As globalization entrenches itself in most economies around the world, the movement of people from one part of the globe to another has become an important hallmark of modern society. The aviation industry plays a critical role in facilitating this progress because it aids in the movement of people across continents. According to a 2019 report developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the aviation industry is responsible for the movement of more than 4.9 billion passengers annually – a figure, which accounts for more than $865 billion in revenues for the industry (Atay et al., 2021). Furthermore, air travel has become a primary mode of transport for people travelling overseas and for companies or businesses intending to sell or exchange goods and services.
Cargo movement, which is an integral part of the aviation industry, is also responsible for the success of various supply chain networks around the world. Indeed, entire businesses and value chains of the global economy rely on the availability of goods from one part of the world to meet the demand in another (Hockley, 2020). The aviation industry supports a web of economic activities that are responsible for the smooth running of these operations (Atay et al., 2021). These activities have created an intricate network of industry operations that have compounded the complexity of operations supporting the aviation sector in upstream and downstream sectors of the global economy. Petroleum refinery, rental/leasing services, airport manufacturing, hotels, and car leasing industries are upstream services that support the aviation industry (OECD, 2020). In turn, the sector supports the global economy through its pivotal role in aiding knowledge transfer through the movement of persons and the creation of demand for various economic sectors, such as the tourism and hospitality industry (Hockley, 2020). These sentiments mean that the aviation sector is responsible for inter-industry linkages that support upstream and downstream sectors of the global economy.
The aviation sector is also responsible for the smooth running of the global transportation system with air transport being at the apex of its structure. This is why, in most countries, the successful running of major airports depends on the success of the airlines they serve (OECD, 2020). This statement means that aviation and transport management services are intertwined. In some cases, the daily operations of some airports depend significantly on the success of one or more airlines (Baum & Auerbach, 2017). Furthermore, the ownership structure of major companies in the aviation industry is different from other business sectors because of its intertwined relationship with the smooth operations of cities, towns, and even the sustenance of national identities (OECD, 2020). Therefore, the aviation sector is unique from other economic sectors.
The uniqueness of the aviation industry has affected the ownership structures of major airlines. For example, unlike other corporations, the ownership arrangements characterizing most airlines usually involve a blend of large, powerful, private and public players (Baum & Auerbach, 2017). For example, the minority ownership of Lufthansa on Frankfurt’s airport is a business arrangement involving two private entities (OECD, 2020). Comparatively, the ownership of major national airports is by public or government agencies (Baum & Auerbach, 2017). The uniqueness and importance of the airline sector to government functionality and the success of the global economy requires a contextualized understanding of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on its operations.
The aviation industry has been affected by many crises in the last decade with the most recent ones being safety related – terrorism and the COVID-19 pandemic. Adikaram et al. (2021) define a crisis as a series of events that could cause significant business disruptions. Crises could happen in two ways – the first one involves small and localized events that affect businesses within a specific geographic region, such as a state or community (Adikaram et al., 2021). However, the second category refers to prolonged and delocalized events with an unforeseen impact on businesses. The COVID-19 pandemic falls within this group of crises and it has affected consumer confidence and overall industry outlook.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the growth of various industries around the world due to restrictions on travel aimed at controlling the spread of the disease. The aviation industry was significantly affected because it was the main mode of transport responsible for the transmission of the virus (Dray & Schäfer, 2021). To control the spread of the pandemic, governments around the world introduced lockdowns. They were initiated on two levels, with the first one being domestic and the second being international (Dray & Schäfer, 2021). On the domestic front, governments limited people’s movements between cities and towns (Atay et al., 2021). In some instances, they required people to present “Passes” that allowed them to move from one region of the country to another (Adikaram et al., 2021). This action limited daily movements of people and grounded air travel and the wider transportation sector.
On the international front, the lockdowns imposed by governments significantly affected the relationship among people from different countries. The economic infrastructure that had been built over the years to support growth and trade were also rendered dormant almost overnight, creating millions of dollars in losses (Barai & Dhar, 2021). These events suggest that global lockdowns initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic are the first of a kind in this century because previous pandemics, such as the SARS, Polio, and Ebola, which affected the aviation industry as well, were devoid of lockdowns.
Unlike other crises that have affected the aviation industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has had greater severity and effects. IATA estimates that more than $100 billion was lost due to the pandemic in 2020 alone (Dray & Schäfer, 2021). The global revenue from passenger traffic slumped by more than 60% during the same period and worsened to 65% in 2021 (Adikaram et al., 2021). The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) also suggests that passenger traffic declined by 65% due to the effects of the pandemic (Dray & Schäfer, 2021). Consequently, different airlines have come up with new strategies to stop the losses, but few have proved to be successful.
Due to the above statistics, the aviation sector is undergoing a significant period of change because of the multiplicity of factors affecting its growth and development. However, it is unique to many other industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic because of its juxtaposition on the global economic map (Atay et al., 2021). As economies continue to open, it is becoming increasingly important to understand how airlines will navigate the challenges of the new business environment, bearing in mind the lessons learned from the pandemic so far. This study will delve further into this issue by exploring this problem from a human resource perspective.
The aim of this study is to understand the role that HRM can play in helping the aviation industry to overcome the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- To analyze the current state of civil aviation from the HRM perspective
- To identify challenges Human Resource (HR) specialists in the aviation industry face today
- To explore methods used by HRM specialists to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation sector
- To investigate changes in HRM strategies that have affected the aviation industry and caused by the COVID-19 crisis
- To evaluate the effectiveness of new approaches meant to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry
- To discuss the future of HRM in the aviation industry, relative to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector
- Which challenges have HRM professionals in the aviation sector faced in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Which methods have HRM professionals used to overcome the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry?
- Which changes have been brought to the HRM practice in the aviation sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
- To what extent have new strategies to address the COVID-19 crisis been effective in mitigating the effects of the pandemic on the aviation industry?
- What should HRM professionals focus on to mitigate the effect of the pandemic on the aviation sector?
Importance of Study
This investigation will evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation sector from a HRM perspective. HRM has been placed at the center of the investigations regarding the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on airlines because the pandemic is a health-related issues and employee safety is within the realms of HRM. Indeed, HRM professionals have had to make difficult decisions relating to employee welfare, such as firing them due to poor business performance, or enforcing new regulations to boost workplace safety due to the pandemic (Bratton & Gold, 2017). Implementing new workplace protocols and uplifting employee morale in an environment characterized by uncertainty are also other HRM functions critical to the improvement of organizational performance in a post-pandemic world (Bratton & Gold, 2017). Additionally, the need to manage employees in this workplace setting elevates the importance of HRM in business functions. Therefore, the HRM perspective taken in this study makes it possible to understand how to manage the COVID-19 crisis by using a people-centric approach.
Overall, this study will be important in understanding critical HRM functions that are relevant to the aviation industry, as it emerges from the COVID-19 crisis. At the same time, this investigation will be instrumental in understanding how the industry will adapt to a post-pandemic environment with a vision of promoting the health and safety of its workers and customers. This analysis will also be important in understanding changes to HRM practices that need to be reviewed to evolve the discipline. Given the importance of HRM on organizational success, the findings of this investigation will also be helpful in understanding how this critical function will help organizations to overcome the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stated differently, the findings of the study will be useful in enhancing the vision of airlines in light of how HRM functions could be organized for better utility.
