Rebooting business in the post-COVID-19 world: The HR agenda

By Louis Vong Tze Ngai

Partnership Macau News Agency/Macao Institute for Tourism Studies

Louis Vong Tze Ngai is an Assistant Professor at Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM)

In collaboration with UNWTO, IFTM Global Centre for Tourism Education and Training launched an online training program early July this year. The theme was ‘Handling, Coping, and Dealing with COVID-19’. In this 4-day training workshop, invited speakers including scholars and business leaders addressed how the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on the tourism industry from different perspectives and angles, which include but are not limited to Tourism Policy and Planning, Destination Marketing and Management, and Human Resources. As one of the speakers in the HR session, I focused on the HR challenges and emerging business opportunities in the post-pandemic era. 

It is true that we do not have a crystal ball, but it does not require supernatural powers of prognostication to predict what the future will (or may) look like given the fact that many interesting events are unfolding at an astounding speed. For instance, the rise of telemedicine is a perfect case in point. Remote medical diagnosis is now becoming a significant alternative to the traditional in-person consultation, thanks to the widespread lockdown imposed by many countries and regions. A straw shows which way the wind blows. If we can obtain medical consultation without leaving home, what else can we do from home today? As stay-at-home economy is gaining momentum, many old-fashioned businesses, such as groceries and restaurants, will have to run their business online in order to jump on home delivery bandwagon.

As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”, and the business world could not agree more to what this political giant had said. With a click of the mouse, we can learn how forward-thinking companies today are busy coming up with creative business solutions that are meant to prepare them for the post-crisis future. Among others, replacing human agents with AI-powered Chabot in customer service seems to be a promising business development because it can win customers’ confidence amid fear of coronavirus infection.

In response to the rapidly changing business landscape, companies will have to beef up their human resources in multiple ways. Upskilling and reskilling the workforce is certainly at the top of the ‘to-do’ list. The employees of tomorrow must demonstrate digital competence, in other words, they must be able to integrate digital technology into their work habits. Companies also need to look for ways to maintain fluidity in their talent supply.

By doing so, it can ensure business continuity during the unexpected circumstances. Besides, managing a dispersed workforce would be a new challenge to companies that provide employees with permanent work-from-home (WFH) arrangements. Even though companies can benefit from sourcing talents globally with the adoption of remote work arrangement, managing a geographically dispersed work team does require managers of tomorrow to walk a fine line between effective management and micromanagement. 

Think positively, although the world’s economy is now facing its worst crisis in recent decades, together we will defeat the virus and create an even better future. As a saying goes, “Storms won’t last forever and the sun will always shine again.” Finally, by quoting Albert Einstein’s words, “in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity”. Companies that are prepared for changes now will for sure rise to be stronger and better tomorrow.