How 9/11 Changed HR

I am sure that there will be some HR practitioners who will not agree with me here but I have been struggling to put this piece together for 10 years. We will "Never Forget" and our hearts go out to the victims families as they continue to grieve every day.

The tragic events of 9/11 have changed us as a nation and individually forever. Life has not been the same since. Some will say for the better, and I mean being more safe domestically. Some will say that there has been over precautions taken that have slowed down our ability to move freely throughout the world. I agree with the former, I would rather be safe than not.

HR played a key role in the events following 9/11. I know from my own direct experience, facing the loss of two key employees on Flight 11 (Jeff Mladenik & Andrew Curry Green) and having to account for 50+ employees scattered from Battery Park to Brooklyn and to help move those 50+ employees from the devastation of the Ground Zero area from Rector Street and Trinity Place to our Park Avenue South office.  It is a role that they (HR) has really never had to play before. How to logistically coordinate the safety of an entire company as well as those traveling throughout the world. HR sat at the table that day even if they were not there before & some are still at the table today. What HR did was provide strategic information, leadership to the top, and overall communications coordination usually relegated to the PR/Comm groups not only to the corporation but to the employee's families.  

as I recall, I worked diligently with my Chief HR executive for all of that Tuesday until 10PM and then back at 11PM until 1 AM on Wednesday accounting for everyone. It was a task that I hope never has to be repeated.

So here is my call to all the HR executives, aspiring HR executives, and those at the middle ranks. You should get training on how to manage disaster situations, and they do not teach that in college or through SHRM. Learning and doing from a fire hose is not the best way to get experience. However, I was one of the lucky ones, I had that training on my prior roles at other companies and 10 years prior to 9/11.

So how did this change HR. HR managers, directors, and some CHRO's learned that there is another dimension to strategy, communications, and accountability that we never hope to have to use.

I welcome your thoughts on this sensitive topic.


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