Event Recap: 3 Takeaways From the HR Leaders Forum on Resilience


Doing business during the COVID-19 crisis offers new challenges, sometimes changing daily, for employees and employers alike. To offer advice and support to the business community, we asked two of our Certified Aurora Guides to answer a few questions about building resilience in teams.

Joining moderator Addie Swartz were Sarah MacConduibh, who brings 40 years of experience building and leading teams in the military and private industry, and Christine Rossi, an HR leader with 20 years of experience developing talent and managing workforces at large companies.

Here are 3 key takeaways from the discussion for HR Leaders to help their employees build and sustain resilience during the COVID-19 crisis.

Put People First

The COVID-19 crisis is unique, but there are lessons companies can adapt from other events. During the 2013 government shutdown, Sarah’s defense industry contractor firm faced an immediate crisis. She related how the organization’s leadership quickly responded to ensure individual as well as organizational resiliency.

“We decided to put our people first. There was going to be no future in our organization if everybody left,” she said. By acknowledging that retaining the talent in the company was mission critical, the firm developed a strategy to motivate and strengthen their community. Among the seven elements she shared were a dedication to transparent communications, daily leadership meetings to align messaging, and the addition of high-touch dialogues to understand personal situations.

“We got through it intact. We handled this crisis and these elements were viewed as exemplar,” she explained, adding that the plan was put into a playbook in case this happened again. “And as a benefit,” she continued, “the employee engagement scores right after that just skyrocketed. The employees really felt loved.”

Create a New Version of Community

Just as Sarah’s firm recognized the importance of their community in navigating the government shutdown, Christine shared strategies for reinforcing your culture and community of employees by being open to new approaches.

Christine suggested building upon your existing culture to address the pressure employees are under, allowing people to connect about this new working world. “There’s a need for organizations to really meet people where they are. Give people space to feel what they are feeling,” she recommended. “Having those connection points [when working] in isolation is really critical.”

Christine offered simple solutions that are working at other firms to prevent people from feeling isolated from their work community, including starting the day with gratitudes and daily quarantine questions. “What am I grateful for? How am I checking in with people? What sense of normalcy am I letting go of today?” she explained. “They are very simple, and the women are really responding positively to it.”

Openly Discuss Company Needs

In times of crisis, some employees look for additional ways they can help the company. “Some people really want to do more, especially right now, to help their team, help the boss, to help the company, but they don’t have that context and awareness to know what to do,” Sarah said. She advised the audience of Human Resources professionals to be transparent about company needs and encourage ideas and help from employees.

In the Aurora platform, Sarah and Christine guide women to build leadership skills and the current crisis can present the chance to flex those skills, especially when contributing to a shared goal. Sarah said, “Aurora participants really appreciate hearing from each other about how they are working towards the same goals, towards the same mission, but doing different pieces of it.”