June 26, 2013

Plan for When the Possible & Unthinkable Hit the Workplace

Our company is well-known for being a thought leader and being innovative, which has increased our profitability over the long term. We have learned that you must plan for both the possible and the unthinkable for success.

The possible

Strategic planning helps identify the “possible.” We’ve developed a financial model, strengthened our HR process, formally defined marketing efforts, put ownership agreements in place and updated our technology.

We recently implemented a Crisis Action Team, or CAT, for business continuity. The CAT takes key areas and assigns a responsible party for making certain communications sync up in the event of a tragedy: power outages, loss of building features, operating on a virtual basis, defaulting to cellphones if landlines were down, etc.

The goal: How we would connect, given personal pressures to account for one’s family first? We have several scenarios with specific crisis roles with a backup, sometimes two deep. You can’t put a price on the safety of your people. We determined that family is the priority, which removes stress from all of our employees.

The unthinkable

A few years back, one of my key employees, the CFO, fought cancer with a vengeance for two years. He reached the end of his Family and Medical Leave Act benefits and still was unable to come back to work. He had a wife, two kids in college and an 11-year-old girl still at home. We saw this situation unfold over a long period, and it still took us by surprise.

We pride ourselves in HR policy manuals, protocols and procedures as they take the emotion out of human capital decisions. Without a policy, the right thing to do is not defined, not consistent and not transparent.

With our combined 100 years of experience, we had no policy for this “unthinkable.” I anguished over it. We now have a key employee policy with paid leave for up to 12 weeks during the typical FMLA period, then paid leave with disability after that.

Being flexible during day-to-day operations makes us better leaders, and policies and procedures help when we are “just” human. We combined the best of both when we implemented the policy, then made it retroactive for our CFO.

I encourage you to use the strategic planning to hit your stretch goals out of the ballpark to reach the possible and account for the unthinkable, too, as it is often forgotten but can easily be incorporated.

Written by Jim Annis, president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Peterson, Tom Miller and Nissa Jimenez, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

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