One assumption that’s very often made is that the HR department will handle any and all people issues that might arise as a result of invoking our incident management or business continuity plans. Which, on the surface, probably seem like a reasonable assumption to make. But let’s just take a moment to think about what that might mean.
For a start, what do we mean by ‘people issues’? This might range from looking after staff who have been asked to temporarily relocate, or determining changes to relevant policies such as travel and subsistence or working hours, through to dealing with injured or traumatised people and/or their nearest and dearest.
And therein lies the potential problem. Because many HR departments aren’t actually adequately prepared to deal with the latter and have absolutely no experience of doing so.
To quote one HR director, “Our HR don’t do compassion”. Whilst that remark might sound a bit harsh and uncaring, it wasn’t meant that way. The point being made was that in that particular organisation, HR need to be neutral in their business as usual role. And, in any case, the role of the HR department in question, like so many others, is more to do with managing the day-to-day people issues and associated processes – such as recruitment, starters and leavers, appraisals, training, payroll, personnel records and the like. All of which are about a zillion miles away from having to speak to anxious or bereaved relatives or deal with traumatised people.
So why do we assume that our HR folks will be capable of doing these things, just because they do ‘people’ stuff in their day jobs?
It may well be that your HR people are the obvious ones to deal with the ‘people issues’. But that’s only going to work if they’re adequately skilled, trained and prepared and personally capable of doing what can be an extremely difficult job. Are yours?