Resilience speaks to the ability or capacity to recover from difficulties
In addition to the various definitions of resilience, I believe that there should be an aspect of not only recovery, but also recovery that is swift. When one considers resilience, this should be well defined depending on the level required. The three levels that are important in my view consist of personal resilience, operational resilience and organisational resilience. On a personal level one should build within themselves the ability or strength to survive any crisis and this is something that I believe emanates from personal experiences. An understanding that one does not live in a vacuum provides context and allows for one to always learn and be prepared for any adversities and frustrations.
At an operational and to a large extent organisational levels, the past few years have really tested not only individuals, but organisation’s ability to navigate crisis to ensure the sustainability of operations. Throughout the pandemic the human spirit was tested, we lost our loved ones, had to adapt to lock-downs, experienced loneliness; adapted to the new hybrid way of working among other challenges. Other factors that added a direct impact on business operations in a South African context included riots, flooding in Kwazulu-Natal, an increase in cyber-attacks and the Russia and Ukraine war to name a few. This did not only affect organisations but destabilized people’s way of living.
One of the most topical issues is that of mental health, all these issues put people under pressure to a point where some people are going as far as taking their own lives. This does not come as a surprise considering that due to the pandemic and the subsequent lock-downs many organisations (big and small) collapsed and this resulted directly in people losing work and hence pressure to provide for families. This evidently will be having a negative impact for more years to come as businesses start picking up again and hiring. It is under these circumstances that agility and the ability to learn new skills become more relevant and crucial to ensure survival in the long term.
As a continuity and resilience professional, the Covid-pandemic took a toll on me. I was harshly reminded that I also have to take care of my own physical and mental health so that I can manage my own life as well as the business continuity programme effectively. I had to pick myself up more times than I can remember and committed to the premise that resilience starts with me. To maintain my resilience, I had to define it simply for myself as the ability to overcome one's challenges, which can come in various forms. It is not only a matter of surviving, but also of learning from one's experiences, moving forward, and eventually thriving in any environment. I believe that resilience is centered around people as they are the heart of organisations and communities. In the absence of a resilient workforce, there is a big chance that organisations will not achieve their strategic objectives and let alone survive. There is also a link between leadership and resilience, there is evidence that resilience is a very important trait for effective leadership.
On the other hand, Business Continuity Institute (2018:11) defines organisational resilience as “the ability of an organisation to absorb and adapt to a changing environment”. Keeping this in mind, the resilience of organisations and governments is crucial, considering that South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. The more organisations can withstand disruptions and recover from them, this will have a positive impact on economic growth which in turn reduces job losses. The impact of shocks can be reduced significantly if organisations invest and pay more attention to resilience capabilities.
In conclusion the combination of personal resilience, operational resilience and organisational resilience can lead to the prosperity of people, leaders, countries and organisations as a whole.
About Brendine Tong Sejake AGA (SA), AMBCI
Brendine is the Continuity and Resilience Professional Public Sector 2021 BCI Africa Winner and a seasoned Senior Risk Analyst at South African Reserve Bank with over 15 years of experience in the financial sector. She is a committee member of The Business Continuity Institute (BCI) Global Women in Resilience Group and is part of the leadership of the BCI Southern Africa (SADC) Chapter.