This is a sequel to the earlier article on crisis management and contingency planning in HR management. In earlier literature, we started analyzing the approach to managing crises and contingency planning in staff management. We started off with establishing communication with employees in anticipation of and during the occurrence of any crisis. Below are additional factors to consider.
Chain of Command:
There should be an agreed-upon and well-publicized policy on who will take control in an emergency and where they will be located. The chain of command should detail who will be responsible for communicating with employees, customers, and the press as appropriate. Similarly, identify not just the contract people necessary to fill the chain of command but also any professional training needed in specialist areas, such as PR and media communication. If employees are prepared to handle a crisis, they will be better able to deal with this. With proper preparation, you are less likely to end up with stress disorders, absenteeism, or an embarrassing portrayal of the incident in the media.
It is vital to draw up plans to allow for the business to continue operating. Such plans should consider all of your likely worst-case scenarios and how you may handle these.
What are the essential components of your business where continuity is vital? What’s the staff succession plan in that particular department? The continuity plan should minimize any disruption and economic loss in the event of significant problems. Consider not only major catastrophes but also smaller events that are more likely to happen. For instance, if your building is evacuated by the police officer or fire brigade and staff cannot get back in, what help can HR offer staff members who cannot access their money, keys, phones, and travel cards? Do you have emergency communication points people can call to get quick, accurate information and assistance?
In the event of not being able to use your normal premises for whatever reason, an alternative emergency venue should be agreed upon in advance. This could be a hotel, a town hall, or even working from home. If this is going to last for some time, as is the case with COVID-19, there will be the need to make alternative arrangements available in the long term.
There could also be a crisis where the health and safety of employees will be paramount, and although the workplace remains intact, there are other risks to be considered. An example would be the epidemic of infectious diseases. Not only would you face severe absence levels for a prolonged period, but your responsibilities under health and safety guidelines at work would also mean steps may need to be taken to reduce the risk of infection to staff and those with whom they come into contact.
Lack of preparation for losing staff is the single biggest gap in most business continuity plans. Consider the impact on your business on the loss of staff, identify the critical services you need to concentrate your resources on, and ensure you have sufficient trained staff to cover for missing colleagues.
Data Backup and Technology Failures:
The possibility of losing information held on a computer should be accounted for in advance. A backup held off-site is the safest way to avoid losing everything in the event of a crisis. This can be done in a secure and confidential manner that complies with data protection rules.
Consider what to do if your main server goes down or if your telephone system fails. Can you contact people via another means?
Support and Counseling:
If a crisis does occur, you will want to have mechanisms in place to help your employees deal with the ramifications. Do you have staff who are trained to give bad news? Are they aware of the likely normal reactions to trauma? Do you have an employee assistance program in place with 24-7 coverage?
Ensure that you have emergency procedures in place to help anyone who may be traumatized by any crisis, and don’t overlook the human aspect of those who carry on. For instance, many people were extremely nervous about traveling by tube following the London bombings. Providing counseling and support can make a huge difference in terms of assisting people in getting back to work, but simple, inexpensive gestures such as offering more flexible working hours or taxes where necessary can also help reduce stress enormously in such cases.
Test Your Plans:
Clearly, we wouldn’t recommend anything too drastic to test your contingency plans, but you should ensure that employees are kept familiar with them and that your plans are regularly tested to ensure they are robust and active. Presenting departments with scenarios and then carrying out test procedures once per year can help iron out any problems that may be present in your plans.
Review and Update When Necessary:
As with all procedures, review them regularly and fine-tune them so that if a crisis does occur, you are adequately prepared. Be aware of new risks that face your organization. Hindsight may be a wonderful thing, but if possible, it is better not to learn through it.
The following websites provide helpful, practical advice on emergency planning matters.
- Centre For the Protection of National Infrastructure
- Also, see the Gov.UK website for dealing with terrorism and national emergencies and foreign travel advice.
- UK Resilience
- COVID-19 guidance for employers and businesses is produced by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Public Health England.
An employer that fails to safeguard the health and safety of its workers and visitors can face criminal prosecution leading to imprisonment, and if the case goes to a crown court, an unlimited fine may apply.
The HR unit in particular is obliged to take the lead in ensuring the health and safety of employees and visitors alike. Some of these arrangements are backed by specific legislation in respective countries. The UK, for instance, has the Management of Health and Safety Work Regulations 1999 law which requires employers to consider all potential dangers to employees and visitors and conduct a risk assessment. In this regard, HR is required to take appropriate preventative measures and establish appropriate procedures to follow should there be a serious danger to people working in the business.
Phidelia Johnson is a global Human Resources Practitioner with eighteen years of leadership success. With a focus on streamlining Human Resources administration, she’s well-equipped to find the right solution to a myriad of concerns. Her experience as a commercial business leader gives her a unique ability to advocate for both the employer and the employee.
In her down time, Phidelia is a master of her kitchen, creating wonderful dishes filled with passion and flavor. If she’s not cooking delicious food, she’s stretched out with a good book. She hopes to use her experience to help others, guide company leaders to best practices, and help build better professionals and stronger organizations.