Fos­ter­ing Re­silien­cy at the Cross­roads of Try­ing Times: A Tool­box for Em­ploy­ee Agili­ty

Lucy Abreu, Em­ploy­ee En­gage­ment and Change Man­age­ment, Sy­neos Health
Kath­leen Starr, PhD, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Be­hav­ioral In­sights, Sy­neos Health

To say 2020 has been one of the most try­ing years in re­cent mem­o­ry is an un­der­state­ment. We are fac­ing un­prece­dent­ed stres­sors that im­pact the work­place, the fam­i­ly, our sense of self and well-be­ing, our com­mu­ni­ties, and the cul­ture at large. We are not on­ly “shel­ter­ing in place,” but con­sum­ing a dai­ly di­et of stress­ful news and un­cer­tain­ty. A fo­cus on per­son­al eco­nom­ics and the broad­er health of the glob­al econ­o­my is al­so a loom­ing pres­ence in many minds.

Build­ing Em­ploy­ee Re­silience

En­vi­ron­men­tal, so­cial, racial and eco­nom­ic chal­lenges have cre­at­ed a re­newed fo­cus on ef­fec­tive em­ploy­ee en­gage­ment, en­sur­ing pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, sup­port­ing em­ploy­ee men­tal and emo­tion­al health and find­ing our col­lec­tive way in the new nor­mal. This all has mea­sur­able and im­me­di­ate im­pacts on busi­ness such as low­ered pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, ab­sen­teeism and pre­sen­teeism.

We hu­mans are high­ly adapt­able to our en­vi­ron­ments, in­clud­ing our abil­i­ty to deal with long-term stress­es. But that skillset – our propen­si­ty for re­silience – can be de­plet­ed. The good news, how­ev­er, is that re­silience can be shored up. Be­hav­ioral sci­ence shows us that re­silience isn’t a per­son­al­i­ty trait. In­stead, it is a skill. Much like a mus­cle, reg­u­lar use of our re­silience will build its strength.

The Case for Re­silien­cy Com­mu­ni­ca­tions

re·sil·ience (/rəˈzi­lyəns/) – the ca­pac­i­ty to re­cov­er quick­ly from dif­fi­cul­ties; tough­ness. Noun
– Ox­ford Dic­tio­nary

Re­silien­cy com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­lies heav­i­ly on two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion – lis­ten­ing to em­ploy­ee needs and con­cerns, elim­i­nat­ing any ob­sta­cles you can and, at the least, re­flect­ing back to teams that they are heard, and that you are striv­ing to ad­dress all of their con­cerns.

Fur­ther, your or­ga­ni­za­tion can help fos­ter a sense of pur­pose among em­ploy­ees. Help­ing teams iden­ti­fy the val­ue they bring to the work­place and what di­rect and in­di­rect im­pacts they have on the com­pa­ny.

Left: As the 2020 crises wax­es and wanes over time, we can ex­pect our em­ploy­ees’ stress re­spons­es to fol­low suit. Right: Abil­i­ty to cope and be re­silient nat­u­ral­ly de­clines over time. Source: Sy­neos Health

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

Craft a Re­silien­cy Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Plan

So how do we ad­vance busi­ness goals in spite of a dis­placed work­force? By de­vel­op­ing a thought­ful, fu­ture-proof­ing plan you can re­vi­tal­ize your work­force and im­part agili­ty in the face of un­cer­tain­ty and anx­i­ety.

We’ve iden­ti­fied three steps to­ward re­vi­tal­iza­tion. Keep in mind, your or­ga­ni­za­tion’s cul­ture and needs may re­quire dif­fer­ent tac­tics, but the over­all frame­work per­sists.

  • Con­sid­er your or­ga­ni­za­tion’s spe­cif­ic needs. Think about your com­pa­ny’s style, size and glob­al reach. What train­ing needs do your man­agers, em­ploy­ees and part­ners need?
  • Com­mit to trans­paren­cy. In­so­far as your or­ga­ni­za­tion will al­low legal­ly, reg­u­la­to­ri­ly and cul­tur­al­ly, we strong­ly urge you to shoot straight with your em­ploy­ees. Even if you don’t have an an­swer for a par­tic­u­lar need, open com­mu­ni­ca­tion about each is­sue is a best prac­tice.
  • De­ter­mine the ca­dence of com­mu­ni­ca­tions. You may find your or­ga­ni­za­tion will thrive on more or less in­for­ma­tion than an­oth­er. De­pend­ing on your or­ga­ni­za­tion’s cul­ture, you may choose to hold a se­ries of one-on-one meet­ings, in­vite small groups to vir­tu­al fire­side chats, or de­vel­op a “Car­ing Col­league” phone tree for em­ploy­ees to make them­selves avail­able to col­leagues for emo­tion­al sup­port.

