By the time you are reading this, we may be through the peak of the Coronavirus or we may still be dealing with the impact of this global pandemic. In my HR career, we have dealt with several crises. The horrors of September 11, the economic downturn of 2008-2009, SARS, H1N1 and now the Coronavirus. This novel Coronavirus has certainly presented us with challenges we probably never thought we would encounter. If you are a Boomer like me, we have never dealt with the impact of a global pandemic and the ramifications to our organizations, our employees and our communities. You may already be mentally and physically drained from dealing with these crises and are searching for something positive to talk about and are excited to get back to business as usual. Most people are searching for normalcy and going back to the way of life we know and love.
While this may sound trivial given everything you are juggling both personally and professionally, I’d like to offer up a suggestion that may help your work life be a little less-chaotic during the next crisis. We don’t know what it will be or when it will come, but we can expect it – whatever ‘it’ may be. My suggestion: document. As simple as that sounds, documentation is not something that comes to the forefront of our minds when we think about crisis management. It should. Documentation serves many worthwhile purposes:
- If documentation occurs while you are living the day-to-day realities of the crisis or event, you are more likely to remember all of those minute details that you may not remember five or ten years down the road when the next crisis hits.
- Many organizations are experiencing turnover either in the form of involuntary/voluntary quits or retirements. When people leave, so does a significant amount of institutional knowledge. This knowledge may be very useful the next time, but you may no longer have access to it at that point because the person who holds the knowledge is no longer an employee.
- Most crises have many components that are common. Why reinvent the wheel every time a new event surfaces that demands your attention?
- It is always a wise decision to have a risk mitigation and/or crisis management plan ready and available.
- While this may be a new type of crisis or the extent of the crisis may be much larger or more complex than the previous one, most of the activities related to a crisis, like every other work process, can be standardized.
- Having a plan in place provides peace of mind. Crises are anxiety and stress ridden and if you have a road map to use, this information can provide future guidance and comfort.
- It can be a real time saver for you and your organization. By having an established starting point, you can focus on other critical matters that demand your attention.
- Credibility for you and your function. You will look organized, competent and prepared.
- This standardization and preparation for a crisis will help you manage the next event in a more efficient and thoughtful manner.
Sounds logical, right? It does. But because we spend most of our day managing a crisis, handling the normal day-to-day, all of the work associated with the abnormality of this situation, and then catching up on all things we couldn’t do while we were managing the crisis, documentation may be the last thing you are thinking about. It shouldn’t be. While it is still fresh on your mind, take a few hours to document. While the following is in no way intended to include every component of a crisis, you may want to ensure you create/maintain any documents related to the following:
- Your project plan with key elements, dates and responsible parties identified.
- A very comprehensive and detailed list of all of the tasks that were involved. Oftentimes we will make a note of the high-level tasks but forget the small details that may become critical during the next crisis.
- Vendor contracts. Who is that trusted source where you can get supplies and needed materials? What were the terms? What was the turnaround time? What was their level of service?
- Your logistical plan. Where did you meet? Was the room large enough? Did you order food? How did you meet – in person, by phone, by videoconference? What challenges did you face?
- Technology and HR systems. Were there any gaps in your information technology that need to be corrected? If you have multiple locations, did the technology work across the entire enterprise? What was the impact to your HRIS and other HR systems?
- Policies and procedures. Do you have a policy inventory? What policies were changed based on the crisis? What key decisions were made related to employees?
- Communications. Maintain a copy of the communications you sent to your employees and other key stakeholders. Were your communications effective? What gaps existed in your communications strategy? Are you planning to survey your employees to gauge their reaction to the way you managed this crisis?
- Community engagement. What actions did you take to support your community that involved HR and/or your employees?
- Reflection. How did you manage this crisis? If you go through another crisis, you need to ensure that you stop/start/continue …. What was employee morale throughout this crisis? What gaps existed in your preparation? Did you react quickly enough?
By taking time to document what happened in real or almost real time, you will create a road map for your future crisis planning, minimize company risks and improve the efficiency with which you manage the next major event. While we all hope that we will never have to use our emergency plans, we know that this simply isn’t the case given the dependencies and interconnectivity of the world we live in today.
Carol Sampson is Executive Director and Co-Founder at Foundations Human Resources Consulting in Lexington, Kentucky, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fisher Phillips labor and employment law firm.
You may reach Carol at 859-286-1100 or csampson@FoundationsHR.com