Historically, the role of human resources in managing emergency mass notification systems has been somewhat restrained, with HR professionals often deferring to IT and security decision makers, or those responsible for facilities management and business continuity.
But HR is increasingly taking ownership of mass notification systems because, ultimately, these systems overlap with two aspects of any HR leader’s core mission: communicating with employees and ensuring the safety of the workforce.
Whether managing an emergency mass notification system directly or playing more of a supportive role, HR leaders can help their organization maximize the benefits that mass notification systems can deliver in four key ways.
- Ensuring timely and accurate employee notifications. The ability to communicate with employees during an emergency — and to ensure these employees receive the alerts in a timely fashion — hinges upon the mass notification system having up to date employee records. This can be an even greater challenge at large organizations where turnover is a constant and it is common for employees to shift physical office locations and job functions. Seamless integration with HR databases ensures that data will sync automatically so things like employee turnover, office location changes, and company acquisitions don’t result in outdated people records. The emergency notification system should be able to automatically sync a CSV file, your active directory, or whatever human resources or payroll system you use for up-to-date employee data like phone number, email and address at a minimum. In terms of the HR leader’s role, contact data, of course, isn’t just about quantity—quality matters too. In other words, the more contact information you can have on hand for each individual, the better. Don’t limit your contact data to simply work email or work phone. For example, for each contact you may wish to collect:
- Personal mobile phone number.
- Home phone number.
- Home address.
- Level of authority.
- A list of skills that could be relied on in a crisis.
- HR leaders should not stop with data in their own databases, as other data could be helpful in a crisis. Most organizations find it necessary to aggregate data from multiple sources to ensure they have comprehensive contact information for employees, contractors and anyone else they’d need to keep in contact with in the event of a catastrophe.
- Improving employee engagement. A growing body of evidence tells us that engagement is everything in the contemporary workplace. Engaged employees work harder, perform better, and stick around longer. And one of the best ways to boost employee engagement is simple: Communicate with them. Not all employees are created equal when it comes to how they communicate. Informed by everything from generational to geographical disparities, these differences can lead to significant challenges for organizations aiming to reach each of their team members in the most effective and efficient way. After all, while email may be the preferred channel of communication for one recipient, it may fall short with another. The same goes for calls, texts, social media, and group messaging apps. Add in disparities across everything from time zones to native languages, and the obstacles grow. HR leaders who prioritize employee engagement can help to make sure that the mass notification system effectively reaches each employee on the right communication channel(s) at the right time.
- Maximizing APIs. Emergency notification technology is more adaptable than many organizations realize. Most systems can easily integrate with your existing technology through APIs that allow for two applications built by different parties to come together seamlessly. This means the ability to integrate notification solutions directly with your current HR system and eliminate the hassle of constantly gathering and modifying information. HR holds a tremendous amount of data in the asset class — your people. The HR team is involved in the processes of recruiting, hiring and onboarding actions during employment, such as performance reviews, transfers of employees to different roles and responsibilities, and end of employment actions involved in terminations. Walking through process-based lifecycles is a method to acquire information of all data collected, what software or human method is used to collect the data and where the data is stored. This information might be spread across multiple existing business systems, and APIs can help make it easily accessible by an emergency mass notification system for mass notification purposes.
- Strengthening your cyber security posture. HR, for its part, must be part of a sustained program to keep employees educated on ransomware entry so they can become a first line of defense against dangerous malware, ransomware and other cyberthreats rather than putting their employers at great financial risk. One in six cyber-attacks is the result of unaware employees. These employees might be inundated with email, or they may not be trained to handle technology safely. Fortunately, both human resources issues can be dealt with in-house, which can increase the cybersecurity of your company by up to 60 percent. Emergency mass notification systems can be used to proactively communicate Without proper training and guidance, they could easily make a decision that could cost you thousands — or even millions — of dollars with a single cyber mistake.
Mass notification systems can be valuable to alert employees when a ransomware attack — or any cyber attack — occurs to minimize the damage. But without an effort to communicate often with employees and stakeholders on how to identify new threats proactively, your organization will remain at risk. HR can play a vital role in making employees feel as though they are part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect statistics that were removed from the story. Ann Pickren is president, enterprise solutions, for OnSolve. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.