The challenges for HRM post-Covid-19

Published: 2023/07/06 Number of words: 1685


Covid-19 has had a major impact over all industries as well as on everyday life and it is important that this is identified. It has also helped to identify challenges within specific departments in industry such as Human Resource Management (HRM) which is a key factor in the delivery of a service. Covid-19 as defined by the WHO (2021) is ‘Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus…Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.’

In terms of infectious diseases, Covid-19 is highly contagious and to combat the infection it is important to be well-informed. On a globe scale, Covid-19 has had devastating effects on the world’s population, with continuous lockdowns and social distancing measures. To safeguard the well being of employees, many industries made decisions to close or engage intensive safety measures which in some cases are still in effect. According to Hamouche (2021) the result of Covid-19 is the creation of a complex and challenging environment within HRM practice, which has placed emphasis on management addressing issues and finding solutions which will allow the organisation to continue and to ensure that employees have the resources to cope with this extraordinary crisis.

Human Resource Management

Armstrong & Taylor (2020: 3) identify the concept of HRM as

‘how people are employed, managed and developed in organisations.’

Wilton (2016) describes HRM as the description of all of the activities within an organisation concerned with the recruitment and selection, designing work for, training and development, appraising and rewarding, directing, motivating and controlling the workforce. It is a framework of philosophies, procedures, practices and policies for managing the relationship between employer and employee. Marchington et al (2021) identifies that HRM is seen as a defining factor in the success of an organisation behind finance and technology. It is necessary for an organisation to realise the importance of the human resource as an asset. Human resources can be seen as a competitive advantage for an organisation (Storey et al, 2019; Wilkinson et al, 2020). Human resources are identified as a critical component in the production process in manufacturing organisations, according to Marchington et al (2021). Wilkinson et al (2020) state that HRM has a human focus, a resource focus, and a management focus. Gonçalves et al (2021) have identified that there is an unexpected need for change within the HRM department of organisations due to the pandemic. According to Gonçalves et al (2021) changes have occurred, particularly in the areas of the processes of work and safety, work organisation, communication, training, recruitment and selection and induction and onboarding.

The Challenges of Covid-19 to HRM

Covid-19 presented itself as an exceptional health crisis which has played out on the global stage and plummeted the modern world into uncertainty and fear. The first case was identified in December 2019, in Wuhan, China and presented as an outbreak of a severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and by March 2020 the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a global pandemic. Measured which have been used to attempt to reduce the spread of Covid-19 include lockdowns, quarantines, social distancing, restriction of travel, schools, non-essential businesses and government offices to close leaving children and the workforce to work from home. Unemployment has risen in many countries due to furloughs and layoffs. Gourinchas (2020) has suggested that within a short period 50% or more of the workforce may not be able to work. According to Wang et al (2009) many organisations are not ready to deal with crises when they occur. It is also appropriate to note that there is a gap in research of the impact of Covid-19 on HRM and the challenges and potential opportunities are still unclear. In times of crisis, an organisation must prioritise its achieving of its strategic goals and to do this they must prepare and allocate the resources and to effectively use these resources to combat the challenges they may face. Covid-19 presented a challenge which could compromise the achievement of the organisational goals. One challenge has been employees working from home coupled with home learning has placed a burden on many.

Working Conditions

According to ILO (2020) the working conditions of an organisation are the core of paid work and employment relationships which cover a broad range of topics and issues, e.g., work schedules, rest periods and working hours as well as physical conditions, renumeration and the mental demands which are occurring in the workplace (ILO, 2020). With the commencement of the pandemic, working conditions within organisations changed drastically with remote learning being the preferred situation. However, in certain industries such as manufacturing there is a requirement for the employee to be present in the workplace. Adams-Prassl et al (2020) found that there was a likelihood that those employees who could not work from home were more likely to lose their jobs. Numerous issues were identified for those who were able to work remotely such as the ability and availability of the necessary tools to complete their work and to be able to effectively communicate with their colleagues and other stakeholders within the organisation. HRM was being called into practice more and more in order to support management as well as employees (Aitken-Fox et al, 2020b). There was also the need to recognise the effects that remote working would have on employees such as isolation, lack of one-to-one communication and lack of the advice of peers (Prasad & Vaidya, 2020).


