Human Resource Management and Institutional Resilience during the COVID-19 Pandemic—A Case Study from the Westfjords of Iceland

Lára Jóhannsdóttir*, David Cook, Sarah Kendall, Mauricio Latapí, Catherine Chambers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human resource management (HRM) is challenging in times of crisis, more so than when there is a stable business environment. Consequently, the overall aim of the study is to identify the preparedness, transition process, learning, and growth that businesses in the Westfjords region experienced because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, 42 semi-structured interviews were conducted with various members of the society, such as health authorities, healthcare workers, staff of a university center, social workers, and business owners, to gain as broad of an understanding of the local impacts as possible, as well as the coping strategies that emerging or were employed. The model employed for the analysis is an organizational resilience and organizational coping strategies model, which considers both the pre- and post-crisis situation. The core components of this model—anticipate and plan, manage and survive, and learn and grow—were the themes that were used in the thematic analysis of the interviews presented in the results. The findings of the study suggest that the preparedness aspect of the model employed, namely anticipate and plan, was negligible, as institutions were neither very ready for disruption prior to the crisis, nor had plans in place to deal with such a situation. Despite the lack of pre-crisis anticipation and planning mechanisms, examples of how institutions managed and coped during the pandemic were evident in the data. Also, during the crisis, some institutions managed to not just learn and grow, but, through adaptation to the situation, they were able to thrive. The findings also suggest both positive and negative aspects to HRM in public and private institutions. The implications of the study are theoretical in cases of alteration to the analytical model employed, practical in the case of coping mechanisms and practical solutions suggested, and have policy relevance, as the study emphasizes the importance of integrating flexible approaches to national mandates, thus enabling local conditions to be taken into account.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16988
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors.

Other keywords

  • COVID-19
  • human resource management
  • impacts
  • learning
  • operation
  • preparedness
  • resilience
  • response


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