Pro HR

People Planning for a Year that is not business as usual

It was anticipated as a year of positivity, business as usual and moving on, but 2023 so far has not been what Hawke’s Bay expected.

From a people and business perspective, managing through a disaster creates additional issues to navigate. Resilient Organisations, a research and consultancy group, classify the stages of looking after staff in a major disaster into four areas – planning for your people, responding to the situation, rebuilding a better future and leadership.

The Dichotomy

The impacts from the cyclone appear to be a dichotomy – those affected and those not. There is now potentially a third category – those presented with an opportunity in the rebuild. Employers successfully navigated the first weeks after the cyclone and (from what we have seen) supported staff through that first week. It is worth noting, however, that just like the Christchurch earthquake, the six-week mark can be tough – the novelty has worn off, adrenaline is no longer flowing, and the rest of the world seems to be moving on. If some of your staff “hit a wall” at this point, you are not alone. WorkSafe are currently emphasising a focus on mentally healthy workplaces with the expectation that employers proactively manage mental health as part of their health and safety management plan. For staff that are notably impacted, keep this in mind.

The Downside

There are some sad stories emerging where a small number of impacted businesses will need to downscale for a time
or cease operations altogether. While there has been a natural disaster, employers are still required to follow through on contractual obligations. As such, any changes to their people’s working arrangements and restructures need to
be supported by the right conversations, processes and documentation. This will require some short and longer-term planning. Disestablishing positions requires a robust process and considerations to individual employment agreements, legislation and procedural correctness is required. It is advisable to seek advice from an HR consultant or employment lawyer to get this process right.


Building confidence in leadership during times like this is important. Likewise, leaders need to instil confidence. The recent report on the Auckland response to the January flooding highlights this. Visibility in leadership in times like this is important. Amid COVID-19, business confidence has dissipated. We have seen leadership and team dynamics fraying and resilience and agility has been tested. Guide your leaders through change and build their capabilities to manage issues. Coaching and leadership development is a great investment right now.

The Upside

There are others for whom the rebuild poses great opportunity. Certain industries will need key skills on the ground floor and also in key technical roles such as engineering. When talent has already been difficult to source, having a clear strategy for finding the right staff will be vital. Having a good Talent Strategy will provide a set of plans and initiatives to attract, develop and retain quality people, and assists in identifying skills and capabilities required to achieve organisational goals and programmes to develop your people. If your business is trying to pivot, you will need new skills and potentially some people who are different to those you’ve have hired before. You will need to plan for this.

Your Talent Strategy

Five components you should feature in your strategy:

Attracting great employees requires identifying specifically your EVP (Employee Value Proposition), Analysing the candidate experience as a litmus test – would a great candidate who came a close second for the job give you a positive rating for your recruitment process and refer a friend to you? Measure your Return On Investment in your process, even just the basics – how long to fill the vacancy, where did we advertise, how much did it cost, which channel did the quality candidates apply through and, after six months in the job, were they a good or bad hire? Good data enables us to continuously improve what we do. The definition of success is also shifting for employees. Beyond just job title and pay, looking to find a balance in hours worked, organisational culture, mental and physical health, development and progression, and job satisfaction will help retain and attract talent.

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