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Resilience: the Power Skill of the 2021 Workplace

What you Need to Know About Workplace Resilience Training

Canonized as the “power skill” for 2021, L&D leaders are citing resilience as the #1 or #2 must-have important skill in the workplace. 

The literature is flush with discussion of  strategic and operational business resilience training where the focus is on business continuity in times of crisis. We know, however, that organizations cannot survive nor have true business resilience without the human element to make it all work-- a resilient workforce. 

Resilience training can be a vital tool to keeping your workforce current and agile. We at findcourses.com are here to help! We’ve put together a comprehensive, practical understanding of this critical 2021 workplace skill. We even asked some training providers to weigh in on what you can expect out of resilience training activities. (Is it all incense and kumbaya?)  Read on to find out what the military has already known for 30 years.

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Increased Interest in Resilience

Interest in resilience as a topic has been increasing for several years. Up until recently, though, that interest has mostly been targeting broader topics like climate resilience, or organizational or infrastructure continuity. 

The pandemic changed all that. All the training providers we spoke to reported a “dramatic increase” in interest around their individual resilience training programs. 

In the wake of COVID social distancing orders, training providers also got the chance to show off their own resilience. According to ImprovEdge, “over 95% of our clients switched from in-person to virtual training overnight. We worked overtime to make sure we showed up as improvisers to support our stakeholders during an incredibly uncertain time.”  

Providers adapted quickly; re-working lessons and shifting their programs to digital delivery. To help as many people as possible cope with the pandemic’s uncertainty, Genos International even offered a range of free online training programs for the general public focusing on psychological well-being and resilience. 

“Resilience is key for a high performing culture as the world changes around us.”

Eagle’s Flight

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Why Should Employers Care about Resilience?

We’ve written previously how the public has squarely placed its trust at work. Employers are uniquely positioned to support employees in managing stress and building skills. Burnout is such a serious issue that Harvard Business Review called it one of the “most pressing topics facing business today” and published a 6-part series called, “The Burnout Crisis.”


Business bears the burden of impact of poor mental health and stress.

The Center for Workplace Mental Health quantified the economic burden of mental health as over $210 billion. Nearly half of these costs were attributed to the workplace-- absenteeism (missed days from work) and presenteeism (reduced productivity while at work). 

Stress and burnout have long been worrisome for American workplaces. Employees have been working at unsustainable levels since even before the pandemic hit. Organizations have been using makeshift solutions to weather through. They haven't addressed the actual mental and physical impact on workers. The pandemic was the straw that propelled mental health to crisis level, compelling the issue to finally be acknowledged. Simply put, workers nowadays are beyond burned out.

Enter the workplace burnout prevention strategy-- resilience.

What is Resilience Training in the Workplace?

Workplace resilience is defined as the capacity of an individual to withstand, bounce back from, and work through challenging circumstances or events at work. Examples of workplace situations might be managing a reorganization, a tough workload, or a frustrating colleague.

Key aspects of workplace resilience vary depending on who’s defining it. At its core, though, resilience skills teach an individual to:

  • form and maintain positive relationships,
  • self-regulate emotions like frustration, and
  • maintain a positive view and outlook on life.

Course provider, ImprovEdge, would say resilience is the ability to improvise during challenging or changing situations: 

“Resiliency is a key attribute of great improvisers. Professional improvisers adapt in the moment and bounce back with agility when they are met with a challenge on stage, similarly to how high performing companies seem to always bounce back in difficult situations.”

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Benefits of Resilience Training in the Workplace

Workplace resilience training has been shown as effective for improving a workplace’s functionality. It builds spirit and grit, well-being, and optimism. Employees learn how they can cope with adversity and push forward during challenging times.  Resilience training empowers individuals with a set of practical skills for work and personal life.

Resilience and stress management are two different things. Your organization may already have a robust wellness program in place to combat stress. Don’t be fooled, though, into believing you’re simultaneously training for resilience. 

Yoga classes, ping pong tables, and picnic lunches all encourage relaxation and stress management, but do not hit at the root. Nor do they attract all employees.

Resilience takes a long-term approach; it’s a proactive measure against mental distress, whereas stress management is more reactive to specific moments in time. Becoming resilient doesn't just help you get through a stressful time. Building resilience skills empowers you to learn how to stay resilient for the long haul.

“Elite performers in every field understand that individual and team peak performance and productivity do not come from blindly pushing harder and working longer.

Sustained individual, team, and organizational excellence is built on a foundation of resilience and energy – consistent, intentional practices which help us “burn bright” rather than burn out.“  

Center for Creative Leadership

Decades of empirical studies on the impact of resilience indicate that resilience:

  • Increases well-being and optimism
  • Reduces and prevents depression, anxiety, and conduct problems
  • Results in fewer substance abuse and mental health diagnoses
  • Improves workplace engagement and productivity
  • Improves physical health

The impact of resilience is profound. The Resilience Institute’s 4,000 person study found that mental distress symptoms decreased by 30% post resilience-training. 

Even when effects are not quantified, resilience training participants come away with high levels of satisfaction and positivity. Training provider Genos International shared insights from some of their resilience program attendees:

“This has really raised my mood today and put into perspective what’s important in our lives.”

“Reduces stress, helped me to focus on the right thing, gave me a calmer sleep.”

