Employee Resilience Research Group

stressed out woman in office

The Employee Resilience Research group combines qualitative and quantitative methodologies to investigate and understand resilience from the standpoint of the employee, and of the organisation at large. Our team consists of researchers and postgraduate students from Psychology as well as Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship. We collaborate closely with the Leading and Managing Resilient Organisations research group (LORE), Resilient Organisations (ResOrgs), as well as Joint Centre for Disaster Research (JCDR) to create a dynamic, multidisciplinary research team that aims to advance knowledge of the factors contributing to worker resilience, and of the key outcomes for organisations committed to developing resilient workers, namely engagement, high performance and wellbeing.

The Employee Resilience Research group defines employee resilience as an ability to thrive in a changing environment. This ability is facilitated by the organisational context, including leadership and organisational culture. This means that organisations play a key role in how well their employees are able to adjust and perform under pressure. An added benefit of employee resilience concerns the positive spillover effects – resilient employees will also be better equipped to handle challenges outside or work, and by facilitating employee resilience, organisations can support community resilience.

We integrate employee-level information with specific organisational initiatives to create a deeper understanding of whether the processes currently in place effectively support resilience among employees. In addition, we identify areas of intervention to address and facilitate employee resilience. The goal of our research and collaboration with practitioner is to contribute to resilient employees, who are healthy and active contributors in their organisation, as well as in their community.

The Canterbury earthquakes introduced severe and unique challenges to the region, including organisations dealing with loss of buildings, customers, and employees dealing with relocation, restructuring, rebuilding. Many of the challenges that were originally prompted by the earthquakes are now part of the everyday life in organisations, resulting in a “new normal” which both managers and employees need to adjust to. The extent to which organisations survive and thrive in these changing circumstances may be partially attributed to organisational resilience, which in turn depends on organisational ability to learn and adapt, but also on employee engagement (Walker et al.). We believe organisations benefit from incorporating employee resilience in their continuity and contingency plans.

Resilience in organisations and among employees is relevant in any context which introduces challenges and change, and transcends a post-disaster context. We therefore couple rigorous scientific methodologies with practitioner expertise to encourage organisations to capitalise on employee resilience, and guide the process of increasing organisational resilience and performance through staff capabilities.

Wellbeing Research: The Wellbeing Game

Researcher: Tom Goodwin, under the supervision of Associate Professor Katharina Näswall
Previous research by the group has explored using employee wellbeing as a method of building employee resilience.

The Wellbeing Game is an online game run by the New Zealand Mental Health Foundation. It aims to improve individual wellbeing by combining a diary exercise based on the ‘The 5 ways to Wellbeing’ with traditional game elements.

The aim of this research is to determine whether The Wellbeing Game provides a significant increase in wellbeing when compared to two other wellbeing activities that lack gamification elements. It also seeks to evaluate the engagement levels of players, as well as the potential for the game to increase the fun they experience in their lives.

This research will be useful in informing the design of future wellbeing and resilience based interventions.

For any enquiries relating to the research please contact Tom Goodwin at tom.goodwin@pg.canterbury.ac.nz or Associate Professor Katharina Näswall at katharina.naswall@canterbury.ac.nz.

The Long Tail of Organisational Recovery from Disaster

Researcher: Dr Sanna Malinen
The project aims to develop recommendations on how to incorporate plans for long-term employee wellbeing and recovery into business continuity management processes. This research project is conducted in collaboration with QuakeCoRE and Resilient Organisations (ResOrg).

For any enquiries relating to this research please contact Dr Sanna Malinen at sanna.malinen@canterbury.ac.nz.

Resilience Development Research

Researcher: Philippa Connell, under the supervision of Dr Joana Kuntz
Resilience is an employee capability, facilitated and supported by the organisation, to utilize resources to continually adapt and flourish at work, even if/when faced with challenging circumstances.

The aim of this research is to determine how support and resources from the organisation enable employees to display resilient behaviours. These resilient behaviours are beneficial to the individual and the organisation even before a significant event occurs.

