A new study—High Education and Income Do Not Guarantee a Resilient Employee—released from meQuilibrium has found that an advanced educational degree and a high salary do not guarantee greater levels of resilience, defined as an ability to bounce back from adversity.
More specifically, the research found that resilience is independent of income and education, as well as other personal attributes such as age and gender. This means that many companies’ most valued employees could be more susceptible to burnout, sleep issues, absence, low productivity, and depression—all factors that put individual employees, and ultimately businesses, at risk.
In today’s business environment, change is inevitable. Organizations must quickly adapt and evolve in order to stay competitive and relevant, and having a workforce that is open to change and equipped to cope with stress is essential. As a result, resilience is among the most sought after skills in today’s workforce.
But many businesses may misidentify who amongst their workforce is most likely to be highly resilient. The historic, widespread belief has been that education and income are strong indicators of success, but meQuilibrium’s research found that nearly half of people with high levels of education and income have low resilience.
And although HR can know for certain which employees have advanced degrees or are making above-average salaries, it is impossible for them to decipher which half of their workforces have high or low levels of resilience.
Other key findings include:
- More than half of the respondents (54%) making $75,000 to $99,000 scored below average on resilience; nearly half (41%) making $150,000 or more also scored below average for resilience.
- Nearly half (42%) of employees earning $75,000 or more intend to quit in the next 6 months.
- 47% of those with bachelor’s degree and 44% of those with a master’s degree scored low in resilience.
“Employers may expect their highly-paid and highly-educated people to be their most resilient performers, but this research suggests they should think again,” said Dr. Andrew Shatté, one of the study’s coauthors and the cofounder and chief science officer at meQuilibrium. “The old adage has long taught us that money doesn’t buy happiness, but our research proves that it also doesn’t buy resilience. Helping employees learn resilience, however, is one tangible, measurable way companies can both retain talent and gain competitive advantage.”
The research does provide some very good news for organizations committed to building resilience, a skill that can be taught among workforces. Having high resilience was found to improve a person’s ability to fend off perceived stress, burnout, depression, and sleep issues, in addition to keeping people from quitting, improving their job satisfaction and productivity, and reducing their absences. More specifically for employers:
- High resilience offered twice the protection against perceived stress than low resilience.
- Of those with a college degree or higher who scored high in resilience, only 8% were at risk for depression (vs. 33% of college-educated workers with low resilience who were at risk).
High Education and Income Do Not Guarantee a Resilient Employee was conducted by a team of leading researchers in resilience and business performance and, in addition to Dr. Shatté, include Dr. Adam Perlman, MD, Dr. Brad Smith, PhD and Dr. Wendy D. Lynch. This meQuilibrium-sponsored research is the second in a number of studies on the business impact of resilience; the first research on The Positive Effect of Resilience on Stress and Business Outcomes in Difficult Work Environments was issued in March.
“Employers are playing a game of Russian roulette when it comes to managing their human capital,” said Jan Bruce, cofounder and CEO of meQuilibrium. “They wouldn’t take the same kind of blind risk with a new product rollout or major infrastructure investment, so why do it with talent? Training the entire workforce to be more resilient eliminates the guesswork of who will succeed by ensuring everyone, from the corner office to the front line, is prepared to not only address the daily challenges in business, but also thrive in the face of them.”
To download the study with complete research findings, click here.