Crisis Resources for HR Professionals

Crisis management is a necessary component of any workplace. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that over 99% of businesses with employees are small businesses, which are the most vulnerable in the event of a disaster. In any major crisis, human resource professionals are at the front lines, expected to be ready and prepared with plans and solutions for employee health and business contingency.

The appearance of the novel coronavirus has shown more than ever how essential HR workers are in handling a crisis. In any circumstance—be it pandemic, natural disaster, mass layoffs, data breaches, or workplace violence—human resources combats problems with real-world solutions. For small businesses especially, an HR professional prepared for any circumstance adds immeasurable value.

And luckily, these workers aren’t alone in managing these disasters.

Resources and guides exist to help you in crafting workplace policies for any situation. Here, we have compiled basic beginning steps as a course of action for a variety of crises, along with resources guaranteed to assist any HR professional in managing the troubles of a workplace disaster.

Pandemics and Epidemics

The 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic has forced many HR professionals to reevaluate their standards for managing workplace safety during a pandemic. Pandemics and epidemics are dangers that can crop up at any time, as the current situation has proved.

If any good has come out of COVID-19, it is that the virus has served as a wake-up call for the management of diseases of the future. With the right course of action and resources, both public and private, HR workers can help save lives and mitigate the danger to their workplace.

Course of Action

In managing a cohesive HR response to battle COVID-19 or future pandemics and epidemics that come your way, HR professionals should follow a clear course of action that considers the following:

  1. Create a set of safety and hygiene policies in line with the CDC’s toolkit.
  2. Form a team to coordinate and review proper following and viability of safety policies.
  3. Express a clear policy against xenophobia and discrimination.
  4. Plan for thorough, excessive communication to ensure a clear establishment of rules.
  5. Implement remote work options and strategies wherever possible.


Natural Disasters

Natural disasters can occur anywhere. While different regions of the U.S. face different risks, HR leaders should plan for all possible scenarios and incorporate readiness into the everyday workplace strategy.

Flood and storms are large contributors to the damages that can occur to a workplace due to natural disasters, while the risk of fires, earthquakes, and more are real factors requiring preventative and evacuative strategies for employee safety. HR professionals must maintain preparedness plans and preventative safety measures to reduce employee risk in the event of such a disaster.

Course of Action

No one is ever really ready when a natural disaster occurs. HR professionals, however, can help their workplaces mitigate damage with the following course of action:

  1. Ensure smoke detectors, alarms, and sprinklers are in place and functioning.
  2. Regularly maintain and ensure accessibility of fire extinguishers, AED rescue kits, and other readiness equipment.
  3. Clearly label and map emergency exits for employee accessibility.
  4. Create an emergency evacuation plan and drill it with employees.
  5. Compose a list of maintenance workers and emergency technicians.


Mass Layoffs

The coronavirus pandemic caused massive economic problems that resulted in millions of Americans being laid off. Crises on this scale are unlikely to occur with any frequency, but any HR professional should be aware of the possibility of having to let many workers go at once. A number of causes could contribute to such a situation, and in any event, preparation pays off.

Course of Action

Every employee should be treated with dignity and care when being laid off, regardless of the circumstances. With a comprehensive course of action and helpful resources, HR professionals can help smooth this difficult process.

  1. Examine alternative solutions like pay reductions, reduced work schedules, and furloughs.
  2. Create a strategy for personally informing individuals in courteous, private meetings. If this is not possible, follow conventional layoff strategies in virtual meetings, using a group layoff as a last resort.
  3. Provide written statements detailing the layoff.
  4. Determine resources for helping laid-off employees, such as outplacement programs and severance.
  5. Prepare written answers to anticipated employee questions like severance, references, healthcare, retirement, and more.


Data Breaches

Common realities of the modern world are the data breaches and technical damages done by cyberattacks. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the healthcare industry, but any business runs the risk of experiencing a data breach. HR professionals are teaming up with IT workers in order to conduct comprehensive policies that protect employee and business data.

For any business, a reliable prevention and recovery strategy is necessary in the event that such a cyberattack occurs.

Course of Action

HR’s responsibility in the event of a data breach comes down to coordination and dissemination of information to coworkers, answering questions, and placating fears. An HR professional remains transparent and responsible in navigating the difficulties of a data breach situation by following a strict standard procedure:

  1. Assemble a team of IT workers, lawyers, leadership, public relations, and more to respond to the crisis.
  2. Work with lawyers and law enforcement to ensure the adherence of all pertinent laws.
  3. Coordinate communications with employees through FAQs and personalized responses to address damages.
  4. Help employees by providing identity theft resources and assisting them in resolutions.
  5. Work with IT to understand how future breaches can be prevented.


Workplace Harassment and Violence

Workplace harassment and violence are issues that affect the entire workforce whenever and wherever it occurs. As the representatives in charge of employee safety, HR professionals serve as a resource for managing employee concerns and overseeing a return to a normal, safe environment.

Violence in the workplace occurs far too often. According to the SHRM, 48% of surveyed HR professionals reported that at some point their workplace had dealt with violence. Workplace harassment and violence can take many forms, including sexual assault, discriminatory or hateful words, a physical attack.

Every HR professional should be equipped with a toolkit to face, investigate, and properly respond to acts of harassment and violence. Harassment can be more difficult to spot and investigate for HR workers, but with the right tools and course of action for approaching any workplace misconduct, professionals can ensure the proper handling of any situation.

Course of Action

Recognizing, investigating, and reporting acts of harassment and violence are a part of the HR job description. For every professional, a consistent course of action in managing these unfortunate occurrences is necessary, as well as providing your workplace with the tools for returning to normalcy in the event of a tragedy. Start on the path towards resolution with the following action items:

  1. Take proper immediate actions, such as temporarily removing an employee or contacting authorities, while a further investigation can be made.
  2. Form an investigative team and delegate responsibilities, taking into consideration the parties involved.
  3. Gather all possible information, conducting interviews, and clearly stating employee rights per legal counsel.
  4. Thoroughly analyze information and involve the legal team.
  5. Create a report that includes a recommended action and follow through on necessary discipline,
  6. Communicate with employees and provide resources like access to a counselor.
  7. Refer affected employees to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or set one up if your organization does not have one.


Additional Resources

Unfortunately, not every crisis can be planned for, let alone prevented. In the workplace, HR professionals seek to guide workers through the challenges they face in a healthy, safe manner. This guide provides basic courses of action and resources to aid in a variety of circumstances, but sometimes additional assistance is required.

Here, you can find more help in navigating workplace crises:

No matter what the crisis, human resource professionals stand at the front lines, managing employee communication and safety. Recent events have proven many policies need frequent reassessment and readjustment to provide proper employee safety, but it helps to start with quality standards for action.

With these resources, you can better prepare and manage the inevitable disaster, setting a standard for employee action and resolution.