The importance of resilience in challenging times

Posted on 9 May 2013 by The Manufacturer

Growth in the manufacturing sector is continuing to stall and economists have suggested that this stagnation could be enough to tip the UK back into recession. Consequently, employees in the manufacturing industry are starting to feel the pressure says Jessica Pryce-Jones of the iOpener Institute.

‘Resilience’ can be defined as the level of grit that you have available to handle situations that need more drive, focus and resolution than usual. And while it is in difficult times that resilience is harder to maintain, it’s also when it is most important.

Research conducted by the iOpener Institute of over 30,000 business leaders shows quite clearly that resilience is linked most strongly to feelings of efficiency and effectiveness; the more effective you feel, the better placed you are to continue to deliver in tough circumstances. By comparing the manufacturing sector with other industries, we can see that employees are 6% less efficient at completing jobs than the all-sector average.

Motivation is also part of the answer to resilience; employees that lack motivation will be unable to respond effectively to a challenging working environment. Lack of motivation is also affecting manufacturing sector employees; they are 10% less motivated than their counterparts in other sectors.

Maintaining resilience

So in practical terms, how can leaders in manufacturing help to improve feelings of effectiveness and motivation and thereby maximise resilience in their organisations?

Proactive coping

Proactive coping is having the means in place to deal with stressful situations when they arise unexpectedly. On an organisational level, this comes from having the built-in systems to react. Employees should be involved in the development of these strategies, for example, by identifying eventualities that need to be planned for, what resources might be needed, and what contingencies the organisation should be aware of.

Remember that challenges are not necessarily bad

The only way to develop resilience is to be challenged. The American Sociologist Glen Elder found that children growing up in the Depression were much more resilient than people who faced their first testing time in life later on.  It is important for employees to remember that previous scenarios where success has been achieved against the odds will help in the future.

Focus on strengths

All too many job appraisals and performance management systems concentrate on what’s wrong rather than assessing what people are good at. This can be facilitated by asking employees to identify strengths of colleagues and assessing how these link to their roles, and help them to perform well.

Make sure staff and management take breaks and stay healthy

Loehr and Schwartz, who have conducted extensive research into athletes, argue that balancing stress and recovery is critical. On a practical level they recommend that you take a break or change focus every 90 to 120 minutes.


In difficult times, it is easy to simply try and browbeat management and employees into meeting difficult goals.  Yet this rarely succeeds, and is never sustainable.  Resilience and motivation are not ‘nice-to-have’; they are essential for organisations trying to effectively weather the recession storm.

About the author

Jessica Pryce-Jones is joint founder and partner of the iOpener Institute for People & Performance which examines the factors that contribute to resilience and how it can be maintained.

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