Home' HR Monthly : March 2018 Contents DONALD MCGURK MANAGING
DIRECTOR AND CEO,
technology is allowing training to be delivered
both flexibly and cost-effectively
For example, The Black Dog Institute's
workplace education team collaborated with
the University of NSW to develop Raw Mind
Coach, a series of programs using cognitive
strategies to boost resilience. Other online
programs include Australian-owned Smiling
Mind and the UK's Headspace.
Companies that have used the Raw Mind
Coach program include Optus, the Australian
Graduate School of Management at UNSW,
NSW Ambulance and Thompson Reuters.
At Thompson Reuters, journalists in
Australia, New Zealand and South America
undertook a six-week trial of the program.
Testing showed improved levels of resilience,
leading the media company to roll out the
program to its team of journalists worldwide.
Optus was impressed enough with the benefits
to expand the program to its entire staff.
The main way of measuring improved resilience
is based on the Connors Davison scale. The
scale measures an individual's ability to 'bounce
back' and to develop adaptability, and in some
cases, to lessen the symptoms of post traumatic
"Cognitive strategies are drawn from
evidence-based psychological therapies -- in
particular, acceptance and commitment therapy
and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy," says
Jamie Watson, CEO and co-creator of Raw
"An example of a core strategy taught is
cognitive diffusion, which is the ability to step
back from thoughts, especially those that are
unhelpful. This skill can help decrease stress and
other mental health symptoms," he says.
Building resilience among existing staff is
far more effective than attempting to screen
potential job candidates to determine whether
their personality traits make them more likely to
succumb to stress.
"To date, the evidence just isn't there that
these simple personality tests can reliably
predict those sorts of outcomes," says Watson.
A modern problem?
While stress in the workplace is nothing new,
according to the World Health Organisation, it
has become "the global health epidemic of the
March 2018 HRM magazine 27
"We've been pushed past
the place where natural
human adaptability can
keep up," says Michael
Bungay Stanier, author of
The Coaching Habit and the
founder of Box of Crayons, a
professional coaching consultancy
specialising in resilience.
Stanier says that while meditation,
exercise and adequate sleep can help allay
stress, it's important not to succumb to a
'victim mentality' when individual circumstances
become challenging, and to distinguish between
what is within an individual's control and what
falls outside it.
"When you're in victim mode, you tend to
surrender power," he explains. "A resilient
mindset has some sense of understanding of
what's within their control, and they work to
control it; what's within their influence and
what's beyond their control and -- and they don't
worry about that."
In 2011, mental illness overtook
musculoskeletal problems as the leading cause
of disability support pensions in Australia. It
currently accounts for nearly a third of all cases.
"Any workplace that doesn't recognise the
significance of mental illness really has its head
in the sand," says Harvey.
Leveraging a crisis
For the well-known motivational speaker and
self-help author Sam Cawthorn, learning to
leverage the value of a crisis is key to building
resilience. In the absence of an actual crisis, he
suggests using language to elevate the sense
"Sometimes we need a crisis to see what is
possible. When there's a problem, we tend to
procrastinate in dealing with it, but when it's
elevated to a crisis, it's the point where we say,
'I must get myself out of this situation.'"
In 2006, Cawthorn was pronounced clinically
dead for several minutes after being involved
in a head-on collision with a semi-trailer in
Tasmania. His right arm was amputated and he
was told he would never walk again.
"The only time I experienced deep negativity
was when I first woke up from the coma. I was
crying non-stop -- not for myself, but because
my kids would have to grow up with a disabled
father in a wheelchair."
Cawthorn proved the doctors wrong by
regaining his ability to walk and, while
undergoing a grueling nine-month rehabilitation
regime, he ruminated on a new approach to
life. It's an approach he sets out in his books,
all of which are designed to help others
overcome adversity. He too speaks about his
determination to become the best version of
himself in order to triumph over despair.
The 37-year-old believes that millennials
present a specific challenge to organisations
seeking to build resilience.
"I believe that young people are too resilient;
meaning that they don't really care if they lose
their job because they can get another one,
and they don't care if there is a crisis at work
because they can disassociate."
Whether that signals resilience or
disengagement is open to interpretation, but
as millennials now represent the largest
segment of the workforce, building resilience
among this group can't be consigned to the
According to the founder of the Workplace
Mental Health Institute, Pedro Diaz,
millennials value guidance and training on an
issue that has no easy answers.
"Invest in resilience. It will send a message
that you care. But not just lip service, because
you will be caught out. Follow through and
you'll find you will attract and retain A-player
millennials. They are the ones who will make
your business." •••
Struggling with increasing work pressures, stress
and change? Gain the tools and techniques you
and your team need to build resilience at work, with
AHRI's customised and in-house training course
"My greatest fear was living
in a cardboard box under a
bridge, so I had to rede ne
what success looked like
to me. It was then
easier to be brave."
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