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Thought Leadership 10 March 2021

Resilience: what we can learn by looking back

Reflecting, adapting, and evolving. What we can learn from the pandemic one year on…

It’s been a year since the WHO (World Health Organisation) first made the announcement that the newly emerging health emergency was now a ‘world pandemic’ on March 11. And with 52 weeks, multiple lockdowns, and some of the most challenging circumstances any of us have ever faced, there’s one skill that we’ve had to lean on more than any others. That’s resilience.

Some of us might not think of ourselves as resilient; we may feel we’re barely treading water. However, it’s worth asking whether we’ve had a chance to hit pause and consider just how much we’ve achieved in the past year.

The power of reflection

Let’s just take ourselves all the way back to the beginning of the pandemic. Many of us may have started lockdown saying ‘we can’t’. We can’t work from home. We can’t make a successful pitch over Zoom. We can’t connect with our customers in the same way that we do in a face-to-face environment. However, what we’ve learned over the course of the past few months is that we can… because we did. All of us did. We pivoted. We flexed. We dug deep. And we got ourselves here, still standing, nearly a year after the pandemic first hit. It’s been incredibly hard, and continues to be, but we now know that if we had to do all these things again… well, we could do it.

One crucial benefit of looking back is allowing us to see just how far we’ve come. Insights recently worked with some of our NHS frontline heroes at University Hospital, Morcambe Bay Trust to help teams build resilience and cope with stress through the pandemic. You can read the full case study here. They told us how the pandemic had left their team feeling burnt out and exhausted. However, it was only when they took a moment to reflect on everything they’d achieved over the past few months that they were able to really see just how much they’d accomplished.

We aren’t all going to emerge from the pandemic exactly the same as we went into it. We often hear customers and colleagues in the Insights community talking about how they’ve had to switch up their personal communication style. Maybe they’ve had to dial up a certain colour energy to deliver what their team needs right now – or remote working has impacted how they show up each day. In fact, 71% of learners who have retaken their Insights Discovery evaluator since last March have changed wheel position. That’s resilience in a nutshell, right? Shifting, adapting and evolving to cope with the challenges and continue hitting goals – even despite the difficult circumstances.

Looking back… to spring forward

However, it’s not simply enough to look back. We also need to use that learning to spring ourselves forward. One thing we learned over the past few months is that some organisations weren’t ready for the level of change the pandemic required. Understandable, perhaps, but the facts remain: they just weren’t as nimble as they needed to be. As we edge towards the other side of the pandemic, we do so with the knowledge that change isn’t just something that happens after months of meticulous planning and preparedness. It can land at any time, with little warning, meaning that we may again need to do a one-eighty on our 5-year strategy at a moment’s notice.

And it’s not stopping, because 2021 is going to be another year of seismic change. US software company Salesforce declared that the 9-to-5 weekday is dead, re-opening the dialogue around continued remote working. The impact on mental health is huge, with the Financial Times reporting that 65% of Brits say that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health. These are all massive issues that we have to consider as we continue to shape our learning and development plans, our leaders, and our organizational culture. Not just at times of crisis, but from now on.

Embedding resilience in businesses

That’s the thing. Building resilient businesses doesn’t just fall at one door; it taps into so many levels of our organisations. Everything from how we enable the well-being of our staff, to how we stay connected as teams, to how we attract and retain a pipeline of talent that will keep our organisations primed and ready to pivot when they need to. It’s not just one area of the organisation that needs to be resilient, it’s the c-suite, the frontline, individuals, leaders, and whole teams. It’s only then we can ensure that our businesses are truly built to last in 2021.

The clocks go forward at the end of this month, and that seems like a marker to both reflect and move forward. If organisations want to prime their people for success, it’s important they learn from the lessons of last year and use them to fuel their future endeavours. Because resilience happens when we look back and learn from the past… in order to spring ourselves forward.

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