How Can You Improve Your Organisation’s Resilience?

6 December 2016
Lauren McWilliams

by Lauren McWilliams

Former Events & Projects Officer at the CHS Alliance

The theme of this year’s HHR Africa Conference was organisational resilience, defined by the British Standard BS65000 (2014) as the ability to anticipate, prepare for, respond and adapt to events – both sudden shocks and gradual change. That means being adaptable, competitive, agile and robust.

Setting the tone for the two-day conference, our keynote speaker, Henrietta Blyth, CEO of Interhealth Worldwide, illustrated that the world in which we live and work requires increasing levels of resilience and shared with us her top tips on how to achieve this. Grouped under the acronym LIVE, Henrietta explained that leadership, investment, infrastructure and innovation, vulnerability and values, and developing self-efficacy in our people are key to enabling our organisations and staff live through challenging times.

These principles were then further explored through a dynamic ‘market place’ exercise, an expert panel discussion and Q&A session on risk aspects of organisational resilience, as well as sessions on the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS), peer support, and awareness skills.

With an increased understanding of organisational resilience, participants identified their top three learning points to take back and action in their respective organisations:

  1. For an organisation to be resilient, its people must be too, as they are an organisation’s most valuable resource. As people tend to mirror those who lead them, leaders must consistently model resilience in order to build organisational resilience. Leaders must model agility, integrity, and decisiveness and enable clear communication channels to allow a free and timely two-way flow of information. Such leadership style will foster a culture where people feel empowered to take action and act as catalysts for change.
  1. In order to be resilient role models, leaders need to be supported. As demonstrated by Erin Lloyd, Counsellor at Interhealth East Africa, a peer support approach can be highly effective as it improves wellbeing, which in turn enhances resilience, and ultimately increases overall organisational and staff excellence.  The peer support model is a practical and accessible form of support and is proven to build group cohesion and relational trust, while facilitating innovation and recovery in crisis situations. For this approach to work, leadership and management buy-in is required, an enabling and confidential environment must be created, and the availability of a support network should be included in organisational policies and actively communicated.
  1. While people and leaders are key in building organisational resilience, the importance of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) cannot be overlooked. Although ICT can be a daunting concept to many, using them effectively can make an organisation more adaptable to change, and help it stay ahead of competitors. To encourage participants to overcome the fear of ICT and instead use them to an organisation’s advantage, Rock.Paper.Scissors Inc. President Lee Anne Ragan, delivered a ‘market place’ session introducing a series of accessible, affordable and comprehensive online tools, such as Google alerts, docs, and maps, Poll Everywhere, Prezi, and Compfight. Participants were inspired and agreed that they would start using technology to get more organized and thereby help build their organisational resilience.

With many lessons learned, HHR Africa was a fantastic opportunity to bring together top HR professionals working in the region, and to share ideas, identify issues and needs, and think of solutions in relation to building organisational resilience in the humanitarian sector.

With a view of the Nairobi skyline, all participants, facilitators, and organisers gathered together for a sponsored cocktail event by Birches Group and Cigna to celebrate the end of an inspiring and dynamic HHR Conference.