Fallout from 9/11 still hitting global business

From the inconvenience of cancelled meetings, to the financial stresses of
business slumps, the events of 11 September 2001 have affected HR directors and
their operations around the world, according to a globalHR reader survey.

Of the respondents to the e-mail survey, 47 per cent representing more than
15 countries reported that the disaster had affected their businesses, most
experiencing negative effects.

From Finland, a respondent reported widespread effects. "Many projects
have been delayed, we have had layoffs and cost cuttings as well as a freeze on
pay rises, a hiring freeze, earlier retirements, less temps, less travelling,
training and seminar postponements," he said.

Tighter security was mentioned by many as a key result of the terrorist
aircraft hijackings and crashes, which left several thousand people dead at the
World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington and in rural
Pennsylvania. In particular, some noted that their companies had increased hiring
in the security sector, while reducing recruitment in other areas.

"We have put tighter security measures in place with respect to our
plant sites, travel and the hotels we utilise," said one respondent from
Belgium. "Also, with the weakening of the economy, we are looking at our
staffing levels."

An Italian respondent reported tighter controls on incoming mail as well as
on contractors and suppliers. The company’s private police force has been
reinforced, and barriers blocking the entrance to its headquarters have been
added, he said.

Elsewhere in Italy, another respondent said that his company was exercising
"more caution in hiring" and had "less confidence in economic
recovery", while at another Italian-based business, more focus was being
given to working conditions – "and on the life, of course".

In Asia, notably Malaysia and Singapore, measures such as shorter working
weeks, hiring and salary freezes and lack of bonus payments, reflected the
severity of the economic downturn linked to the events of 11 September. A
Singapore respondent said training budgets had been cut, "and staff have
enlarged roles". Another from Singapore cited concerns about insurance for
staff travel in "certain locations" which did not provide the desired
coverage, and was "not economical" in premium.

A South Korean company said overseas training opportunities had been reduced
for its employees.

Back in Europe, a Cyprus-based company fell victim to a 40-50 per cent fall
in tourism. "One of our companies is in the hotel industry," the
respondent said. "We were very careful with our recruitment plans, our
management development and salary increases."

In France, a company general manager acknowledged that in addition to
experiencing tougher business conditions, "the fulfilment of employees’
expectations is also harder".

One of the most dramatic responses came from Switzerland, with a respondent
reporting "enormous fear to launch projects, and irrational
behaviours" as a result of the disaster’s impact.

Some companies took hard-learned messages from the tragedy to apply to their
future business practices.

"Our business continuity plan has become a priority issue,"
reported a group HR manager from the Irish Republic.

And the international assignment co-ordinator for a US-based financial
group, said her company had "put more contingency plans in place".

There was some good news, however, in the fallout for a company in the Irish
Republic: lack of summer work in the US this year meant there were more
students available locally for seasonal work.

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