As can be seen, by the events happening all around us, we are living in increasingly uncertain times. Panic buying, overwhelmed healthcare systems, and border shutdowns are quite likely set to be the defining moments of 2020.
We’re only into the first quarter of the new decade and already there has been talk of a potential recession hitting Singapore in view of a global economic slowdown caused by the Wuhan novel CoronaVirus or COVID-19.
Indonesia has reported an increase in COVID-19 infections with transportation minister Budi Karya Sumadi testing positive for the virus. Across the border, Malaysia has restricted the movement of all citizens while calling for the shutdown of non-essential businesses and services.
With governments declaring curfews and locking entire cities, the questions on every employer and employee’s mind are what will tomorrow bring and how will businesses continue operations under an extended quarantine?
As strategic business partners, this calls into question the role played by HR professionals in times of major crisis. Given the highly infectious nature of COVID-19, it’s only a matter of time before decisive action is taken to curb the virus’s spread in Singapore.
Instead of looking to the government, organizations need to have their own fallback plans in place should things take a sudden turn for the worst.
This is why it’s vital that we take a look at HR’s role in crisis management and how HR professionals can take proactive action to help their organizations remain operationally viable.
Emergencies are defined as situations that pose a significant risk to health, life, property, or the environment.
Hence before anything else, HR professionals need to work together with members of the organization’s leadership team to identify and recognize threats that pose a significant risk to business continuity and employee welfare.
A global pandemic such as COVID-19 poses a significant risk to the life and health of an organization’s employees. Being highly infectious, it can easily be spread from employee to employee which can quickly cripple operations.
Having identified potential risks and threats to the organization, HR professionals can then take steps to mitigate these risks and minimize disruption to operations. These can range from identifying ops critical employees such as IT professionals and key individuals and stakeholders using cloud HRMS systems.
For example, in the case of the COVID-19 outbreak, various MNCs implemented BCP or Business Continuity Plans such as telecommuting and shelter-in-place arrangements to protect employees and organizational interests.
In an emergency, all sense of normalcy goes out the window and the ability of an individual to make sound decisions becomes compromised. This can lead to mass absenteeism in the office or even a breakdown of order should the organization be unprepared.
This is why it is crucial for organizations to have both emergency response and business continuity plans in place.
Emergency response plans outline what steps employees need to take should a disaster break out while business continuity plans focus on ensuring that employees are able to continue working from a safe location with the right infrastructures and cloud HRMS system.
In this area, HR professionals will be responsible for ensuring that employee contact details and personal information remain up-to-date and protected while a clear line of communication is set up in order to ensure that employees are kept in the loop.
In crisis management, two things always should be prioritized with the first being the safety and well-being of all employees with the second being minimal operational disruptions. This is particularly true for businesses dealing in essential goods or services.
While it may be rather far out, members of the United States Navy SEALs are the ideal examples of crisis preparation. The SEALs live by the adage “You don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.”
To ensure the safety of employees while keeping operations smooth, businesses need to seriously consider conducting training exercises and drills regularly to ensure that employees are well-versed with these procedures.
From an HR perspective, this includes hosting training sessions to keep employees up-to-date whilst also ensuring that key functions such as payroll processing have their own set of fallbacks and safeguards in place. These can include cloud HRMS systems that provide employees with the option to work remotely.
As many have warned, extended periods of remote working can be detrimental to an employee’s mental and physical well-being. The isolation and sense of disconnect can cause depression and other chronic health issues.
With the COVID-19 virus being a real threat, it is understandable that employees will have to cope with the added stress of looking out for loved ones whilst still worrying about their jobs.
Hence, HR professionals should redouble their efforts at employee engagement even whilst remotely working. Encouraging huddle sessions and regular communications via online platforms will help all staff feel connected to one another.
Alongside this, given that travel restrictions are now being put into place, employees commuting over the border in some countries may find themselves in a legal quandary.
Hence where possible, employees should encourage remote working arrangements where possible to curb the rates of infection whilst helping to retain employees.
While the outlook for 2020 is indeed bleak, with proper preparation and planning in place, organizations should have no trouble navigating such troubled waters. In the meantime, stay safe and look out for each other.
HRiQ is a cloud HRMS system that combines the best of both Core HR and Talent Management modules to create an integrated HRMS experience across all your business processes.
With an employee self-service portal and mobile applications that can assist in handling your employee’s request remotely, HRiQ aims to reduce your HR team’s tedious day-to-day activity while enhancing strategic talent processes.