Lessons Learned by Employers Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

Posted November 26, 2012 by
Mark Mehler and Gerry Crispin of CareerXroads

Mark Mehler and Gerry Crispin of CareerXroads

By Mark Mehler and Gerry Crispin of CareerXroads

Four weeks after Sandy, life is getting back to normal – or is it? Walking the dog around a relatively unscathed block of homes in central NJ (miles from the shore), reminders are everywhere. Tons of debris in front of every home (more than 40 homes); the noise of still more 75-foot oak trees being cut while leaning precariously over homes rends the air; blue tarps draped over roofs (5 homes) that were speared with limbs weighing tons; and a flatbed truck finally easing up behind a flattened neighbor’s car (where my 75 foot oak fell). I check to make sure he doesn’t accidentally take the new car next to it.

Sandy was a storm that has little comparison even to Katrina although we can take some comfort that lessons learned from that catastrophic event seven years ago were likely responsible for preparations last month that saved lives – response speed and pre-positioning among them.

There are some lessons employers and their HR and Staffing leaders might find challenging in the upcoming weeks and months as the scope and the size of Sandy’s full impact unfolds:

  • Your disaster plans should have been in place. Some were. Some weren’t. Employers that reached out to check on employees in the affected areas, identify the challenges they were facing either personally or with family and friends and authorized extended personal time, specialized teams, resources, donations, product, etc. etc. will see their employment brand, engagement levels – and retention – rise. After Katrina a SHRM commission on disaster planning led to a number of resource tool kits that employers ought to periodically review.
  • Your employees may need to deal with personal time differently for several months. Loss of cars, access to supplies, friends and family needing relocation (and just moral support), long lines dealing with insurance and government agencies – all will stretch personal time policies. Performance may be temporarily affected. How is your firm responding? Especially if your headquarters is located outside the affected areas?
  • Lots of jobs were lost, mostly small, local and heavily retail (casinos may be the exception) but few people will be leaving the area to seek new work anytime soon. In fact, those that most need to get on with their lives and find new jobs elsewhere are least likely to do so before next spring if past disasters are any guide. Local career coaches, and there are plenty of them, should be offering pro-bono events around career and life issues.
  • Lots of jobs are also created. The economy may even spike upward with the sale of cars and rebuilding – temporarily as people spend money they didn’t have.
  • Recruiters will have additional personal they’ll need to address when speaking with prospects and candidates willing to leave the area (i.e. needing to return often to handle unresolved family issues, value of real estate), or helping people come into the area (Q: Where can I live where the power is likely to be on? A: Nowhere) and, just getting people’s attention to consider a risky move (looking for some stability for the time being). Nothing really new – just more of it, more often.

Recruiting leaders might consider running occasional disaster scenarios. Every disaster is different and there are many small, localized ones between those that impact millions. As a recruiting leader if you have an all hands meeting, think about breaking your folks into small groups and challenging them to solve some outrageous questions like the following:

  • A disaster in [name a country] has decimated our [name them] products and supply chain. Our business leaders want to move operations to [name a location] for 6-12 months. We need to hire in volume for [x], [y] and [z] jobs immediately. You have 30 minutes to develop a detailed plan. If you have questions, answer them to give you the best chance of success and identify the answers that would sink the initiative.
  • A [deadly contagious] disease has been uncovered in [a neighboring state]. All movement across state lines has ceased. Martial law along the borders has been declared- otherwise business as usual. However 50% of our external hires have final slates with 2 or more out-of-state candidates. Can we fully hire and onboard w/o any problem. How often for example has remote video resulted in an offer rather than screening for finalists? How prepared are we to do all interviews via video, even local ones?
  • The internet is down and will be down for 3 months at a minimum. Our success as a business will be dictated on how well we can adapt versus our competitors. Every function is being challenged to operate w/o the internet or they will be furloughed immediately. List those elements of the recruiting processes, tools and partners that are under water (i.e. our cloud based ATS database of candidates) and how we will work around.

– Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler work full time consulting, educating and discovering how talent and opportunity connect through emerging technology. They can be reached via email at mmc@careerxroads.com, phone at 732-821-6652, or on-line at http://www.careerxroads.com.

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