How can HR plan for Pandemics and other distressful crisis

The latest outbreak of COVID-19 serves as a lesson for businesses. More so, for HR leaders. It gripped continents, stalling business operations around the world.

Outbreaks can wreak havoc not only in terms of infecting people but bringing economy to a standstill as is the case most countries around the world. The most affected are businesses that can’t operate without their employees. In times like these, HR leaders must respond diligently, ensuring that operations aren’t stalled while employees stay safe.

HR leaders shouldn’t wait for crisis to happen to respond. Instead they need to stay ready.

Such outbreaks cause fear and anxiety among employees. While some employees may take measures to protect themselves, others may not do so. It’s up to HR leaders to provide necessary information related to the outbreak and ensure employees safety as long as they are in the office. Proper communication channel should be setup to keep each employee informed. Outbreak-related information should be disseminated to employees.

Another concern that’s on top of mind of employees is how will they manage work from home. Does the company have necessary infrastructure to facilitate work from home ?

Be ready with your contingent workforce

Your whole workforce is important to sustain smooth operations of business, but in times of pandemic you need to prioritize employees who are absolutely essential to a business operation. In fact, you will need to determine that absolutely essential for business to function. Sit with your risk management and business operations to figure this out.

You need to answer two key questions here:

  1. What are your essential business operations?
    All business operations are important but some may not directly impact business goals. A few functions are important due to their direct impact on bottom line and need to be maintained as long as possible.
  2. Which roles are important to execute essential operations?
    Identify people who are important to execute essential operations. Keep them aware that their services will be required under all circumstances. Set up proper and uninterrupted communication channels with them. At some regions you might need to temporarily suspend operations, while at others, operations might be required to be extended like in certain specific regions.

Be prepared to answer these questions:

Global HR leaders need to prepare themselves before the panic strikes them. They need to ensure that they have answers to questions that will be more critical in times of pandemic. Most importantly, they need to allay shareholder’s that the organization is ready to survive amid the crisis.

Be prepared to answer these questions:

  1. If absenteeism increases at work, are employees ready to perform intern-functional roles?
  2. Can your employees work from home?
  3. Does the company have necessary infrastructure to support work from home?
  4. How will the company provide assurance to employees that they are safe at work?
  5. What procedures will the company take to make workplace safe and decontaminate from possible infection?
  6. How will company bring employees on business trip if there are any?
  7. What will the company do make delegates feel safe while they are their country?
  8. Does your company have crisis response team that you can rely on?
  9. What is the procedure to call additional resources in times of pandemic?

Outbreaks like corona can happen anytime. The world has witnessed such events in the past as well, SARS in 2003 and H1N1 in 2009. In distressful times, panic and anxiety overtakes rationale, which businesses need to overcome, resulting in unwarranted losses in business. HR leaders should take lead and prepare before something like this happens.

Ariaa Reeds