#RESILIENCE Webinar Questions, Answered.

#RESILIENCE Webinar Series: How Are Your People Responding to the Pandemic?

As a follow-up to the first of our #RESILIENCE Webinar Series on Thursday, June 25, we’ve compiled a list of Resilience webinar questions our participants asked that we were either unable to answer live, or unable to discuss in-depth enough.

Please look below for the questions, and our answers. Answers were provided by Dr. Daniel R. Denison (Chairman, Founding Partner) and Michael G. Schwendeman (Director, Research & Development).

Resilience Webinar Questions
How do you choose these 10 questions? Is there a model behind?

Based on a scan of the issues that our clients were talking about, the wide range of issues under discussion in social media, and our own experience dealing with the challenges of the pandemic, we chose to focus on:

Is there a way to map the results against the phase the respondents are in? I am assuming that your replies will be very different whether you are at the beginning of the pandemic or coming out of it – any ideas on the impact?

We just did an update to our original study. We were expecting that the score for the companies that surveyed in June would be different that those who surveyed in April or May. But we actually didn’t find much difference – scores are a little bit lower, but not much. Certainly what the scores mean is quite different now than in the initial stages, but we really haven’t seen much difference. So it is hard to make the phased argument based on our results.

I do think that the paths that organizations take to adjust and to create the means of coordination in this new environment will keep developing rapidly.

Did the two outliers Dan just mentioned – low adaptability, yet high resilience – happen to have high Mission scores on DOCS?

They did have above average mission scores compared to our global benchmark, with index scores in the mission area ranging from 67% to 83% for one organization and 51% to 70% for the other, but those were actually low relative to other organizations in the Resilience research, which averaged 75% to 80%.

So a 10% increase in adaptability leads to a 20% increase in resilience?

Sure, in general, that might be about right.

Do you have additional tools or suggestions for regular check in and intentional communications to connect and engage employees? Seems to be a key theme.

The core of our practice is on improving organization’s performance by developing their culture and leadership. All organizational transformation requires regular check in and intentional communication with your people, and effectively responding to and navigating this crisis is no different.

Would it help to identify agile leaders who represent and role model resilience to lead the organizations going forward? Agile resilience would seem to be a more important hi potential predictor?

Yes, very helpful. In fact, we often identify leaders who have characteristics that organizations need to develop to help create the desired culture for the future. So, I think that what you suggest is exactly the way to go, though it’s certainly important to consider how they lead in other ways as well (e.g., empowering people, managing coordination & integration, creating shared vision, etc.).

Were there companies from outside the US? Have you looked at the difference between countries?

Yes, there were companies from Europe, Asia, and Latin America. But not really enough to make a country to country comparison, at least so far. Anecdotally, high-level themes and trends were fairly consistent across countries, but they manifested in different ways. For example, “Prioritizing Employee Health and Safety” meant allowing remote work and providing PPE in some countries, and in others it meant ensuring safe transportation for essential employees who typically use public transit.

There has been so much happening (at least in the US) about race and racial inequity. Did your research investigate differences in perceptions based on demographic variables (gender, race, etc.)?

I agree that race and inequity are extremely important these days. But we don’t have results by race, so far.

As a end of the study, how much data do you plan to access in total?

We currently have 36 firms and over 15,000 people. There’s no clear “end” to this study, but I would estimate that we will end up with 75-100 firms. But our questions may also evolve to focus on the changes in the challenges that firms face.

Did the research reveal anything regarding diversity, equity and inclusion?

Unfortunately, not too much about diversity and equity, so far. But I believe that the “voice” data tell us a lot about the importance of inclusion – it’s the hardest thing to manage, because it is very difficult to do top-down.

Can the presenters provide a sense for balancing the need for top-down leadership during times of crisis and how bottom up leadership may be required to bounce forward?

