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What HR Should Know About Tornadoes And Crisis Management.

Ahh, another day of watching Dr. Forbes and his TORCON tornado forecasts for us here in Tennessee.  Hurricanes Katrina and Rita taught many businesses on the Gulf Coast a valuable lesson about the ability of management to plan for every contingency–it cannot. What managers can do is learn from tragedy when it strikes and try to be better prepared the next time. We examine crisis management from a human resource perspective and offer insights into how to minimize losses and disruption should disaster occur. HR managers’ centralized location for employee relations, and expertise in communications, writing human resource policies and procedures, and employee training and development offers them the opportunity to make valuable contributions in crisis management planning and implementation. Through lessons learned from these recent storms, we offer specific recommendations on how HR managers can do so. Using examples of how organizations responded to these crises, we illustrate what worked well and what did not in HR.

Recent events have underscored the need to think about the unthinkable. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita taught many businesses on the Gulf Coast valuable lessons about the abilities of management to plan for every contingency–it cannot. No matter how forward-thinking company managers are, there is no way to plan for every possibility when a crisis strikes. What managers can do is learn from tragedy when it does happen and try to be better prepared the next time.  Read the full text by Sonya F. Premeaux & Denise Breaux at


IBM Focuses HR On Change

It’s rare to find a corporate human resources function that accelerates change by actively finding ways to help drive new strategies. Most HR groups sit back and wait for requests from the business for administrative people transactions. In their role of stewards of policy compliance, they can tend to be a brake on change.

But not at IBM. Its HR function has been instrumental in the $100 billion company’s metamorphosis from a floundering computer manufacturer in the 1990s to a prosperous software and consulting services company today. HR has helped the organization absorb more than 125 acquisitions since 2000, and integrate globally, saving $6 billion since 2005.

When Randy MacDonald arrived at IBM in 2000 as senior vice president of HR, he felt the function was too focused on administration. “I have a fundamental belief that it’s important to decide what is core and non-core,” he told me recently. “Administrative responsibilities, such as getting paychecks out on time, are not core. Attracting, retaining, and motivating employees are all core. In HR, we need to focus on what is important and get out in front of issues—not just be reactive. HR should look at the direction of the company and say, ‘We need to be here right along with the business.’ ”

Over the last decade, HR at IBM took a number of steps to help drive operational improvement:  Read the full article originally posted on The Harvard Business Review for Bloomberg Businessweek here.

It’s World War III At The NLRB.

Business and labor are at war over the troubled National Labor Relations Board, a site of many such previous clashes but now the flashpoint for unprecedented contentiousness.

About 200 cases, many of which would expand the power of unions, will be stalled in 2012 when an appointment expires and the five-member board loses a quorum and with it the ability to take action – unless President Barack Obama makes a controversial recess appointment sometime in the coming weeks.

Pro-union groups assert that an effective NLRB is necessary to provide clarity on gray areas in labor law.

“Without a functioning board, employers and employees are left in the dark on major legal questions – whether they have the right to organize, whether or not arbitration agreements are legal, the extent to which they have the right communicate through social media on workplace issues,” said Erin Johansson, the Research Director for the pro-union group, American Rights at Work.

But from the perspective of business groups, recent NLRB decisions have been so harmful to their interests that they prefer a non-functional board.

“We would rather have an inoperable NLRB than the type of agency that we’ve had for the last eighteen months,” Elizabeth Milito, senior executive counsel for the National Federation of Independent Business.  Read the full article by Tim Mak at Politico here.

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