Resilience in the Face of Pandemic: Lessons from Ohio's Healthcare Sector

This article is based on a recent article published in Journal of Organization and Change Management. 

Kim, J., Lee, H.W. and Chung, G.H. (2023), "Organizational resilience: leadership, operational and individual responses to the COVID-19 pandemic", Journal of Organizational Change Management, forthcoming.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a crucible for testing organizational resilience. Our recent study, conducted in the heat of the pandemic, sheds light on how hospitals in Ohio – ranging from large university-affiliated centers to smaller community hospitals – navigated this uncharted territory. The findings offer a fresh perspective on what it means to be resilient in times of crisis.

Contextual Background:

Ohio's healthcare sector, characterized by a mix of large university hospitals and smaller institutions, faced unique challenges during the pandemic. Despite their varying sizes, these hospitals collectively confronted an unprecedented surge in patient numbers, drastic operational shifts, and a pressing need to protect their staff while maintaining high care standards. Indeed, we discovered an initial drop in productivity at the onset of the pandemic. Despite being frontline organizations with an influx of patients, these hospitals experienced a decrease in productivity and revenue due to unpreparedness for the highly infectious virus and sudden changes in work procedures​​.

Our Research Approach:

Our research stands out because, unlike most studies conducted retrospectively, we delved into an ongoing crisis - the pandemic. We adopted a grounded theory methodology and analyzed the experiences of 30 healthcare employees from various hospitals in Ohio. This approach offered real-time insights into the resilience-building process amidst one of the most significant crises in human history.


Key Findings:


Leadership Styles

The research uncovered distinct operational dynamics between top management teams (TMTs) and middle managers. TMTs functioned akin to military officers, sustaining regular communication and offering strategic guidance. In contrast, middle managers were more intimately involved with day-to-day operations and their teams, adhering to the guidelines set by the TMTs. This dual-leadership approach was instrumental in navigating the crisis​​ because it helped reduce employee fear and uncertainty​​.

HRM Practices

Another important finding was the rapid and improvised changes in HRM practices. Hospitals swiftly reorganized physical environments, froze recruitment, and introduced impromptu training programs to adapt to the pandemic's demands​​. This agility in HRM was a key factor in maintaining operational continuity during the pandemic​​.

Individual-Level Resilience

The study also highlights individual resilience traits that proved advantageous during the pandemic. Resilience stemmed from dispositional traits like conscientiousness, openness, agreeableness, emotional stability, and emotional intelligence. These traits helped individuals maintain routines, build strong social relationships, and adapt to work-from-home scenarios​​. Interestingly, while extroversion was typically seen as beneficial for productivity in the workplace, introversion emerged as a valuable trait for those working from home, a shift from traditional thinking​​. Furthermore, the study underscores the importance of finding meaning in one's work as a critical element of individual resilience. Employees who cultivated a deep sense of connection with their jobs, embracing both purpose and efficacy, demonstrated an enhanced ability to adeptly steer through the challenges of the pandemic.

Call to Action

From the impact of leadership styles to the unexpected shifts in HRM practices and individual traits, these insights underscore the complex and multifaceted nature of organizational resilience. For business leaders and HR professionals, our study offers a roadmap to foster resilience. It suggests embracing flexibility in leadership, being agile in operational adjustments, and recognizing the diverse individual traits that contribute to an organization's resilience. These lessons, born out of the pandemic's adversity, are invaluable for any organization striving to navigate future crises successfully.

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.