Ad­dress the Per­son not Just the Em­ploy­ee

Giv­en the on­go­ing na­ture of this cri­sis there is more em­pha­sis now on one-to-one con­nec­tion. Sim­ply and gen­uine­ly ask­ing, “How are you do­ing?” and be­ing will­ing to hear a gen­uine re­sponse is an easy way to open up two-way di­a­logue. From a prac­ti­cal stand­point, con­sid­er work­ing with HR to reeval­u­ate any ser­vices or re­sources that em­ploy­ees can ac­cess, whether that is your or­ga­ni­za­tion’s ex­ist­ing Em­ploy­ee As­sis­tance Pro­gram or cre­at­ing new pro­grams to sup­port em­ploy­ee fam­i­lies. This may in­clude ad­di­tion­al per­son­al days, well­ness pro­grams, tu­tor­ing ser­vices for school-at-home chal­lenges or gift match­ing pro­grams to align with em­ploy­ee com­mit­ments to vol­un­teer­ing or so­cial im­pact cam­paigns.

Thrive in Health­care Com­mu­ni­ca­tions De­spite Ad­ver­si­ty

For those of us spe­cial­iz­ing in the health­care space, we have a unique set of pres­sures that some oth­er in­dus­tries may not face. We have seen hur­dles to pa­tient ac­cess to care and life-sav­ing med­i­cines due to sup­ply chain lo­gis­tics and reg­u­la­to­ry de­lays. But the in­dus­try per­se­veres, in no small part be­cause pa­tient need is a pri­ma­ry busi­ness dri­ver – and a pri­ma­ry mo­ti­va­tor for em­ploy­ees who find pur­pose in their role.

As a health­care-cen­tric busi­ness, we be­lieve the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty and open­ness that this year has en­abled will al­so make us more em­pa­thet­ic to the strug­gles of oth­ers and will en­able us to ap­proach pa­tient and HCP com­mu­ni­ca­tions needs with even more em­pa­thy and au­then­tic­i­ty.

So, What’s Next?

Sup­port­ing our em­ploy­ees is in the best in­ter­est of our busi­ness. We owe our col­leagues a dig­ni­fied, au­then­tic re­sponse to their right­ful con­cerns about work, life and the state of af­fairs across the globe. En­act­ing the three steps to re­silien­cy com­mu­ni­ca­tions is a head-on way to lead.

If you are ready to cre­ate a re­silien­cy com­mu­ni­ca­tions plan and would like some hands-on di­rec­tion, Sy­neos Health is avail­able to co-de­vel­op a be­spoke strat­e­gy for your com­pa­ny.

As we all get ready for what comes next, it’s a good time to think about what lessons and best prac­tices we wish to bring for­ward in­to our cul­ture. For ex­am­ple, did vir­tu­al cof­fee chats strength­en col­le­gial re­la­tions? Then keep it up even af­ter the re­turn! Con­verse­ly, are there prac­tices that are best left in the past? Make those changes. Your or­ga­ni­za­tion is dy­nam­ic and will ben­e­fit from reg­u­lar self-re­flec­tion and ad­just­ment dur­ing and af­ter 2020.

To learn more about build­ing em­ploy­ee re­silien­cy in chal­leng­ing times, read our white pa­per here.

About the Au­thors

Lucy Abreu, Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent
Lucy is a hands-on strate­gic ad­vi­sor with over 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in de­vel­op­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion so­lu­tions for U.S. and glob­al com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing large phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals to start-up biotechs. As an Em­ploy­ee En­gage­ment and Change Man­age­ment ex­pert for Sy­neos Health Com­mu­ni­ca­tions she spe­cial­izes in lever­ag­ing her mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­nary back­ground in in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions to help clients own their sto­ry, es­pe­cial­ly dur­ing times of change, and au­then­ti­cal­ly dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves in a com­pet­i­tive land­scape.

Kath­leen Starr, PhD., Change Man­age­ment and Be­hav­ioral Sci­ence
Kath­leen has more than 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the life sci­ence in­dus­try. She leads the Be­hav­ioral Sci­ence prac­tice that fo­cus­es on bridg­ing the gap be­tween aca­d­e­m­ic in­sights in hu­man be­hav­ior and com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions to dri­ve busi­ness suc­cess. Kath­leen holds a doc­tor­ate in Clin­i­cal Health Psy­chol­o­gy from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mi­a­mi and com­plet­ed a post-doc­tor­ate fel­low­ship at Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Med­ical Cen­ter.

About Sy­neos Health

Sy­neos Health® (Nas­daq:SYNH) is the on­ly ful­ly in­te­grat­ed bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal so­lu­tions or­ga­ni­za­tion. The Com­pa­ny, in­clud­ing a Con­tract Re­search Or­ga­ni­za­tion (CRO) and Con­tract Com­mer­cial Or­ga­ni­za­tion (CCO), is pur­pose-built to ac­cel­er­ate cus­tomer per­for­mance to ad­dress mod­ern mar­ket re­al­i­ties. We bring to­geth­er ap­prox­i­mate­ly 24,000 clin­i­cal and com­mer­cial minds with the abil­i­ty to sup­port cus­tomers in more than 110 coun­tries. To­geth­er we share in­sights, use the lat­est tech­nolo­gies and ap­ply ad­vanced busi­ness prac­tices to speed our cus­tomers’ de­liv­ery of im­por­tant ther­a­pies to pa­tients. To learn more about how we are Short­en­ing the dis­tance from lab to life®, vis­it sy­