Structure of the Paper
This paper is structured into five key sections, each with its distinct content signifying different stages of the research process. The first one provides a background to the study by analyzing the current state of the aviation industry, relative to challenges affecting its growth and development. In this section of the paper, information about restrictions imposed on airlines and current challenges they are facing in overcoming them will be highlighted. The second part is the literature review chapter, which contains an analysis of research materials that are linked to the topic of discussion. The third chapter is the methodology section and it details techniques adopted by the researcher to answer the research questions. The fourth chapter presents the findings derived from the methodology chapter as a basis for undertaking further inquiry. A summary of the main findings of the study and a list of recommendations for improving the response of the aviation sector to the pandemic are highlighted in the last section of the study.
This chapter contains a review of scholarly works on strategies that the aviation industry can use to address crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Selecting relevant books and journal articles from credible databases, including Sage Journals, Emerald Insight, and Google Books, formed the basis for the literature search. Key words and phrases for identifying materials for review included“COVID-19 pandemic,” “aviation industry,” and “Emirates Airlines,” “Middle East,” and “HRM experiences.” This search criterion was used to generate an initial list of 56 potential references. The materials were further narrowed down into 21 sources by excluding those that were older than 5 years.
The theoretical foundation for the present study is based on the crisis theory. It has been used to analyze crisis management events in the corporate arena (Clarke, 2016). The theory postulates that the effectiveness of crisis management is predicated on understanding its causes and solutions (Dorahy, 2019). Thus, proponents of this theory believe in understanding the cause and consequences of corporate strategies as a tool for navigating crises (Clarke, 2016). This school of thought stems from the Marxian philosophy of corporate management, which explains conditions for profit decline in a capitalistic system, such as the one commonly used today (Dorahy, 2019). The theoretical foundation explains the root causes of a crisis and their effects on performance as a tool for understanding the roots of HRM challenges affecting an industry.
By understanding the causes of poor performance, as a basis for developing corporate solutions, the crises theory explains the difference between the effects of bad business practices and changes in business cycles. This analysis is pivotal in understanding the effectiveness of strategies that can be used to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation sector because the industry was struggling from a mix of non-health and operational issues before the pandemic began (Atay et al., 2021). Today, the industry’s focus is almost exclusively on the pandemic, but a group of researchers believe that the poor performance most airlines are experiencing is because of the effects of the natural progression of their business lifecycles and not because of the pandemic (Litvin et al., 2021). The crisis theory will help in advancing this area of research to provide a realistic and accurate assessment of the impact that policy interventions would have on industry performance.
The crisis theory will also help in explaining the effects of government-backed strategies adopted in the aviation industry to help airlines navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For example, such support contradicts Marxian principles of business management, which warn against state intervention in business crises (Clarke, 2016). Instead, they suggest that companies should be allowed to experience the consequences of their business strategies because it is the natural path to success (Clarke, 2016). The crisis theory draws from this philosophy and it states that changes in business cycles are based on strategy implementation and not acts of omission or commission by governments or their representatives (Dorahy, 2019). This information is useful in understanding the consequences of business action or inaction to address the effects of a crisis.
As an inevitable part of organizational experiences, the crisis management theory will also be pivotal in explaining different types of crisis, their characteristics, and solutions. Management is an important part of this review process because few organizations could avoid a crisis without proper planning (Clarke, 2016). Therefore, the crisis theory is expected to be useful in expanding the breadth of tools, knowledge, and services available to companies when managing a crisis (Dorahy, 2019). This statement explains why many organizations find it difficult to respond effectively to their corporate performance issues without a proper plan of action.
From this background, the crisis theory will help explain the set of actions that can be taken to address unexpected crisis management issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, that affect companies. Given that the challenges affecting the aviation industry often involve complicated processes, the theoretical framework emerges as the best fit for the study because it is adaptable to non-linear strategy development processes (Atay et al., 2021). Stemming from this statement, the crisis theory will be an integral tool for use in the present study because of its focus on understanding the impact of unforeseen events on a company or industry.
Challenges Affecting the Aviation Industry
As highlighted in this chapter, past crises, such as terrorism, Ebola, and SARS, have negatively affected the performance of the aviation industry. The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest in the list of catastrophes to have affected the industry in the past decade (Atay et al., 2021). However, before the pandemic, the industry was grappling with major operational challenges, including increased cost of operations, declining revenue, and a negative public image due to environmental concerns and the fear of terrorism (Atay et al., 2021). Figure 1 below demonstrates that, while passenger traffic has increased in the last two decades, profitability in the aviation industry has significantly declined because of the above-mentioned reasons.
Uncertainties in the aviation industry have negatively affected its performance. The above graph shows that between the year 2000 and 2016, passenger traffic nearly doubled from 2.2 billion in the year 2000 to 3.8 billion in 2016 (Atay et al., 2021). At the same time, the average airline revenue per departing passenger declined from a high of $211 to $37 in the year 2000 to 2016 (Atay et al., 2021). These data show that the profitability of airlines has significantly declined despite the increase in passenger traffic. Collectively, they shed light on the issues affecting the industry, such as the rising cost of doing business and changing consumer tastes, thereby highlighting the importance of addressing them as a basis for growth and development in a post-pandemic world.
Impact of Pandemic on Aviation Sector
Studies that have tried to estimate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation sector have developed mixed data and findings. However, most researchers agree that the effects of the pandemic on the industry have come in different waves (Onyeaka et al., 2021). The first one has been felt through job losses and a significant decline in demand for air travel (Kim et al., 2021). The second effect has been registered through airline bankruptcy and the sale of old assets (Atay et al., 2021). The third wave is not quantified because it is expected to be observed through an estimation of the impact of technology, attitude to flying, and changes in freight demand on airline profitability (Onyeaka et al., 2021). Relative to these findings, some researchers have shown the negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on returns in the aviation sector. For example, Lee and Chen (2020) demonstrate that there is a V-shape correlation between the number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus and negative returns in the industry. There is also a negative relationship between the number of confirmed deaths from the virus and industry profitability (Onyeaka et al., 2021). These findings were reported after analyzing data from more than 65 countries whose aviation industries were affected by the virus (Lee & Chen, 2020). Broadly, they suggest a negative correlation between the pandemic and revenue generation.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation sector also needs to be reviewed from the perspective of changes in consumer behavior. Consumer behavior is one of the most fundamental aspects of understanding product or service demand in the sector because it dictates the response people would have on marketing strategies adopted by airlines to boost demand (Litvin et al., 2021). The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most impactful forces affecting consumer attitudes in the airline sector because of its effects on corporate performance and people’s propensity to use air transport (Atay et al., 2021). Particularly, this statement is true for the aviation sector because it is vulnerable to political, environmental, and safety related challenges of travel (Atay et al., 2021). Relative to this assertion, there is a common assumption that air travel is an important tenet of the global economy and needs urgent attention, subject to the threats that the pandemic poses.
