In March 2020, the cruise industry suffered one of the most unprecedented and heart-wrenching moments of its history. We had survived many difficult times, but no one could have imagined what would occur next. For the first time in our history, Royal Caribbean Group, and the entire industry, shut down operations, laid off and furloughed thousands of employees, and kept hoping it was just all a bad dream.

Although Human Resources (HR) always had a seat at the table, we suddenly found ourselves with all eyes on us as we prepared to lay off and furlough many of our employees from our computer screens. Some of the employees that were impacted had been with us for 20-plus years, and many were dealing with their own personal struggles due to the pandemic. As an HR team, we knew we had to keep empathy at the center of all we did. Technology allowed us to at least look into the faces of all those being impacted. We had never undertaken such a massive operation. Understanding this was a difficult time for everyone and wanting to ensure we kept this challenging effort as respectful and tied to our values, the team sought to communicate decisions to everyone via video conferencing to ensure we gave them the respect and best possible support we could. It was an emotional day, but in the end, most of the employees were appreciative of our personal approach and willingness to help during the crisis.

As a company, we didn’t let this difficult time slow us down. We reviewed our procedures and systems, invested in technology, and understood it was critical to communicate frequently and with transparency. We learned a lot about how to work together and how to apply that knowledge in our daily work. We deployed team members from departments that weren’t as active to support our crew member repatriation and communications team. Employees were able to use their talents and skills in ways they would’ve never imagined. We rallied around our employees, amped up communications; this was a priority. Technology helped us keep a connection with our colleagues so we could be there to aid as needed and to keep the company going. Our leadership held monthly townhalls so that they spoke directly to employees on updates as well as answer any questions. Our systems gave us the ability to communicate critical information daily toour employees and crew members – information theydesperately wanted to hear. Crew logistics became an immense challenge that was only successful due to the tireless efforts ofour employees and the swift and real-time communication provided to them by our “MyRCL” app. This app allowed us to inform our crew of their assignments, travel arrangements as well as immediate changes due to regulations.

Although the pandemic is not over, we are breathing a slight sigh of relief. Our ships are back in the water and welcoming our guests to embark on an amazing vacation. The crew could not be happier to be back. The best part is that we have proven our procedures and systems keep people safe, and our colleagues have a relentless commitment to one another and our company. We invested in contact-tracing technology on our vessels that has continuously proven to enhance the safety onboard. We’re not completely “out of the woods” yet, but we’re finally on the road to recovery. Cruise industry HR professionals know this is a 24/7 business that relies heavily on us to keep our employees and crew members motivated, informed, and appreciated. This has never been more critical than now. HR was at the forefront fromthe start of this pandemic, and we continue to be critical to the recovery. I have never been prouder of the profession I have chosen as we support our people through some of the most difficult times in their lives, and celebrate the triumphs and good times ahead. All eyes are still on HR, and that’s just how we like it to be.