Crisis Management And Contingency Planning In HR Management

The way in which an organization prepares for and responds to a crisis can have a huge impact on its sustainability and reputation. Crises can come in many forms in this troubled world, but effective crisis management and contingency planning can significantly reduce exposure to external shocks. HR, being the fulcrum around which all this revolves, should always strive to adopt a proactive approach in handling these matters. Even though the implementing body for this crisis management may be other departments of the organization, HR must constantly keep tabs on many of these activities for proper coordination.

Range Of Threats To Business Continuity:

There are many types of threats to business continuity in an organization setup ranging from terrorism, environmental disasters, epidemics, fires, rainstorms, and other dangers to information technology. In order to maintain seamless operation, it is essential to have considered the potential threats and the plans or measures needed to deal with such situations and to ensure all employees are familiar with them. A survey among top company executives revealed the top eight risks which they felt posed the biggest threats to their business as:

  • Pandemics
  • Global terrorism
  • Disruption to energy supply or critical national infrastructure
  • Organized crime, particularly fraud
  • Market disruption resulting from unexpected global events
  • Damage to reputation causing a reduction in shareholders or customer confidence
  • Recession
  • Political uncertainty

In addition, these can be extended to include:

  • Environmental disasters such as floods, snowstorms, hurricanes, subsidence or landslides, droughts, tornado, electrical storms, freezing conditions, fires, earthquakes contamination, and other environmental hazards.
  • Organized disruption such as sabotage, theft, arson, industrial action or disputes, war or acts of terrorism, and the kidnapping of key staff members.
  • Loss of service or utilities including power supplies, water or gas supplies, a shortage of oil or petrol, telecommunication services, and loss of drainage or waste removal.
  • Equipment or system failure within the organization including IT hardware or software, power production lines, air conditioning, and negative publicity.
  • Any epidemic causing the absence of many staff members or specified key staff.
  • Other emergencies such as disruption to public transport, neighborhood hazards, and workplace violence.
  • Negative publicity or legal problems.

Actions To Take:

There are two parts to dealing with external threats: firstly, risk mitigation and reduction, and secondly, planning and training to manage a crisis.

Risk Mitigation

Think about what sort of events are likely to occur and their subsequent risks to the staff and the business as a whole, their likely impacts on staff productivity, and the effect on the general morale of staff members in the organization. Consider an example of security breaches and other dangers resulting from criminal activities from both internal and third-party sources. In this situation, HR can coordinate with other departments, such as the IT department, to ascertain the possibility of some staff members being complicit in such schemes and also the likelihood of collaborating with external sources to commit such crimes. Some other preventative measures by HR may include intensive background checks on staff members in order to get rid of such elements from the system or collaborating with state intelligence and security agencies to work out a system to preempt such crimes that have the potential to bring the organization to its knees.

To reduce physical vulnerability to such shocks, HR should also consider the deployment of physical security, information security, and personnel security. This may prompt tighter security measures around the building, more staff on duty at different times of the day or night, better off-site IT backup systems, tighter vetting of new employees, or preventative health measures such as requiring flu shots for all key staff. By focusing on the impact rather than the cause, you can plan to deal effectively with an incident no matter the source.

Within some organizations, there is the need for key personnel to travel for business reasons to a certain destination.

It is worth considering the implications if something disastrous were to happen to the transport carrier. If you perceive this possibility to be a significant risk, you may wish to split the traveling party between separate flights or trains (bearing the cost implication of this). If it is considered to be a minimal risk, you might decide to create a contingency plan if something were to happen detailing who will step into action to ensure the continued smooth operation of the business.

Emergency procedures should be put into place. Consider what may happen: Who will this involve? Who will need information? What should be done by whom, and by when? You may need to consult with the emergency services department to agree on a strategy, especially if you have an apparent health and safety risk in terms of your activities. It is also worth considering working with your neighbors, both in terms of them being aware of any risks and establishing how you can cooperate with each other to operate smoothly in the event of a disaster.

Managing Crises

It may be hard to get managers involved in this and to cover all aspects of an emergency plan, so a good tip is to set up a management committee to represent all areas of the business. Then consider the following


Long before a crisis ever occurs, consider your communications to your employees and ensure that they are all aware of any plans that would affect them in the event of an emergency. Ensure that they know how you would contact them and are aware of possible emergency working locations. Check your contracts and consider flexibility clauses so that your employees understand and accept that in the event of a disaster, they may be required to undertake different jobs or to work at a different location. Previous training and having employees with multiple skill proficiencies can really pay dividends in a crisis. You may also wish to consider having a lay-off or short-time working clause in employees’ contracts if you feel you may face situations where no work is available for your employees to do. A system for emergency communication should also be set up; this would include details of all employees, including out-of-hours contact numbers, and should be kept up-to-date and be accessible off-site. If your premises are destroyed by fire, for example, you will need to be able to contact your employees easily, and it may be useful to set up a system for communicating as a group, such as utilizing SMS texting.


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.

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