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6 Steps for Building an HR Crisis Response Plan

Imagine your entire technology platform crashes. An employee files a harassment complaint. A department head uncovers a chronic theft problem. In each of these instances, do you know what to do and who needs to be involved? 

In other words, do you have an HR crisis response plan?

Virtually every HR department needs one, regardless of company size or industry. It’s similar to an OSHA emergency plan, only it expands outside of natural disasters and workplace accidents and includes financial and technological crises.

HR crises don’t always pose a threat to employees’ lives, but they can pose a threat to the health and future of your business. Because they are unexpected and unlikely to occur, most HR professionals lack experience handling them.

That is why you need a formal, written rapid response plan—one that any HR team member can access and follow in a heartbeat. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but it does need to be thoughtful and thorough. You might start by following these six steps.

1. Identify Your Threats

You can’t create an effective crisis response plan without specifying what type of crisis you are addressing. For example, workforce calamities like a mass resignation require different solutions than say, compliance-related issues.

You may choose to develop several plans that address multiple workplace risks. However, the process for building a plan is the same, though the response team and solutions may vary. 

2. Create Your Crisis Response Team(s)

Depending on your organizational structure, you may elect to form a single core team or create multiple specialized teams. Either way, identifying personnel and putting all their contact information in one accessible place will allow you to alert and gather your team members quickly when needed. 

3. Establish a Communication Process

How you alert your team members will be determined by how your company communicates internally and what technology you use. For some companies, it may make the most sense to set up a classic phone tree. For others, it might mean creating a dedicated user group on Slack or Microsoft Teams—whatever method allows you to get hold of the necessary parties quickly.

4. Develop Your Response Plan   

Regardless of the nature of your HR crisis, most response plans include the following steps:
  • Collect initial information
  • Notify team members
  • Gather further incident details
  • Develop a solution—or, better yet, implement one you’ve already developed
  • Obtain consensus/permission to move forward
  • Execute the plan
  • Develop a larger communication plan
  • Implement a plan to resume operations, if paused
  • Document it
  • Assess the effectiveness of your response
  • Update your response plan for next time, if necessary

5. Engage in Proactive Problem-Solving

Obviously, you can’t predict what your next crisis will be. But you can identify the nature of the problems you are most likely to confront and develop some preemptive solutions.

For example, in the event of a harassment complaint or lawsuit, you might choose to make your attorney part of that rapid response team and identify the team member who will contact them.

6. Prepare Your Staff to Respond

It’s not enough to create a great HR crisis response plan—make sure everyone involved is familiar with it, knows where to find it, and is comfortable taking action.

In addition, make sure your staff can distinguish between crises that require quick action (i.e., a walkout) and those that are not immediately dire (i.e., a complaint or lawsuit).

Finally, conduct periodic training and refreshers to keep your team informed on best practices. Should an HR crisis occur, it will inevitably happen at the worst-possible, most-unexpected time. The more swift and effective your response, the faster you can return to business-as-usual—and that, of course, is the goal.

One of the best ways to prevent many HR crises is to up your compliance game—and we can help. Learn how Namely’s HR compliance solution can help prevent fines, audits, lawsuits, and all the headaches that accompany them. 

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