The role that HR has to play in recovering from a disaster situation which might result from anything from a power outage or IT crash to a natural disaster or terrorist attack. Having considered what those in HR can do to plan and prepare for such eventualities and the crucial part that they have to play at the time of the event, and look at where they fit into getting the business up and running again.
Once the immediate impact of a disaster scenario has been dealt with, there is every likelihood that the business will need to operate in considerably altered conditions. Although line managers typically have an important part to play in liaising with staff members with respect to their working arrangements and, for example, whether they are expected to continue working from home or when and where their business unit is likely to resume its activity, those in HR need to be directly available to individual workers and managers to deal with a whole host of issues. As part of the organization’s contingency planning, therefore, it is wise for provisions to be made for HR and others who need to be involved in emergency operations to assemble at an alternative location at which they would have access to all necessary information.
Even in cases where the nature of a disaster only affects the business, as opposed to a whole region or community, HR needs to be prepared to handle issues such as alterations to work schedules, providing contact information, dealing with absence and payroll issues, ensuring that employees receive funding for additional expenses and filling business-critical roles which may have been left vacant as a direct result of the emergency situation. In the case of more widespread disasters, however, many organizations go further and provide employee assistance programs to help their workers out with emergency cash, food and so on, and in these cases it is typically the HR function which acts as the chief liaison point, requiring them to provide exceptional services.
Of course, one of the things which it is really vital to remember about getting a business back on its feet in the wake of a disaster is that the greater the involvement of all staff in the planning process and the better the communication, the quicker and more effective the recovery will be. While having a disaster recovery team in place which is fully briefed and prepared is a key step towards managing disaster scenarios, these people are only likely to make up a tiny proportion of the organization’s workforce. If a business doesn’t go further and ensure widespread involvement, then typically what happens is that when disaster strikes, the majority of staff don’t have a clue regarding what is expected of them and how they should react. Always aim, therefore, to make disaster recovery and business continuity a company-wide issue so that all employees are not only primed to respond appropriately, but are aware of their responsibility to do so.