Studies that have analyzed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumer attitudes are split between those that have a positive and cynical view of the crisis on passenger behaviors. Those that have a positive view suggest that the development of vaccines and relaxation of travel measures mean that the aviation sector should be gearing up to meet the pent-up demand for air travel (Atay et al., 2021; Litvin et al., 2021; Kim et al., 2021). In line with this view, some reports suggest that there are positive signs of the industry’s revival because many people are looking to catch-up with friends and family members after the crisis are over and will use air transport (Kim et al., 2021). Pundits estimate that the demand will recover relatively quickly due to historical patterns showing a fast rate of recovery from past crises (Atay et al., 2021). To demonstrate this fact, Kim et al. (2021) explains that the demand from past crises have assumed a U-shape recovery pattern with a surge in demand reported soon after a crisis subsided or was addressed.
Research studies that have a cynical view of the pandemic on consumer behavior have focused their attention on how it has affected their perceptions of safety. For example, the study by Kim et al. (2021) demonstrated that COVID-19 has increased anxiety to travel among many airline users with most concerns registered around unclear policies on travel and quarantine. Marketing scholars have also tried to understand the impact of these emotions on future travel patterns (Litvin et al., 2021). They suggest that rising levels of anxiety in travel, brought by the pandemic, will have a significant impact on goal-directed behaviors that affect airline profitability because of their motivational effects on ticket buying choices (Kim et al., 2021). Therefore, consumer behavior is expected to change in the same manner to reflect this shift.
Plog’s model has been used to understand the main types of people that airlines should be worried about when reviewing the effects of crises on human behavior. The model predicts consumer behavior, based on the allocentricity or psychocentricity of behaviors (Litvin et al., 2021). Developed in the 1960s, the framework was developed to identify who will be able to fly, why they want to do so, and what could be done to ensure they take a flight (Litvin et al., 2021). Therefore, the main goal of the model was to reorganize the market and identify customers who would take risks and those who do not. This framework has been hailed for being a reliable predictor of the kind of people who would want to fly during the pandemic period. This model identifies three groups of customers with the first category being defined by one’s level of anxiety and the second one being characterized by one’s sense of powerlessness (Litvin et al., 2021). “Territory boundary” defines the third category of customers and they are mostly linked with older flyers. This combination of traits makes it possible to develop different types of products and services for varied users, ranging from the need to fulfill allocentric to psychocentric needs.
The long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel can be best observed through its effects on business travellers. Relative to this assertion, researchers highlight the difficulties associated with estimating the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business travel because it is ongoing but indications are that there has been a significant decline in airline performance (Litvin et al., 2021). For example, it is reported that the quantity of business travels are 30% lower than the pre-2007 levels (Dray & Schäfer, 2021). This statement is backed by the increased use of videoconferencing facilities during the pandemic period and the substitution of business travel for other modes of interaction.
It is projected that the percentage of business travellers will continue to decline in the short-term as the performance of the aviation industry is decoupled from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth due to changes in economic model analysis. The disconnect is likely to happen because of changes to the administrative procedures adopted in various economies (Litvin et al., 2021). Many external forces are also affecting the industry’s performance, such as the flight-shaming movement, which seeks to encourage people to boycott air travel because of its impact on the environment (Dray & Schäfer, 2021). Therefore, the aviation industry is affected by a multiplicity of factors emanating from within and without the COVID-19 pandemic environment.
Given that the COVID-19 pandemic brought restrictions on movement and travel, there have been positive impacts reported on the aviation sector as well. For example, the reduction in the pollution levels within the industry has been linked to the grounding of airlines during the pandemic (Dray & Schäfer, 2021). This outcome was occasioned by the domestication of up to 50% of the world’s population due to lockdowns at the height of the pandemic (Onyeaka et al., 2021). At the same time, passenger traffic reduced by 96% during the pandemic period (Litvin et al., 2021). This drop caused a 30% reduction in air pollution within the period under analysis (Onyeaka et al., 2021). These statistics mean that the COVID-19 pandemic has had both positive and negative effects on the aviation industry. Broadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has bolstered the arguments of critics who believe that the frequency of air travel should be reduced to protect the environment and at the same time, exemplified concerns about the need to protect airlines to safeguard jobs and livelihoods.
Government Aid to the Aviation Sector
The response of the government to businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn academic attention because of the widespread adoption of fiscal and monetary policies to support struggling airlines in the wake of the pandemic. For example, some airlines have received immediate financial support from governments to help them overcome significant losses in revenue due to the slump in demand after the announcement of the pandemic (Barai & Dhar, 2021). Others have received tax reliefs and subsidies to manage their operational costs during the pandemic (Dray & Schäfer, 2021).
Relative to these interventions, there is need to caution against relying on government involvement in corporate management activities because of the fear that it could distort business dynamics. Particularly, significant attention has been drawn to the effects of government interventions adopted in the aviation industry that go beyond sector-wide outreach, as is the case with the COVID-19 response (Barai & Dhar, 2021). Experts argue that such interventions should only target solvent and productive companies and not those that do not warrant the same level of help (Barai & Dhar, 2021). They also say that interventions, which have a wider outreach than the firm-specific focus, run the risk of preventing the natural business cycle of entry and exit from happening (Dorahy, 2019). In this case, they constrain management-learning processes, which should be an important aspect of business process development.
Government support to airlines could negatively affect the performance of the aviation sector and influence those of other businesses as well because of its wide outreach and supportive role in the global economy. Furthermore, many airlines, share in the benefits and challenges associated with such interventions and are likely to pass on the same to different parties in the global value chain (Dorahy, 2019). Therefore, an industry-wide outreach program initiated by a government is likely to affect many companies across the aviation value chain.
Given that a neutral or dormant demand in air travel is linked with the pandemic periood, a majority of airlines have adapted to the current environment of uncertainties by downsizing. The role of the government in supporting these changes has been highlighted in industry reports, which direct government interventions towards supporting a downsizing strategy, as opposed to countering it providing bailouts and other financial incentives (OECD, 2020). In line with these recommendations, experts emphasize the need to restructure or facilitate the exit of underperforming companies from the market and enable the movement of workers from underperforming into performing corporations that deserve urgent government support (Dorahy, 2019). These plans mean that the criterion used for identifying firms that deserve government support is a significant factor to consider when reviewing the performance of the aviation industry in a post-pandemic world.
The above insights suggest that most articles investigating the role of government support in the battered aviation industry are split between embracing interventions that promote competition and those that provide firm-specific support. The latter group appeals more to industry observers and objective critics who highlight the dangers of widespread government interventions in a sensitive but vital industry, such as the aviation sector (Dorahy, 2019). For example, some governments own equity in some major airlines through the financial support they offer them (Emirates Group, 2021). This involvement undermines their ability be neutral players in the business environment. The relationship between the state and major airlines has been linked to the low presence of foreign companies in countries where government control on corporate affairs is profound (OECD, 2020). Nonetheless, good governance is an important part of promoting healthy competition in a cutthroat business as the aviation sector. This is especially true in promoting the efficiency of business processes in the wake of crises.
