Personnel management in the post-covid19 world – a brief guide for wholesale and retail distributors

Personnel management issues had been amplified in post-COVID19 world, especially in wholesale and retail distribution firms.


While 2008-2013 could be portrayed as a post-recession recovery period, 2013–2018 would be defined as a period of “optimism” and growth. We clearly can see post-2008 upraise as well as the 2016-2018 period growth in both truck orders and freight prices.  


The upward shift started to upend mid-2018 and early 2019. Now COVID19 is the shock that is currently changing how we interact with each other. Part of that growth was the fast-changing technologies and digitization of business processes. Cloud computing, AI and increasing connectivity started to change the way companies organize their business processes and manage their employees. Organizations became more connected and information flows bolstered. We could also see the rise of digital marketplaces, such as Uber FreightShipwellConvoy. E-commerce also contributed to the increasing digitization of communication and the management of logistic processes. The growing visibility of freight also became mainstream. 


Though there were indisputable positive effects, increasing information flows and uninterrupted connectivity resulted in higher burn-out, degrading productivity, and lower participation rates of many employees. As a result, managers’ roles have been transformed from managing people to organizing the interaction of people and technology. We can even say that work will be organized around the chosen technological solutions. COVID19 kicked in when the business and management community was already in the process of transforming how organizations have been structured and managed for decades. While this trend continues, the post-covid19 world will see the amplification of some processes (remote work) and the emergence of the others (different consumption patterns, different interaction patterns, etc.).  


We have summarized the strategic approaches in four pillars. This is obviously not an exhaustive list but hopes to provide higher-level insights. 


The role of each individual becomes even more important in the post-COVID19 world

Paradoxically, people think that technologies would eliminate a large number of jobs because people would compete with machines. It is partly true for redundant, easily automatized jobs and it will be more so in the decade to come. On the other hand, the role of individuals around and for whom companies introduce innovations becomes even more important. They need to be nurtured to be able to boost the productivity of the technologies and add value for themselves and organizations in the long run. Even AI is not something that will eliminate roles but it will help to shift teams to become “super-teams.”  


Business processes that let you manage physically remote personnel without degrading the productivity

Technology becomes a cornerstone for managing physically remote personal. Remote management relates to the company’s HR and core business processes. Distribution firms for example include not only the exchange of information between the planner and the warehouse manager but also the remote management capabilities of the whole process chain – from the interaction with vendors, planning, and execution of deliveries to warehouse management. As the role of each individual becomes more important in the new “remote world” it is essential to keep people involved in implementing new technological solutions.  This requires a better articulation of the company’s goals and employees’ future alignment.   


Implementing a proper change management plan

Companies may be aware that acute changes in the managerial and operational processes create an atmosphere of instability and insecurity among employees. The proper change management practices should be brought to a place to explain how the change will affect people and what new skills they need to gain. Firms should succinctly communicate the added value and the long-term effects of new technologies on employees’ careers and personal growth perspectives. They need to make sure that the company maximizes the creative capability of the employees in the world of machines.  


Increased uncertainty 

The best way to taper off frustration and pessimism among employees is to show that the company has vision and long-term determination for change. The best way to do this is to increase investments in technological change. Managers should also properly explain changing pay structures and better connect them to individual results. Employees should be aware that technological change and weakening physical interactions can erode individual responsibility and require more creativity and problem-solving efforts.       


Everyone understands that the world has changed and that historical trends have accelerated this substantially. We also see new phenomena that will define human behavior for years to come. Companies that quickly reassess new threats and opportunities and thus embrace personnel management practices can actually reclaim stronger long-term sustainability. 



Vardan Markosyan is the CEO at Less® Platform
MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Ph.D. in Economics from the Institute of Economy of NAS RA
He spent decades of research and consultancy on business process optimization and system design