Human resource practice strategies for managing ageing employees -A case study of the COVID-19 pandemic effects
Purpose: The selected past studies give themes about how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced employees to work from home, but nothing about how organisational actors experience the pandemic effects and how they strategize to manage older workers. The present study explores how do different HR actors experience the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on older employees’ work situation and how do they strategize to manage ageing employees who are supposed to adapt to the new way of working during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Theory: This study utilizes the theoretical lens of ‘strategy as practice’. The empirical data have been analysed within the perspectives of strategy practitioners, praxis and practices. Method: This study is a qualitative research conducted in 13 organisations within Swedish higher education and research sector as a case (anonymous). The empirical data is collected through semi-structured interviews with eighteen HR actors. The purposive and/or snowball sampling technique was used to select participants. The interviews conducted were then coded in text-to-text format and then thematically analyzed. Results: This study maps out the positive and negative effects of the COVID-19 on work situation for older employees. This study also identifies different human resource (HR) strategies as routine organisational practices: ensuring continuous flow of information, valuing older employees with no age discrimination, arranging short training on how to adjust to new technology and developing relevant technology to ensure simplicity of working. The upgrading of communication channels and collaboration between management and employees and between HR colleagues (praxis) would support several different actors (practitioners) to practice these types of HR strategies. These HR practices are used to manage employees, mainly ageing employees who have been facing some adjustment problems with the new versions of digital technologies while working from home. These group of older employees have lack of technical skills and feel more mental stress than younger counterparts. Though the employees at all ages (no age discrimination) feel mental refreshment during pandemic since they can set their own working schedule, some younger and some older employees who live alone feel lack of social interactions, bored and depressed. Unfortunately, another point is that the managers, aged 50+, have to work under extra pressure during pandemic. So, to plan for future work design after the pandemic, the organisations have been planning for the integration of virtual home working with traditional office working. Originality/ Value: This study adds to previous literature of the conditions for age management by highlighting the importance of non-human actors, in this study the COVID-19 pandemic and new use of technology. This has illustrated the usefulness of the strategy-as-practice perspective in uncovering new knowledge that is useful for theoretical as well as practical development of the HR field.