Identifying Top Talent - Resilience

Employability Today: Part 2

In Part 1 of the Employability Today series we looked at the evolution of employability and how the corporate ladder is all but extinct. With the emergence of flatter organizational structures the traditional employment contract has drastically changed to that of a shared contract. This change has impacted the organization’s obligation to its employees, shifting from “we’ll take care of you and your career” to “we have a responsibility to help keep you employable.” To create a win/win situation, employer and employee must share the responsibility for maintaining employability.  

In Part 2 of the Employability Today series we will look at how to identify Employable Talent in an interview to be sure you are hiring the best candidate for your company. Progressive organizations will embrace this new concept of keeping employees employable to maintain profitability, the health and well-being of their Employable Talent, and effective business practice in the global marketplace. This new thinking requires understanding the Four Pillars of Employable Talent and recognizing their importance to each of the people you employ. This proactive approach to your Employable Talent represents the key tenets of today’s employment agreement.

Resilience in the workplace -

My research of executives who have experienced unplanned but successful career transitions indicates that they prevailed because they possessed a high degree of resilience. Resilience is akin to when a tree faces a strong headwind and bends but does not break. Whether an individual has learned or acquired or simply possesses a natural tendency to be resilient, the trait demonstrably enhances that person’s adaptability to unwelcome developments along the career path.  
 

I’ve seen that resilience enhances one’s adaptability to change. While this truth is applicable to positive transitions, it’s more evident when people face adversity. In these situations, resilient individuals are able to respond in self-supporting ways. They can objectively assess the situation, identify a potential strategy for moving on, and make the hard decisions that many people end up postponing indefinitely. Resilient people are willing to “pay the price” to get back on the road to success and are motivated to do so.  

Fired.jpgConsider the issue of termination. At least once, nearly every senior-level executive has had direct responsibility for terminating employees. As one executive pointed out, “I am wondering if we’ve forgotten somehow what it is like to be that person on the other side of the desk. When it comes time to have the separation conversation, it’s important to remember how the conversation is impacting the other party.”  

At the same time, executives who believe that they are innately resilient feel that, in a tough career situation, such as a termination, people will have a far better time getting through the process if they are the type of person who can look objectively at a situation, plan, and prepare.   

Without the aid of their employers, individuals who’ve recognized in themselves the capacity for resilience often do not understand exactly what they possess. One executive exclaimed, “I don’t know how to characterize my quick emotional rebound; I think I am just me. I had to do something, and I wasn’t going to sit around and feel sorry for myself. It’s as simple as that.” Another executive who had been terminated from his position showed resilience as he unemotionally commented, “I can do it. And I realize that there’s no sense in dwelling on this.”   

You can emotionally toughen yourself by looking toward the future, anticipating your next move, and establishing an alternative game plan. The people who do the best once receiving such shocking news tend to maintain a strong sense of self. They stay relatively optimistic. They have an ability to analyze the situation objectively. They are comfortable taking appropriate risks, and they keep an eye to the future.   

Such career professionals strive for buoyancy. One executive joked to his wife saying, “What’s next?” Another made the observation, “Life’s got to go on... I’m the way to make it happen.” Clearly, it is to one’s advantage to carefully observe how other individuals cope with unexpected and perhaps undesirable career changes and to make mental notes on the successful strategies upon which people have relied. Thus, making observations and assembling lessons learned can help to strengthen one’s resilience.   

Among some resilient individuals, each career and life challenge is viewed as if it were all a game. Challenges and obstacles are to be embraced. They are springboards to greater accomplishments and a more stimulating existence. A downturn on the job—even summarily being fired—is a big challenge. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s one of the many challenges that life presents. Survey some of the top leaders and executives in all industries and professions, and you will find that nearly everyone has a story about a job at which they failed during some aspect of their careers.   

Spotting a High-Resilience Individual

One of the biggest blind spots and most difficult of the Four Pillars to ascertain in an interview process is resilience. It is much easier to assess the remaining pillars through external sources such as background checks, financial checks, and conversation, but to truly evaluate a candidate’s resiliency takes practice. But, having a highly resilient employee on your staff is to your benefit as they can see an obstacle as guidepost along the path to a project or their career success.  They are able to adapt in various situations making them viable and gravitating toward optimal solutions. 
 
