Is your HR team prepared for managing after a disaster?

Houston experienced catastrophic flooding after Hurricane Harvey dumped more than four feet of water in the nation’s fourth-largest city, taking lives and destroying homes and businesses. Natural disasters and other major crises can set off a ripple effect of consequences that impact the lives of employees and disrupt the operations of a business. Traditional corporate crisis management has focused on data, operations, and infrastructure, with people falling toward the bottom of the priority list. Not only are employees essential for business recovery, but employers who protect their people during and after a crisis will enjoy a faster recovery, increased retention, and higher public perception. Here are some issues that HR professionals should address in the weeks and months after a major crisis has passed:

Ongoing Communication
Communicate with employees as quickly and as comprehensively as possible regarding business operations, benefits, pay issues, counseling resources, etc. Outline how payroll and benefits will be handled if the company is on reduced operations. Maintain communication on a regular basis with updates, changes in plans and status report on the recovery.

Assure employees that the company has their best interests in mind. Now, more than ever, HR will need to act as a bridge between employees and management. Provide a process for employees to reach out to the company through HR. Keep a record of post-crisis HR activities and provide a report to management regarding ongoing events.

Address Financial Needs
If the company has agreed to make certain funds or benefits available for affected employees, the terms and conditions should be outlined and followed as planned. Some employees may want to withdraw or take a loan against their retirement plan to pay for rebuilding costs. Be prepared to explain these procedures and requirements. Communicate how the company will manage payroll and time taken off in the aftermath of a major crisis. Will employees use accrued vacation, sick time, unpaid time off, or will the company allocate a certain number of emergency days?

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