Crisis Management: Did HR have a plan?
Updated: May 29, 2020
Probably not. The lack of crisis management teams and personnel is common in many organizations. Whether it be a company that hires out for crisis management at the onset of a crisis or a company that considers themselves too small to need a crisis management plan, the lack of it's importance is more prevalent than we apprehend. PwC's Global Crisis Survey 2019 reports that nearly all business leaders (95%) expect to be hit by one in the future, with 69% having already experienced a crisis within the last five years and 29% of companies have no staff dedicated to crisis preparedness or response. No greater test is presented than in the present-day of the Corona-virus (COVID-19) outbreak. Many human resources departments were not ready. As a result, operations are at a halt, production is in question, and the looming fears of wage-loss suffocates the proficiency of many organizations large and small. With all uncertainties that followed the COVID-19 outbreak, the last thing employees expect is the 'deer in the headlight' stare when a crisis is at bay. Who is responsible for the care of an organization's members and when does this caring begin? Let's take a look into a few simple steps that could have been used by HR departments to react to the COVID-19 outbreak, even if they had no crisis manager or team.
1. Understanding the risk: When COVID-19 was first announced, the most important factor was the rate of contagiousness and the reactions towards those who were exposed/infected. A meeting of the minds must happen in order to assess the financial responsibility that may be necessary to reduce the chances of contracting the virus in the workplace. Find a budget to extract from or research your health insurance guidelines and what they can provide.
2. Informing the members: Depending on the size of your organization, there are specific avenues of approach that can be used in order to control mass hysteria and confusion. For smaller organizations, a face to face meeting would be appropriate in addition to the follow up of safety precautions. For larger organizations, meeting with managers or leads and giving them the responsibility to meet with their subordinates ensures that all members are informed from the top down. Larger organizations may need a little more time to implement safety precautions due to their size.
3. Safety measures: In an attempt to protect the organization's members from contracting or spreading the virus (unknowingly), the wear of surgical masks should be highly recommended and provided by the organization. Hand washing and sanitation requirements can be enforced with the help of posting signs and peer-to-peer reminders. Social distancing is the new term for the safest distance between people in order to avoid the airborne contraction of the virus. These measures will further assist HR departments in raising awareness within the organization and it impels upper management to anticipate the seriousness of the effects.
4. Balancing productivity: Not all organizations can afford to lose employees, but in the event that they must scale down, it should be done systematically. Try to maintain as many of your employees that affect day to day operations and try to provide them a work space that limits their contact with others (an empty cubicle between each employee or individual office space). If your organization is more on the tech savvy end of things, allow essential employees to work from home through the company VPN. Do your best to keep employees informed of work schedule changes and the possibilities of lost wages.
5. Suspended services/closing: HR departments can move towards a reduction in hours of operation if they perform general services to the public i.e. restaurants, department stores, grocers. This can easily equate to the use of minimal employees with a possibility of increased consumers. As many have done, your organization can make the determination to close their doors until further notice. In the event of a temporary closure, keeping your employees informed throughout the closure provides a sense of reassurance that their position will still exist after the crisis and what to expect from adverse changes.
After such a devastating event that has impacted humanity as a whole, the greatest take away for organizations and their human resources departments is caring for and the provision of safety for their members/employees. Human Resources is to contribute their expertise in every aspect of an organization's concerns, weaknesses, and resiliency. Crisis management is a tool used by human resources to prevent the effects of unexpected threats that could potentially hinder or harm an organization and its members. Although COVID-19 has thrust many vulnerable organizations into crisis prevention mode, we can only hope that they and their human resources departments will fathom the importance of employing the services of crisis managers or developing a crisis management team.
For more in-depth crisis management planning during the COVID-19 outbreak, check out suggestions from Compliance Week or search Eight steps for designing a coronavirus crisis management plan.
(26 April 2019). Understanding global crisis preparedness. Retrieved from https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/news-room/press-releases/2019/global-crisis-survey.html
Disclaimer: This article is not based on research results, but is a personal construct theory from personal observation and personal experience of current events. All articles of APM are to provoke thought and influence future research.
Author: Graduate Student of Touro University Worldwide, Industrial and Organizational Psychology Major, May 2021 expected graduate date