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Ways to Engage Employees Amid a Corporate Crisis

From The Wall Street Journal & Deloitte:

Engaging employees can have a significant impact on an organization’s ability to anticipate, prepare for and respond to an incident. Nonetheless, nearly one-third (29.8%) of respondents in a recent poll of more than 3,900 professionals believe that employees may be the most overlooked stakeholder when their organization is dealing with a crisis. By following six suggestions, organizations could potentially engage employees more deeply during a crisis, possibly improving the odds of weathering it well.

“When a crisis arises within an organization, the climate can be extremely chaotic. Responding to the crisis and coordinating with regulators, law enforcement and customers is imperative, but leadership must also have a plan to inform and utilize employees,” said Ashish Patwardhan, a Deloitte Advisory director in the Strategic Risk Services practice of Deloitte & Touche LLP. “A sound crisis-response plan should include employees—both communicating to them and addressing their involvement during an incident.”

Making a Plan

Employees are a valuable asset to an organization, particularly in dealing with customers, generating goodwill and aiding the company in the overall recovery process. From natural disasters to terror threats, understanding the psychology of human behavior in response to such incidents is important and should be factored into crisis contingency planning. Organizations should consider proactively taking steps to outline employees’ roles, responsibilities and the critical part they play in successful crisis management, as well as providing accurate, up-to-date and authoritative information during the crisis. “Employees need to be recognized and informed in a reasonable timeframe during a crisis, but companies also need to consider human factors. There may be instances where employees may not be willing or able to help,” Mr. Patwardhan notes.

A 2015 study, Willing and Able: Building a Crisis Resilient Workforce, published by Deloitte U.K. in partnership with Public Health England and King’s College London, revealed that the challenge is not about how able people are to work in a crisis, but how willing they are to work when faced with a significant threat during a major crisis. The study’s most startling figure is that under certain scenarios, 50% of employees may be unwilling to return to work.

Here are six suggestions for how an organization could potentially better utilize employees during a crisis…

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