During a crisis you always call in the lawyers and your PR team, but should you also call in your HR team? After all, when all is said and done, the chances are the crisis was caused by a person doing something wrong, in which case, HR should definitely be involved!
It’s amazing how many businesses forget this integral part of their crisis team. When dealing with a crisis a high-performing, strategic HR team will ensure the crisis plan gets properly implemented, and they will be ensuring all of your internal stakeholders are properly dealt with and communicated to.
So, why should HR be one of the first calls you make during a crisis? Here are just four of the reasons why HR has to be involved from the start during a crisis.
1. The PR team don’t specialise in policies and procedures
The PR team are a great bunch, but they specialise in dealing with the media and external stakeholders, and as a general rule they don’t care for policies or procedures. By having the HR team communicate with employees, especially the ones directly affected by the crisis, you can ensure a consistent message is going out across the company. HR can ensure the right policies and procedures have been created, implemented and understood. A crisis is often a reminder there are gaps in training around policies and procedures and that managers need refreshers.
2. Strategy and people
Lawyers are integral during a real crisis, but their job is to minimise the immediate legal risk to the company. Whilst HR also want to minimise risk to the company, your HR team will also be able to bring a caring and compassionate aspect to the situation for employees, again ensuring they are properly communicated with during a time of crisis. As a bonus the HR team won’t keep saying ‘no comment’ to employees like your lawyer will! The HR team will analyse what went wrong and identify any skills or capability gaps in the staff involved. But most importantly good HR professionals understand company strategy and people.
3. HR deals with people whereas PR and lawyers deal with risk
As I’ve said, the PR and legal team are vitally important, but their main focus is about minimising risk to the company and protecting its brand. By having your HR team there during a crisis you can be sure you have people taking care of your employees and their families. The thing to remember is an employee who has gone through a traumatic experience with the company, but has been properly looked after has the potential to become your biggest advocate! Managing your people assets in good times and bad is essential.
4. HR is going to be there after the media is gone
Once the big media push is over there is still a lot of work to be done behind the scenes, especially if there were employees involved. Your PR team is there to deal with external stakeholders, and let’s be honest they lose interest once the media is gone. The HR team are going to be the people there cleaning up the mess and managing any fall out, so get them in early!
Things go wrong in business, and it is important to ensure your HR team are involved during a crisis. Like we know prevention is better than cure, well implemented strategic HR can prevent issues and minimise risk. But in the heat of the moment when people are involved, make sure your HR support is readily available.
Sue-Ellen Watts is the founder and director of wattsnext, specialists in HR, recruitment, compliance and people performance.
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