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Can a resilient workforce spark new growth?


November 10, 2021

In the wake of a tumultuous year and a half, people are reflecting on what they value in life and in their work experiences. Many feel a lack of purpose in their work, and they believe they aren’t receiving genuine support from their employers. They want to feel cared for as human beings. This phenomenon is leading to the “Great Resignation” as people leave their employer to find purpose and support elsewhere.

I desperately needed support at my job in my late 20s. I was just building momentum in my career and suddenly, I had to become a caregiver. My mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. My career might have stalled but instead, I had the unwavering support of a leader who encouraged me to take care of my family and trusted that the work would still be delivered. That support enabled me to be more engaged, committed and productive. My impact to the business doubled and I advanced in my career, even while working less than 40 hours a week “on the job.”

So, what can you do as a leader to help others feel supported? How can you build resiliency within the organization, in teams and among individuals—especially now when the workforce is distributed in a hybrid model? I’d like to share a few ideas, based on my work and life experiences.

Galvanize people

Your business has a purpose. Do individuals feel they are part of that purpose and contributing directly to it? Forming small, agile, diverse teams is a powerful way to connect people to collectively solve a challenge for the business or co-create new innovations to benefit customers.

I have one life sciences client that creates small sprint teams to address health equity. These sprints are conducted virtually, and yet, they are impactful. They start small with a “how might we?” question and then experiment and deliver together. There is a certain magic that can happen in small teams. People accomplish a lot, and they feel good knowing that their contributions are worthwhile and support the goals and purpose of the business.

Measure and share progress transparently

People want to know their efforts are recognized and appreciated. They want to have an impact on what matters most. Encourage teams to actively share feedback amongst each other in real time, but also make it a point to ask about the work and what they are achieving. Celebrate both the wins and the failures, which lead to a better next try.

We have found great success in using the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework. These OKRs serve as both an anchoring and orientation point, but also allow people to tackle the challenges of the enterprise collectively. For instance, a business could establish an OKR related to psychological safety or employee engagement and track outcomes in a top-down, bottom-up fashion. The OKRs could be adjusted quarterly, but they can also be used to drive day-to-day action. Leaders can unlock up to 5x more human potential by better managing peoples’ everyday work experiences.

Create meaningful connections

Sometimes it just takes one conversation to make a world of difference. It’s OK to ask questions and be interested in people’s lives. In a hybrid or virtual environment, it may be more challenging to do this than in-person, but you can find those opportunities. For instance, at the start of a video call, take a moment to be present and show appreciation for the team. Do it with intention. If Mary mentioned visiting her elderly parents on the last call, ask how the visit went. Show that you pay attention. If no one goes on camera and that is unusual for your team, check to see if folks are feeling low, or they need a 5-10-minute break.

Be someone who genuinely cares about the humans you meet every day. If someone seems off, ask them what support they need. Make sure that the people you work with and who work for you know that you value them for who they are, not for just what they produce.

Future of work: Productive anywhere

Support human potential in today’s evolving environment

There’s no denying these are tough times for people. Work and life overlap now, so we must be more mindful about people’s overall health and well-being, as well as their motivations and inspiration. There are so many things we can do as business leaders, as colleagues—as humans—to support each other.

Let’s give each other emotional support and grace. Let’s encourage purpose-driven collaboration and innovation. And let’s help build resilience in our workforce by leaving people net better off. It’s good for people, and it will pave the way to growth as your organization flourishes.

Shannon Adkins was nominated as one of 2021 Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business Honorees.


Shannon Adkins

Managing Director – Talent & Organization