Strategy

Keeping Tabs on Off-Site Employees

How one company keeps track of all workers who are out-of-pocket.
David KatzSeptember 18, 2001

Immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., human resources and risk management experts focused on the immediate disaster-recovery effort. Mostly, the focusing entailed searching for survivors and delivering sad messages to family members of the missing.

But with the Bush Administration apparently laying the groundwork for ”a war on terrorism,” many corporate risk managers are reassessing their safety, security, and business-continuation plans. ”It appears that this isn’t over with,” says Raymond A. Parker, CEO at PHRST & Co., a Miami-based outsourcer that manages the HR operations for corporate clients. ”There may be other terrorist attacks.”

PHRST is handling the HR crisis management for a large food- preparation organization with a 34-employee operation in a building near the former World Trade Center in New York. Following the terrorist strikes, Parker says his company communicated by phone with an emotionally shaken CEO, a general manager, and three operations managers in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. The priorities: Set up a crisis chain of command, assemble a list of employees and their phone numbers, and make contact with an employee assistance plan.

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Having a detailed action plan in place is crucial in managing during a crisis, notes Parker. What’s more, the specter of further attacks against Americans is bound to make workers press employers to audit existing crisis management plans — and develop new ones as needed. See Parker’s checklist of steps that companies should take in a crisis.

The terrorist strikes have also drawn attention to the importance of keeping track of the whereabouts of employees. Kurt Chapman, director of human resources and risk management at Medford, Oregon-based Erickson Air-Crane, says businesses that don’t have a system for keeping tabs on traveling workers could lose valuable time in gauging immediate staffing needs following a disaster.

At Erickson, manufacturer of the giant S-64 air crane helicopter, all traveling workers must send their flight schedules to an employee in the operations department. Such a system not only helps with manpower decisions but also can help a company quickly notify an employee’s family members in the case of an emergency. Indeed, on the day of the terrorist strikes, Chapman says some Erickson workers passed through airports where the hijackings originated. The tracking system helped the company get in touch with those workers in a timely fashion – – a real relief to family and colleagues. Such a system can also give an employer the time to prepare relatives and co-workers for the worst, notes Chapman.