Do you know where your employees are?

When news of the bombing at the Marriott in Islamabad came through, I had two immediate reactions: first, horror at yet another devastating terrorist attack; and second, what about Z. and his family and employees, were any of them hurt in the attack?  (The good news is no, none of them were in the hotel at the time.)

This is one of the repercussions of working in a global network, that disasters in any part of the world may have an impact on your colleagues and business operations.  It becomes essential to be able to track and communicate with your employees and business partners at all times.   If you are at the early stages of entering international markets or operations, you should consider implementing some best practices from global firms, such as:

  • Enforce the use of a corporate travel agency for all travel, so that you can immediately track planned business travel into and out of an emergency zone.  Employees may want to use a travel site to get a lower fare for a given flight, but if there is an emergency, of any kind, you must be able to find all employees (just remember back to September 11, 2001).  This becomes even more important when a disaster changes travel options (note that British Airways announced today that they are suspending their flights to Islamabad indefinitely).
  • Gather and maintain emergency contact information for all employees; ask employees to update this at least once per year, or whenever there is a change in status (particularly if they make an international move).  Have a back-up copy stored at a different location (you already have this as part of your Business Continuity Plan, right?).
  • Ensure that new project teams gather several kinds of contact information, both on and off the corporate network, as part of their start-up (a time when team members are more likely to be traveling, often to new locations).  This is a small task that can be easily added into your project management methodology.
  • Subscribe to news alerts from the state department, and ensure that someone in your organization monitors these and takes appropriate action – from sharing information to travel bans to relocating employees on an emergency basis.
  • Provide all employees traveling internationally with regional/international coverage for their mobile phones/email devices.  I got stranded in Mumbai for three days after the record rainfall on July 26, 2005, and promised myself I would never travel without a local mobile phone again, and made sure that travelers in my department had access to “loaner” phones.

These are just starting points, and are focused only on being able to find and communicate with employees.  Businesses that have gone through a disaster, though, will tell you that that is usually the first and most important step, connecting employees with their families.

With condolences going out to all of the family members of those caught in the Marriott attack.

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