This research is focused on enabling organisations to provide employees with the right environment and right resources to be able to develop resilient behaviours so that they are better prepared in the case of a significant or traumatic event. It challenges the traditional view of resilience of "being resilient to something", and looks at antecedents resilient behaviours.

For any enquiries relating to the research please contact Philippa Connell at philippa.connell@pg.canterbury.ac.nz or Dr Joana Kuntz at joana.kuntz@canterbury.ac.nz.

The Employee Resilience Research Group collaborates with a number of multinational and New Zealand based organisations to ascertain levels of employee resilience and wellbeing, and identify the appropriate initiatives aimed at building resilience capital among staff.

We do so by providing research informed activities, including: 

  • Tailored diagnostic tools (online and paper and pencil surveys)
  • Workshops (for managers and staff)
  • Corporate reports summarising workshop and survey results, and specifying linkages between current organisational practices and employee attitudes and wellbeing
  • Presentations of diagnostic findings and recommendations to key organisational stakeholders


Publications and reports

Nguyen, Q., Kuntz, J.C., Näswall, K. & Malinen, S. (2016). Employee Resilience and Leadership Styles: The Moderating Rold of Proactive Personality and Optimism. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 45(2), 13.

Kuntz, J.C., Näswall, K., & Malinen, S. (2016). Resilient Employees in Resilient Organizations: Flourishing Beyond Adversity. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 9, 456-462.

Nilakant, V., Walker B., Kuntz, J., de Vries, H., Malinen, S., Näswall K., & van Heugten, S. (2016). Dynamics of Organizational Response to a Disaster: a Study of Organizations Impacted by Earthquakes. In C. Michael Hall, Sanna Malinen, Russell Wordsworth and Rob Vosslamber (Eds), Business and Post-Disaster Management: Business, organisational and consumer resilience and the Christchurch Earthquakes. Routledge. (pp. 35-48).

Näswall, K., Kuntz, J., and Malinen, S. (2015). Employee Resilience Scale (EmpRes) Measurement Properties. Resilient Organisations Research Report, 2015/04.

MacDonald, C., Davies, B., Johnston, D. M., Paton, D., Malinen, S., Näswall, K., Kuntz J., and Stevenson, J. (2015). A framework for exploring the role of business in community recovery following disasters. In GNS Science Report 2015/62, Commissioned by GNS Science, 22pp.

Kuntz, J.C. (2014). The Protracted Effect: Exploring the Relationship Between Organisational Disaster Responsiveness and Employee Burnout. Natural Hazards Review. http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)NH.1527-6996.0000147

Näswall, K., Kuntz, J., Hodliffe, M. & Malinen, S. (2013) Employee Resilience Scale (EmpRes): Technical Report. Resilient Organisations Research Report 2013/06.

Garside, R., Näswall, K., Johal, S., Johnston, D.M. (2013) A general review of psychosocial factors relating to disaster recovery in the workplace in a 2010-2011 Canterbury context. GNS Science Report. 13.

Malinen, S. and Mankkinen, T. (2013). Motivations and attitudes of volunteers in the Finnish fire service (Vapaaehtoisten motivaatiotekijat ja asenteet suomalaisissa palokunnissa). In T. Mankkinen (Ed.), Fire services in Finland (Palokuntalaisuus Suomessa): 53-105. Helsinki, Finland: Suomen Pelastusalan Keskusjarjesto ry.

Kuntz, J.C., Naswall, K. and Bockett, A. (2013). Keep Calm and Carry On? An Investigation of Teacher Burnout in a Post-disaster Context. New Zealand Journal of Psychology,42(2), 57-68.

Britt, E. Dorahy., M., Carter., J., Hoggarth., P., Coates., A., Meyer M. and Naswall, K. (2012). Promoting Recovery and Building Resilience for Individuals and Communities. NZ Journal of Psychology 40(4): 76-78.


Näswall, K., Keeman, A., Malinen, S., and Kuntz, J.C. (2016). Evaluation of the Wellbeing Game. Sheffield, UK: Institute of Work Psychology conference, 20-23 Jun 2016.

