Your website is hacked and customer data is compromised. A safety mechanism fails on one of your products. Your high-profile and beloved CEO unexpectedly quits. Crises such as these can and do happen on a daily basis – and if it happens within your organisation, it’s HR’s role to effectively manage the situation.
Some executives thrive in a crisis, while others can’t wait for the stressful experience to end for ‘business as usual’ to resume. Whatever your response, as a HR director it’s your job to communicate the situation internally so that every level of the organisation remains in the loop.
“Human Resources or the executive team should follow up with employees along the way, to let them know the latest updates and to confirm when the crisis is over,” said Julianne May, senior HR professional. “It’s a natural human need to want to know when we are back in safe waters.”
As with most HR initiatives, you’ll need a clear plan to guide your response with pre-determined actions, resource allocations and a strategy to measure results.
May suggested an internal crisis communication approach that borrows from emergency triage strategy planning:
- Determine priorities.
“HR is always dealing with crisis situations, including natural disasters – consider the recent fires in the NSW Blue Mountains – sudden executive departures, or salary reviews being put on hold,” May said. Your first order of business is therefore to work out what the crisis is and who needs to be communicated with?
- Craft the key message
Ascertain the information you need to share and the information you can withhold for the time-being. Or as May clarified, “What is ‘need to know’ versus ‘nice to know’ for the folks identified in step one?”
- Allocate resources
What resources are available or need to be corralled to get the communications out? “You might schedule face-to-face briefing sessions, issue written communications via email, or call a phone conference,” May said. “The HR team can also put together information packs for executives and identify resources available to support staff in a disaster situation, while business continuity plans may need to be put into action.”