How can you tell if someone you’re interviewing is likely to have a high resilience factor? While there may be no foolproof test, the following questions will yield a wealth of information: 
  • How empathetic are you with others?
  • Are you a good listener?
  • Do you have a well-developed sense of intuition, and do you trust it?
  • Are you able to read and quote other people easily?
  • Have difficult career or life experiences helped you become stronger?
  • Are you able to find positive aspects in a bad situation?
  • Can you convert an unfortunate experience into something positive?
  • Can you calm yourself in bad situations and focus on effective actions?
  • Are you usually optimistic, expecting things will turn out for the best?
  • Do you regard most difficulties as merely temporary?
  • Can you proceed in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty?
  • Do you have a healthy self-concept; are you generally self- confident?
  • Are you able to improvise when things don’t go according to plan?
Positive responses to eight or more of these questions signify that you’re in the presence of a resilient individual. Positive responses to four or more questions reveal average resilience with the potential for increased resilience through learning and adopting new outlooks. Less than four positive responses likely indicates low resiliency skills. 

What a Resilient Organization Looks Like

What makes for a highly resilient organization? Organizational resilience is an ongoing process not well-defined in the literature. Commonly observed and accepted characteristics of the resilient organization include a commitment to its human resources, a focus on balanced talent management, an active role in the community, an effective PR/communications office that disseminates timely news and information about the organization, competence in the delivery of its products and services, and good corporate citizenship, as evidenced by social awareness. In addition, the organization must demonstrate and continue to seek other ways to support the environment in multiple ways.

Resilient, successful companies tend to adroitly handle two opposing demands:

1) They achieve consistent performance and satisfactory growth by optimizing short-term efforts, streamlining operations, and reducing waste.

2) They adapt to shifting situations by maintaining a long- term focus, creatively approaching challenges, improvising and experimenting when necessary, and anticipating market shifts.  

Resilient Leaders

Resilient leadershipResilient leaders are a vital part of a resilient organization. This is because organizations don’t necessarily attain resilience merely by retaining resilient individuals; organizational resiliency trickles down from top management to the rank and file.

In general, organizational resiliency can increase the relative level of resilience across the organization’s top leaders, managers, and staff. A resilient, nurturing organization can directly influence its leaders’ capacity for resilience and indirectly assist them in identifying and enhancing their personal assets.

Top-down resiliency can also help executives and key staff maintain a broader sense of optimism, appropriately manage risk, and uphold and support the positive values upon which the organization was founded and built. The resilient executive who is committed to the values of the organization is likely to have a greater appreciation of other individuals’ experiences, capabilities, and talents and is better able to serve as a mentor to others.

The resilient executive can have an impact on new hires. New employees might not have fully embraced its values and culture; still, some may adapt the outlook and can-do attitude they observe in their supervisors, despite questioning their own capabilities in the first days, weeks, and months on the job.

The impact of a resilient supervisor, for example, could well enable a new hire to recover quickly from early setbacks and even serve as a model for developing resiliency without the new staff member even being aware that the process is taking place.

Leaders, as well as other Employable Talent, who increase their resiliency are better able to meet the variety of challenges they encounter. They can persist when confronted by complex challenges and figuratively pull themselves up by their own bootstraps to ultimately succeed despite the obstacles. As a person’s resiliency continues to develop, it positively impacts that individual’s range of experiences, arsenal of available tools, and potential for future success.    
 
In Part 3 of the Employability Today Series we will look at the second pillar of Employable Talent- Balance. Achieving a healthy work/life balance is vital, more than one would think. We'll look at how to obtain balance, how it affects a potential candidate's performance in your organization, and how to spot those with characteristics of balance.   

 

 

 

Dr. David Miles is Chairman of the Miles LeHane Companies, Inc.  He is a member of the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) and a member and founding chapter President of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a member of the Association of Career Professionals (ACP) and a Charter Fellow of the Institute of Career Certification International (ICC International), as the largest global non-profit certification Institute.  Dr. Miles is also the author of "The Four Pillars of Employable Talent" and "Building Block Essentials".  Follow Dr. David Miles on Twitter @David_C_Miles

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