How HR should deal with a crisis effectively?

Rohit Hasteer

Every organization inevitably faces crises at some point of time. However, the preparedness level of the organization and how effectively it manages a crisis situation makes all the difference. A typical crisis management plan often focuses on protecting the organization’s revenue, systems, infrastructure cost & human resources. Contemporary studies have revealed that organizations that incorporate employee welfare in their crisis management plan do better compared to those who don’t. This definitely calls for a more active participation of HR and how it can play a vital role in helping organizations manage a crisis effectively.

Some of the key aspects that HR can focus on during a crisis are:

1. Set up a task team

One of the basic tenet of a crisis response should be to set up a task team which must have representation across the relevant functions in the organization. No one alone can manage a crisis and setting up a task team ensures that each member would be responsible for managing specific areas during the crisis. The focus areas could include employee care, reassuring investors, protecting revenue, or searching for new opportunities, etc. as applicable. An effective team would comprise of subject matter experts who have the authority and autonomy to take decisions.

2. Open & transparent communication

Communication is definitely the key at the time of crisis. When organizations face an unprecedented situation, there is often ambiguity looming at large and people are anxious about what may unfold for them. Hence, it’s essential for HR to work with the leadership team to ensure that there is honest and accurate communication. It’s also important to provide people multiple avenues to ask queries that they might have and ensure that they are addressed with utmost transparency and clarity. Honest communication goes a long way in building trust amongst people. When you communicate honestly and empathetically, it shows and helps in building trust.

3. Protect mental well-being

Employee health and well-being has been a part of the overall employee engagement philosophy of organizations; However, it becomes even more important during a crisis.

Stress & anxiety levels are often high during these times, employees may have too much on their plate and amidst all this they have to adapt quickly to the new systems at work which can be overwhelming.

Hence, HR has a key role to play here by ensuring the mental well-being of people. It’s important that HR guides employees on how they can handle a crisis effectively and helps them adapt to the new situation. Some tips and tricks around the same can be a great help. Likewise, HR needs to assist people in a post crisis scenario also as effects of a crisis are felt long after it has ended for employees. Since the goal of crisis management is to ensure that business comes back to normal as quickly as possible, it is extremely critical to have healthy employees who are capable of achieving it. HR needs to educate people on the impacts of stress and also the avenues from where they can get help.

4. Engaged & motivated workforce

Crisis may not be a good time for the organization but it’s important to ensure that people stay motivated and engaged during the crisis situation. HR needs to work with managers and ensure that people are acknowledged and appreciated for all the hard work & efforts they are putting in. It’s important to thank people for their contribution and keep them motivated. Also, HR and business need to instill confidence among the people by showing them a brighter future towards which people can expend their energies.

During a crisis, HR has to act as bridge between the management & employees and provide psychological safety in the face of uncertainty and ensure people have positive and emphatic work experience.

The writer is Group CHRO,,,

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