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The role of HR in crisis management

1st Dec 2020
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The COVID-19 pandemic ignited a global crisis which forced businesses to rapidly react, testing the resilience and adaptability of both companies and their teams. With entire workforces operating from home, employers needing to make workplaces safe for employees, enforcing social distancing measures in workplaces, a government led furlough scheme and potential redundancies, it’s safe to say that the HR department has had a raft of challenges throughout the pandemic, and was at the forefront of implementing required changes.

HR professionals have had to ensure their organisation has an effective strategy in place to manage the immense changes and minimise damage caused by this global pandemic. There are many learnings to be taken from the pandemic, but with the HR department so pivotal for businesses, there are three key areas that HR leaders must consider going forward in order to be prepared for another crisis: 

1. Creating a crisis communication plan

An effective crisis response requires an understanding of what your people need from management and how to provide it. Therefore, in preparation for a crisis, HR needs to lead in establishing a crisis management team, involving key stakeholders of each department (IT, Finance, Communications, Risk Management, Operations etc.). This team then decides on the resources needed and how best to communicate information to all employees, as well as customers and external stakeholders.

Communicating with transparency and clarity is the number one principle for leading successfully during a crisis. During such a time, you cannot avoid bad news, but you can display honesty and empathy in your communications, which will help the business to overcome obstacles more easily and protect your employees’ health.

Consider the pathways and platforms in which the communication is sent out, too. Do you have a page on the company’s intranet with all the latest information and updated policies, or is it better to send out a weekly update email? Try to cater to however your team is most comfortable communicating and ensure it’s a two-way channel where questions can be asked and answered.

2. Focus on wellbeing and support

The mental health and wellbeing of employees is always a priority for HR, but during a crisis, this becomes even more important as sudden change and uncertainty can bring additional stress and strain. With COVID-19, many employees would’ve been working from home for the first time. This created new challenges for most, including the balance of home schooling, childcare and work. Others may have been anxious about their finances or found it difficult to adapt to working in isolation.

Focusing on this will also help with the recovery phase as we transition out of the crisis, as not only will staff be better equipped to manage the new changes, but they will also be more loyal, trusting and motivated to add value to your business as a result of your commitment to support them during a difficult time.

3. Provide access to relevant training and development

HR also needs to lead the way in delivering essential training and development to enable all employees to continue doing their job to their best ability during a crisis. With the current global pandemic, this may include training on remote technical systems, how to effectively lead a remote team and how to support their own teams and co-workers better. It is ultimately the managers’ responsibility to recognise any skill-gaps as a result of a crisis, but HR should centralise this support so that all employees have equal access.

HR is key in any crisis 

Overall, the current pandemic has affected the vast majority of businesses and industries and no one could’ve been prepared for the havoc that was wreaked on workplaces. However, there have been many learnings over the past few months and it’s important that HR teams take these learnings on board for potential future crises, rather than settling back into the current flow, or even worse, old ways of doing things. Those that have a communication plan, focus on wellbeing and provide access to relevant training and development will stand a better chance of coping with a crisis, while also continuing to motivate and engage employees.

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By Caroline Taylor 0
08th Dec 2020 12:41

Great article Alejandro that shows just how much has fallen to HR in the past months. My question is who is taking care of HR?
They also need support and investment in their development and wellbeing and I fear that not enough of that is happening

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