Creating a Resilient Workforce for Today and Tomorrow

IESP members provide insights and examples of the role reward and recognition programs can play in creating a resilient, mission-focused organization.

When “shelter at home” mandates were announced organizations scrambled to take care of essentials employees would need to work from home such as computer equipment and teleconferencing systems.
Today human resource experts say the focus is shifting to making resilience a top priority. In the short term, COVID-19 may fundamentally change the culture of the workplace, how work is distributed, how workforces are deployed and how organizations engage their people. In the longer term, this situation may present an opportunity to think about how to elevate communications, create a more resilient workforce, and build more focus on health and well-being.1

According to Josh Bersin, one of the big reset issues we now understand is that resilience, the ability to “adapt” and bounce back, is perhaps one of the most important things for organizations.2

Resilient organizations have a distinctive culture of engaged employees focused on delivering their mission. Senior people “walk the talk” and collaboration and commitment are essential tools.

These resilient organizations with highly engaged employees also perform better. According to Willis Towers Watson, companies with more effective employee experience outperform their peers for top-line growth, bottom-line profitability and return to shareholders.3 

Elevating Communication

Elevating communication is foundational to creating an engaged, resilient workforce today and in the future because the impacts of COVID-19 aren’t just impacting today’s operations. Seventy-four percent of CFOs say they plan to move even more onsite employees to remote workspaces permanently — after the COVID-19 crisis ends.4 Finding and sustaining new ways to communicate will be essential. IESP members shared advice and examples of how they are helping clients elevate communication.

  • Make time for informal communication –  CR Worldwide says its equally important to pick up the phone just to say “hello” once in awhile in addition to scheduled video meetings. These types of informal calls can go a long way in replacing the hallway conversations that define the social connectivity of a shared workspace. Also, along with learning how things are going for their colleague, the employee making the call may pick up a tip or two they can use to help overcome the same difficult challenge they are facing.4
  • Use celebration to stay connectedHinda Incentives’ client moved their entire workforce to working remotely. As they made the change, they created new ways of staying connected via tools like Microsoft Teams and a new weekly e-newsletter with employee birthdays and anniversaries. Employees were encouraged to congratulate one another to help them stay connected. Initial indications are their communication efforts increased overall usage of their recognition tools including e-cards and nominations for rewards. The system also included manager discretionary awards for recognizing employee achievements a popular tool to highlight customer service reps for achieving their service level standards. Within a few days of moving to a remote workforce, they were once again meeting all their standard metrics including call answer time and abandonment rates, and they launched a new product in record time.

Putting the Mission First 

According to the Deloitte report, a recent survey showed 79% of business leaders said they believe an organization’s purpose is central to business success, yet 68% said that purpose is not used as a guidepost in leadership decision-making processes within their organization.5 IESP members shared creative examples of how rewarding desired behaviors helps grow focus on the mission. 

  • Recognize Commitment Motisha’s large banking client sent a personalized recognition note to all their frontline workers via their online recognition platform. They thanked employees for keeping the business open and risking their health and their families’ health for the betterment of the company. They also sent a range of products that could be enjoyed now in the family home such as Netflix and Just Eat in addition to family experience days outings for when the restrictions lift. 
  • Reward Behaviours You Want to Increase – As they transitioned to most employees working from home, CR Worldwide's office automation client reviewed their rewards and recognition program. They identified that despite their program itself being fair and consistent, the managers were skewing the figures. While many were recognizing their team members frequently, others weren’t at all. Engagement is key when managing a remote team, so to train and coach their managers to increase the frequency and incidence of recognition for team members, they started to incentivize and reward managers that provided recognition to their team members. This led to a “levelling-up” across the business where, regardless of the line manager, recognition became even more a part of the working practice than it was before the pandemic.

Focus on Health and Wellbeing 

Even before COVID-19, studies were starting to show an overall increase in employee loneliness in the workplace. During the coronavirus pandemic, and for months afterwards, businesses and their workforces will be subject to immense strain. It is important that organizations be vigilant about maintaining workforce well-being and productivity throughout this period.6 IESP members had several helpful examples for focusing on daily safety and overall wellbeing. 

  • Embrace Protection ProceduresHinda Incentive’s client encouraged increased use of its employee reward and recognition portals with e-cards and ways for employees to nominate co-workers to earn points for rewards. This helped the distribution company motivate and recognize employees while they were restructuring their systems and processes. Changes included adjusting start time and employee shifts to provide greater social distancing and protect workers. Sanitizing and surface cleanings were increased, and employees were required to wear masks almost immediately. The workforce adjusted to these changes quickly and shipments have exceeded those sent in the same months the previous year.
  • Help Coworkers Tango Card’s staffing services client has a program to help their temporary workers, which make up a large part of their workforce. Full-time employees can donate a day’s salary and part of the relief will come in the form of a link to select a home delivery reward that allows them to purchase meals or other essentials.
  • “Spread Kindness” – To boost employee morale while doing good in the world during times of overwhelming COVID-19 bad news, HMI Performance Incentives developed a Spread Kindness initiative. Promoted to clients and publicly via social media, people were invited to take short weekly surveys about people or things that inspired them. Participants were entered in drawings where they could win financial donations to a charity of their choosing, “Eat Well prizes”, or a “Stay Busy prize” of a curated merchandise package that’s helpful for social distancing. With the help of everyone who participated, HMI donated to charities like St. Jude’s and St. Baldrick’s and HMI employees are proud of their initiative and the light they shared with others. They have since been asked by a client to develop a similar initiative for the client company.

Resources Ready to Help Your Organization 

Whether it’s a recognition program for frontline employees who are keeping the business open or supervisors who need to motivate large groups of employees, designing and implementing a program doesn’t have to be difficult. IESP members work with organizations of all sizes in many industries. They can design programs to reward and recognize employees for their dedication and creativity in delivering on your organization’s mission so you can maintain a resilient workforce, ready to help the organization move forward when things begin to open-up.


  1. “The heart of resilient leadership: Responding to COVID-19 - A guide for senior executives”  Punit Renjen, Deloitte Insights – March 16, 2020.
  2. “Can We Make Our Organizations Resilient? And Make Society Resilient as A Result? Josh Bersin, April 19, 2020.
  3. “Breakthrough Research: Identifying the factors that make a high-performance employee experience (HPEX)” – Willis Towers Watson, 2019.  
  4. 3 things you can do to build a more resilient workforce.
  5. “The heart of resilient leadership: Responding to COVID-19 - A guide for senior executives”  Punit Renjen, Deloitte Insights – March 16, 2020.
  6. “5 Ways to Improve the Employee Experience of a Distributed Workforce” – CMS Wire, April 13, 2020.