Between Covid-19, inflation, supply chain snarls, and geopolitical turmoil, the past two and half years have already demanded an incredible amount of resilience from all of us. And I don't think I'll shock anyone when I say it's not over yet. Experts will argue endlessly about the timing and terminology around the word recession, but nearly everyone agrees more rocky economic times are coming.  

All of which means that leaders will need their employees to draw even further on their already depleted wells of resilience to meet the challenges ahead. Experts suggest simply cheerleading for greater grit just annoys everyone and tends to backfire. Focusing on avoiding burnout is useful but only guarantees your employees won't collapse. It doesn't ensure they'll be in any condition to do their best work. 

So how can you help your people (and yourself) stay resilient as the challenges just keep coming? The ADP Research Institute's recent global study of resilience and engagement across 25 countries and 26,000 participants offers insights. The results, written up by ADP head Marcus Buckingham for MIT Sloan Management Review, identify a handful of key characteristics shared by the most resilient employees. By bolstering these traits, leaders can bolster the resilience of their teams.   

1. They trust their colleagues. 

Buckingham is definitive: When it comes to building highly resilient teams, trust is everything. Employees "lucky enough to completely trust their colleagues, team leader, and senior leaders, selecting 5 on a trust scale ranging from 1 to 5, were 42 times more likely to be highly resilient," he reports, explaining that "psychologically, it's easier to engage in our best work when we don't have to expend mental resources looking over our shoulders or protecting ourselves against dysfunctional workplace practices that erode trust, like bullying or micromanaging."

How do you build trust among your team? Avoiding toxic behaviors like bullying and discrimination is of course essential. But my colleagues have also offered a host of more subtle suggestions as well

2. They're part of a team. 

"It is almost impossible to be either engaged or resilient if you do not feel like part of a team," writes Buckingham. His organization's survey found employees who worked as part of a team were 2.7 times more likely to be highly resilient than those who work solo, which makes sense given that humans have evolved over millennia to be social creatures living and working in bands.  

3. They work wherever. 

If you were betting the data would show that in-person employees are more resilient, I have bad news for you. The survey actually found that those who spent the majority of their time working remotely had an edge when it came to both engagement and resilience (sorry, Malcolm Gladwell). The takeaway for leaders, according to Buckingham, is straightforward: "Feeling like part of a team is a state of mind, not a state of place."

4. They value information over stability. 

Many people assume that lots of change takes a toll on people's energy levels and coping abilities. But what the survey actually found was that it's not volatility that dents resilience, but the unknown.

"Surprisingly, the people who reported five or more changes at work [during the pandemic] were 13 times more likely to be highly resilient. This suggests that we humans fear the unknown more than we fear change," Buckingham writes. That means leaders shouldn't promise stability they can't deliver, but instead should prioritize clear communication about what's changing and why. Truth makes people more resilient than empty reassurances. 

5. They have close personal relationships. 

We've all experienced how our personal lives can impact our performance at work (for good or for bad). The survey confirms this observation. Employees with stable partners and kids were more likely to be highly resilient at work. 

Bosses can't do much to help their employees build these tight personal relationships, of course, but this data should encourage them to give employees the tools and flexibility they need to have the best shot at sustaining them. Your employee taking the afternoon off to see his kid's soccer game isn't a performance-killing distraction. It's part of the web of relationships that allows him to do his best work in tough times. 

Want to learn which demographic groups and types of employees tend to be the most resilient? I didn't include this information here because it doesn't provide much actionable advice for leaders, but you can check out the MIT article to see the complete survey findings if you're interested.