Challenges to Crisis Communication in HR: Are You Prepared?

October 12, 20158:29 am1465 views

During crisis, human resource professionals play a critical role. Taking charge of situations during crisis and disaster, the human resource personnel are the first people to contact. They communicate timely to the employees about a crisis and in the event of an emergency. However, there are many challenges to crisis communication faced by HR professionals.

The crucial role of HR to safeguard employees during crisis is through effective communication. Sharing of information during crisis to employees is far different from everyday communication. It needs to take into consideration several factors and address significant challenges such as:

  • Lack of complete situational awareness: In times of emergency such as earthquake or fire, employees are almost caught unaware and this happens when alerts are sent across from multiple sources, such as from different business management groups. This results in notifying risks that lead to confusion, incomplete information or being outright incorrect.
  • Need to manage safety of discrete groups of employees: Another alarming issue during times of crisis is to manage safety of discrete group of employees. A company could have multiple offices and during exigencies such as earthquakes, remote workers need to be alerted about such situations across different offices. Communication here is one major challenge when messages need to be sent to different groups.
  • Time is of critical essence during emergencies. Especially, during incidents such as spread of fire, employees have to be alerted immediately to make them safe.
  • Effective use of limited manpower also relies on communication. When responders have to search a large area for injured people or a perpetrator of violence, every minute without important information puts lives at risk.
  • Need for effective follow-up post crisis situation: There is a need for effective follow-up post a crisis situation, to check if all members of the staff are accounted for safely during emergency. It is important for business to be able to resume operations at the earliest, post disaster or crisis situations. This further requires keeping employees informed that the crisis times have passed and offices have begun functioning normal.

Shortfalls in current crisis communication systems

Most organisations fall short of reaching out to all employees and communicating alerts during emergencies. Most alerts are single channels of communication that lack coordination, hence separate efforts are required to send out text messages, phone calls and so on. This increases the time required to notify employees about a certain crisis situation, and sometimes delay in communication can lead to serious injury or deaths.

Furthermore, employees are not diligent in alerting their respective managers about changes in contact information. Herein, the individual business groups are responsible for their own alerts rather than relying on HR, the contact information as per records might not be up-to-date to alert employees during crisis.

See: HR Analytics: Go data crunching and set communication protocol

Another important aspect, where crisis communication systems fail are, when HR managers send notifications by email to employees to evacuate the office immediately, there is no way to track employees who have received the messages and those who have not or been exempted from the list, due to incomplete contact coordinates. This in turn can put more staff members at risks, especially in case of fire breakout accidents.

Networked crisis communication

Networked crisis communication expands reach across number of devices of an employee to inform and distribute alerts during times of emergency. To maximise effectiveness of emergency mass notifications, businesses need to ensure following capabilities:

  • The system must be controlled by a central operator group, ideally HR department – as the single authority for source of all notifications to be consistent and trustworthy information (no hoaxes) such that employees can trust. With multiple contact information available for each employee, it is possible for HR professionals to distribute alerts in real time.
  • The crisis communication system must also serve as single source of communication across multiple channels – text, phone call, voice message, desktop popup, radio and more.
  • Organisations should ensure that the crisis communication system is suited to the size and distribution of the entire communication channel. It should be able to send alerts across different buildings or even to other cities with different distribution groups depending on the nature of the emergency.
  • Rather than deploying all hardware and software, an existing crisis communication system should be capable of integrating current channels from mobile devices to static hardware such as cloud-circuit TV or PA systems.
  • To improve upon employee security and meet accountability requirements, organisations should deploy crisis communication systems that support two-way communication – for employee to acknowledge receipt of messages and contact for additional information via text, photo and GPS tools facilitates delivery of information to help make better quick decisions during crisis.

As businesses continue to grow and adapt to ongoing cultural and technological changes, HR professionals will continue to be at the centre of workplace evolution, to safeguard employees during emergencies.

There is need for effective disaster management planning to ensure better security of employees during uncalled happenings from natural factors, workplace violence or during accidents. Well-networked crisis communication system empowers HR professionals to reach to all staffers quickly during crisis.

Furthermore, training programs should be conducted to support emergency preparedness in the mindset of employees such that company’s valuable human resource is protected at all times. Mock drill exercises should be conducted every three months to test if crisis notification systems are functioning normal, and to bring to light certain employees who are not receiving notification alerts.

Also read: Top 8 People Management Mistakes Made by HR Managers

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)