Role of HRM in Managing Crises
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses is likely to increase in the short-term with negative implications expected on processes and performance. In this regard, companies relying on the airline industry should expect significant changes in global value chains and systems (Barai & Dhar, 2021). For example, the world may move away from over-dependence on China for its manufacturing needs because of the newly acquired desire to have wider and more elaborate supply chain systems that are resilient in addressing different types of needs affecting businesses or industries in a crisis (Barai & Dhar, 2021). The role of HRM in addressing some of the challenges affecting businesses in a post-pandemic world cannot be ignored in this review because of the importance of people in helping businesses make changes.
The role of HRM in helping the aviation industry to overcome the negative effects of the pandemic on airlines is further enhanced by the service-oriented nature of the industry. Recent research studies that have adopted a people-centric view of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business operations have mentioned how it has affected the workplace setting by creating new norms and business practices (Atay et al., 2021; Barai & Dhar, 2021). Most of these studies have focused their attention on the growing prominence of working from home, as a new business mantra in the corporate field, and the challenges that are encountered in the process of implementing it (Barai & Dhar, 2021). These studies have also directed their focus on how the pandemic has affected people working from home (Atay et al., 2021). Others have explained the importance of training in supporting the work-from-home model and how to manage layoffs or terminations that have been occasioned by the crisis.
A body of research articles also exist which highlight the importance of HRM in addressing crises. For example, Hockley (2020) explains how to use HRM to solve pandemic related challenges. Onyeaka et al. (2021) also highlight opportunities and challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, while Bratton and Gold (2017) describe the strategic role of human resource management in a crisis. These researchers have demonstrated the centrality of the HRM discipline in addressing crises affecting organizations. However, little is known about its efficacy in affecting the performance of the aviation industry in a COVID-19 context.
The articles reviewed in this study suggest that there is an abundance of literature highlighting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on organizations and their affiliates. Most of the pieces of evidence sampled in the study point to the effects of the pandemic on consumer attitudes and organizational resilience as the two critical aspects of operational performance requiring immediate attention in the aviation sector. However, there is little evidence of the existence of a HRM view of the impact of the pandemic on the aviation industry and the role it can play in helping organizations to adapt to changes. Particularly, there is little evidence of the existence of a people-based view of the role that HRM could play in helping the aviation sector to overcome the effects of the crisis. Indeed, most of the research articles sampled in this paper only provided conceptual or theoretical bases of review without a concrete depiction of the practical experiences of HRM professionals in managing the COVID-19 crisis.
In this chapter, the techniques used by the researcher to meet the study’s objectives will be explored. The research onion, proposed by Lewis and Saunders, which highlights five layers of methodological analysis, as shown in Figure 3.1 below, underpins the review (Subramaniam, 2019).
A research philosophy is informed by the worldview adopted by a researcher while collecting, analyzing, and disseminating findings. As highlighted in figure 3.1 above, four main approaches are used in academic research and they include positivism, realism, interpretivism, and pragmatism. The positivism research philosophy assumes that only objective information obtained from research studies should be used to develop the findings (Brinkmann, 2018). Stated differently, this approach relies on scientific evidence as the basis for making assumptions or conclusions about a research issue. Comparatively, the realism research philosophy assumes that research findings could be disassociated from abstract scientific reasoning; instead, human experiences are proposed as the basis for developing findings (Subramaniam, 2019). Alternatively, the interpretivism research approach relies on a researcher’s objectivity in developing conclusions about a specific research issue (Brinkmann, 2018). Based on this characteristic, this technique assumes an “observer status” for scholars who are investigating a research issue within a social setting.
The pragmatism research approach adopts an experience-based view of the world by using people’s subjective experiences to make inferences about a research issue. This philosophy underscores the need to use people’s experiences as a basis for developing research findings (Prasad, 2017). Based on these characteristics, the pragmatism research approach was used as the main research philosophy for this study because the researcher relied on the experiences of HRM professionals in investigating how the aviation industry could overcome the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, their work experiences formed the basis of the findings.
Two major research approaches are applicable in academic research – inductive and deductive methods. The inductive technique dictates that researchers should develop their findings based on the strength of the evidence collected (Hennink et al., 2020). Comparatively, advocates of the deductive approach encourage researchers to test evidence based on a predetermined model or theory of assessment (Prasad, 2017). Inductive reasoning was used in the present study because no theories were tested. Instead, primary research evidence was used as the basis for meeting the study’s objectives.
A research strategy defines the format used to collect and analyze data. According to Hennink, Hutter, and Bailey (2020), five strategies are applicable in academic research and they include experiments, surveys, case studies, action research, grounded theory, ethnography, and archival research. The case study approach was the main research strategy adopted in the present study because the researcher collected views from employees of one organization – Emirates Airline. Indeed, as an employee of the company, the researcher easily interacted with the respondents and convinced them to participate in the study.
The decision to select a sampling procedure to recruit respondents was justified by the purpose of the investigation – to evaluate how the aviation sector could address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic from a HRM perspective. The purposive sampling method was used to recruit participants because of the need to identify employees who were knowledgeable about the research topic. The sampling method was employed in the investigation because it is reliably used in research situations where only a limited number of people have desired knowledge and experience (Subramaniam, 2019). Such was the case in the present study because the researcher was interested in sampling the views of professionals who understood the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry from a HRM perspective.
The target population was comprised of members of staff who were working in the HRM department. This focused search strategy enabled the researcher to sample the views of 107 employees working for Emirate Airline’s HRM department. The number of respondents was obtained using a calculations performed on Raosoft. (2022) software. The analysis was based on the assumption that the airline has 105,730 employees, as stated by Emirates Group (2020). Similarly, the calculations were based on a 95% confidence level, 9.47% margin of error, and a 50% response contribution, which are standard rates for studies that have to select participants from a relatively small pool of people (Survey Monkey, 2020). Therefore, the calculations were based on standard metrics of determining sample sizes.
The researcher also collected secondary information to supplement the primary data sourced from the HRM professionals highlighted above. The main types of secondary data used in the investigation were peer-reviewed journals and books because of their high credibility and reliability in academic research (Prasad, 2017). Emphasis was made to collect updated information by excluding materials that were older than five years old. The goal of doing so was to collect the most updated data relating to the study about the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the materials used to collect the information were relevant to understanding the relationship between the aviation industry and the pandemic. Keywords and phrases used in the search were “COVID-19 pandemic,” “aviation industry,” and “Emirates Airlines,” “Middle East,” and “HRM experiences.”
The data analysis process involved the use of statistical techniques of data computation. Specifically, the researcher used the Statistical Packages for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software as the main data analysis method because of its efficacy in providing reliable results based on random samples of research data (Subramaniam, 2019). Researchers also hail the technique for being one of the most comprehensive tools of data analysis available for research (Subramaniam, 2019). It is endowed with various statistical analysis tools, including inferential and descriptive statistics, which were applied in the present investigation.
There are three research choices used in academic investigations and they include the mixed methods, multi-method and mono-method. The mixed methods approach uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative techniques to address a research issue. Comparatively, the multi-method uses multiple procedures for data collection and analysis, while the mono-method allows for the use of only one technique in a research process (Subramaniam, 2019). The present research investigation used the mono-method because of the reliance on qualitative data as the basis for developing the study’s findings. Additionally, this research choice was used in the current study because of the reliance on human experiences to understand the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on the aviation sector. Given that employees had varied views on the subject, it was important to use both qualitative and quantitative techniques to accommodate the differences.
