Crisis Management through Human Resource

      By Engr. Mohammad Iqbal Mirza, CEO, Green Leaves

We all observe traffic chaos at a crossroad on daily basis especially where either there isn’t a traffic light or it is out of order or there isn’t a traffic warden. Here we see a self-created crisis.  Now, if no one attends it, the situation worsens from simple jam to deadlock. Then someone emerges on the scene to handle the job of a traffic warden regulating the traffic flow sequentially. It is a simple example of crisis and its management. Where complex crises such as economic recession, epidemics, armed conflicts and natural calamities hit the business organizations, societies and nations, we witness very often a bleak failure in responding to the crisis. The reason is individuals, organizations, society and nations’ unpreparedness or lack in support equipment, human resource and training resource to handle the special situations.

Each crisis has its own chemistry and dimensions, but while braving out the difficult situations, one thing is common and that is ability to rise to the situation. Crises or difficult situations are part of Allah (SWT) creation plan and these should be taken as challenge and managed, no matter it dares an individual, society, an organization or a nation.

In business organizations true crises are usually the result of a management failure to respond appropriately to an issue, emergency or accident that requires a timely response and communication. Those organizations responding in time and appropriately to issues, accidents or emergencies rarely experience a crisis. In fact, such organizations tend to enhance their reputations and strengthened their brands after the dust of crisis settles down. Everything is not a crisis. It is all about understanding the issues and finding the right solutions; and combating the emergencies with the most appropriate response to lessen the impacts because accident has already taken place, so defining issues, emergencies and accidents is most important.

Individuals, societies, organizations and nations are all susceptible to issues and disputes of ordinary to very serious and sensitive nature. Organizations prepare themselves to minimize and mitigate their risks through continuous training of their human resource department by implementing policies of issue/risk management and management controls. When organizations fail to manage or address these issues appropriately, it increases the potential the organization for an organization to experience a crisis.

Accidents do happen and unlike issues accidents have definite starting and ending points. Organizations develop plans to respond to accidents and emergencies. Accidents are unexpected and are never welcomed, because these result in damage to property and injury or cost life to people. The accidents are not crises in themselves, but have a latent potential to escalate into a crisis depending upon our initial response, its scale and the number of people may affect from it.

Emergencies are well anticipated depending upon the nature of operation or business an organization is in. Organizations have designed standard procedures and train their staff continually to deal with emergencies. They catch us unexpectedly and so demand immediate communication and action simultaneously. Emergencies range from natural calamities – floods, terrorist acts, fires etc. to failure of in-house utilities, such as power outages, information system failure that deter employees to function normally.

In a crisis situation inaction or failure of management’s to respond appropriately to an issue, accident, or emergency threatens an organization’s reputation, stature, share price and relations with key publics. Unfortunately, it is much easier to recognize a crisis than it is to prevent one, but that is the job of trained HRM and HRD professionals. Organizations that do not have professionals in HRM or HRD who understand these distinctions are at risk.

The important question here is when crisis sets in at such a large scale, what is the way to deal with it. Crisis management is a critical organizational function. Failure has no room, because it can inflict heavy losses to all stake holders and can put an end to organization very existence. Human Resource department

It must be understood that in the wake crisis, pre-crisis thinking does not work. We will not be able to manage the situation, unless we develop post-crisis thinking. In managing the crises hit situations or time of adversities the effective solution in the modern times is development of human resource ability to find solution to the besieging crises. Having said that, let us see the role of Human Resource Department in business and industrial Corporations to overcome crises. In business organizations only financial crisis is taken as crisis, though from human resource point of view any type of crisis has equal importance. Crises are evaluated by its size – from a partial to total disruption in business operations. It devastates the organization reputation, and shakes the stakeholders’ perception. The larger the crisis in scale and magnitude, the larger, quick and precise the action is required to extricate out of it.


Ken Robinson says:

Human resources are like natural resources; they are often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstance where they show themselves”.

The term ‘Human Resource’ is used for manpower required to run an organization in contrast to its financial and material resources. Human Resource Management (HRM) succeeded the term ‘Personnel Management’ and refers to a formal systems devised for the management of people within an organization. The basic mission of human resources will always be to acquire, develop, and retain talent; align the workforce with the business; and be an excellent contributor in the growth and development of business. This mandate is unlikely to change amidst the ever-increasing pace of change in the business world of today.

HRD is man’s innate instinct, it is both at physical and mental levels. The term evolved in USA during the advent of Industrial Revolution.  A popular belief argues that it started in 1913 when Ford Motor started training its workers for mass production on the assembly line. The Second World War gave it a spur when the manufacturing of war equipment required an all-out training of workforce to cope with demand of ongoing war. However others believe it be a thought of 1930, 1950 or 1960s emerging from the concept of Organization development. Whatever the case is, its importance in the modern organizations has been felt and is being practiced to increase the skills of workforce in achieving organization objectives.

Human Resource Development (HRD) is the framework to help employees develop their personal and organizational skills, knowledge, and abilities. Human Resource Development provides opportunities such as employee training, employee career development, performance management and development, coaching, mentoring, succession planning, crises management and organization development. The focus of HRD is to develop the best possible workforce so that the organization and individual employees can produce reliable products and value for customer’s money, besides accomplishing their career goals and organization’s larger objectives. The human resource is referred as human capital bringing it at par with financial capital and at times HR has an edge over financial, because it protects, creates and enhances economic value of financial capital. HR is rescuer of financial capital in the times of crises whether financial or operational or natural disasters.

In any Organization effective crisis management sees to the threats in the order of their priority.  The primary concern in a crisis is always the public safety and failure to address public safety causes irreparable loss from a crisis. The financial and goodwill loss to organization comes after public safety – human safety first. Ultimately, crisis management is designed to protect an organization and its stakeholders from threats or minimize the impact from crisis.

The design of crisis management is divided into three phases – pre-crisis, crisis response, and post-crisis.  The pre-crisis phase is concerned with prevention and preparation, whereas crisis response phase is the response time of management and the post-crisis phase analyzes and concludes how better the preparation could have been. It is a lesson learnt for future crisis.

Human history is plagued with all types of crises. In the life of individuals, groups, business organizations, societies and nations the ordeal of natural disasters, calamities, famine, earth quakes, wars and economic upheavals in the recent past and ages before has left its scars. Crisis easily understood general definition is: A time of intense difficulty, trouble or danger. Human as individuals faces hardships and tribulations and so the societies and nations. Crises denote problems and the problems. The question is how to rise to the difficult situations! The answer is be well prepared – Every organization must have a crisis plan, a dedicated team, practice in and out by establishing communication channels at different times spreaded over the year.

In our present times Muslim world is engulfed by crises here and there but have no clue how to manage or get out of these, despite abundant learning examples from the life history of our beloved Prophet (Peace be upon him). The lack of unity among Muslim nations is fundamental reason to their being in crisis for over a century, languishing and doing nothing to come out of it.

According to Quran as Allah the Exalted states crises are test of human patience, endurance and resilience.

And WE will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patientWho, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return”. Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided (Al-Baqrah).

Quran addressing human being has unfolded the secret lying in the greatest virtue of patience. Patience is the ability to remain calm and tolerating by suppressing our natural tendency of restlessness and emotions in the times of difficulties and adversities. Patience very profoundly creates resilience, thinking prowess, fathoms the dangers wrapped in mystery to harness the looming crisis. The life of our Prophet (Peace be upon him) is full of crises, but he sailed through all of them with his determination, will, resilience and patience. The success owed to his formidable character, adherence to universal tenets of integrity with the cause, honesty, righteousness, fearlessness and steadfastness.