“This program could not have come at a better time. It really made me rethink my whole mindset on work stress.”

“It made me conscious of what to be thankful for...which is plenty...instead of focusing on the bad news and crisis we are in now.”

“This mindful practice is a safe refuge from the deluge of incoming information each day.”

“By far, one of the most useful programs I’ve attended all year.”

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Who Should Have Resilience Training?

Individuals, teams, and leadership from a variety of organizations-- including the military, first responders, and professional sports--have all trained in resilience.

The benefits of resilience training compounds at every level.  According to ADP Research Institute’s “Global Workplace Study 2020” of nearly 27,000 employees in 28 countries, resilience and engagement levels rise with your role

The same study shows that senior managers are inherently more resilient and engaged than lower-level employees. Let’s keep in mind, though, what the pandemic taught us about the essential nature of the front-line worker. 

It’s the mid- and lower- levels that keep an organization running. Support given to these workers will critically assist them, especially during times of uncertainty, change, and crisis. By building workplace resilience skills within the entire organization, L&D strengthens business resiliency strategies.

resilience impact

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Create a Workplace Culture that Supports Resilience

L&D managers should view resilience training activities as part of their overall role in business continuity planning. Systems and infrastructure continuity are vital during a crisis. Yet, those same systems are useless without the people to support or use them. A resilient workforce with a resilient mindset is the backbone of a truly resilient organization. 

Creating a workplace culture that supports resilience is not a straightforward endeavor. Historically (pre-pandemic), resilience programs have struggled with a lack of participation. Reasons for this have included: perceived time constraints and a disinterest in sticking out as someone who needs help. So, how can you increase participation in resilience training?

Employees are more likely to participate in resilience training activities if:

  • leadership supports and encourages them to do so. 

  • managers and senior leadership also take part. Resilience training should be offered to all employees

  • the organization’s wellbeing programs are incorporated into this resilience mindset. Encourage use of vacation days, workplace health programs, and professional development.

  • managers share the job-specific benefits of the training with individuals.

Furthermore, L&D managers can provide specific examples of what participants can expect during a training session. This can help to combat any misconception of resilience training as just psychobabble and positive thinking.

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What Does Workplace Resilience Training Look Like?

Pre-pandemic, this type of training would’ve been on-site and not easily scalable. The pandemic-precipitating digital transformation brings resilience training activities online and available to the masses. 

Targeting resilience helps workers improve their Emotional Intelligence (EI). Individuals with strong EI, then, increase their chances of success. 

Training partner Genos International develops attendees' EI as part of their resilience training. Their program includes a series of practical, guided mindfulness and gratitude exercises:

  • Breathing techniques
  • Relationship strategies for helping others
  • Self-awareness activities
  • Mindful listening
  • Self-compassion practices

Since they originate from common roots, these are some of the core resilience practices that will look the same across providers. 

Resilience training these days can also be designed for maximum hands-on skills practice. For example, training provider Eagle’s Flight offers a themed virtual experience. It's used to set the stage for an experiential learning session. Participants engage in role play to “draw out lessons [in adaptability] in setting the vision, communication, optimizing impact, resilience, and the importance of high-functioning teams.” 

resilience teaches

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Resilience Training: Life Skills for Home and Office

Effective resilience training teaches participants personal and professional applications for their new skills. We know that employees who are unhappy at home bring that mental baggage to the workplace. It affects workplace productivity, interactions, and more. Teaching employees how to be resilient at home is an obligation that organizations should encourage. 

The Center for Creative Leadership takes a practical approach to training, keeping human behavior in mind:

“[A] core component of CCL’s approach to resilience is its focus on the power of the “energy microburst.” We can achieve a meaningful energy and positivity boost in small time periods of 12 minutes or less. 

Our sessions teach participants how research-based recharge tactics (gratitude, mindfulness, movement, awe, savoring the moment, music, breathing exercises, etc.)-- practiced in short bursts throughout the day--  build the foundation for new energy routines and rituals.

With many employees working from home, our virtual program focuses on practices that can be applied easily wherever they are. Some recommendations we give for building resilience during pandemic protocols include tips around establishing boundaries between work and home life, which have merged for many. 

We suggest setting “Out of Office” replies during lunch, after work hours, and on weekends. Another great practice is to take calls outside when possible. Even better if you can set at least one recurring meeting to be a “walk and talk.” Get some exercise when video calls aren’t necessary.”

As organizations formalize their work from home policy shifts, the boundaries between home and work will continue to blur. Mental distress and burnout will continue to be significant issues. Stress will also become more challenging for organizations to manage off-site. 

Building resilience in the workforce is the ultimate burnout resistance strategy. Staff at all levels in an organization can beat burnout with a resilient, growth mindset. Training for resilience empowers individuals with practical skills for work and beyond. 

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findcourses.com would like to thank training providers Center for Creative Leadership, Eagle's Flight, Genos International, and ImprovEdge for their contributions to this article.

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About the author

Rama Eriksson is a Content Editor at findcourses.com. Her writing is complemented by 15+ years as a marketing professional. She brings her experience and curiosity to connect professionals to the right training to help further their goals.  Originally from the New York area, Rama has lived in Stockholm, Sweden since 2010.

rama eriksson

Last updated: 06 Aug 2021

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