Supporting Employees through a Crisis
As you likely already know, Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas have experienced tremendous flooding in the past week. As a Starmount employee, I was struck by how quickly and effectively the company was able to respond to the flooding. Communications seemed to run without a hitch, the business ran smoothly even as the crisis grew locally, and employee relief and support plans were put into action quickly.
Since we as a community had no way of knowing or preparing for this nameless storm, I asked our Vice President of Human Resources, Sarah Munson, for some insight into how they managed to cover the essentials and make time for creative brainstorming for how to best help employees. Here are her pointers for creating an effective disaster recovery plan:
- Create a disaster recovery team that includes employees from multiple departments to make sure you cover multiple aspects of the business.
An expert tip: Get specific with your plan, so when you need to use it you’re confident that your basics are covered. This will help you move more quickly and allows you to focus on helping employees.
- Develop an employee forum that is external to your work email system. We use a Yahoo group that was developed several years ago; it has effectively opened lines of communication between employees during this flood and other events.
Advice worth using: These systems should be tested several times a year, so you and your employees know how they work and are ready to launch and respond when necessary.
- Create a master employee call list.
Sarah’s Advice: Some companies use a phone tree system where managers are charged with reaching out to their employees. In most instances this will work well, however, if your managers are unable to be reached for any reason, you need a backup plan. We use our Yahoo group to communicate directly with employees. A phone list is also readily available to us so we can follow up when necessary.
- Include an emergency payroll plan when discussing disaster recovery.
Sarah’s reasoning: If you’re able to communicate to employees in crisis about when and how your employees will be paid quickly, you’ll relieve unnecessary stress that may be affecting your co-workers.
“You’ve got to be willing to look at the people side of things and not be rigid about your policy.” – Sarah Munson, Vice President of Human Resources.
Once you’ve implemented a disaster recovery plan that covers the most critical lines of communication and business, you’re able to start thinking about your employees. Our team and others in the greater Baton Rouge area have come up with some impactful ways to help employees during times of need.
- Create an Amazon Employee Wish List that allows fellow employees, colleagues and friends, especially those outside of the immediate area, to help affected employees get back on their feet.
- Tweak your vacation policy to allow employees to take the time they need to return to work. This can be done by granting additional days off or by allowing employees to donate their time off to those who need it.
- Create an outlet for employees to volunteer. Empowering your employees can help the recovery process move more quickly and offers a way for them to get involved through the company.
- If you can, provide lunches for employees in the office. Offering free lunches relieves some of the stress of returning to the office.
- Allow employees to have free dress for as long as it makes sense. In some cases, a disaster might mean employees don’t have access to their work wardrobe. Giving them the option of coming to the office in casual attire may help make returning to work easier.
Preparing a business continuity plan or crisis recovery plan is critical to being able to act quickly when disaster strikes. If you don’t already have a plan or haven’t examined it recently, make sure to set some time aside in the coming weeks to collect ideas and create a plan your company can act on.
What key elements of disaster recovery do you think should be added?