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Three phases HR leaders must face during a crisis to aid business recovery

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In times of crisis, it’s often HR leaders that businesses look to for guidance. From employees needing personal or emotional support, to the C-suite requiring legal advice or recommendations, your HR team will be central to instilling calm and reassurance in the most testing of situations.

We have identified three key phases that every HR leader must navigate when faced with a potential new emergency. They reveal how HR professionals perform a critical and strategic function in propelling business recovery within any organisation.

1. Impact management

From the second disaster strikes, almost everyone leans on HR. So, in the immediacy of a problem, HR must be prepared to respond quickly, offer guidance and support, and to activate resilience plans that will aid business continuity.

It is important to have your HR team at the forefront of any contingency policies you create. They may not necessarily own them, but they should know who does, be able to access them and be confident in rolling them out effectively on behalf of your company.

With any crisis, comes some level of panic, and the strongest HR leaders possess the perfect blend of practicality and people skills to control even the most challenging of circumstances. Impact management is about keeping your business operating, and whether that involves implementing backup processes or empowering and supporting your people achieve that, you will want a HR leader who can leap into action and spearhead the process.

2. Crisis response

So, a problem has occurred, there are barriers to ‘business as usual’, but continuity plans have been deployed and your business must now deal with the ongoing situation.

It is at this stage when strategic and tactical plans must be implemented to deal with your crisis. If we use the start of the pandemic as an example, this stage will have involved countless HR teams taking the decision for people to work from home. It may have meant liaison with IT departments to arrange the practicalities of remote working and the monitoring of a workforce. Plus, further strategies for engaging employees, staying in touch, and boosting morale.

That is why another critical activity for HR to lead on at this stage, is a communications plan. Your employees will need reassurance and will expect to be informed on the plans your business has for dealing with the problem and how it will affect them. Effective communications are crucial to keeping your business running and speeding up the recovery process that is to follow.

3. Recovery and future proofing

As most of us are all too aware currently, the road to business recovery is not always a quick one. The impact of a crisis, regardless of size, can ricochet through an organisation for some time afterwards and HR’s support is essential throughout this stage.

A HR leader will not only be heavily involved in the operational aspects of business recovery, but also in identifying and acting upon any lessons learnt in the aftermath of an emergency. Were there gaps in contingency plans and procedures that simply had not been considered? Could certain stoppages have been avoided? Were there processes that could have gone smoother? And on the other hand, were there elements that were hugely successful? HR will renew policies and update procedures accordingly and steer an organisation on tactics for future proofing against further potential incidents. Within this recovery phase, HR should also be prepared for the possibility of a backlog of people management issues. There could be additional personal and emotional support required following individuals having worked at a greater pace, in a different environment or in a different way. There could be high volumes of accrued leave to deal with or other day-to-day HR tasks which took a back seat during the crisis response phase. People may choose to move on to new roles following a crisis, or there may even be redundancies to arrange as part of your wider business recovery plan.

The impact that HR will have on business recovery during and following a crisis, is significant for any business, and their input, invaluable. Often the voice of your organisation and the go-to for advice and encouragement, companies with the support of a competent, organised, and resilient HR leader are achieving great success.

With links to some of the UK’s best HR leaders we are helping to enhance leadership teams across a range of sectors. If you would like to know more about how the right HR specialist could improve your business continuity plans, and assist you on your road to business recovery, get in touch.


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