What really helps us find joy in our work? Is it taking 10,000 steps a day? Being able to manage stress well? Quinoa? Or something else? Our peer-reviewed research build out the critical connection between resilience and job satisfaction to help answer these questions.
My definition of resilience is to advance despite adversity. A definition that transcends the traditional concept of bouncing back, pushing us towards the realisation that resilience provides the mechanisms for the realisation of purpose. Resilience expands into the six domains, comprising a holistic mind-body model that contains the various skills and strategies that create resilience.
In 2016 we released our original research on the neurobiological foundations of resilience. This established the Predictive 6 Factor Resilience Scale, a short and insightful measurement device that has since been deployed by businesses, psychologists, researchers and others across the world. We use it as the entry way into our holistic resilience training course called Driven – a scalable approach to enhance resilience capacity on a global level.
Resilience affects an individual on so many levels. It changes how we approach our work, how we approach our goals, how we approach people. It has the power to build compassion and empathy, allowing us to embrace differences between people and feel an inner sense of security to fully explore opposing viewpoints. This is valuable – something that can change how we as a society interact. It is this concept of the advancement of ourselves and our world that drives us to improve our knowledge and our ability to enhance resilience.
Ongoing validation matters
To achieve this, we must keep improving and evolving. This is why we invest in ongoing research, driven both by ourselves and in collaboration with universities and organisations worldwide. True to this, over the last two years we have been collaborating with a panel of psychologists & researchers to further explore the six domains, the evolving neuroscience, and how these relate to job satisfaction.
The key outcome was an overall improvement in domain-level accuracy of measurement, as well as increased internal consistency (a psychological measurement of statistical validity). There are some interesting insights that came out of the relationship of resilience to job satisfaction. Let me share a few of these with you.
This means that, holistically, resilience does indeed play an important role in increasing job satisfaction. We found that for every 2% increase in resilience, job satisfaction increases by 1%. This is interesting, since it means that two people in exactly the same job may experience it very differently if they have different levels of resilience. Someone with high resilience might think the job is great, while someone with low resilience might think that it’s time to head elsewhere.
The implication here is that if our low resilience friend leaves, they will most likely have the same experience again in the new job. After all, it wasn’t necessarily the job so much that was the problem. Most of us know a friend like this who job-hops a lot and somehow never seems to find a good place to stay.
That’s not to say that the job itself has no effect (sometimes the job environment is legitimately toxic). But rather that higher resilience increases our ability to find purpose, meaning and happiness in more places more easily. It allows us to enjoy the challenges we face, rather than getting stressed by them. We can do more with what we have.
The goal of a foundation is to build on top of it
Many businesses now take a heavy focus on health. Whether it be about increasing the number of steps per day, tracking sleep cycles, team health challenges, weight loss initiatives, there’s always a host of these making the rounds.
Health is important for many aspects of our wellbeing. In our initial research we noted as well that it is actually a key component of holistic resilience. Certainly, when we don’t have our health, it immediately takes top priority. Though as important as health is, promoting it is not the most effective way to increase employee engagement and job satisfaction.
We measured how each of the six domains of resilience contribute to job satisfaction, and out of these, health contributed the least. Thinking about this, it makes sense since good health is not an ultimate goal in itself. Quite the contrary, good health provides a foundation from which we can pursue more meaningful goals. Even if you have failing health, the goal is not to recover health for the sake of having good health. The goal is to regain health so that you can pursue other goals with full vigour and vitality.
Precisely this is why we always talk about health as a foundational element of resilience and wellbeing. It is the foundation of our goal-striving, on top of which everything else can thrive. To make it more concrete, you want a good foundation for your house, but the goal is not to have a good foundation – the goal is to build your dream house on top and then live in it!
This is significant because it calls into question the preponderance of health initiatives in the modern workplace. After all, there is much more than just health when it comes to wellness. These other areas therefore deserve increased investment.
It’s about what we build toward
On the opposite side of health (in our resilience model), sits a domain we call Vision. This is about having a sense of purpose and clear goals. Our research showed that Vision has twice as much impact on job satisfaction than health. Having a sense of personal purpose, it seems, allows people to find much more enjoyment in what they do.
There are many mechanisms through which this could function. For one, it could mean that people with clear goals are better able to select jobs that align to their own personal vision. This alignment can produce a sense of congruence, fostering a feeling of momentum and forward movement towards something meaningful and important.
It could also be that people develop an ability to find ways to connect to their jobs in more meaningful ways. They find ways to see the value in what they do as something aligned to their own personal values. Vision as a resilience domain encourages us to explore and clarify our own motivations so we can be more decisive and committed in our actions. This personal clarity flows through to our ability to connect with our work.
I’ve personally known a great many people who simply see their jobs as a way to make money so they can do things they actually enjoy. But the people who I see thriving are those who connect with their work on a deeper level. For them this means that despite all the bs, there is something in the work that they do that is meaningful to them and drives them to get up in the mornings and keep doing it as best they can.
Most organisations don’t put nearly as much effort into this aspect as they do health, even though goals and purpose have a much more significant impact. It’s not hard to imagine why this is – after all, it is easier to measure people taking more steps than it is to measure a sense of purpose.
A goal of purpose
There’s an opportunity to here for managers to have more meaningful discussions with employees about how personal goals and values connect with those of the organisation. Sometimes it is simply about helping people see how they are making a difference – explaining the impact of their work. Specialisation in roles mean that many people never get to see what the end result of their work actually is, like the cacao farmers in the Ivory Coast who have never tasted chocolate.
Managers play a key role here through the broader visibility that they have of the overall processes and results – make use of this and provide perspective. It’s not just up to managers either – as an employee you can take the initiative to ask about the real impact of your work. Explain your own motivations and find aspects of your job that align with your values and goals.
Considering further ways to make this a component of a corporate wellness program, a practical step is to provide education for employees on goals and purpose. We do this regularly through our resilience training program which helps people explore their own motivations and discover their own meaning. This, combined with other resilience domain training on stress management, problem-solving under pressure, support networks and persistence provides a holistic approach that has a far more meaningful impact on engagement and job satisfaction.
I would call on leaders and managers everywhere to take action on this. Consider investing in the shared alignment of organisational and personal values. A shared purpose will take you much further than what could be measured with a pedometer.