How to Create a Resilient Organization During the Pandemic

Human Resources Executive magazine published an article by Josh Bersin entitled “4 Ways to Build Organizational Resilience.” I partly agree with his four points, but I think he missed some important ones such as: resilient organizations need, more than anything, a high percentage of high performers, A Players, who get results. Here are Bersin’s points:

  1. Resilient organizations have distributed control with centralized coordination. Think of the pandemic with federal coordination but states controlling what is done. Fine, but if you’re going to decentralize control in your company and empower managers who were not empowered before, it’s even more important that those leaders are high performers. Empowering average performers who, by definition, are NOT great at making decisions, who are NOT highly energized, and NOT super team builders, will make the organization less resilient.
  2. Resilience demands high quality, real-time data. Again – think of COVID-19 and the need for tests to determine how widespread it is and who’s infected. Good point, and apps are emerging, for example, that show how to measure activities and results from at-home workers.
  3. Resilience requires leaders who care; they empathize. Of course, Emotional Intelligence is important in stressful times. Workers not furloughed are scared for all the reasons you know, so any high performing leader will show tons of empathy. But Bersin misses the importance of having high performing leaders who, while showing empathy, inspire workers to achieve very high goals. Empathetic “so-so” leaders tolerate mediocre performance; they feel worker pain so much that workers sense they can get away with mediocre performance.
  4. Resilience thrives in a community, not just an organization. Bersin celebrates “oneness” –“we’re all in this together.” Yes, but do not create a family culture in which the company is the victim, wallowing in self-pity. Bersin doesn’t make a case for the family joining together to achieve high goals. He argues, for example, against performance ratings that might create competition However, many A Players thrive on healthy, honest competition, and performance reviews are an important part of making sure your team members are in the right roles for maximum success.

In my opinion, Bersin missed the most important way CEOs can create resilient organizations that survive and flourish: replace “so-so” performers with high performers. The average Topgrading company achieves 85% high performers hired and promoted. As mentioned in recent blogs (Hiring A Players is Easier in Down Times; In Down Markets, Hiring High Performers is More Important Than Ever), economic downturns are the best time to pack the top team and all teams with high performers. As of writing, the unemployment rate is shooting toward 15%+, and millions of A Players have been let go and would love a job. If you’re a CEO with 12 direct reports including two mediocre performers, seriously consider replacing them and encourage all your managers to Topgrade.

Conclusion: To create an organization that is resilient in times of crisis, the single most important thing you can do is replace “so-so” performers with HIGH performers, A Players, who are resilient because they are energized, inspiring, highly resourceful team builders.

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