Techniques and Procedures
The cross-sectional and longitudinal methods are the two main research techniques and procedures used in academic studies. The cross-sectional method analyzes a research issue at one point in time, while the longitudinal method does the same, but at different points in time. The latter technique is associated with research investigations that may take months, or years, to complete, while the former is linked with short-term research (Subramaniam, 2019). Given the time differences for completing the two sets of research techniques and procedures applied in the present study, the cross-sectional research approach emerged as the best technique for use because the researcher analyzed the overall experiences of HRM professionals from the time the pandemic started to date. Given that there are no immediate plans to undertake this review further, it is safe to assume that the cross-sectional technique appropriately fit the nature of the present research.
Given that human participants were included in the current research, the importance of addressing the ethical implications of including them in the study is documented in several academic texts. Relevant to the current study is the need to understand ethical considerations meant to protect the interests of the participants and enhance the credibility of the findings. In this regard, the main ethical considerations of the study are listed below.
Informed Consent: All participants who took part in the current investigation were furnished with relevant data relating to the study, including its objectives, intention of researcher, scope of discussion, and significance of study. Therefore, by the time they signed the informed consent form, confirming their participation (see appendix 2), they were aware of what the study entailed. Based on this background, all participants in the study decided to partake in it voluntarily. This means that the researcher did not coerce, intimidate, bribe, or pay employees to take part in the research. The goal was to obtain a sample of HRM experts who were willing to give honest feedback on the research topic.
Anonymity and Confidentiality: Anonymity and confidentiality of data are two ethical principles associated with the use of human subjects in research and they relate to the need to protect the privacy of respondents when collecting and analyzing information. Research studies suggest that the concepts are closely linked with informed consent because they relate with the need to furnish participants will all relevant information relating to a research as a basis for making the decision to take part in it (Gold, 2017). Subject to this statement, the information obtained from the respondents was presented anonymously in this report to protect the identity of the respondents, in line with the provision of Mustajoki and Mustajoki (2017) relating to the treatment of human subjects. The goal of doing so was to protect the participants from any retaliation that may occur from giving their views on the research issue.
Withdrawal from Study: As highlighted in this chapter, the researcher recruited participants from Emirates airline to take part in the investigation. Their right to take part in the study was safeguarded by their right to withdraw from it without any repercussions. Therefore, participants who initially chose to take part in the investigation were allowed to withdraw from it at any point without consequences. Similarly, they were at liberty not to answer specific questions from the questionnaire or take part in any specific research process relating to the current investigation. These ethical guidelines are consistent with those outlined by Bratton and Gold (2017), which emphasize the importance of researchers to provide a free and relaxed atmosphere for the participation of its subjects.
Treatment of Data: Ethical guidelines relating to the treatment of data are associated with procedures for the collection, management, and preservation of information obtained in a study. In this analysis, the researcher stored the information obtained from the study in a computer and secured it using a password. The password was privy to the researcher and the information secured by was not shared with anyone. Persons who may harbor ill-intent by exposing the identities, names, genders, positions held in the corporation, and such identifying data that are associated with the research informants to the public were prevented from having unauthorized access due to the safeguards highlighted above. Furthermore, to prevent data breaches, it was important to destroy the information upon conclusion of the research process.
Data Collection, Presentation, Analysis, and Findings
Primary research data were gathered using surveys, which were emailed to a group of 107 employees working at Emirates Airline’s HRM department. Appendix 1 shows a sample of the complete surveys emailed to them. The surveys contained two parts with the first one involving the collection of demographic data, including the respondents’ work experience, gender, age, and education qualifications. The second part was divided into four main sections with each one of them exploring the thematic areas relating to COVID-19 management. They included the identification of challenges HRM professionals have encountered because of the pandemic, HRM techniques used to manage the crisis, changes to the HRM practice brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the effectiveness of new approaches to address issues brought by the event. Each of these areas of probe represented one of the four questions underpinning this study and the participants were required to state whether they agreed or disagreed with them.
The sentiments expressed by the participants were measured using the 5-Point Likert Scale, which evaluates the strength of informants’ feelings towards statements posed in the surveys. The goal was to sample their views on the role of HRM in helping the aviation industry overcome the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As insinuated by its name, the 5-Point Likert scale contains five levels of emotional intensity: “strongly agree,” “agree,” “neither agree nor disagree,” “disagree,” and “strongly disagree.” This scale was used in the investigation because of its high reliability when evaluating people’s sentiments towards specific research issues (Heath, 2018). Therefore, it was used to understand the informants’ levels of understanding relating to HRM strategies adopted in the aviation sector to manage the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The current probe sought to investigate the individual experiences of staff members when navigating the COVID-19 pandemic as well as identify changes that have affected the industry thus far. The surveys were developed and distributed online to reduce human-human contact between the respondents and the researcher, in line with the COVID-19 protocols set out by Emirates Airline (Emirates Group, 2020). The insights gathered from the respondents were later used as the basis for formulating the research findings. This statement means that the experiences of Emirates Airlines in the COVID-19 crisis formed the basis for developing strategies for the sector’s survival in a post-pandemic world.
As highlighted in chapter three of this study, primary data was collected using surveys. Questionnaires were sent out to 107 employees working for Emirates Airlines. Their demographic characteristics are described below.
Four demographic characteristics were captured in the study and they related to the informant’s gender, age, education qualifications, and work experience. These pieces of information were useful in helping the researcher to understand the impact that these variables would have on their insights on the research issues. The approach is consistent with the views of Naman, Narendra and Kumar (2019), which suggests that differences in perception could occur among groups of employees, based on their demographic characteristics. Therefore, it was essential to understand these influences on the findings.
According to Table 4.1 below, most of the employees who took part in the investigation were male (57.9%). Comparatively, female employees accounted for 42.1% of the total sample.
Table 4.1 Gender findings
|What is your gender?|
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
The above findings suggest that the views presented in this study were not distinctly skewed towards one gender because there was a significant representation of the views of both genders in the study.
As highlighted in table 4.2 below, most of the employees who took part in this study were between 18 and 25 years. Those who were aged between 26 and 35 years formed the second largest group of participants, signifying that more than 70% of the sample population was comprised of young people. Comparatively, 12 participants were above 55 years, while one was aged between 26 and 55 years.
Table 4.2: Age findings
|What is your Age?|
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
Given that about 70% of population sampled was comprised of employees below 35 years, it is safe to assume that the views presented in this study were distinctively skewed towards representing the views of young HRM professionals in the aviation sector.
It was important to investigate the role of employees’ work experience on their responses because this variable is associated with varying perceptions of workplace safety and satisfaction. Table 4.3 below shows that most of the participants (41.1%) had between 5 and 9 years of work experience, while the second largest group of participants was comprised of those who had between two and five years of work experience.
