Managing People Issues during a Crisis

People are a central subject to Human Resources expertise for a number of reasons, the most paramount being the fact that they comprise the most valuable resource of the organization (and actually are the organization). But there are also various external factors demanding the same fullness of attention. There is always pressure from various stakeholders to stay on top of people-related matters. Here are a few examples:

  • The organization is expected to follow the requirements of health and safety regulations, and to report to local and federal legal agencies in cases of various emergencies. HR executives often act as primary contacts with labor counsel and outside agencies.
  • For the same reason, an HR executive would be a contact person with labor unions and would lead negotiations, should the need arise.
  • The HR department should be prepared to contact relatives or close friends of injured or deceased employees in the event of accidents.
  • When communications with media are required, all messages should be aligned with organizational values and verified against corporate policies. HR professionals would be the most fit for the task.

The most overwhelming part of crisis management at the early stage of response always consists of people-related issues. Naturally, such matters must be handled by HR professionals, but this is especially true during the turbulent times of incidents and disasters. The Human Resources department is best equipped and most capable of solving people-related problems. HR specialists are accustomed to dealing with people concerns,  have in-depth knowledge of the personnel, and have access to staff records.

There is also another aspect of HR activity, namely Capabilities Management, that puts HR executives in a unique advantageous position during crisis response. The responsibility of managing corporate capabilities includes dealing with rapid changes in technology, government regulations, and public policy (impacting employee relations, health and safety, etc.). As part of these tasks, the HR department is expected to maintain its knowledge of trends and best practices within the industry and competition. It is also expected to monitor legislation in order to ensure compliance with all federal, state, local, and applicable international regulations. Such expertise, in addition to the in-depth knowledge of employee-related matters, provides HR executives with a unique advantage: the ability to solve people issues in a highly professional manner, and in compliance with legal requirements.

Due to its multi-faceted expertise, skills and responsibilities, the HR team can and should play a leading role in handling people issues during crises.

Before establishing crisis management capability at the entire organizational level, the HR department might decide to gain crisis management experience for themselves first, and only then introduce their top management to the same training as part of their leadership skills development. With such an approach, the HR team can become well-equipped to handle the overwhelming amount of people concerns during a calamity, and can even take the lead in a crisis.

If you have any questions, please contact us.