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Resilience training in the charity sector

Linda Chivers, chief executive at Age Concern Central Lancashire, explains why resilience is so important

Employee resilience training is of particular importance for those working in the charity sector, according to Linda Chivers, chief executive at Age Concern Central Lancashire.

She advised other charities to think carefully about the kind of person who typically works in this sector and the sort of support they might need.

“There’s a certain kind of person who dedicates their working life to a charity,” Chivers told HR magazine. “Usually they are very caring, very empathetic people. However, that can be difficult to switch off, and can leave them feeling very stressed and anxious when they are exposed to situations that they are unable to fix. It is essential to provide them with the right support to be able to cope with that.”

Age Concern Central Lancashire held training days to teach its employees how to cope with difficult situations. It appointed Rebecca Howard of Shiny Mind to make her workshop 'Resilience: Your Mindset, Your Choice' available to all staff.

“We needed to give them the tools to be able to deal with what they are exposed to,” Chivers explained. “It has been hugely beneficial, and has helped our staff to feel more empowered.

“They need to know that we don’t expect them to be all things to all people. We have seen demand for our services increase over the past four or five years but we only have a finite amount of resources. We therefore help our employees not to put pressure on themselves when there is a situation they cannot help with.”

One of the challenges Age Concern has faced is the need to start charging for some of its services. “Some of our staff feel that’s not charitable,” Chivers said. “But they have as much right as anybody to receive a good salary for the work they do."

Ensuring employees feel able to share what's worrying them has been vital, said Chivers. “They now feel able to talk about the pressure they are under,” she said. “Our staff know that we are hearing what they are saying, and can share their experiences, support each other and offer solutions.”

Regarding the resilience training delivered by Shiny Mind, Chivers added: “Almost immediately after the session we saw that staff had benefitted - the following day, several said they had talked about it with partners and could see themselves in the 'Drama Triangle,' and that they were inclined to spend too much time ruminating on issues.

"Within a week staff members said they were now putting some of the tools Rebecca had provided into play, both consciously and subconsciously... One of the real benefits from the shared experience is the newfound ability to talk a common language - we can challenge each other".