HR must be at forefront of crisis management plans

HR should be at the centre of crisis management plans, but too many
companies only make the necessary preparations after a disaster, according to
security professionals.

Risk experts, speaking at Managing in a Crisis at the Chartered Institute of
Personnel and Development (CIPD) conference in Harrogate, said HR is vital for
the creation of a culture of awareness of safety risks, and should be prepared
to tackle the aftermath of a crisis.

However, many UK employers still leave crisis management to chance due to
patchy preparations and putting IT systems before their staff, it is claimed.

Rosie Clifford, head of group crisis management at Shell International, said
HR should be prepared to step into the ‘information vacuum’ in the aftermath of
a crisis, to deal with speculation and rumour and to offer direct support for
families.

HR also has to consider tensions in a multi-racial workforce and pay
attention to time zones, language and cultural barriers, while having
comprehensive site information and next-of-kin details, she said.

"Unfortunately, a lot of companies get ready after a crisis," she
said. "This is an area that can easily be neglected, but which can have a
devastating impact on both employees and on the reputation of the
company."

William Farmer, director of counter-terrorism and political risk at
consultants Aon, said the UK was one of the world leaders in terrorism
awareness, but across industry, preparation for crises was ‘highly variable’.

"We are not all going to work in fortresses, but to respond properly,
you need a plan," he said. "If you haven’t formulated a plan, you are
on a very sticky wicket."

Farmer recommended companies adopt training workshops, where management face
simulated crisis scenarios to prepare them to make good decisions should the
worst happen.

By Michael Millar

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