The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges in society and the economy, especially due to containment measures, such as social distancing and stay-home policies. The crisis has recently become a turning point in the social and economic norms and could continue until a lasting solution is found. The speed at which economies have experienced downturns has created changes in organizations that have not been witnessed recently (Gopinath). The pandemic caused major confusion within the economic sector, especially in human resource management, with some companies forced to lay off their employees and send others on unpaid leave to deal with the impact of the crisis. Human resource professionals were left wondering about how to deal with new challenges resulting from the pandemic. While the pandemic affected all leaders in all organizations and all sectors, human resource professionals remain the most important in helping others navigate the crisis since they create the necessary balance to keep companies afloat.
Research has always focused on leadership competencies applicable to normal circumstances. They propose best practices that leaders should follow during the normal time in their organizations. For instance, Kerns analyzed numerous best practices for leaders to get positive results in their firms (26). However, the COVID-19 crisis caused extraordinary changes and an environment in various sectors around the world. The crisis changed leadership as it has been in all sectors because of social distancing and the economic problems resulting from the measures. For example, leaders in the travel and tour companies could not use the normal best practices when people can no longer travel within their countries or across national borders. The changes led many employees to lose their jobs since they no longer had work. At the same time, human resource professionals needed to make difficult choices regarding whom to terminate or give unpaid leave.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected human resource professionals, just like other leaders. Notably, the professionals make critical decisions regarding how to manage their employees, including hiring and firing (Dirani et al. 381). When the crisis occurred, employees expected that the dynamics of their work would remain the same. Some expected promotion, others salary increment after achieving their performance goals. For example, a worker in the hospitality industry is expected to get a bonus after achieving the sales target. Before the decision was finalized, the crisis happened, and the human resource managers had to stall all major deliberations and focus resources on organizational survival. For example, instead of promoting deserving employees, they had to terminate others to cut costs and remain operational. The decision was difficult for all human resource professionals due to the challenge in deciding whom to terminate, to send on unpaid leave, or to retain with half pay. Unfortunately, they had to decide urgently and with limited time to conduct performance assessments.
Regardless of the challenges, human resource professionals have remained the most important leaders in organizations. Other managers and leaders depend on instincts and insights provided by HR professionals to decide strategically. For example, only a human resource expert would know how to balance the current workforce in the wake of the crisis affecting the workplace. They recommended to leaders about cost-cutting measures, such as working from home to ensure that companies continued to operate (Dirani et al. 381). They struggle to ensure that the companies have resilient teams of employees to support operations until the crisis passes. For example, the human resource professionals advise affected companies about the number of workers to retain to maintain operations. Firms with ineffective human resource operations have failed to overcome the challenges emanating from the pandemic.
Social media and conventional media provide case studies of managers who have failed to protect their companies from the negative impact of the pandemic. According to Miller and Berk, by the beginning of spring 2020, 561 companies in the US had filed for bankruptcy. Many of the affected organizations are in the retail sector. Unfortunately, the number of companies facing the same fate will continue to increase in the coming years, even after the pandemic passes due to the economic impact. Economists suggest that the pandemic’s impact on the economy could cause a recession soon, which will continue affecting organizations and their human resource teams. Thus, the human resource department plays a critical role in fighting for the survival of such organizations. The professionals will provide the key direction for companies to acquire teams to lead them in the post-pandemic recovery.
The human resource professionals also play an important role in ensuring that organizations comply with legal guidelines to avoid liabilities as they deal with challenges emanating from the pandemic. For instance, regardless of the crisis, companies could still be sure of violating legal mandates, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law prevents organizations from discriminating against employees based on color, race, gender, religion, or nation of origin (Ishimaru 25). Therefore, despite the pandemic’s impact, leaders should observe the law to prevent costly legal consequences. The pressure can cause them to make illegal decisions due to the rush. For instance, a company can terminate older employees due to the risk of infection but unknowingly create an age discrimination problem. Thus, human resource professionals should help other leaders to avoid such situations. They will continue to provide important counsel to leadership to avoid unintended consequences of the pandemic relating to employees.
Human resource professionals will also ensure that organizations ensure the safety of remaining workers, such as social distancing. For example, a technology company recognizes the dangers of the disease, and to ensure the safety of employees aligned with government measures, they have increased the number of employees working from home and other remote settings. The team also advised the CDC and WHO guidelines to follow, including regular washing of hands and maintaining a safe distance while in organizations. As a result, many organizations have changed the number of employees working in the same room. Human resource professionals regularly meet with other leaders to find effective measures to keep the virus in check.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in more ways than people thought would be possible in the early days of the disease. Many organizations are affected, necessitating effective human resource professionals to advise leaders about critical changes to protect employees from job losses and legal issues, such as discrimination when they have to leave. Thus, while other professionals are important for companies during the pandemic, human resource teams provide the direction for an organization to overcome the crisis and remain operational. They will also support post-pandemic arrangements to build a future for their companies.
Dirani, Khalil M., et al. “Leadership competencies and the essential role of human resource development in times of crisis: a response to Covid-19 pandemic.” Human Resource Development International vol. 23, no.4, 2020), pp. 380-394.
Gopinath, Gita. “The Great Lockdown: Worst Economic Downturn since the Great Depression.” IMFBlog, 2020. Web June 29, 2021 https://blogs.imf.org/2020/04/14/the-great-lockdown-worsteconomic-downturn-since-the-great-depression
Ishimaru, Stuart J. “Fulfilling the promise of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” U. Mem. L. Rev. vol. 36, 2005, 25.
Kerns, Charles D. “Providing direction: A key managerial leadership practice.” The Journal of Applied Business and Economics vol. 19, no.9, 2017, pp. 25-41.
Miller, Hannah and Christina. C. Berk. “JC Penney Could Join a Growing List of Bankruptcies during the Coronavirus Pandemic.” CNBC, 2020. web June 29, 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/15/these-companieshave-filed-for-bankruptcy-since-the-coronavirus-pandemic.html