Crisis! It's up to HR to communicate to staff

Crisis! It

By Charisse Gray on 29 October 2018 If a crisis was to blindside the business, how you communicate the crisis to staff is critical. There are human issues created by any crisis, and HR are best positioned to handle any staff communication with integrity, transparency and consistency.

You can’t plan for how best you communicate a crisis to staff while you’re having one. You must have a prepared internal crisis communication plan. When a crisis hits, timing is everything. Planning will ensure you get the right information to the right people, keep your staff safe, and minimise any negative impact. 

Your internal communication crisis plan is similar to an insurance policy. Its   indispensable because it enables you to retain control of what‘s being said and allow you to provide staff with timely, accurate, empathetic and clear information - what has happened, what will happen and what is expected of them. This is so important for providing support and understanding, and preventing inaccuracies and rumours.

Four steps for developing and communicating your internal crisis plan

There should be two primary goals of your plan:
  • To ensure staff are informed and feel safe and know what to do. 
  • To minimise damage or fallout caused by the crisis and


  1. Communication of important information in advance. Staff should know:
    • assembly points 
    • where they will find information 
    • what information must be gathered and shared 
    • what channels are best used for each message
    • protective actions for life safety and building information security 
  2. Have a clear process for reporting a crisis 
    • Implement an emergency notification system that reaches staff instantly. 
    • Take into account that communicating to employees during a crisis is very different from everyday communications. 
    • Consider the critical factors of timing, consistency and accuracy across all mediums and from all sources. 
  3. Make use of the multiple channels of communication available. Consider:
    • text messages
    • email
    • A company intranet that has:
      • a special HR help centre area
      • telephone hotline for employees
      • daily bulletin board postings, or updates.
    • Use messaging tools like Whatsapp group or Slack where staff know they can collaborate and gain important information.
    • Use social media (e.g. Facebook page, where employees can check to get information and can also have two-way interactive communication)
    • Have pre-prepared message templates available. This can save time and prevent any omissions or errors taking place.
    • Have a password-protected Internet site with a discussion section strictly for managers.
    • Communicate collaboratively with other key executives in the business.  
    • Maintain ongoing dialogue as necessary, and be prepared to address employees' concerns and questions.
  4. Communicating after the crisis
  • Be prepared to act promptly on serious staff issues after the crisis is over. Employees may be demoralised or traumatised and need help getting back on their feet. Thoughtful action and preventive measures can help facilitate the best possible response while reducing concern and stress for everyone involved.

Final important note

Provide refresher training programs on emergency preparedness for staff. Implement mock drill exercises every three months to test if crisis notification systems are functioning normally, and to bring to light any problems with the process.


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