Malinen, S., Tonkin, K., Näswall, K. and Kuntz, J.C. (2016). Can resilience be enhanced through focusing on wellbeing in the workplace? Sheffield, UK: Institute of Work Psychology conference, 20-23 Jun 2016.

Malinen, S., Näswall, K., Tonkin, K., and Kuntz, J.C. 1-4 September (2016). Paper: "Can resilience be enhanced through focusing on wellbeing in the workplace?" - New Zealand Psychological Society, Wellington, New Zealand.

Plimmer, G. Berman, E., Kuntz, J., Malinen, S., Näswall, K., Lofgren, K. 6-7 June (2016). Paper: "Employee Resilience in the Public Workplace: A study from New Zealand". Symposium: "Challenges for Public Sector Employees in an Increasingly Demanding Work Environment". Public Administration Symposium Seminar, The Hague, Netherlands.

King, D., Kuntz, J.C. and Näswall, K. April (2016). "Resilience: Uncovering Key Factors and Mechanisms for Reducing Employee Turnover". SIOP, Anaheim, USA.

Näswall, K., Malinen, S. and Kuntz, J. (2016) Organisational support for staff in long-term recovery: A case study from Canterbury, New Zealand. (Proceedings of the People in Disasters Conference, 24-26 February,Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies.)

Malinen, S., Nӓswall, K., and Kuntz, J.C. September (2015). Paper: "Organisations’ role in post-disaster recovery" – FIOH2015 - Finland.

Malinen, S., Nӓswall, K., and Kuntz, J.C. 19-21 August (2015). Paper: "Enhancing organizational resilience through focusing on employee wellbeing" – International Interdisciplinary Conference on Research on Work, WORK2015 - New Meanings of Work, Turku, Finland.

Kuntz, J.C., Näswall, K., Malinen, S., August 7-11 (2015). Paper: “Employee Resilience: Development of a Measure”. King, D. and Van Dyne, L. Symposium: “Worker Collective Resilience: Advancing Theories, Methods, and Applications of Resilience Research", Academy of Management Meeting, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Näswall, K., Kenttä, G., Malinen, S., Kuntz, J., July (2015). Paper: Leading for optimal recovery? Mindfulness and recovery experiences among elite sports coaches and senior business leaders.. Melbourne, Australia: IOP, July.

Näswall, K., Kuntz, J. & Malinen, S. (2015) Symposium: “Resilience in the workplace: Leading through change and challenges” – EAWOP, Oslo, Norway.

Näswall, K., Malinen, S., Kuntz, J., May (2015). Paper: “Change from the inside: Research-informed but organization-driven intervention to promote worker wellbeing” – Work, Stress and Health Conference, Atlanta, USA.

Malinen, S., Näswall, K., & Kuntz, J. (2015). Presentation: “Role of organisations in community preparedness and wellbeing.” Presentation at Joint Centre for Disaster Studies, Emergency Management Summer Institute, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand.

Kuntz, J.C., July 8-13 (2014). "Facilitating disaster recovery and wellbeing in the Education Sector: Evidence from two studies." Malinen, S., Kuntz, J., Näswall, K., Kemp, S., Rucklidge, J., Symposium: “Wellbeing and recovery in a post-disaster context.” – International Congress of Applied Psychology (ICAP), Paris, France.

Kuntz, J.C., Nilakant, V, and Walker, B. (2014). "HR Leadership in disaster." – Webinar prepared for HRINZ, New Zealand.

Kuntz, J.C. (2014). “Enhancing Teacher Resilience – Employee-Centred Managerial Approaches” – Part of the Postgraduate Diploma in Specialist Teaching; University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Kuntz, J., Naswall, K., Malinen, S., Hodliffe, M. (2014) Resilience revisited: An employee-centered approach. Paper presented at the 14th Biennial Conference of the International Society for the Study of Work and Organizational Values, Riga, Latvia. June 29-July 2, 2014.

Malinen, S., Kuntz, J. and Naswall, K. (2014) Employee wellbeing and attitudes in a post-disaster environment: A case study from the financial sector. Paper presented at the Institute of Work Psychology international Conference, 24-26 June 2014, Sheffield, UK.

