That was a comment from an employee as we rode the elevator one morning.
However, there was a bright spot throughout this turmoil: our employees stayed upbeat and confident.
HR missing in action?
Last week, I watched the News of The World episode play out on all forms of media. At least back during our episode in 2003-2004, there was virtually no social media to speak of.
As I watched the British press scandal unfold, my thoughts were on those employees who at the end of the day were concerned whether they would have a job. Their wives, their partners, their kids and family members, were peppering them with questions and I’m sure they knew no more than the average person on the street. For someone to see a new flash or tweet that says that your company is closing down has to be like taking a punch in the gut — especially when most of them had nothing to do with it.
My thoughts were also on the HR staff at News of the World. Were they sitting at the table when they were putting the crisis management strategy in place? Were they working to lay out the people strategy surrounding this impending train wreck? As these charges were percolating over the past few years, was HR a major contributor to company strategies and decisions?
Now that the deed has been done and the News of the World company has closed, was this the point that HR was brought in to handle the aftermath, or shall we say, implement the people strategy? In other words, did HR simply come on in and handle the clean up and severance (which I have heard was 90 days of pay)?
Those 200 plus News of the World employees, based on various reports, are to be absorbed into other News International companies, but you know as well as I that it is a noble gesture, to say the least. The employees, in many cases, will face questions as they prepare to interview for other jobs, especially the senior staff. They are also being thrown into a climate, print publishing, that is not in a major hiring mode. As a matter of fact, print is slowly being overtaken by digital.
Dealing with the unexpected
Regardless of your training, tenure and certification, these type organizational dysfunctions can’t be anticipated. However they can be prepared for.
At Martha Stewart Omnimedia, our employees stayed upbeat when we had our crisis, and this is how we approached it:
- We convened focus groups to get to the heart of our employees’ concern.
- We condensed these points to a manageable group.
- We went on a road show and talked to all areas of the company.
- We communicated, and then communicated some more.
- We kept them in the loop as much as possible.
While only a few were hired, this showed all our employees that we were going the extra mile to try and help them find employment.
We also decided to keep in touch with this group just in case we were able to put the show back on once the dust settled. When it did, we had our team back, basically intact.
Today more than ever, human resources professionals need to become a major partner in business strategy. If HR can add value to the strategy, then — and only then — will they become a strategic partner. It has to be earned.