TRAINING manufacturing workers to be resilient in uncertain times is leading to programs to boost productivity and reduce mental illness across all jobs in the new Knowledge Economy.
The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) began delivering training to workers from car component manufacturers Futuris Group of Companies in late 2014 when Holden announced it would cease making cars in Australia by the end of 2017.
Under a train-the-trainer model, about 12 senior automotive staff were given TechWerks Resilience Training, a program initially developed for the US Army which SAHMRI has a license to deliver for Asia and Australia.
The staff then adapted the method to suit the manufacturing environment and went back to their organisations and taught the 12 resilience skills to their 200 colleagues.
SAHMRI has also adopted positive psychology guru Professor Martin Seligman’s PERMA (Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment) dashboard to measure wellbeing and resilience and then added physical activity, nutrition, sleep and optimism to create PERMA+.
The manufacturing workers undertook baseline testing at the beginning of the training and follow-up testing after the training, which found a 12 per cent increase in their wellbeing and resilience.
TechWerks trainer Chris Poe travels from the US to Adelaide to teach resilience.
SAHMRI Wellbeing and Resilience Centre Director Gabrielle Kelly said following the training the companies reported a 34 per cent reduction in absenteeism, a 20 per cent reduction in the use of in-house physiotherapy and improvement in productivity in three out of five measures.
Kelly said they were optimistic the results would be able to be replicated across other industries.
“There’s an incredibly large global appetite for this and a global need for it,” she said.
“There’s a great deal of interest in what we’re doing in Mexico, China, Dubai, England and we really are attracting quite a lot of attention even though we are still early on in our journey and learning about building resilience in the work place”
Kelly said wellbeing and resilience training would play a pivotal role in preparing workers for the “fourth industrial revolution” when the rise of robotics and Artificial Intelligence forces a dramatic change in the workforce.
She said chief executives she talked with believed wellbeing and resilience would be the next evolution of occupational health and safety.
“The real dangers to people in knowledge economy jobs is not the sheet metal that falls on them, the real danger is whether they can handle the stress associated with their job,” she said.
“Psychological injury claims cost five times as much as physical injury claims and psychological injury claims in business are growing.
“The knowledge economy is demanding, people’s job security is reduced, transition and digital disruption is everywhere and there’s a lot of pressure on people and families.
“Building these psychological health assets so that you’ve got more resilience in the bank before bad stuff happens is a sensible thing to do.”
SAHMRI is also developing products to increase wellbeing and resilience for retirees transitioning from a lifetime in the workforce, vocational trainees, school students and inmates in the South Australian prison system.
The programs are part of a South Australian government priority to become a “State of Well-being” by running large-scale studies and developing programs to improve people’s psychological health at all stages of life from school students to workers and the elderly.