Covid-19 has greatly impacted on staffing and in many cases according to Campello et al (2020) has reshaped the dynamics in many organisations. However, the repercussions felt by Covid-19 are different depending on the industry. The pandemic saw many organisations having to furlough or layoff employees particularly if they couldn’t work from home. However, Cheng et al (2020) identified that once organisations began to open up again the employment activities changed and increased with employees returning to their physical workplaces. Job losses were inevitable and the main role of HRM was to support managers and employees with the provision of the correct information. Due to the uncertainty which has been generated by the pandemic many organisations who have identified staffing challenges have instead changed their employment relationships to provide more flexible employment such as agency workers and freelancers (Spurk & Straub, 2020). Employee retention is another challenge which can present itself, with Elsafty & Ragheb (2020) suggesting that with the sudden and drastic changes employment relationships can be damaged leading to decreases in motivation, morale, and an increase in turnover.


It is clear that there are many challenges ahead for organisations particularly in HRM. Strategic frameworks must be designed and implemented to cut off any issues which can damage the organisation and it is necessary for HRM to adequately combat the challenges identified such as staffing issues and work conditions. Other areas which should be investigated include performance management, training and development. It is important that while the challenges are identified that opportunities for organisations can also be identified which can build on the competitive advantage of the organisation. Organisations have been challenged to identify creativity and innovation especially in the rethinking of the necessary HRM strategies. While the pandemic is ongoing, gaps in research will become more identifiable which will allow for further research on the challenges associated with HRM during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Adams-Prassl, A., Boneva, T., Golin, M., & Rauh, C., (2020) Inequality in the Impact of the Coronavirus Shock: Evidence from Real Time Surveys, Journal of Public Economics, Vol. 189

Aitken-Fox, E., Coffey, J., Dayaram, K., Fitzgerald, S., Gupta, C., McKenna, S., & Wei Tian, A., (2020) The Impact of Covid-19 on Human Resource Management: Avoiding Generalisations, LSE Business Review

Armstrong, M., Taylor, S., (2020) Armstrong’s Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice, Kogan Page

Campello, M., Kankanhalli, G., & Muthukrishnan, P., (2020) Corporate Hiring Under Covid-19: Labour Market Concentration, Downskilling and Income Inequality (No. w27208), National Bureau of Economic Research

Cheng, W., Carlin, P., Carroll, J., Gupta, S., Rojas, F.L., Montenovo, L., Nguyen, T.D., Schmutte, I.M., Scrivner, O., Simon, K.I., Wing, C., & Weinberg, B., (2020) Back to Business and (Re)employing Workers? Labour Market Activity During State Covid-19 Reopenings (No. w27419) National Bureau of Economic Research

Elsafty, A.S., & Ragheb M., (2020) The Role of Human Resource Management Towards Employees Retention During Covid-19 Pandemic in Medical Supplies Sector – Egypt, Business and Management Studies, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 5059

Gonçalves, S.P., Vieira dos Santos, J., Silva, I.S., Velosa, A., Brandão, C., & Moura, R., (2021) Covid-19 and People Management: The View of Human Resource Managers, Administrative Sciences, Vol. 11, No. 69

Gourinchas, P.O., (2020) Flattening the Pandemic and Recession Curves, Mitigating the COVID Economic Crisis: Act Fast and Do Whatever, Vol. 31, pp. 1 – 227

Hamouche, S., (2021) Human Resource Management and the Covid-19 Crisis: Implications, Challenges, Opportunities, and Future Organisational Directions, Journal of Management and Operations

ILO (2020) Working Conditions, ILO, Available Online at–en/index.htm, [Accessed 10 October 2021]

Marchington, M., Wilkinson, A., Donnelly, R., & Kynighou, A., (2021) Human Resource Management at Work: The Definitive Guide, Kogan Page

Prasad, K., & Vaidya, R.W., (2020) Association Among Covid-19 Parameters, Occupational Stress and Employee Performance: An Empirical Study with Reference to Agricultural Research Sector in Hyderabad Metro, Sustainable Humanosphere, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 235 – 253

Spurk, D., & Straub, C., (2020) Flexible Employment Relationships and Careers in Times of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 103435, 1 – 4

Storey, J., Wright, P., & Ulrich, D., (2019) Strategic Human Resource Management: A Research Overview, Routledge

Wang, J., Hutchins, H.M., & Garavan, TN., (2009) Exploring the Strategic Role of Human Resource Development in Organisational Crisis Management, Human Resource Development Review, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 22 – 53

WHO (2021) Coronavirus, WHO, Available Online at [Accessed 10 October 2021]

Wilkinson, A., Bacon, N.A., Lepak, D., & Snell, S.A., (2019) The Sage Handbook of Human Resource Management, Sage

Wilton, N., (2016) An Introduction to Human Resource Management, Sage

Cite this page

Choose cite format:
Online Chat Messenger Email
+44 800 520 0055