20 ways to foster resilience in the workplace in 2020

By Rob Nikkel
January 1, 2020
9 min read
hands holding sparkles

A recent talk by Charmaine Hammond triggered reflection what things our customers do, what we at IC do, and actionable things you can implement to strengthen your business by fostering resilience in the workplace in 2020. 

Every day at work, we’re facing widespread demands, new challenges, and struggling to advance on several levels:  personally, team-wise and organizationally.  We’re experiencing shrinking tenures, accelerating skill needs, and more rapid market disruptions.  It’s a war, but one that takes larger emotional tolls than physical.  It got me thinking: 

How do we deal?  What practices, systems and supports can we put in place?  With an aim to alleviate stress, increase morale, reduce wasted time and help our people move towards thriving.   


The more bonded we feel to colleagues, our work and customers, the more likely we’ll go to lengths, be empathetic and fight to help each other.  Also, we’ll be more open to drop our own guards, ask for help without feeling weak and move forward together. 

1. Arrange regular social events & team building activities 

Whether it’s monthly, quarterly, small or big, these can be easy to implement.  Just have a set cadence, go-to calendar and promote.  Team building activities can be as simple as a PJ or jeans day, scavenger hunt, Halloween party, or potluck, here are some team building activities.  These create space to learn about others fully and have some laughs together. 

2. Empower committees (social or other) and give them discretionary budget 

Often what people want is assumed.  We know what that spells out!  Let a group take the reins, you’ll be surprised how they stretch a dollar and come up with new creative ideas. Diversity is a core value of ours and our team recently organized a themed potluck where members got creative with their representation of traditional food and things they wanted to share.  

3. Run ice breakers at team meetings 

Who doesn’t like a good game of “2 Truths & 1 Lie”?  How about trivial pursuit?  Instead of questions on politics/sports/etc., you could do interesting facts on your business.  Here’s a twist on a simple deck of cards, Basecamp, created by a couple high school students. Circulate a card to start a meeting at random, have everyone take 30 seconds to answer.  In 5 mins or less you’ll learn something new about your colleagues 

4. Eat together in social spaces 

Take it as a warning sign when people are eating at their station, not taking breaks, or lack spots to unplug for a few minutes to recharge.  It’s a real missed opportunity, never mind it now means you need more workstation cleaning (keyboards and food to mix well) and waste/recycle bins.   

5. Run contests around wellness or social responsibility 

We all like a little friendly competition.  One credit union ran a water challenge with staff, having them log their daily intake with an online form.  At IC, we have a Strava work group and share an activity feed on our intranet.  Many of our customers have community engagements.  How about offering a paid volunteer day quarterly?  We recently did a shoreline cleanup and branded it ‘Inspiration at Sea’ to align with our rally cry ‘ Inspiration at Work’. One small act but meaningful in times where we all want to be better environmental stewards. 

6. Have an official peer gratitude program 

IC Thrive's resilience in the workplace tree of gratitude.
IC’s Tree of Gratitude

A motto we live by, what is recognized gets repeated!  Many clients of ours have strong, branded recognition programs like the “DROP” – doing right on purpose, “Shining Stars”, Wow awards, and more.  Sun Peaks Resort launched a “Peak Performers” ballot, started with paper, and has now moved to digital nominations. At IC Thrive, we have what we call the ‘tree of gratitude’ and giving a kudos is ‘giving a leaf’. These get reviewed regularly and members highlighted at monthly dinners, with a grand prize draw in the end for a heli-ski tour, talk about wow! 

7. Behavior-based value statements 

Many workplaces have either boiled down values too narrowly without context, or just have way too much narrative.  Our workforce isn’t going to memorize paragraphs, rather keywords or sayings.  Take this page on Intel’s values.  Hearing from a former employee, I can tell you under Results Orientation, what was vividly recalled was the aspect of “constructive confrontation” and how that was modelled.   

8. Share Wins – Moments of Magic 

Wins come in all sizes and form, internal and external.  While we’re mostly talking about tackling problems and being resilient, part of it is building on and reflecting on success.  Sometimes we’re so obsessed with the big things (eg. top sale, new big brand, key employee hired, investment infusion) we don’t pause and highlight the small acts outside and in. 

9. Awards – All types welcome 

These can vary from tenure, top performance, even most resilient!  Think of the analogy to sports, where often we celebrate most improved, MVP, unsung heroes, and more.  The point is you can come up with categories that make sense for your business.  SEDC has employed a whole series of engagement strategies to have fun at work, which improved morale resulting in a workforce proud to represent their organization. 


When put to the test, we want to be able to quickly respond.  In fact, testing itself is a core part to ensure we’re ready, are equipped, will react appropriately, can benchmark, and don’t have too much rigidity in our structures. 

10. Prevent incidents with efficient processes

Highly regulated industries demand appropriate SOPs, timelines and reporting mechanisms.  A lack process or visibility on issues such as complaints, lost belongings and near misses can undermine the employee or customer experience.  Moving paper-based reports online has proven to significantly reduce the risk of incidents through preventative measures.     

