moving forwards give managers and employees the insights necessary to make quick decisions in the event of a crisis.

Strategic HR management for resilient employees

In an interview with the Australian HR Institute, executive coach Josie Thompson outlined the importance of resilient employees for effective organisations:

“Employers want resilient employees who can deliver results by navigating through uncertainty and ambiguity, by handling change and pressure, and by using personal coping strategies to manage their stress levels. It’s our responsibility as HR practitioners to develop business leaders who are good role models and understand that employee health and wellbeing, and engagement, are a competitive advantage.”

The learning of new skills, strategies for overcoming stress, striking the right work/life balance and becoming more effective at time management are all aspects of resilience which strategic HR management can help foster with employees.

By identifying individuals who might be struggling with absences or failing to meet their KPIs. HR leaders can direct resources to help under-performers address skills gaps and up their game, and provide emotional support to those who may be struggling in the face of a crisis.