Human catastrophes on the scale of the tsunami in South East Asia put life into perspective. How can what we do have any significance when so many lives have been lost and so much destruction has been caused?
For charities, the tsunami has presented some unique HR challenges. An immediate one is to get help to those that need it as quickly as possible. Time is a critical factor, as can be seen by the work of Oxfam and Save the Children (page one), along with the scaling up of resources and the effective management of new recruits.
But the disaster has also thrown up some other less obvious challenges. Finding people with finance skills is a priority, as so much money is being donated to help those affected. Also, as Andrew Thompson, international HR director at Oxfam, points out, it is very important to manage people’s expectations. This is a time when people feel they can never do enough so HR has to help these people accept their limitations and recognise when they are exhausted.
Back in the UK, both employers and employees will have been affected by the disaster. This will see HR departments focusing on staff needs as well as organisational needs. Areas to consider include addressing the legal issues relating to the tsunami, considering time off rights for dependants of the injured or killed, managing the stress and effect of bereavement in the workplace and how data protection laws affect fund-raising activity.
Through fund-raising, HR will be able to harness employees’ desire to help by generating fundraising ideas and co-ordinating the employee and employer relief effort.
As we can see, HR departments are already doing their bit to help those most in need.