We show the relevance of extant international business (IB) research, and more specifically work on international human resources management (IHRM), to address COVID-19 pandemic challenges. Decision-makers in multinational enterprises have undertaken various types of actions to alleviate the impacts of the pandemic. In most cases these actions relate in some way to managing distance and to rethinking boundaries, whether at the macro- or firm-levels. Managing distance and rethinking boundaries have been the primary focus of much IB research since the IB field was established as a legitimate area of academic inquiry. The pandemic has led to increased cross-border distance problems (e.g., as the result of travel bans and reduced international mobility), and often also to new intra-firm distancing challenges imposed upon previously co-located employees. Prior IHRM research has highlighted the difficulties presented by distance, in terms of employee selection, training, support, health and safety, as well as leadership and virtual collaboration. Much of this thinking is applicable to solve pandemic-related distance challenges. The present, extreme cases of requisite physical distancing need not imply equivalent increases in psychological distance, and also offer firms some insight into the unanticipated benefits of a virtual workforce – a type of workforce that, quite possibly, will influence the ‘new normal’ of the post-COVID world. Extant IHRM research does offer actionable insight for today, but outstanding knowledge gaps remain. Looking ahead, we offer three domains for future IHRM research: managing under uncertainty, facilitating international and even global work, and redefining organizational performance.
- International human resource management (IHRM)