HR team resilience

Resilience is a word becoming so frequently used in the workplace that it has almost lost its meaning. But once defined and understood – as a robustness to recover from difficult situations – HR teams will be far better equipped to be more resilient in 2019, particularly when it comes to the myriad of challenges posed by evolving employment legislation. Here, Arwen Makin, senior solicitor at ESP Law, shares her 5 ways to develop that all-important resilience skill…

1. Understand the individual-organisational resilience relationship

Individual resilience is a very personal thing, influenced by an array of factors ranging from previous experiences and private support networks, to traits, characteristics and life aspirations. However, a team member is far more likely to exhibit resilience if the workplace environment is one that encourages the collective to thrive irrespective of what is thrown at them. Much of this comes down to organisational culture, the strength of the team dynamic and the adaptability to change.

That team dynamic will also prove crucial in fostering a collaborative sense of supportiveness that prevents the formation of a blame culture. In the absence of a straight-talking team dynamic, misunderstanding and miscommunication is more likely, which can lead to feelings of isolation and even allegations of bullying or harassment.  In the worst cases this could escalate to a constructive-dismissal-type scenario, which could have easily been avoided.

2. Set a mission for your team

A clear and well communicated mission gives an HR team a shared sense of purpose to strive for. Armed with this direction, they are far more likely to work through any setbacks that they encounter along the way, whether planned for or unexpected.

A mission is arguably more important than ever given the pace of change in the current business landscape and wider economic climate. Distractions and interruptions can now arise on a daily basis, which could soon prove a drain on motivation without a reminder as to why everyone is doing their job.

From that all-important legal perspective, a mission also provides a clear indication of expectations – without this, unfair capability dismissal procedures can be all too common.

3. Look for trends and root causes

Most HR professionals have come to accept that they can’t control all circumstances around them – the best laid plans can soon become disrupted by an unanticipated employee relations issue, for example, which requires urgent attention. But this sense of fire-fighting can become a real morale-eater if common frustrations are allowed to keep happening.

By analysing the bigger picture, identifying trends and uncovering any underlying issues – or opportunities – the root cause of some of these recurring problems can hopefully be addressed before they escalate to become a potential employment law issue.

Consequently, HR teams will also have greater time to concentrate on the more value-adding elements of their roles, which undoubtedly have the power to transform the organisation and contribute to the mission described above.

4. Communicate, celebrate and appreciate

Communication is widely acknowledged as one of the most crucial parts to engagement, which is why savvy HR teams spend so much time developing strong lines of dialogue with the workforce. But Human Resources colleagues deserve equal treatment. So, monitor and measure progress, communicate and celebrate achievements, and don’t underestimate the power of thanks. This approach reinforces all of the points mentioned above – it reminds people why the hard work matters, the power of their collective efforts and the contribution they are making to the organisation.  

It also prevents any sense of disillusionment, which loops back to the risks associated with miscommunication and misunderstanding, mentioned above.

It is important to remember however, that it isn’t humanly possible to perform optimally all of the time! Expectations – linked to those mentioned in point 3 – must therefore be realistic and fair.

5. A continued commitment to learning

Continually seeking out professional knowledge in the evolving world of employment law, can equip HR teams with a more resilient toolkit, for the various scenarios they may encounter. This is not to say that HR managers should be verging on employment lawyers themselves, as experts exist to provide the insight and advice that they need. But some up-to-date insight is extremely valuable –knowledge is power after all.

More defined resilience training is also an option if steps 1-4 don’t feel enough. HR professionals need to develop and maintain social coping skills that enable them to act as a buffer in high stress or confrontational situations when other colleagues need support. It must also be acknowledged that HR professionals are often seen as the ‘bad guys’ – this can take its toll so self-care is imperative.


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Author: Arwen Makin

Senior Solicitor, ESP Law Ltd

After studying law at Cambridge University, Arwen trained at leading national law firm Mills & Reeve, qualifying into their employment team in 2002. Arwen has extensive employment law experience, having advised both employers and employees on a wide range of employment issues. Prior to joining ESP she previously worked for a number of years providing advice and representation to both trade unions and their members, and has a particular expertise in the education sector. Due to her diverse experience she is ideally placed to give advice in relation to professional conduct and regulatory matters.