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15 January 2021
Leadership and Learning during the COVID-19 Crisis: Cross-country Perspectives on the Emerging Needs of Human Resources
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned out to be one of the greatest calamities of the century and has shaken every corner of the world. Countries have been focusing on public health strategies to contain the spread of the disease, instituting measures such as quarantines, lockdowns, and physical distancing. This has impacted normal life all over the world and drastic measures have had to be put in place to make workplaces safe (CDC, 2020; WHO, 2020). This has also placed demands on organizational leaders to display competence in leading the crisis (James and Wooten, 2005), as they navigate through turbulent, unchartered waters.
Organizational leaders in every sector are faced with finding ways to unlearn, relearn, and adapt to the new normal dictated by the brutality of the pandemic and the public health mandates of the country. As the next few months unfold, organizations in every sector, in every country will have to come to terms with the new reality and find ways to navigate adeptly through the rapidly changing circumstances if they are to emerge stronger from this crisis. Leaders who are able to manage the threats and leverage the opportunities presented by the crisis, and manage change at individual, group, and organizational levels will be the ones that can usher in organizational flexibility and future improvement (Wang, 2008). Leadership of human resource development (HRD) professionals in the crisis management efforts will be critical for increasing organizational learning and restructuring the crisis system (Hutchins and Wang, 2008). Leaders need to urgently respond to the unique psychological, physiological and socio-technical challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is an emerging literature on the health impacts of the pandemic on medical workers, essential personnel (Eisma, 2020; Lu 2020; Depierro 2020), and college students (Zhai, 2020). Li et al. (2020) identified emotional challenges related to working from home, disconnectedness, surge of automation; Rudolph et al. (2020) have identified practice topics (occupational health and safety, work-family issues, telecommuting, virtual teamwork, job insecurity, precarious work, leadership, human resources policy, the aging workforce, and careers) that will be impacted by the pandemic. Li et al. (2020) ideate that the pandemic could force businesses to reconsider the value of interdependency over self-sufficiency, resulting in extensive changes to existing work arrangements. While media has covered several of these workplace issues, research on the impact of these issues on the workplace is yet to find its way into the academic literature.
In this special issue, we would like to focus on the leadership response in different industries/ sectors across the world to the evolving global crisis, specifically in addressing the emerging needs of the changing workplace. We would be particularly interested in learning the impact of leadership in initiating, transforming, and institutionalizing change at different levels of the organization. Additionally, we also seek to understand its impact at the individual level. This special issue aims to explore a breadth of change management efforts as organizations seek to find solutions for critical workplace issues within the cultural, social, economic, and political contexts they are embedded in. We invite proposals from scholars and practitioners to undertake a cross-country comparison on organizations in different industries/sectors to study their specific challenges in the backdrop of the crisis triggered by the pandemic and how they are managing the expectations for human resource development.
We hope that this special issue will contribute to the international human resource development literature by offering a cross-country, cross-sectoral understanding of how leaders in organizations respond to an evolving crisis, in general, and the COVID-19 pandemic, in specific. This is a unique opportunity to study responses to a global crisis as it unfolds. By focusing on workplace issues such as employee well-being, employee-learning, work-life balance, virtual teamwork, telecommuting, job security, this special issue will offer insights on which leadership competencies and styles are critical to managing the short and long-term effects of a global crisis and how HRD professionals can prepare leaders for a workplace in the aftermath of the pandemic.
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We welcome researchers from two or more countries to collaborate to study organizations from an industry/sector of their choice and explore issues related to HRD that emerge as most critical, and how leaders in organizations in each of the countries are responding to the challenge. We welcome papers focused on industry/sectors that face the most disruption because of the pandemic, e.g. healthcare, tourism, education. Other sectors/industry may include but not limited to entertainment, non-profit and unorganized sectors (including migrant labor), small and mid-sizes enterprises (SMEs), government, and information technology (IT). Possible themes in the COVID-19 context to explore within these industry/sectors, offering cross-country perspectives are:
- HRD leadership in building organizational resilience to cope with the current pandemic & be prepared for future crisis
- Individual/group/organizational learning & leadership role in managing the crisis through organizational learning
- New approaches in talent management/development; how practices around recruitment, selection, talent retention & separation are being tailored to address this crisis
- Leadership response to reconceptualize/revisit tele-work policies to cope with this pandemic
- Unique challenges in work-life balance & leadership response to addressing these challenges
- Stress & other mental health issues caused by this pandemic & leadership response in addressing employee well-being
- Leadership response at the national level, state & local levels to address challenges of migrant labor
- Challenges for women, minority or other disadvantaged groups exacerbated by the crisis & leadership response to address those issues
- Leadership for corporate social responsibility (CSR) to address the urgent global crisis created by the pandemic
- Leadership for building long-term sustainability strategies
Select Leadership and Learning during the COVID-19 Crisis when submitting your paper.
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