Five Things You Can Do to Prepare Your Company for a Catastrophic Crisis

This is a re-post from an in-depth interview on crisis
management.  The white paper titled: How to prepare your organization for
challenging times by Modern Survey.  Looking for more ideas on preparing
your staff for a crisis?  To read the
full report on Crisis
click on the link.

While business leaders don’t like to think about it, the
list of crises that can hit a company is almost endless.
Ronald Thomas was vice president of HR/organizational
development for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia when Martha Stewart was
indicted on charges including securities fraud and obstruction of justice in
“Bad behavior in the executive suite. Bad products. Horrible responses
to situations. Corporate behavior gone wild. The list goes on and on,” Thomas
That list of possible catastrophes includes outside crises —
such as a major weather event or a terrorist attack — and planned, expected
crises, such as a leadership transition. And the question shouldn’t be “what
should we do if something happens?” Instead, company leaders should really be
saying “Let’s make a plan for when something like this happens.”
Here are five things you can do to prepare your company for
a catastrophic crisis.

1. Identify employees who have crisis-leadership skills.

  • Listening
  • Communication
  • Connectivity
  • Credibility
  • Decisiveness
  • Critical thinking
  • Situational awareness

2. Put your plan together.
Think of every possible crisis scenario: weather, terrorism,
a mad gunman, corporate malfeasance, a company officer behaving badly. Then
decide which employees, with their leadership skills, can help lead your team
through the tough times.
Thomas’ advice: “Always keep in mind that your way may not
be the best way. It is about the organization and not about you. Plan for the
3. Don’t expect you can keep it quiet.
Julie Kline, a consultant who manages corporate crises from
a human resources standpoint at companies of all sizes, warns leadership teams
to be realistic in crisis times. She sees leadership teams that “think they’re
going to be able to control the message 100 percent or keep it quiet.” But, she
cautions, the scandal always comes out. Planning for the worst means you won’t
be caught off-guard.
4. Assign a point person for outside communication.
Put someone in charge of talking to the media and outside
audiences. Shield your employees from curious reporters by appointing a clear
media contact from the onset of the crisis.
5. Be open and honest with employees about what’s going on.
Employees will look to leaders for direction in a crisis. In
many cases, simply not knowing what to do is a major factor.
At Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Thomas says, he “was
reminded every morning by the look in our employees’ eyes — uncertainty. ‘Why
should I have to watch the news to find out what is going on in my own
company?’ That was a comment that kept me and my team focused. We had to show
that we were leaders.”
After holding quick focus groups with employees, the team
honed a message to share with employees to address concerns. “We set up a road
show to all departments and held Q&As,” he says.
Looking for more ideas on preparing your staff for a crisis?
Learn more in our new white paper, Crisis
Modern Survey
measures workforce intensity — that fire in your company’s belly that makes all
things possible. Our human-capital measurement software combines feedback,
benchmarks and data from enterprise systems to elucidate the correlation
between employee performance and company success. We analyze the stuff your
talent-management system can’t — so that you know what to do next. Contact us.

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