In the last three weeks, we have experienced an ice storm that shut down major East coast airports, wildfires and mudslides on the West coast and a flu epidemic that is closing schools nationwide. That’s some crisis management.
So what is crisis management? It isn’t waking up in the middle of the night with a freak out about all the bad things that could happen. It’s sitting down with your leadership and actually figuring out what you would do if you had a fire or a flood. It’s looking at all the different possibilities of “known-knowns” and crafting plans for each one with responsibilities for each person. It’s examining what resources you would need and how you would deploy them.
The Crises We Forget To Plan For
But crisis management doesn’t have to be a weather event, it could be a cyber attack on your computer system, your key employee suddenly having to be hospitalized, your executive quitting as a result of a scandal, losing a lease, losing your biggest customer, or having some company create a technology or business model that renders yours obsolete.
Publically traded organizations already know they have to plan for crises, if they don’t, shareholders will be a bit unhappy to say the least. Municipalities know that, as FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, recommends: Every Business Should Have a Plan. In fact, FEMA doles out more money for communities who had a plan to address disasters than they do to communities who wing it.
Small businesses need crisis management, too. If you’re a restaurant, you need a plan for what to do in case some foodstuff is recalled or your vegetable delivery doesn’t make it. Accounting firms have sensitive customer data. CrossFit gyms could experience fungal breakouts. It’s amazing, when you think about it, how much can go wrong.
Insurance Doesn’t Cut It
It’s tempting to say “I have insurance” and leave it at that, but a lot of Houston businesses found out after Hurricane Harvey that, gaps in their insurance led to huge losses. For example, the building was covered, but the inventory wasn’t. So making an annual assessment of your insurance coverage is part of crisis management.
Crisis management requires looking at your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats in a realistic and strategic way.
Of course nobody wants to think about these things. They’re uncomfortable. And they might never happen. But if you create a crisis management plan, you can sleep at night knowing you’ve done all you can do to protect yourself, your business, your employees, and your customers.
Human Resources professionals have a role to play in crisis management, which includes active participation in the planning phase.
- How will the organization handle inclement weather?
- Who makes the decision to close the office and when?
- How will you communicate with employees during this time?
This is just one example. It gets trickier and more critical to the business continuity and success of the organization when we dive into dealing with the loss of a key employee. But succession planning is another blog post topic coming soon!