People power: building resilient organisations

Resilient Organisations researchers from the University of Canterbury are hoping their ground breaking work on employee resilience will help businesses lay the foundations for a more successful future – whatever the challenge.

Katharina Näswall, Joana Kuntz and Sanna Malinen have developed a scale, aimed at measuring an employee’s resilience level. Resilience is an individual’s ability to successfully adapt to change and use this capacity to overcome challenging situations.

Katharina says that an employee’s resilience level is something that can be developed and strengthened, often through the workplace environment.

“We propose that an open, supportive, collaborative and learning orientated work environment fosters employee resilience. All organisations, small or large, can help their employees become more resilient.”

Katharina says workplaces that are aware of staff resilience can work on methods to improve it. This creates wider organisational benefits including increased productivity, output and potential financial gain.

“If you don’t measure resilience you can’t control it – and you don’t know what needs to be done to improve it. If you want a resilient organisation in itself, you need to challenge-proof your employees. Organisations can develop and get better at employee resilience and in turn employees can be enabled by the organisation.”

The team has tested the Employee Resilience Scale (EmpRes) across both blue and white collar organisations.
Employees were asked to rate themselves on a scale of 1-5 in response to 12 statements. The variables were wide ranging and aimed to give a comprehensive picture of an employee’s resilience level.

Katharina says the research showed that employees placed high emphasis on the organisational and social factors of the workplace environment. These included having clearly defined work roles and expectations, clear reporting lines and being able to access support and guidance if required.

Workplaces with a learning orientated culture, where mistakes were seen as an opportunity for development and workers were encouraged to ask questions, had a higher level of employee resilience than those where these situations were perceived negatively.

In turn this higher level of resilience meant employees were better equipped to deal with challenges both inside and outside the work environment, including restructuring, workload and changes in personal circumstances.
“The scale has primarily been thought of in a research sense. Researchers can work with the organisation to provide information to the employer so they know where their employees are at,” says Katharina.

The group is continuing to tweak the scale and will continue further testing to increase its validity.
Katharina hopes in time the scale, in conjunction with the Resilient Organisations Benchmark Resilience Tool, will be able to provide a direct link between employee resilience and organisational outcomes.

“I hope this research helps highlight to organisations how much they have to gain by focusing on employee resilience.”

For further information on Employee Resilience or the EmpRes Scale go to or contact Katharina Näswall.
Email: [email protected]

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