Table 4.3: Work experience findings
|How long have you worked in your organization?|
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
|Valid||More than 30||8||7.5||7.5||7.5|
|Less than 5||14||13.1||13.1||100.0|
The above findings signify that most of the respondents had less than 9 years of work experience. This statement could be explained by the relatively young nature of the sample population. Indeed, participants who had more than 20 years of work experience were only 16% of the total sample, while the rest were young members of staff with minimal work experience.
The respondents’ education qualifications were the last demographic variables investigated in the study. As demonstrated in Table 4.4 below, the largest group of participants had a high school, or lower, education qualification, while the second largest group of respondents was comprised of informants who had studied an undergraduate program. Those who had a diploma certificate were 13.1% of the total sample, while participants who had a Master’s, or higher, education qualification were 19.6% of the total sample.
Table 4.4: Education qualification findings
|What is your education qualification|
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
The findings highlighted above suggest that most of the participants had relatively low education qualifications. Again, this outcome could be explained by the relatively young nature of the sample population.
Part B of the questionnaire sought to find out the views of the respondents regarding four key areas relating to HRM functions in a business environment ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. Relative to this assertion, the researcher sought the views of HRM professionals regarding the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, techniques for managing the crisis, changes to the HRM discipline brought by the pandemic, and techniques for managing the crisis. The findings are highlighted below.
Challenges Posed by COVID-19 Pandemic
The first variable investigated in the study related to the identification of challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. The statements posed to the respondents were linked to the complicated nature of the HRM practice, distortion of staffing plans, fluctuation in employee performance, and the implementation of training programs. These areas of probe are consistent with the views of Bratton and Gold (2017), which highlight them as core functions of HRM practice. Table 4.5 below shows a summary of the descriptive findings relating to the above-mentioned areas of probe.
Table 4.5: Challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
|Challenges posed by pandemic||107||1||4||1.64||.678|
|Challenges posed by pandemic||107||1||4||1.79||.844|
|Challenges posed by pandemic||107||1||5||2.05||1.161|
|Challenges posed by pandemic||107||1||4||2.15||.989|
|Valid N (listwise)||107|
According to the findings highlighted above, the cumulative mean for the group of items highlighted above is 1.90 meaning that most of the respondents agreed with statements relating to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the HRM practice. Particularly, they supported the view that the pandemic complicated the application of HRM tools, distorted staffing plans, caused significant fluctuations in employee performance, and made it difficult to implement training programs. This analysis is consistent with the observations of Dray and Schäfer (2021), which also affirmed the above effects of the pandemic on the aviation sector. In this regard, the information highlighted above is consistent with the literature review findings highlighted in chapter two of this document.
Techniques for Managing the Crisis
Emirates Airlines managed the COVID-19 pandemic by adopting a raft of techniques, some of which involved laying off some workers, instituting work-from-home measures, developing virtual staffing plans, and new job designs to aid in performance assessment. Table 4.6 below shows that the cumulative mean of the responses regarding this issue was 1.86 – meaning that the respondents either “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with the statements posed in the questionnaire.
Table 4.6: Techniques for managing crises
|Techniques for managing crisis||107||1||5||3.03||1.321|
|Techniques for managing crisis||107||1||2||1.36||.481|
|Techniques for managing crisis||107||1||4||1.52||.604|
|Techniques for managing crisis||107||1||5||1.53||.828|
|Valid N (listwise)||107|
The findings highlighted above show that HRM has played a role in providing management with information to facilitate lay-offs and the adoption of virtual techniques for facilitating communication during the crisis. It has also been instrumental in the creation of new job designs and staffing plans that suit current business dynamics. In this regard, HRM has been integrated into business process development and has become a critical point of information access when addressing HR issues at Emirates Airline.
Changes in HRM Brought by the Pandemic
The third aspect of analysis investigated in the current study related to changes brought to the HRM discipline by the pandemic. In this assessment, the researchers sought to sample employees’ views regarding the mainstreaming of technology applications in HRM, impact of COVID-19 on the company’s compensation management policies, the introduction of a new workplace hazard, and the heightened need for creativity and innovation in crisis management because of the pandemic. The findings highlighted in Table 4.7 below demonstrate that statements relating to this variable had a collective mean of 2.08. This number implies that most of the respondents “agreed” that the pandemic brought changes to the HRM discipline.
Table 4.7: Changes in HRM brought by the pandemic
|Changes in HRM||107||1||5||2.05||1.208|
|Changes in HRM||107||1||5||1.96||.961|
|Changes in HRM||107||1||5||2.21||1.365|
|Changes in HRM||107||1||5||2.10||.990|
|Valid N (listwise)||107|
The findings highlighted above demonstrate that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant changes to the HRM discipline. The mainstreaming of technology applications in HRM practice was affirmed by the respondents’ views as a new practice in HRM in the same manner as they agreed with the heightened level of innovation and creativity demanded in a post-pandemic world. The findings highlighted above also affirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic became a new workplace hazard that HR professionals have to address. They also mentioned it as a critical factor influencing the development of compensation management policies, which is a critical function of HRM (Gold, 2017). Overall, these findings show that the COVID-19 pandemic brought significant changes to the HRM discipline.
Effectiveness of HRM Interventions Adopted at Emirates Airline
The fourth area of probe underpinning this research related to an evaluation of the HRM techniques for managing a crisis. The researcher sought to find out the views of the informants regarding this issue based on four HRM interventions adopted by Emirates Airline. The interventions related to the provision of sufficient information about the pandemic to increase employee awareness, implementation of work-from-home measures to improve employer-employee relationships, and increased collaboration between the HRM department and others in the organization. The enhancement of employee retention levels and increased motivational standards were also discussed in this assessment. Table 4.8 below shows that the collective mean of the statements relating to this area of probe was 1.95, meaning that most informants agreed that the interventions adopted so far were effective in meeting their goals.
Table 4.8: Effectiveness of HRM interventions adopted at Emirates Airline
|Effectiveness of current approaches||107||1||5||1.64||1.039|
|Effectiveness of current approaches||107||1||3||1.58||.740|
|Effectiveness of current approaches||107||1||5||2.22||1.076|
|Effectiveness of current approaches||107||1||5||2.36||1.176|
|Valid N (listwise)||107|
The implication of the above findings on the present topic is that the HRM policies adopted at Emirates Airline brought positive changes to the nature of relationship between employers and employees through the implementation of work-from-home measures. The HRM measures adopted so far have also helped to improve employee motivation and increase retention levels because of a heightened level of risk perception among employees. This increased risk profile could negatively affect productivity, hence the need to use HRM to dissuade employees from developing negative feelings or perceptions about the crisis (Bratton & Gold, 2017). This view is supported by the heightened level of risk posed by the pandemic to worker’s safety.
The respondents also demonstrated that HRM strategies adopted at Emirates Airline created a higher level of HRM integration in general business functions. This outcome could be caused by the increased importance of developing employee-centric corporate strategies that promote workplace safety and shareholder interests. The statement could explain why most of the respondents supported the view that the pandemic highlighted the role of HRM in increasing employee awareness about safety measures and all other information pertinent to their health and safety. Overall, the pandemic brought significant changes to HRM practice through its increased centrality in the management of organizational affairs.
