Request a demo
Back to Blog

5 key differentiators of resilient organizations, according to research

October 26, 2020 - 6 min read

The pandemic has thrust organizations into an uncomfortable and unfamiliar reality: nothing is certain anymore. Yet within this unchartered territory, some companies are not just managing to cope, they are actually thriving (we’re looking at you Zoom!). We’ve witnessed this ingenuity at an unprecedented speed and scale, from all sizes and types of companies. Your local neighborhood restaurant has pivoted to become a grocery provider, while real estate companies are rethinking contactless office spaces. Taking control of our new reality through agility and adaptation is a surefire way for organizations to survive and thrive as a company—while at the same time realizing benefits for the workforce.

With this new reality as a backdrop to keeping a business alive and growing, new research from BetterUp found that it comes down to resilience. In particular, organizations that find opportunity for growth during times of adversity emerge with a stronger business and workforce that catalyzes their continued growth and competitiveness. Even more profound, this strength comes from the growth and flourishing of leaders and frontline workers alike. The study, “Resilience in an Age of Uncertainty,” looked at data from tens of thousands of professionals to uncover what sets successful organizations apart during this time. 

Here are the five key differentiators that set highly resilient organizations up for success in the current times. The good news is that these are all practices that can be adopted by any organization to boost their workforce in good and challenging times. 

A resilient workforce is one that is highly agile and innovative. In the face of shifting productivity in response to market and economic volatility, competition has increased and we’ve found that resilient workers have more flexible thinking, contribute to more agile teams, and are over 20% more innovative. In today’s world, the only way to stay ahead of competitors is to be in a state of continual innovation. While this can be taxing for many organizations, the agility, curiosity, and insights that are found in the DNA of the most innovative and successful companies go hand in hand with individuals and teams that are more resilient.

The most resilient talent is supported in their mental, physical, and social wellbeing. These findings build on decades of research demonstrating the value of multiple types of support to help an individual be resilient in times of adversity. In the early days of the pandemic, we found that the most resilient individuals engaged in almost 40% more physical activity, experienced better quality sleep, and found almost 20% more social support compared to those with low resilience. And these behaviors helped bolster work productivity at a time when less resilient individuals saw a 28% decline in productivity.

Resilient leaders are able to effectively influence the resilience of their colleagues and teams. At the forefront of the most innovative organizations are the resilient leaders who model this resilience for their colleagues and teams. These leaders act as a force multiplier. Importantly, teams of the most resilient leaders are not only more agile and collaborative, but they also have more than 50% lower burnout, are less likely to leave, and actually feel 57% greater purpose in their work. This is all good news, especially during stressful times that present challenges to even everyday responsibilities such as caring for loved ones while balancing full-time work.

The most resilient professionals invest in themselves through continuous and personalized learning and development. It is challenging to find and grow a highly resilient workforce, but we uncovered the key practice of the most resilient professionals: they take the time and effort to invest in their personal and professional growth and development. We find that the most resilient leaders spend 14% more time, and get greater qualitative benefits from, activities such as one-one-one personalized coaching as compared to their least resilient colleagues. Such investment in personalized growth compounds over time and yields greater beneficial results than more traditional or generic methods of development.

Resilience is both measurable and can be grown. Any organization looking to bolster its resilience, from individuals through their C-suite, must be focused on taking resilience out of the black box and appreciate that resilience is measurable and can be developed. Martin Seligman, professor, author, and “Father of Positive Psychology” in his book, Learned Optimism, explains how the ability to be resilient, joyful, and optimistic can be cultivated and learned just like any other skill. Using a multidimensional view of resilience that takes into account the qualities like cognitive agility, emotional regulation and optimism that comprise resilience and repeated assessments to track individual growth, organizations can grow the resilience of a workforce in a personalized, cost- and time-efficient manner. 

A focus on resilience is a powerful strategy to reinforce productivity and performance across the workforce today, while building long-term resources to weather ongoing changes. And as it becomes clear that the only certainty we can expect for the foreseeable future is uncertainty, organizational leaders can take back control by empowering their people with resilience —perhaps the most critical, powerful, and long-lasting personal and professional capability of our time.


This article originally appeared on Training


Published October 26, 2020

Read Next

5 min read | May 11, 2021

What happens when organizations care about well-being?

Overall, when organizations care about well-being, the benefits return in the form of a more highly engaged workforce, that is more committed to the organization, better able... Read More
8 min read | November 19, 2021

Why women aren’t returning to the workplace

High unemployment threatens to wipe out a decades’ worth of economic advancement for women. Here’s how organizations can help Read More
7 min read | February 1, 2022

The significant upside of reducing and preventing burnout

Managing the effects of burnout not only prevents negative feelings, it promotes positive attitudes that have far reaching impact for both individuals and organizations Read More
4 min read | February 24, 2021

The resilient bounce back stronger

Global pandemics create disruption and stress in ways many of us have never faced before. But, on the other side of this, organizations can come out stronger. Read More
Research & Insights
16 min read | February 9, 2022

Inner Work® at work: 4 companies leading the way in unlocking the potential of their employees

When workplaces commit to supporting Inner Work®, powerful transformations occur for individuals and organizations. In today’s rapidly shifting economy, companies that do... Read More
Research & Insights
17 min read | January 24, 2022

When the new normal is a no-show: Why future-mindedness is the mindset organizations need now

For organizations, the inability to plan in the face of uncertainty is affecting their leaders, employees, and customers. BetterUp's research reveals a key future-oriented... Read More
Diversity & Inclusion
6 min read | May 6, 2021

One reason your diversity initiative isn’t moving numbers

When organizations ignore the belonging piece of the DIEB puzzle, they often continue to have diverse representation issues — especially at the higher levels of the... Read More
Leadership & Management
6 min read | October 13, 2020

The key to a more resilient organization is more resilient teams

It’s time for companies to act, not simply react to unexpected crises. To prepare, organizations must cultivate resilience. Read More
6 min read | September 14, 2021

How to help working parents navigating back-to-school

Considering all they have on their plates, it’s no surprise working parents are feeling the pressure this fall. Yet many don't feel support from their organizations. Read More

Stay connected with BetterUp

Get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research.