Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 32 seconds

In the lead-up to hurricanes Harvey and Irma, companies turned to their human resources teams to help them navigate through a host of challenges. 

With hurricane season still underway, companies will continue to rely on their HR teams to oversee their organizations’ emergency plans, update employees with important information and support and ensure the business can run as smoothly as possible, Robin Schooling writes for Fast Company

“As a resident of Louisiana, I’ve lived through Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav as well as the catastrophic flooding that drenched Baton Rouge in 31 inches of rain last summer,” notes Schooling, VP of HR with Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “As an HR professional I’ve learned lessons each and every time.”

Schooling gained some insight recently from the HR Open Source Facebook group, where more than 4,200 HR and recruiting professionals spanning more than 50 nations share ideas and experiences. In addition to sharing information on evacuation shelters and maps as well as contacts, one HR director on the group page suggested companies share information to help employees’ pets.

Another HR director said his company added an extra page to its website with hurricane-specific information for impacted employees. Management also has encouraged employees to like or follow the firm’s Facebook page in order to get updates and to mark themselves “safe” on Facebook.

Paula Harvey and her HR team found a reliable way to update workers in the lead-up to Hurricane Harvey from a free messaging program that allowed her team to reach employees via text. Harvey is vice president of HR and safety at Schulte Building Systems, a metal buildings manufacturing company about 30 minutes from downtown Houston by car, the Society For Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports.

Harvey and her team also had a vetted emergency plan ready to go. “We had an innovative idea from my HR team to set up a texting instant message system, like the school systems do,” Harvey says. “It only takes me a second.”

Schooling notes in Fast Company that organizations need to be cognizant of the challenges employees will encounter post-hurricane. “Providing consideration for additional time-off without penalty will be important to employees who must keep appointments with insurance adjustors, rebuild their homes, or find new living arrangements; this time may be with or without pay as appropriate and in alignment with the Fair Labor Standards Act for employers in the U.S.,” Schooling writes.

The HR team at Florida-based real estate agency, Stiles Corporation, designed their hurricane preparedness plans in a way that helps keep their 325 employees focused at work and to keep their anxiety in check, Employee Benefit News reports. Constant email updates from the company were important so that people didn't have to keep checking the television for updates.

“You’re trying to ensure people’s safety, but at the same time you want to manage the lack of productivity,” said George Boue, vice president of HR at Stiles. “The main thing is letting people know that there is a cross-divisional group in management that’s looking at the business.”

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