11. Role-play customer requests with your team

Test your systems.  Role play and imitate a customer or employee request.  Ensure redundancies are ready by running unplanned trigger events.  A good place to start is to establish checklists for the various stages or scenarios that arise where informal practice is present. Keeping scenarios in a centralized knowledge management software prepares your staff to handle anything that is thrown their way.

12. Ensure standard operating guidelines are understood

Most companies have some level of policies. Typically, they come in response to incidents, the hard part is not catering to the 1% case.  You may have heard of the revamped 2-word GM dress code.  While you may not be able to simplify this greatly, you can be innovative in what might otherwise be viewed as a boring aspect of business.  Let your workforce self-serve, package documents together and easily acknowledge them.  We have several clients with hundreds of SOGs doing just that. 

13. Provide assistance programs 

Your teams are more diverse than ever before with unique problems:  culturally, generationally, familial.  Implement an employee and family assistance program (EFAP).  They can be useful for a multitude of questions, direction to public services, resources and more, where you just don’t have the answers in-house.   

14. Build a competency inventory & start project matching 

Skills, particularly hard ones have an increasing half-life, while soft (durable) skills are becoming increasingly important.  Create a tagged employee directory that cover what exists in your organization that allows managers to fill needs.  Several professional services clients like Inpact accounting alliance share knowledge expertise, even across what are seen as competing divisions. 

Bonus: have a workflow where members can raise their hand and flag availability. 

15. Build a channel strategy for your communication tools 

Technologies have taken off:  email, e-newsletter, intranet, group chat, SMS, social networks, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, public displays, shall I go on?!?  With so many print and digital communication tools now at our disposal, evaluate and find a few that are suited to your intended audiences. 

16. Organize team huddles 

A fixture of agile methodologies, huddles are now being used in all sorts of rapid sprint environments.  These can be an effective rapid information-sharing tool, roadblock identifier, and fun too!


Change can happen on scales from incremental, disruptive to transformational.  Every organization, team and individual will operate at a different growth pace and pressure level in any moment.  We play an ongoing game of managing imbalances while creating space for appropriate levels of risk taking, collaboration, openness, and input all towards the necessary cycle of try, review, shift, learn, and grow. 

17. Provide feedback channels 

They say feedback is a gift, that couldn’t be truer!  Most have robust customer experience and satisfaction channels, but less so for their employees.  In most cases, word of mouth or 1-1 meetings are used, but good information can be ignored, lost or not acted upon.  The District of West Vancouver gets top marks for feedback, allowing anonymous, honest input direct to management, removing excuses that something missed review. 

18. Promote idea sharing 

No idea is a stupid one, just the one not shared!  Ok, for sure not all ideas are good, but if we create room to build them, allow named or anonymous suggestions, entertain and build with curiosity first, before judgement, and seed with direct questions we can bring several employee connection benefits with an idea exchange 

19. Offer job shadowing, cross-training 

For several reasons, succession, coverage, career development and to naturally support reskilling from within, this is strong vehicle that also results in greater empathy because we grow our appreciation and understanding what others do day-to-day plus the level of competence needed to excel. 

20. After action review process 

A method first developed by the US Army; an After Action Review (AAR) is intended to support daily learning.  This has percolated into the business world to support accountability.  Practically it can be used for all sorts of internal or external activities, no matter the size of the objective or action cycle.  The beauty lies in comparing results to intention, and the insights when all stakeholders engage to answer a few simple questions 

BONUS TIP:  Benefits provider presentation in-house 

Your extended health benefits can feel like just a fixed cost.  The reality is there are several partners out there and your incumbent wants to keep you.  Instead of just getting a standard report on usage, and highlighting aspects to your workforce, ask your provider to do so.  They likely have good connections to others who can talk on several aspects from health, to financial and overall wellness programs 

When thinking back on the places I’ve worked over my career, they’ve had many of these elements, a strong focus on continuous improvement yet with different growth trajectories, challenges and working environments.  Which ones make sense for you and your business depends on a lot of factors, like size, industry, culture, strategic focus.  Hopefully this got you thinking of some new ways to foster resilience in the workplace in 2020! We would love to hear what’s working for you, or what you’re struggling with.

Moreover, why not take our complimentary internal communications assessment and check out the areas where you need improvements? Once you are sorted, take a FREE DEMO from our experts and discuss how to boost your business’ overall success.


Download our guide to an engaged workplace

If you’re looking for some inspiration on how to create a more engaging workplace, download our Guide to an engaged workplace for more tips!

By Rob Nikkel

Rob Nikkel is the CEO and fearless leader of Intranet Connections. With 20+ years’ experience in software development, he specializes in developing holistic product strategies. A self-described culture leader, Rob is passionate about creating thriving working environments and shaping the company through engaging employee experiences.