HR Emergency Preparedness!

During my time with a local Oklahoma City employer, I had the opportunity to serve as the project manager for the biggest, and the most challenging job that I have ever held – lead the search and recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

You see, I had not been in Human Resources for too long, and by all accounts, I was still learning the “ropes.” However, I had the wherewithal to know basic steps to create a successful search and recovery plan. Further, this gave me a firm foundation to continue to grow my knowledge and understanding of this tumultuous process. Many of the topics that I will cover in this blog post is meant to provide a launching pad for disaster preparedness. This blog post will travel between events of Hurricane Katrina as well as tips and suggestions to help prepare you for the eventuality of a disaster.

Knowledge is power – The more knowledge and information that you have will take you far in the planning process. After Katrina, most of our employees had wrong or out of date information in our HR management system (HRMS). When attempting to contact employees that were missing; I used a custom report that I created via the system. Most of you have heard the term “GIGO” or garbage in, garbage out. When your HRMS has wrong information, expect to receive bad results. During disaster recovery, the time to find out if your employee’s information is up-to-date is late. During open enrollment is a perfect time to send out a yearly reminder to your staff that it is time to update their personal and emergency contact information. Think of this as your battery-check of your smoke detector. The preparedness and forethought will pay off later – I promise.

Network – Speaking with employees that have been found will frequently yield positive results when searching for others. Often, employees will communicate with each other before they tell the company or even their manager. Create a database that contains current information while adding additional columns for new/updated information. Take the time to speak with each person that checks-in. Make sure the employees know and understand that you care and that the company has their best interest in mind. Also, if your business is over fifty employees remember to offer them FMLA as this is an additional benefit. If your company is small and falls under the fifty-employee threshold, have a system in place that articulates your policy and expectations for returning to work and or how employees will receive missing pay.

Humility and thoughtfulness – It is easy to think that the employee failed to plan for the worst-case scenario. Take a step back and realize that they probably have all of the possessions that they could take either on their back or in their car. Keep your words to a minimum and allow the employee to speak, cry, be angry, and vulnerable. Allowing them to get these feelings out does not make them weak, it allows them to show and release their emotions in a “safe place”. Speak with your EAP (employee assistance program) administrator to set up on demand and in personal counseling sessions. The employees will be fraught with angst, anger, and raw emotion. Having an additional professional that is available to meet with or at the very least, speak with will show the employee that you have their best interest in mind. Further, do what you say you are going to do. These people will have survival on their mind and will be looking for a leader. Guide them and allow them to ask questions that hold you accountable.

To pay or not to pay – This is a strong opinion and thought as it is truly up to you as the organization on what to do with missing pay. During the disaster planning process, you and your executive team should plan to decide as to your direction. The decision to prepare for this during a catastrophe as too late. Employees will be looking for a decisive and thoughtful next step when they come to see you. NOTE ** At a previous employer we had a tornado that caused a significant amount of damage to our employee’s homes. Some employees had their extended family’s homes that were affected. Decide on how aggressive the response process will be and for whom the recovery efforts will reach. Encourage the response to be an organizational effort and not a team specific effort. In other words, do not allow teams to create a GoFundMe pages. This organization could not decide on which approach would work best. As stated before, having this discussion during the emergency is too late. Plan and make decisions on how you are going to pay employees.

Finally – Be prepared. You will be met with many challenges and secondary concerns that were not initially included in your planning process. The key to this is to remain calm. The hardest work has already been done by your decision to plan for the worst-case scenario. You will never plan for every situation, but you will mitigate many if not most of the threats that will slap you in the face.

Working with a trusted HR Professional that has been through three disasters and earned his stripes is a great way to ensure that you are prepared for the unexpected. Contact Damon at Better Call HR for your complimentary meeting on how our services can help you and your organization plan ahead.

About Damon Hayes-Milligan and Better Call HR:

Mr. Hayes-Milligan has worked in the field of Human Resources since graduating with his Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resources Management from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2004. He has worked in several different areas of Human Resources but always returns to his passion of helping leaders create real and lasting development plans. He also holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management Information Systems, also from the University of Central Oklahoma as well as a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Quinnipiac University. Currently, he is working on his Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Change.

Damon has been a speaker for the Oklahoma State HR Council as well as a presenter for various SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) chapters around the state. His topics have ranged from Generational Diversity to Discrimination in the Workplace. Most recently, he served as the Co-Chair of the 2017 Oklahoma State HR Conference in Norman.

Better Call HR is a boutique organization with a passion and eye for small business. Our years of professional experience in the field of Human Resources Management will help ensure our strategy is aligned with yours. Our approach consists of creating a customized human capital strategy and aligning it with your strategic plan. We do this by growing your organization from an organic standpoint that combines proven business results, HR acumen, and strategy with your desire to rule the world. Our approach may not be for everyone, but it is for those with a desire to understand the human element in your personal success stories.

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