An HR Leaders Guide for an “Annus Mirabilis” (Remarkable Year) in a Virtual Workforce

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By: Alicia Scott

                For many leaders, the COVID-19 crisis presented a level of adversity that redefined best practices in traditional, face-to-face HR workforce environments. The rise of the global pandemic happened so fast that many HR leaders were forced to make decisions without the ability to accurately predict the magnitude of the consequences that would follow.  Fast forward, fourteen months later, HR leaders emerged with perspectives that proved to support their ability to reflect, pivot and continue to effectively lead organizations virtually. Interestingly, Ancient Greek Philosopher Aristotle, confirmed similar sentiments about humans and their response when faced with pivoting (although it wasn’t called pivoting at that time). Aristotle said, “The man who is truly good and wise will bear with dignity whatever fortune sends, and will always make the best of his circumstance.”

                Making the best of leading successful HR practices based on the lessons learned from pivoting during a pandemic can result in an Annus Mirabilis. Annus Mirabilis is a Latin phrase that means a remarkable or notable year. Every industry was impacted by the crisis. In a conversation with Mae Kline-Ashby, Associate Vice-President for Human Resources at Seminole State College in Sanford, Florida, she shared insight on effective ways that HR leaders can make the shift and look forward to a remarkable year. Overall, she stated that HR leaders must be more intentional in leading virtually. Mae suggested the following:


                HR leaders who demonstrate authentic intentions in acquiring top talent for organizations elevate the overall operations. When crises occur that impact operations such as the COVID-19 crisis, HR leaders must find ways to help the leadership within the organizations navigate their teams proactively. One of the proactive ways is to observe how their teams respond to changes as they occur and record their lived experiences along the way. Collecting the stories of people’s experiences within your organization is a good way to stay connected, and understand the employees’ viewpoints while going thru tough times. As the stories are collected, HR teams have the benefit of analyzing the themes that emerge from the opportunities that result from pivoting. For instance, there may be a leader who has challenges with trusting employees to perform ethically in a virtual environment. This would be a great opportunity for HR teams to guide virtual professional development trainings on subjects of trust, managing change and empathy. It is vital to continue to track the levels of engagement and employee experiences that result from these types of professional development trainings to keep the momentum and strengthen camaraderie during a time when organizations feel less connected.


                Connection requires communication. Effective HR leaders value helping the leaders within organizations. Mae strongly advised that HR leaders must communicate the following:

  1. Highlight the lessons learned from pivoting from face-to-face to virtual.
  2. Acknowledge push-back. Not everyone is going to be on board initially and it is acceptable.
  3. Create a welcoming environment for employees and leaders to share concerns.
  4. Collaborate on effective ways to overcome challenges in the new virtual environment.
  5. Share newly acquired efficiencies that have resulted from interacting virtually. For example, reassigning roles and responsibilities that can be managed or performed virtually or in a hybrid model that is more efficient.
  6. Recognize and discuss the impact that flexibility plays in leading, engaging and performing virtually.
  7. Provide and communicate the organization’s comprehensive self-care plan to support mental health and wellness.

                Effective HR leaders are stewards of leadership success. Patience is the key in helping leaders turn up the human elements of trust, empathy, self-care and flexibility in newly appointed virtual environments. Mae further suggests that it is important to think the best of the people within your organization. Her experience has revealed that when the lines of communication are open and trust is the foundation of your organizational environment, leaders have a greater level of understanding those whom they lead.


                Check-in frequently within the various levels of your organization. When used properly, the feedback is a catalyst for continuous success in a virtual workplace. As a result, you will be good and wise and with dignity you will be able to intentionally make the best of your circumstances that will guarantee an Annus Mirabilis for your organization!