HR – A Key Crisis Management Component

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    Don’t ignore this valuable “human resource”

    We frequently speak about the importance of your crisis management team working in close connection with other departments for a reason – it works. While crisis management covers a broad spectrum of responsibilities and is often managed by outside contractors, those in specific departments have not only focused their expertise, but also are intimately familiar with how to get things done within their organization.

    It’s common to discuss tools to help you in handling external issues in crisis, but for the internal issues that inevitable arise look no further than the HR department for a pool of assistance. Here, a quote from a artible by Dan Weedin explains exactly why:

      • When a crisis occurs, there is instantly fear and uncertainty. The human resources expert(s) in your business should be a calming and reassuring influence. Even if the honest answer to many questions is “I don’t know,” at least there is a communications leader within the organization. Many times, the boss is busy putting out the fire. Someone needs to be available for the employees.
      • If the emergency results in notifying family members, the HR department is the best “voice.” Because they are not dealing with the crisis directly, they can be a much more capable sounding board and empathetic communicator.
      • Human Resources knows the laws and regulations that could come into play with shutdowns, terminations, re-assignments, and other employee-related moves.
    • The Human Resources director has a direct line to the morale of the employees during and after the crisis. Most crises don’t just end quickly. The lingering effects can include uncertainty, fear, drama, lack of production, anger and depression. As the boss, you may be in the middle of dealing with your own feelings, stress, and responsibility, and need someone to be a leader for your team.

    An inside source that knows the lay of the land and has files on all of the human resources you have at your disposal sounds like a key crisis management component to us.

    How can you best prepare your HR department to handle its role when it comes to a crisis? Pretty much the same way you would any other group: assign crisis roles, create crisis plans that address the potential issues, as well as a few meant to blanket large areas of unpredictable ones, and then practice, practice, practice. If you have an in-house crisis management team, all the better! Set up a nice lunch and have everyone get chummy, then bring them back and get to work on those plans.

    If you don’t, then (and you’d better believe we’re speaking from experience here) your contractors will be pleasantly surprised to hear they have a trained and prepared HR team ready to assist when they hit the scene, and that assistance will make it that much easier for them to jump into the situation and get to work.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]