How to build a resilient and enduring firm, no matter the size, with the help of your people

At BSI we believe organisational resilience is the ability of a business to anticipate, prepare for, respond and adapt to incremental change and sudden disruptions in order to survive and prosper. It is a principle that enables businesses to unlock the potential to foster long-term growth. It’s a framework that encourages businesses to take measured risks, to be innovative and embrace change in order to spring forward.

A great example of this in action is Lego. In 2003 Lego suffered a £217m global loss, the worst recorded in its history. But, surprising some, the company bounced back and regained its position as one of the world’s most cherished brands. Its ascension even saw it rise to the top of the power brands list in 2015, a title earned in the same year the brand appointed its very own dedicated organisational resilience officer coincidentally.

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Of course, not everyone will be able to appoint someone with the sole responsibility of making an organisation more resilient, but there are still plenty of lessons that can be learnt from the likes of Lego and applied to great effect.

Looking externally is important of course, and bosses need to have a full understanding of their supply chain in order to protect themselves from disruption. However, looking internally is just as important. Here, putting in place initiatives that help create a strong culture of employee empowerment and innovation can make a huge contribution towards resilient businesses.

There are many ways to drive engagement and this is somewhere that smaller businesses can have an advantage over their larger peers, responding more rapidly to employee feedback and ideas.

We identify “people culture” as one of the three fundamental elements alongside product excellence and process reliability that drive resilience in an organisation. Contemporary organisations are inclusive and consultative, not simply dictating rules to be followed, but encouraging employee behaviour to become an integral part of their job and their organisation’s culture. The challenge for the organisation is to understand, articulate and demonstrate its values clearly, so that everyone “lives” them, not because they’ve been told to, but because “it’s the way we do things around here”.

Booking.com attributes much of its ongoing success in large part to its entrepreneurial culture, where small teams are invited to make improvements to the site that are then tested based on whether they drive increased bookings. This approach to decision-making enables the company to adapt more quickly to shifting trends, which has helped it stay ahead of its competition.

Other organisations rely on a combination of training, mentoring and challenges to drive innovative thinking across the workforce. Adobe, for example, has its Kickbox award, where any employee with a big idea receives $1,000 (and a box of treats) to prototype, test and iterate their concept. Whilst budgets might not always stretch to allow this, these types of initiatives can both help generate new ideas for the business and make employees feel like their voice is heard.

Continuing the concept of financial reward schemes, American Greek yogurt maker Chobani recently incentivised its team of employees by giving all staff company shares, an act that made some millionaires overnight, on paper at least. This is a practice that many small businesses across the UK are employing to attract talent, and it’s an obvious tactic for promoting a strong people culture. After all, for many small teams, people really can make the difference.

Not all small businesses will be in a position to offer shares to employees, however. Looking at another approach, Zappos has succeeded in creating a strong company culture by giving employees the freedom to be themselves, according to CEO Tony Hsieh. Focusing on the concept of happiness and employee well-being, Zappos encourages different regional offices to blow off steam in unique and fun ways. One example being an interdepartmental Nerf gun battle. Truly, tactics for inspiring strong people culture comes in many forms.

Of course, no organisation is immune to stumbling, even one that thinks intelligently about how to motivate its staff and create a great culture. But those that foster an holistic view of business health and success and look to continuously improve not just their products, but also their processes and people, are the ones that ought not merely survive, but also flourish – passing the test of time.

Mark Basham is MD EMEA at BSI.

Image: Shutterstock

Sarah Westmorland, people resourcing director at Helen & Douglas House, tells us why resilience is so vital in an emotional job and what employers can do to help improve it.

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