Few things are likely to make an international HR manager panic more than a potential global pandemic, similar to the recent Ebola outbreak. Why? According to a recent article in International HR Advisor, half of multinational organizations have no plan in place for handling a pandemic.
Even if you’re part of the 50 percent who does have a plan, you still may be concerned. Many of the surveyed noted that although they knew of a plan, they had no idea what it entailed or if pandemic scenarios were even covered.
Here are some thoughts on the topic worth considering:
Include other departments in your planning: As you begin developing a plan, you should include, at the least, your business continuity team and communications department. Your business continuity’s main goal is to ensure your business’ critical functions in the event of a crisis. Your communications department should have a crisis communication manual outlining how information will be relayed internally and externally during a crisis. Regardless of who takes the lead in this conversation, including these departments will give you a broader planning perspective, and limit any redundancies down the road.
Practice makes perfect: As we mentioned before, many HR professionals whose company did have a plan were unaware of its specifics. Once a pandemic crisis is underway is not the time to get up to speed on how to handle it. Be sure to review the different protocols on an annual basis, making sure both your HR staff and your international employees know what to do should a pandemic or other global crisis occur.
Don’t forget the people: Whether they are on a temporary assignment or a full-fledged expat, your international employees are people, and their safety must come before “business decisions.” Do you make protective gear such as masks available? Do they have the capability to work remotely if necessary? What’s your policy on repatriating expats should the situation take a severe turn? Answering these questions will require time and financial resources, but it will help ensure your employees – and their families – safety, which you cannot afford to neglect.
International transferees and expats can be a tremendous resource for global businesses, but as recent events have shown, there needs to be plans in place to ensure their protection should things go wrong. Often, the disrupting effects from pandemics and other global crises spread because people and organizations are caught off guard. Take some time and review your policies – or develop them if they don’t exist – to keep your business and its people moving forward, no matter what comes your way.