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The Crucial Role Of HR In Crisis Management

Terrorism, corporate frauds, workplace accidents and even health concerns such as pandemic flu are some of the threats that can affect an organisation and its employees.

The recent COVID-19 is one such example. With major cities under lockdown and all workplaces forced to close except for essential services, this has challenged workplaces to step up crisis management and embrace remote working.

This proves that crises can occur at any time. Hence, the challenge of identifying, preventing and managing crises is a critical concern for many organisations.

HR is one of the functions that has a key role to play in crisis management. The reason is simple – while most organisations tend to focus on safeguarding their operations, systems, infrastructure and public relations, HR is able to understand employee needs and their role in organisational survival. Having a HR crisis plan helps to prevent the loss of key staff and retains the organisations’ key human resources. From pre-crisis to post-crisis stages, HR’s role is to ensure that staff are adequately prepared for crises through training, effective leadership and empowerment, while ensuring that employees’ safety and well being are taken care of. The role of HR in crisis management is outlined as follows:

Crisis management planning

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. Having a plan in place during any crisis is crucial to minimise disruptions, allow organisations to deal with the crisis effectively and expedite the recovery process. HR is crucial in acting as the voice of senior leaders, communicating action plans to employees.

Training and talent development

An imperative role of HR in crisis management is to ensure that employees are appropriately trained to execute the crisis management plans. Training and talent development provides employees with the skills and knowledge to carry out post-crisis recovery plan. As such, HR is expected to develop training plans as well as lead and participate in training that is targeted to mentally prepare employees for any crisis events. The training should also include simulation events to provide employees with a practical feel on dealing with real crises

Threats communication

HR is responsible for communicating any potential threats to employees. This includes identifying any possible threats within and outside the organisation to ensure that employees are physically and mentally prepared to handle the crises. Besides providing employees with real-time information, HR should also help employees in identifying channels of communication so as to effectively communicate the crisis management plan.

Employee involvement

HR has a crucial role in ensuring crisis preparedness amongst employees. Given that any crisis within or outside the organisation is likely to affect every single employees, it is imperative that employees are well aware of the organisation’s crisis management plans and their role in the face of a crisis. As such, when planning crisis management plans as well as executing simulation plans, employees should be involved in every part of the process to ensure that they are well-prepared.

Organisational culture

The effectiveness of any crisis management plan is highly dependent on the organisational culture. Regardless of how well designed a plan may be, it is likely to fail if leadership and employees are not committed to it. HR can influence culture within the organisation, such as emphasising on leadership capabilities and resilience to enhance crisis management. When skills such as readiness and problem-solving are ingrained in an organisation’s culture, it builds confidence amongst employees and allow them to be better positioned to handle any crisis.

Small-scale crisis plan

Besides developing a crisis management plan for the organisation, HR should also develop a small-scale crisis plan that addresses the human aspect of crisis. This involves identifying vulnerabilities within the HR functions and processes and developing mitigation plans. For instance, having a back up of employee records and a business continuity plan in place. This helps to promote competency and reinforces HR’s role in crisis management.

Crisis management is about creating value for the organisation by minimising downtime and potential damages from crises. HR’s role is to protect employees by defining appropriate guidelines and ensuring that the physical and mental health of employees are preserved.

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