This was a key insight from our study. Top-down actions can happen quite quickly and are very important because they send a strong signal about commitment and caring. But more bottom-up insights take much more time, change constantly, and are almost impossible to manage from the top. They rely heavily on curiosity and empathy and persistence. So, bouncing forward takes a team.

We had a client among whose demographics was work situation, “at home with children” (as differentiated from “at home with partner and children” for instance.” “At home with children” was the lowest across the board in the normed data. Not surprising, have any other organizations chosen a similar demographic category, was this seen there as well? It seems unsurprising.

This demographic category was fairly unique to that organization, but highlights a very important topic and consideration for organizations. One of our next webinars will focus on work-life balance during the pandemic. I totally agree with you. As I mentioned in the webinar, a friend of mine, who is a lawyer, has realized that his whole day has to be built around the lesson plan for his 5 year-old. When that is set, he and his wife can plan the “rest” of their work for the day. How do you do this when you are alone? I agree that it is not surprising that single parents have the heaviest burden.

How do you recommend an organization go about changing and aligning those micro habits?

This takes a lot of work, because an organization has to have a pretty extensive discussion about their culture and how it is exemplified through behaviors. They also have to reach a consensus about what habits to leave behind and what habits to create. We have a method that is built around our habits matrix that is described in the articles. This approach is also described in detail in Chapter 8 of our book.

How do we reinforce or protect our company culture while working remotely?

Keep the topic on the agenda. In one way, remote work gives us an opportunity to rethink behaviors. But committing to having this discussion and to taking action is a required commitment.

Wondering if you can comment on some follow up actions you are seeing from these organizations that have participated in the resilience survey?

We’re compiling that kind of information now and are happy to share those insights when they’re available.

Is there any specific insight from quantitative and qualitative results which surprised you?

Yes, I think that the difference between caring for people and hearing their voices was kind of a surprise. The two questions are closely correlated, but caring receives one of the highest scores and voice receives one of the lowest. We were also surprised at how positive the results were.

Were all of the organizations for which data was provided for-profit? I’d be curious to know what differences in results there might be between for-profit and not-for-profit groups.

We’re compiling that kind of information now and are happy to share those insights when they’re available.

Organizations that lack trust between employees and supervisors were forced to allow employees to telework, what tools are being exercised to bounce forward and build off of that or work through trust issues (eating up calendars with virtual meetings)?

Some orgs moved fast to increased monitoring of their people when they were working remotely. This send a clear message that they were not trusting their people. The ones that did this successfully, used the pandemic as a reason to have a dramatic increase in communication with their people. Using lots of forms of communication to keep people engaged seems to be the key.

With the need for more meetings, one key is to organize those meetings better. Some of our favorite tips can be found here under “Technology.

Some organizations have also instituted “meeting-free days/weeks”, where certain days are used to keep the calendars clear and get work done.

Are you seeing an increase in self-organized teams and flatter org. hierarchies as a result of the pandemic?

Yes, hierarchical barriers don’t seem to count for as much now. Anyone can access anyone and the network of communication that actually occurs is quite a bit more important than the hierarchy. But there is really no “informal” interaction anymore – everything requires a Zoom invite and there’s not as much spontaneity.

It seems that this situation provides a risk of over-emphasis on a certain type of performance results at the expense of “softer” results. Is there a way to measure this?

I agree, and I think that virtual communication seems to be much more task focused. Survival also has people’s attention and I do think that the long-term orientation is likely to suffer a lot. Many organizations and their employees have stepped up admirably in the short term, but this type of extra effort and work can lead to burnout over time.

Watch the recorded webinar and read our research paper.

Check out our Knowledge Center, Thought Leadership and RESILIENCE Resources for more articles, research papers, and videos developed by Denison’s leadership.

Dr. Daniel R. Denison, Founding Partner & Chairman, and Michael G. Schwendeman, Director of Research and Development, discuss the research that Denison has been doing on how resilient organizations are reacting to the pandemic.

How Are Your People Responding to the Pandemic?


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