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How to build organizational resilience: 6 proven steps

In today’s world, where natural disasters, terrorist threats, and cyberattacks are becoming increasingly common, business leaders must prioritize building resilience to ensure the long-term success of their organizations.

However, the ways an organization can adapt, recover, and thrive in the face of adversity are often unclear. Read on to learn why building organizational resilience is so important for leaders, and how following the six steps can strengthen an organization’s overall ability to tackle future challenges.

Why build organizational resilience?

Organizational resilience is the ability to anticipate, respond, and adapt to unexpected events, disruptions, and crises while maintaining continuous operations. As economic uncertainty, natural disasters, and cybersecurity threats are becoming increasingly common, building organizational resilience should be a crucial priority for companies of all sizes and sectors.

For example, 83% of the organizations polled in IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2022 have experienced more than one data breach. In addition, a 2021 report by Verdantix found that “over two-thirds of organizations had a loss caused by a climate change event in the last two years.”

Building resilience is vital because organizations that do so are better equipped to withstand unexpected disruptions and recover from them quickly, resulting in a range of benefits, including:

  • Enhanced business continuity
    By building organizational resilience, companies can minimize the impact of disruptive events on their operations. This reduces downtime, protects revenue streams, and enables them to continue delivering products or services to customers.
  • Improved risk management
    Resilience strategies enable organizations to identify and mitigate potential risks before they turn into crises, reducing the likelihood of business disruptions and associated costs.
  • Increased innovation
    Organizations that are resilient are more likely to experiment with new business models, products, or services, as they are agile enough to adapt to unexpected challenges and opportunities. This means more hours spent on developing new products, or enhancing products that already exist, instead of time lost to risk mitigation.
  • Greater employee engagement
    A resilient organization fosters a culture of preparedness, trust, and transparency, which can improve employee morale, motivation, and retention.

Below are six steps organizations can take to improve their resilience and emerge stronger and more competitive long term.

Steps to building organizational resilience

Leaders should take specific proactive steps to build resilience, withstand disruptions, and bounce back from adversity. Building resilience involves investing in people, fostering a resilient organizational culture, adopting the right technology, being agile, and taking proactive measures to manage risks.

  1. Invest in people
    People are the most valuable asset of any organization. The first step in building resilience is investing in the people who make up the organization. This means ensuring employee well-being, providing training and mentoring, and promoting mental health. A resilient organization is one that has a workforce that is engaged, empowered, and capable of problem-solving.

    According to research by Deloitte, they “found that most workers expect their organization to challenge societal norms, support their holistic health, and be more future-oriented than ever before.” Truly resilient organizations need to go beyond the status quo of employee benefits, and look at compelling new options that keep employees engaged and supported. By investing in training, mentoring, and resources to promote employee well-being, businesses can create a supportive and positive work environment that fosters resilience.

  2. Develop organizational culture
    A resilient organizational culture is one that brings people together, inspires productivity, and encourages resilience. Developing an environment where employees are encouraged to learn from missteps and are recognized for their successes, and collaboration amongst all teams and seniority levels is encouraged, is a great place to start.

    Building a resilient organizational culture also means bringing people together around a shared sense of purpose and values. By nurturing a strong culture, businesses can create a sense of community and belonging that helps employees feel committed to the organization.

  3. Lead with integrity
    Resilient leaders lead with purpose and values that align with the organization’s vision and mission. They set the tone, and should focus on promoting a culture of resilience and transparency that builds trust and camaraderie among their employees.

    Good leaders know their role isn’t just about setting goals and implementing rules—it’s about creating a business that every employee is proud to work. They should prioritize employee well-being, foster a resilient culture, and establish precise crisis management plans to ensure resilience from the top down. By providing clear direction, setting realistic expectations, and being accessible to employees, leaders can create a sense of trust and stability that can help weather any crisis.

  4. Embrace technology
    Having the right technology at your side is a key component of building a resilient organization. This can be tricky; however, as more is not better, neither is having a one-and-done approach to choosing what solutions to use. Technology that fuels resilience should build efficiencies while being scalable to meet the needs of an organization today and years down the line.

    Having a tech stack that improves business continuity, disaster recovery, and risk management is a good place to start. These tools should work together seamlessly, if not entirely the same platform, and be intuitive enough that when disaster strikes, any person can use them. With the right technology, organizations can also optimize their operations, increase efficiency, and reduce costs. By investing in solutions that work to build a resilient organization, businesses can better withstand disruptions and adapt to changing market conditions.

  5. Be agile
    Building resilience requires encouraging an agile mindset, and building agile working methodologies. By definition, to be agile is “the ability to create and respond to change. It is a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in an uncertain and turbulent environment.” This means that having processes in place for decision-making and problem-solving, being able to pivot when necessary, and adapting to new challenges, are all crucial parts of a resilient organization.

    Being agile can help businesses respond quickly to changing circumstances, make data-driven decisions, and identify and mitigate risks before they become major issues. By embracing an agile mindset, organizations can stay nimble and adaptable, and be better equipped to face challenges head-on.

  6. Plan to be proactive, not reactive
    Building a resilient organization requires a proactive approach to business continuity, disaster planning, and risk management. This means identifying potential risks and threats before they occur and putting in place measures to prevent or mitigate them. It also means having a robust crisis management plan in place that’s regularly tested and audited to ensure it’s effective.

    Organizations that take a reactionary approach when critical events happen tend to spend more on crisis management and take longer to fully resolve incidents. Proactive organizations that already have solutions and tested plans in place respond far better when situations arise. By regularly assessing potential risks and having contingency plans in place, businesses can minimize the impact of any disruptions and quickly recover from any setbacks.

Building resilience is no longer optional for organizations. Leaders need to prioritize building resilience efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees and maintain business operations during critical events. The six steps above serve as a guide for organizations to assess their resilience and make necessary improvements. By investing in people, building a resilient culture, having strong leadership, implementing the right technology, being agile, and taking a proactive approach to risk management, organizations can build resilience that will help them to adapt, recover, and thrive in the face of adversity.

It’s also important for organizations to measure their resilience to understand their current level of preparedness and identify areas for improvement. Take the Everbridge Organizational Resilience Self-Assessment to measure your organization’s ability to respond to and resolve critical events by answering 20 questions about your current plans, processes, and procedures.

By prioritizing resilience-building efforts, organizations can protect their people, keep business running smoothly, and prepare for the unexpected.

learn more about the impact of building resilience

The Research Behind Resilience

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