Evolving Expectations of HR Professionals Amid the Covid-19 Pandemic in Sri Lanka.

AuthorWeerarathna, Ranitha


The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic is currently considered a severe global health problem that poses a significant risk to the health and safety of people, as well as their livelihoods (Caligiuri et al., 2020). Many countries have been brought to a halt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. To combat the spread of COVID-19, academic institutions and businesses were closed, and residences, towns, and even entire cities were in lockdown (Islam & Islam, 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic has presented several problems and dilemmas, which were not prominent in many previous crises that businesses have faced in the past. Companies are struggling financially due to a severe drop in product demand and the performance of the firm and investment, which ultimately lead to a decline in labor demand and to the development of labor surpluses (Adikaram et al., 2021). As a consequence, several well-known companies in a variety of industries are expected to go bankrupt as individuals stay at home and companies grind to a halt (Donthu & Gustafsson, 2020). According to Gigauri (2020a), 66% of businesses in Georgia country have experienced financial losses, and 76% of businesses there have seen a drop in company turnover in early 2020. However, 53% of firms expect to retain their staff for the following months, while 43% of the employers have reduced salaries and wages. Furthermore, only 15% of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) in Romania expressed confidence in their firms' revenues, procedures, and operations following the first months of the crisis, which is consistent with deteriorating corporate performance in the first quarter of 2020 and the significant negative effect on the global economy (Pinzaru et al., 2021).

The COVID-19 pandemic poses an unexpected threat to Asia Pacific economies as well (Roger, 2020). Consequently, the economy of Sri Lanka has also been impacted negatively as a result of the issues raised by the COVID-19 outbreak. In the first three months of 2020, tea export revenue fell to 270.1 million US Dollars (USD). Other agricultural sector revenues, such as those from fruits and vegetable products and coconut manufacturing, were significantly lower in March 2020 than in March 2019. Furthermore, tourism earnings declined from 1,901 USD in 2019 (January to June) to 956 USD in 2020 (January to June). Consequently, the influence of COVID-19 on all the main revenue-generating industries in the country resulted in a 3.6% drop in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (Ishak, 2021).

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly shaken all organizations, creating a complicated and challenging environment for HR professionals, who must devise innovative solutions to ensure the continuity of their businesses and assist their employees in dealing with this unprecedented crisis (Hamouche, 2021). Moreover, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has labeled it a "labor market shock" as the COVID-19 epidemic has had such a significant influence on HRM (Caligiuri et al., 2020). This proves how rapidly businesses must adjust to constantly changing HR concerns (Rahman et al., 2020). Thus, HRM is a critical component in aiding firms in managing the enormous changes forced on by the COVID-19 epidemic (Gigauri, 2020a).

HRM is the process of recruiting new employees, offering orientation, training and development, determining remuneration and benefits, maintaining legitimate relations with employees and their unions, motivating employees and ensuring employees' health and safety (Sivanandam & Kumar, 2020). During the pandemic, HRM should cope with the burden that remote working is bringing on their employees as the barriers between work and personal life become increasingly blurred (Gigauri, 2020b). In these situations, the role of HRM has evolved to address the challenges that have arisen as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic.

These findings point to a new way of working and an opportunity for firms to rethink their human resource strategies. Even after the COVID-19 outbreak has subsided, organizations should look for ways to communicate with current and potential new employees in ways that allow for more flexibility. According to the above-mentioned facts, we carried out pilot interviews to assess the impact and challenges faced by HR professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Six HR professionals employed in Sri Lanka were interviewed by us, including Head of HR, HR Recruiter, HR Manager, Assistant HR Manager, HR Business Partner and Senior HR Executive. Based on the given responses, the most substantial emergent changes in the workplace and the challenging issues of HR professionals regarding the changes in the workplace during the COVID-19 epidemic are demonstrated in Table 1.

According to the responses given by respondents, the researchers believe that the COVID-19 epidemic has an effect on traditional HR procedures. Though the subject of HR professionals' expectations from the workplace has been substantially addressed in other countries of the world, there is limited research on the expectations of HR professionals by focusing on the COVID-19 outbreak in the Sri Lankan context. Therefore, the study focuses on exploring the expectations of HR professionals employed in Sri Lanka from their workplace due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The findings of this study are significant to the HRM field, particularly in terms of the presently existing and the potential well-being of the HRM domain. With the augmented uncertainty in the HRM field due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the outcomes of this study will present new approaches and replacements for dealing with the "new normal". Furthermore, the study's implications will aid policymakers in the field of HRM in establishing HR policies by taking into account the expectations of HR professionals from the workplace due to the COVID-19 epidemic. The study contributes to assessing the measurement of organizational transformation that consents employees to productively engage at their workplace. Furthermore, researchers can use this study to establish new research concepts, as well as where research could evolve and comparable research can be conducted in many other countries using the same interview guide.

Literature Review

Changes in the Role of HRM: HRM is a collection of processes that influence employee performance, perception, and behavior at work. Initially, HRM was not regarded as a critical aspect of a business, but today, a business cannot function properly in the absence of an HRM department (Mwaniki & Gathenya, 2015). COVID-19 has thrown mankind a curveball, causing havoc in practically every aspect of life. HR staff has been on the front lines of organizations, immediately informing employees about the company's response to the pandemic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the HRM department must devise the implementation of innovative techniques to support their company and its employees in tackling the challenges of this unprecedented event (Hamouche, 2021). Amidst the economic downturn, HRM must strike the right balance between cost-cutting and the development of employees (Gigauri, 2020b). Thus, HR professionals had to cope with layoffs and workforce reductions in order to balance company spending under control during the pandemic.

On the other hand, HR professionals must rethink how they interact with employees. They should consider the significance of enhancing employee engagement by granting access to up-todate pandemic knowledge as well as rewarding benefits (Savic, 2020). During the pandemic, one of the major responsibilities of an HR professional is to keep employees informed and to build trustworthy relationships (Lewis, 2020). The HR division can support managers and staff in an advisory function while guiding individuals through the implementation of new normal policies and procedures (Janadari, 2020). Therefore, HR professionals must have the relevant knowledge to aid to navigate this crisis successfully and efficiently to support their employees and keep their organization afloat.

Challenges and Opportunities: The uniqueness and complexity of the COVID-19 reflect a substantial obstacle that may compromise the accomplishment of corporate goals (Hamouche, 2021). It is a challenge for many employees who are working from home for the first time to set up a workspace as the space in the house might be limited. Therefore, an office may double as a dining area or general use area (International Labor Organization, 2020). A survey conducted by Paychex (2021) with five hundred ninety-eight HR professionals worldwide revealed that measuring employee productivity was the most frequently discovered challenge caused by the epidemic...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT