As the events of the last week show, while many companies have good contingency policies for things such as data back-up, very few have robust policies for what staff should do when they either can’t get into work or it is dangerous for them to travel.
Most companies have simple polices around who employees need to inform if they are sick – usually their line manager or the HR department. But when there is wide-scale disruption, such personnel may not be available either.
As a result, Wanda Goldwag, non-executive chair of True North Human Capital, has provided a simple checklist of things to consider:
1 Alternative Rallying Points: If staff can’t get into the office, then they need to know the nearest alternative address to report to. In the case of a retail outlet, this may be the closest shop, but if the organisation has a series of disbursed offices, it will be necessary to clarify which one they should go to.
2 Emergency Contact Numbers: If the business is not operational and workers can’t get in touch with their line manager or HR colleagues, it is crucial to provide an alternative out of hours and emergency contact number, preferably in a different location, and to inform them how frequently you will update the information recorded there.
3 Use Social Media: Post information to the organisation’s Facebook or LinkedIn web pages so that staff can find out what’s happening. But clarify which individuals are allowed to update such information to guard against the appearance of false rumours and gossip.
4 Ensure Personnel Details are Kept Off-site: Many companies only keep personnel records on-site and so have no way of contacting employees if the building has been destroyed by fire, for example.
5 Update Staff Information Regularly: Many companies record employees’ home and mobile phone information when they join, but fail to update it regularly. But there is no point in having a phone list, even if it is held off site, if it is hopelessly out of date.
6 Establish Emergency Command-and-Control Procedures: If the managing director is not available, another director or broader risk group needs to be able to swing into action. This means that is important to establish in advance which staff members should take control in an emergency, how they should contact each other and what contingencies should be in place to deal with the unexpected.
7 Assign Clear Leadership Responsibility: Guidance is required on who should make crucial decisions such as keeping staff inside the office or telling them to go home if there is a mob outside on the street.
8 Provide Staff with Guidance on Expected Behaviour: Inform employees about what you expect them to do in serious situations, for example, whether you would want some staff members such as security guards to stay in the office if looting is taking place.
Wanda Goldwag is non-executive chair of talent management consultancy, True North Human Capital.