3 Easy Steps to Strategic HR Crisis Management

Hong Kong’s recent protests against the extradition bill has been catching a lot of attention. Protestors most recent efforts, disrupting airports, roads and rail networks brought Hong Kong to a standstill. These events have in turn caused a lot of disruption for businesses and employers resulting in closures of business due to staff not being able to return to work or to ensure staff safety.  

Effective crisis management and communications are critical during times of crisis and often these duties can fall under the responsibility of a company’s HR team (regardless of whether the HR team has the right skillset in place!)

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HR Crisis Management – Opportunity for Employee Engagement

Planning workforce crisis management should take place before the outbreak of a crisis. To help HR leaders better manage workforce crisis at times of emergency, we first need to discuss why it’s important to have a plan for times of crisis.

Regardless of what the incident may be, whether it be a PR crisis tied to your brand, a protest, or any other major incident, employees are likely to experience distress. As such, HR leaders often hold the responsibility of reassuring staff and keeping morale high, securing business performance.

If a business fails to properly manage a crisis, striking fear and unrest in the workforce, it can be seen as irresponsible and a deficit in employee engagement. Truth is, bad crisis management reflects poorly on the company and its employer brand.  No team building activity or internal campaign will amount to much if at the end of the day employees don’t feel that their safety is taken seriously.  So how can you better prepare for times of crisis? Here’s 3 easy steps to strategic HR crisis management.

1. Identify and categorise possible threats and their impact before a crisis!

A lot of the time, crisis management plans are a knee jerk reaction formed in response to a crisis rather than being a pro-active measure.  When forming your crisis management plan, it’s important to identify the different types of emergencies and their potential impact.  As part of this HR senior managers should work alongside other key business functions to obtain their input in respect of what threats cause what impact.   By categorizing the various threats, you can better perform an impact assessment determining the necessary actions when forming a general contingency plan.

2. Pinpoint the key personnel and points of communication

Communication is key at a time of crisis. A good crisis management strategy should help reassure employees, giving them a peace of mind. By establishing clear lines of command and channels of communication HR managers can help eliminate unease and feelings of uncertainty.

Where can people find the latest work arrangements? Email? Company intranet? Company chat groups?

During a crisis, things can get hectic, so having a clear understanding and a platform where people can get updates can help ease nerves.

3. Have a recovery plan

Granted, not all crisis will have a lasting impact, but a strategic HR team often needs to be prepared to help get the business back up and running. Demotivated workforce? Working offsite? Employee safety?  Often it is up to the HR team to come up with steps to guide and rehabilitate the workforce back to its original level of performance.  Having a business continuity plan (which you’ve tested with a live drill!) is a critical part of ensuring the business’ resilience during times of crisis.

For more help, it’s also good idea to hire professional assistance, major firms like KPMG and FTI Consulting provide crisis management services which can help speed up the planning process.

The Role of HR at the Workplace

Beyond the daily operations, employee engagements, and workforce planning, lies the role of HR, which is to embody the DNA of the company and the ones responsible for the people of the company. In the case of crisis management and planning, where in theory everything can be found in the employee handbook, a strategic HR leader is someone who’d take it a step further. Making sure employees have sufficient information and resources at a time of chaos to go about their workday. 

Three keys takeaways for your recruitment process from Links International.

Prepare ahead of time
During a crisis, time is of the essence. It’s best to prepare ahead of time for when something catastrophic may occur. That way, even when an unprecedented event occurs, you’ll have a set of contingency plans to fall back on, helping you decide which line of action would best apply.

Keep everyone posted
Other than keeping employees safe, a key function of HR at a time of crisis is to reassure employees. In the case where the severity of the crisis or the next line of action is not yet determined, it’s still a good idea to keep people posted, as the acknowledgement gives reassurance that something is being done even if the company has yet to come to an actionable decision.

Be a Strategic HR Leader
The role of an HR leader is heavy, bearing the weight of the company’s workforce. Optimise your work by becoming a strategic HR, prioritise on activities that will reap the most rewards like employee engagement, encouraging workers to perform better. Approach your role strategically, by outsourcing tedious operational tasks like payroll to trusted HR service providers.