For the analysis part, the impact of demographic variables, including age, gender, education qualifications, and work experience on the findings is evaluated. Table 4.9 below presents findings relating to the impact of age on the findings.
Impact of Demographic Variables on Findings
The respondents’ gender was the first to be assessed in the current investigation. Table 4.9 below highlights the ANOVA findings of this demographic variable as it relates to their views on the statements posed on the questionnaire.
Table 4.9: Impact of age on findings
|Sum of Squares||df||Mean Square||F||Sig.|
|Challenges posed by pandemic||Between Groups||.170||1||.170||.125||.725|
|Techniques for managing crisis||Between Groups||.288||1||.288||.164||.687|
|Changes in HRM||Between Groups||.000||1||.000||.000||.987|
|Effectiveness of current approaches||Between Groups||.040||1||.040||.037||.849|
According to the findings highlighted above, the respondents’ gender did not affect their views on the research issues discussed. This statement stems from the high significance value of the ANOVA findings for the four areas of probe that emerged in the investigation – effectiveness of current HRM approaches, changes to the HRM discipline brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, identification of HRM techniques for managing the pandemic, and the identification of challenges that affect the disciplines due to the COVID-19 crisis. The significance value is p<0.05, meaning that the four variables assessed above failed to meet this threshold, signifying the lack of correlation between the views presented by the research participants and their gender.
Impact of Age on Findings
Age was the second demographic variable assessed in this analysis and Table 4.10 below highlights the related ANOVA findings.
Table 4.10: Impact of age on findings
|Sum of Squares||df||Mean Square||F||Sig.|
|Challenges posed by pandemic||Between Groups||2.367||4||.592||1.300||.275|
|Techniques for managing crisis||Between Groups||3.138||4||.784||.440||.779|
|Changes in HRM||Between Groups||6.833||4||1.708||1.178||.325|
|Effectiveness of current approaches||Between Groups||1.856||4||.464||.842||.502|
According to the findings highlighted above, the respondents’ ages did not affect their views on the research topic. This statement stems from the high significance value of the variables listed in the review based on the ANOVA findings highlighted above. The significance value used to come up with this conclusion is p<0.05, meaning that the four variables assessed above failed to meet this threshold. This finding signifies the lack of correlation between the views presented by the research participants and their ages.
Impact of Work Experience on Findings
The respondents’ work experiences were the third demographic variables analyzed in this review. Table 4.11 below shows that work experience did not affect employee views because the significance value of all the four issues of probe about HRM practices adopted at Emirates Airline was higher that the p<0.05 threshold.
Table 4.11: Impact of Work Experience on Findings
|Sum of Squares||df||Mean Square||F||Sig.|
|Challenges posed by pandemic||Between Groups||.700||3||.233||.500||.683|
|Challenges posed by pandemic||Between Groups||11.678||3||3.893||3.059||.032|
|Techniques for managing crisis||Between Groups||1.449||3||.483||.699||.555|
|Changes in HRM||Between Groups||1.220||3||.407||.273||.845|
|Effectiveness of current approaches||Between Groups||.641||3||.214||.151||.929|
The above findings mean that the work experiences of the employees did not influence their views about the findings developed from the research. This outcome is inconsistent with the views of Naman, Narendra, and Kumar (2019), which suggest that employee work experience is a moderating variable in their overall workplace experience.
Impact of Education Qualifications on Findings
The respondents’ work experience was the third demographic variable analyzed in this review to understand its impact on the employees’ views. Table 4.12 highlights the findings of this analysis using ANOVA data.
Table 4.12: Impact of education qualifications on findings
|Sum of Squares||df||Mean Square||F||Sig.|
|Challenges posed by pandemic||Between Groups||5.209||4||1.302||3.048||.020|
|Techniques for managing crisis||Between Groups||13.849||4||3.462||2.064||.091|
|Changes in HRM||Between Groups||.793||4||.198||.103||.981|
|Effectiveness of current approaches||Between Groups||4.967||4||1.242||.895||.470|
According to the findings highlighted above, the respondents’ education qualifications did not affect their views on the research findings. This statement stems from the high significance value of the variables assessed, based on the ANOVA findings highlighted above. The significance value used to come up with this conclusion is p<0.05, meaning that the four variables assessed above failed to meet this threshold. This finding signifies the lack of correlation between the views presented by the research participants and their education qualifications. This finding is inconsistent with those of Naman et al. (2019), which emphasize the moderating role of employee education qualifications in their overall work experience.
The findings highlighted in this chapter show that employees of Emirates Airline have a positive view of the role of HRM in helping the organization navigate the COVID-19 crisis. The use of HRM tools to aid in managerial functions, such as laying off some employees and the reliance on HRM tools to set up the work-from-home program, suggest that HRM has been successfully used in the organization to manage some of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, the approaches adopted in the organization have proved to be successful in the short-term. However, the future implementation of HRM practices needs to demonstrate a broader understanding of the role of HRM, not only in helping airlines to overcome the COVID-19 crisis, but also in developing a people-centered business model that will be resilient and emphasize the role of human safety in industry operations.
Conclusion and Recommendations
From the onset of this investigation, four research questions were mentioned as guiding principles of this study. They included discussions relating to the identification of challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic to the aviation industry, identification of methods that HRM professionals have been using to manage the crisis, evaluating their efficacy, identification of changes brought by the pandemic on the HRM practice and the direction that HRM practitioners should follow in a post-pandemic world. Research evidence was collected from published sources and primary data. Published sources were comprised of books, journals, credible websites, and industry reports. Primary data was obtained from employees of Emirates Airline and they were used to compare HRM approaches adopted in the aviation sector and their efficacy.
The findings of the study revealed that the COVID-19 crisis has mainstreamed technology use in the HRM field and changed several policy positions involving compensation, employee training, and staffing. Based on the positive experiences of Emirates Airline in using HRM to manage the effects of the crisis, the discipline can play a crucial role in helping the aviation sector to overcome some of the negative effects of the COVID-19 crisis by facilitating the integration of new knowledge, skills, and practices in the discipline. The findings of this study also suggest that the pandemic has complicated HRM practices by making it difficult to implement some of the tools used to manage crises of similar nature. Its scope and unpredictability has made the COVID-19 pandemic a “turning point” in the HRM practice because it demands a rethink of employer-employee relationships.
Particularly, new rules regarding social distancing and restrictions on travel have made teleconferencing a mainstream practice in HRM. The need to maintain social distancing between people has also forced recruiters to change their staffing strategies to align with the new workplace dynamics. These examples point to some instances where the pandemic has affected the HRM practice. However, these influences may be far-reaching because the full scope of the pandemic on the aviation industry is yet to be fully conceptualized.
The recommendations outlined in this report are aimed at promoting resilience and sustainability in the aviation industry. In this assessment, the role of the government will be highlighted in striking a balance between its ability to maintain fair competition among airlines and the propensity to save others that are in danger of collapse. So far, the government of the UAE has been supporting a state-backed intervention for Emirates Airline and since this position has been its policy even before the pandemic, it is expected that the same approach will continue to be adopted in the future. The following policy objectives should be considered for review.
