Hiring & Recruiting

Crisis Management: Be Proactive

In part 1 of this article we began to explore why meeting a crisis head-on is the best approach. Today we’ll look at what general strategies you can use to meet the challenge.

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I have the qualities; now what do I do?

Glad you asked! You are an HR Warrior by running into the building. But firefighters don’t just run in without training and a plan. Before you potentially make a knee-jerk decision, take some time to ask questions. But wait, you say; there is no time—it’s a crisis! While time is critical for some crises, that still doesn’t mean you can’t have a process or plan in place. Firefighters go through intensive training before facing the fire. HR pros should approach their career in the same way. Firefighters expect there to be a fire, and HR should expect to deal with crises. Timing might feel too tight for each person dealing with the crisis, but in reality, there is always time to think and plan.

Let’s get back to the questions. First, interview people. Find out what is going on. Do research. Identify the root cause. You might have a couple of days or a couple of hours; either way, you will need to think fast and gather as much information as you can. Work from a process or protocol. When there isn’t a crisis, take the time to brainstorm what could happen, and write down a process. Be prepared. Be as transparent as possible. Don’t sugarcoat, and don’t BS people. They’re smarter than you think, and they will see through it! Finally, follow up, follow up, follow up. Track results, document what happened, and make changes to the processes if necessary. Close the loop, and show the team that you care about them and the outcome. Firefighters will diagnose the cause of the fire after the fact. HR can do the same to prevent the same crises from happening again.

There must be a downside, right?

Oh yeah, the emotional and physical toll can be great. You can absorb people’s emotions and get too involved and attached. You could make the wrong decision and make things worse. People may not like you, and they may blame you for the crisis. Managing a crisis is a high-risk/high-reward situation. It is a necessity for HR professionals to practice self-care when managing crises. HR professionals cannot help others if they are not helping themselves. But just as firefighters get better on the job, so does HR. We can learn from past mistakes and improve our methods moving forward.

To sum up

The HR profession is at the center of many crises. By running toward the problem and helping employees and leaders, we engender confidence, gain trust, and develop the ability to see the bigger picture. We understand the pros and the cons and the toll that running into the flames can cost us. But we still do it. Why? Because employees, leaders, and organizations deserve HR Warriors. And HR deserves HR Warriors.

Keri Ohlrich, PhD, is coauthor of THE WAY OF THE HR WARRIOR: Leading the CHARGE to Transform Your Career and Organization (LifeTree Media; September 7, 2018) and brings more than 20 years of success and HR leadership to her role as CEO and cofounder of the Abbracci Group. She holds a PhD in Human Development and Organizational Systems.