How to build resilience in young executives

Manish Arneja, Managing Partner, SEA, The Resilience Institute, discusses how employers can create and build resilience in young executives.
By: | November 23, 2023

In uncertain times, the human capacity to manage challenges is tested. We see this in rising rates of mental illness among young executives. While some young people thrive, many struggle with depression, anxiety, and isolation. An ongoing study over the past decades shows that since 2011, the mental wellbeing of younger people has declined significantly.

The Resilience Institute released in 2023 its latest Global Resilience Report, a study examining resilience trends across a sample of 8,165 office workers worldwide who completed a Resilience Diagnostic assessment.

The report highlights the pressing need to address low resilience levels among young people under 30 and urges organisations to take action and support their young workforce.

The data confirms the growing evidence that young people are significantly more at risk for anxiety and depression symptoms than employees over 30. This poses a significant risk to the health and productivity of younger employees. Despite significant research, investment, and a plethora of treatments, we are not reversing this trend. The report confirms that the Under 30 participants show 15% more risks related to sleep delay (a recognised sign of sleep disorder), rumination, boredom, worry and indecisiveness. Young women executives are more at risk than their male counterparts.

As shown in table 1, more than one in five females under 30 are at risk, versus one in 10 for those above 30 years old.

The critical risks for young male participants are boredom, sleep delay, renumeration, social disconnect and impulsivity.

Despite the concerning finding, the survey also highlights the strengths of young people in other areas such as vitality, positivity and making time to relax, which contribute to overall resilience and wellbeing.

“The data confirms the growing evidence that young people are significantly more at risk for anxiety and depression symptoms than employees over 30.”- Manish Arneja, Managing Partner, SEA, The Resilience Institute.

Recommendation for leaders

  • Strengthen graduate induction programmes with resiliency training: Providing employment and onboarding support is strongly recommended for all organisations. Resilience is a set of skills that can be taught, and it is better to ensure that those skills are provided early as part of onboarding. Research is crystal clear; resilience is a muscle we can all train and develop at any age. All younger employees need help developing their mental skills—specifically, how to master worry, rumination, uncertainty, boredom, anxiety, and indecisiveness. According to our studies, the results of controlled testing before and after our resilience training show a 25% increase for our participants under 30.
  • Do not treat everyone as fragile: Remember that some young employees are flourishing. However, people leaders must be alert to signs of distress and know how to address these issues. Treating all young people as fragile is insulting and demotivating.

READ MORE: Employee burnout is real: Building resilience for a healthier workforce

  •  Build psychological safe environments: Leaders need to create conversations and environments that allow the young to express their opinions, ideas and needs. With their heightened interest in mental health, young adults tend to seek employers that care about their wellbeing. They want to feel safe to be themselves at work. Being available and fully present to listen and understand their struggle is an important first step to demonstrating care and acting positively.

About the Author: Manish Arneja is Managing Partner, SEA, The Resilience Institute. He is a global speaker and coach on organisational change, building resilience and agility. He is passionate about building the capacity of leaders to thrive sustainably.