Encourage Investments that Promote Sustainability: Sustainability refers to the ability of a business to operate within the limits of its ability and influence. Relative to this definition, Emirates Airline needs to increase investments that promote sustainability because it will mitigate the moral hazard created by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially given that airlines were deemed responsible for spreading the virus around the world. In other words, policies aimed at promoting sustainability should be focused on addressing the entire value chain of business operations in the airline industry.
Promote Strategic Agility: This paper has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken businesses worldwide due to restrictions on movement and travel. Companies that previously relied on a rigid form of business operational framework found it difficult to overcome the effects of the crisis on their businesses. In this regard, it is important to promote agility in the strategy development process of airlines to avoid such an outcome. This recommendation is consistent with that of Bratton and Gold (2017), who highlight the role of strategic HRM in helping organizations to achieve their visions by merging external strategic interests with those of an organization.
Emphasize Customer Segmentation: Customer segmentation is highlighted as one of the recommendations in this study because of the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on consumer behavior. Given that the crisis has created panic among travellers and broken supply chain linkages, it is critical for players in the aviation sector to practice customer segmentation to appeal to varied groups of customers because some of them do not share in the skepticism. Customer segmentation would make it possible to appeal to different groups of customers, based on their perceived risk of travel. Therefore, it is important to understand the needs of different group of customers and develop products or packages that address their unique requirements.
Adikaram, A. S., Priyankara, H. P. R., & Naotunna, N. P. G. S. I. (2021). Navigating the crises of COVID-19: Human resource professionals battle against the pandemic. South Asian Journal of Human Resources Management, 8(2), 192–218.
Atay, M., Eroğlu, Y., & Ulusam Seçkiner, S. (2021). Investigation of breaking points in the airline industry with airline optimization studies through text mining before the COVID-19 pandemic. Transportation Research Record, 2675(5), 301–313.
Barai, M. K., & Dhar, S. (2021). COVID-19 pandemic: Inflicted costs and some emerging global issues. Global Business Review, 8(2), pp. 345-366.
Baum, H., & Auerbach, S. (2017). Strategic management in the aviation industry. Taylor & Francis.
Bratton, J., & Gold, J. (2017). Human resource management: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Macmillan Education.
Brinkmann, S. (2018). Philosophies of qualitative research. Oxford University Press.
Clarke, S. (2016). Marx’s theory of crisis. Springer.
Dorahy, J. F. (2019). The Budapest School: Beyond Marxism. BRILL.
Dray, L., & Schäfer, A. W. (2021). Initial long-term scenarios for COVID-19’s impact on aviation and implications for climate policy. Transportation Research Record, 5(2), pp. 1-11.
Emirates Group. (2021). Annual report. Web.
Heath, W. (2018). Psychology research methods: Connecting research to students’ lives. Cambridge University Press.
Hennink, M., Hutter, I., & Bailey, A. (2020). Qualitative research methods. SAGE.
Hockley, L. (2020). Coronavirus roundtable: How is the aviation industry responding to the COVID-19 pandemic? Web.
Kim, E. E. K., Seo, K., & Choi, Y. (2021). Compensatory travel post COVID-19: Cognitive and emotional effects of risk perception. Journal of Travel Research, 10(6), pp. 434-439.
Lee, C. C., & Chen, M. P. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 on the travel and leisure industry returns: Some international evidence. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research, 6(3), 551–561.
Litvin, S. W., Guttentag, D., & Smith, W. W. (2021). Who should you market to in a crisis? examining Plog’s model during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7(2), 399-409.
Mustajoki, H., & Mustajoki, A. (2017). A new approach to research ethics: Using guided dialogue to strengthen research communities. Taylor & Francis.
Naman, S., Narendra, S., & Kumar, V. (2019). Management techniques for employee engagement in contemporary organizations. IGI Global.
OECD. (2020). COVID-19 and the aviation industry: Impact and policy responses. Web.
Onyeaka, H., Anumudu, C. K., Al-Sharify, Z. T., Egele-Godswill, E., & Mbaegbu, P. (2021). COVID-19 pandemic: A review of the global lockdown and its far-reaching effects. Science Progress, 1(6), pp. 231-244.
Prasad, P. (2017). Crafting qualitative research: Beyond positivist traditions (2nd edn). Taylor & Francis.
Raosoft. (2022). Sample size calculator. Web.
Subramaniam, T. (2019). Perception of energy experts on the adoption of energy efficient technology: A study on commercial and industrial electricity consumers of Klang Valley, Malaysia. Notion Press.
Survey Monkey. (2020). Sample size calculator. Web.
Appendix 1: Questionnaire
Thank you for taking the time to participate in this study. The focus of the investigation is on understanding how Human Resource Management (HRM) could be used to help the aviation industry navigate the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this survey, I will seek your professional opinions on the subject matter. Please tick (✓) on the appropriate box below that accurately expresses your feelings on the subject.
Part A: Demographic Data
Kindly check and rate your responses honestly and accurately regarding the statements listed, based on the scale below.
- 1 – Strongly Agree
- 2 – Agree
- 3 – Neither Agree nor Disagree
- 4 – Disagree
- 5 – Strongly Disagree
|Challenges posed by the Pandemic|
|1.||The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated HRM practice|
|2.||The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively influenced staffing plans|
|3.||Significant reductions in employee performance have been reported due to the COVID-19 pandemic|
|4.||The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to implement training and career development programs|
|Techniques for Managing the Crisis|
|1.||We provided support information to management to aid in its decision to lay off some employees|
|2.||We adopted flexible employment relationships due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic|
|3.||We adopted virtual recruitment and selection methods to comply with social distancing requirements|
|4.||We changed job designs to fit the new operating environment brought by the COVID-19 pandemic|
|Changes in HRM Practices brought by the pandemic|
|1.||The COVID-19 pandemic changed our compensation management policies|
|2.||A new workplace hazard has been introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic, thereby causing fear and anxiety among employees|
|3.||The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for creativity and innovation in the development of HRM strategies|
|4.||Technology adoption has been mainstreamed in HRM practice due to the COVID-19 pandemic|
|Effectiveness of Current Approaches|
|1.||We provided employees will relevant information relating to the pandemic, thereby enhancing their awareness of the health risks posed|
|2.||Work-from-home measures have improved the relationship between employers and employees|
|3.||Current HRM approaches aimed at addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased collaboration between the department and others in the airline|
|4.||The measures we have since undertaken have helped to enhance employee retention and motivation|
Appendix 2 – Informed Consent Form
The general nature of this research titled “Navigating a Crisis: How the Aviation Industry Battles the COVID-19 Pandemic from a Human Resource Management Perspective” has been explained to me. I understand that I am to give candid views on the topic and that the data generated from the study will be used for academic purposes. I understand that the information that will be detailed in the study will be treated confidentially and that the findings will be presented anonymously.
I understand that my participation in the study is voluntary and that I have a right to refrain from answering any part of the questions. I have also been made aware of my right to withdraw from the study without any repercussions. Potential risks that may be associated with my participation in this study have been explained to me. I am also aware that I am supposed to be above 18 years to take part in the study. The signature appended below is mine and it signifies my consent to participate in this study.
BUSINESS DOCUMENT This document is intended for business use and should be distributed to intended recipients only.