Näswall, K., Kuntz, J., Malinen, S., April 14-16 (2014). Paper: “Employee Resilience and Work-Related Factors: Scale Development and Some Interesting Associations” – European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology, London, UK.

Kuntz, J.C., Näswall, K., Malinen, S., March 12 (2014). “Building resilient communities through resilient organisations and employees”. – Joint Center for Disaster Studies, Emergency Management Summer Institute, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand.

Kuntz, J.C., Näswall, K., Malinen, S., December 2 (2013). Discussion Paper: Building resilience to promote engagement. – New Zealand Industrial Organisational Psychology Conference, Auckland, New Zealand.

Malinen, S., Kuntz, J.C. and Näswall, K., December 2 (2013). Discussion Paper: Employee attitudes and wellbeing in a post-disaster environment: A case study from the financial sector. New Zealand Industrial Organisational Psychology Conference, Auckland, New Zealand.

Näswall, K., Malinen, S., and Kuntz, J., November 22nd (2013). Poster: Employee resilience and organisational factors: The workplace as a venue for building community resilience. Rhise Symposium, New Zealand.

Näswall, K., Kuntz, J.C., Malinen, S., September 6-9 (2013). Discussion Paper: Employee resilience and work-related outcomes: A study of Canterbury employees. New Zealand Psychological Society Annual Conference, Auckland, New Zealand.

Kuntz, J.C., Näswall, K., and Rae, S., August 29-30 (2013). Discussion Paper: UC Students Post-Earthquake: Burnout, Academic Performance and Employability. New Zealand Tertiary Community Engagement Summit, Christchurch, New Zealand.


Kuntz, J.C., Näswall, K., Malinen, S.; September 4 (2015). Presentation: “What makes organisations resilient: Presentation of quantitative findings”. Seminar prepared for representatives from infrastructure organisations involved in business recovery research, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Kuntz, J.C., Näswall, K., Malinen, S. June 29 (2015). Presentation: “High performing teams and resilience”. Seminar prepared for representatives for Community Investment, Ministry of Social Development, Christchurch, New Zealand.
October 23 (2014) – Wellness intervention in the banking industry. Wellington, New Zealand.

October 21 - November 4 (2014) – ResOrgs 10th Anniversary. Workshops. Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand.

September 26 (2014) – “Individual Resilience: What is it, How to Measure it and How to Enhance it?” MBA course on Leading Resilient Enterprises. Christchurch, New Zealand.

September 25 (2014) – Hazards Management Workshop. Wellington, New Zealand.

September 4 (2014) – Learnings from the Canterbury earthquakes on employee wellbeing and resilience for the “new normal”. Invited Talk for I/O Net, Christchurch, New Zealand.

June 5 (2014) – The Canterbury Vision: Managing your own business – University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

March 4-6 (2014) – Wellbeing and Engagement Workshops: Evaluating Organisational Interventions – University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

April 9-11 (2013) – Wellbeing and Engagement Workshops: Assessing manager and staff engagement and wellbeing in the financial sector – University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

October 7-9 (2013) – Wellbeing and Challenges at Work – University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

June 30 (2012) – Workshop for Managers in Non-Government Organisations: “Canterbury Earthquakes, 2012: Managing Ongoing Challenges and Promoting Wellbeing” – University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

August 25 (2011) – Workshop for Managers in Social Service Organisations: “Canterbury Earthquakes: Promoting Recovery and Building Resilience” – University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

August 8 (2011) – Workshop for Managers in Social Service Organisations: “Canterbury Earthquakes: Promoting Recovery and Building Resilience” – University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

July 28 (2011) – Workshop for Managers in Social Service Organisations: “Canterbury Earthquakes: Promoting Recovery and Building Resilience” – University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

For dissertations and theses related to our work search the UC Research Repository.

Academic staff
Postgraduate students
  • Henrieta Hamilton Skurak - PhD in Applied Psychology "The impact of self-determination on corporate and independent volunteering"

To enquire about postgraduate study with the Employee Resilience Research team contact one of the researchers.

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