Posted on / Updated on / in Blog & Employee Morale & Employee Relations /

As we approach the tenth anniversary of the attacks that took place in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, emotions are high.

 

We knew we wanted to talk about the subject in our blog, but how? How do you write about something that affected so many people and changed an entire nation?

Since we are HR professionals, we automatically thought that we should use this anniversary to discuss the importance of having an emergency plan in place. But then we got to thinking:  When a tragedy of such magnitude strikes, no emergency plan (no matter how specific and no matter how many times it was practiced until perfect) would be sufficient.

Instead, we want everyone to reflect on one of the important lessons from that day.

Employees are people too.

It seems simple enough. You wouldn’t think it would take a tragedy to remind us of such a simplistic, yet important message.

At Integrity HR, we are in the people business. After all, the first word in our job title is “human.” But all too often, employers and human resource professionals forget that their employees, co-workers or subordinates are people too; people who have families and worries and stress and lives outside of the office.

When the planes hit the towers, we assume most CEOs weren’t worried about their business or how much it would cost to rebuild the office, but rather, they were worried about the safety of the people trapped inside.

 

One of our consultants was living and working in New York City during the attacks. She stood with her co-workers at the windows of their building and watched the first tower collapse. She saw the second plane hit and her co-workers fall to their knees in shock. Some employees left work right away and didn’t come back for days. As the HR manager, she didn’t follow the normal procedures. She didn’t penalize the employees for taking time off. She saw them as people, people who needed time to grieve.

It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years. Some days it seems like it was just yesterday that we were glued to our televisions watching the heartbreaking events unfold. Other days when we are so wrapped up in yet another ugly election filled with smear campaigns, it is hard to remember a time when our country ever agreed on anything. But on that September morning, we all experienced devastation, we all felt scared, and we all united. On that day, we remembered why our country is called The United States of America.

Our consultant who was living in NYC at the time says it was amazing to watch how New Yorkers (who are stereotyped as being cold, indifferent and rude) pulled together and helped one another. While it was wonderful to see everyone come together, it is unfortunate that it takes such a horrific attack to remind us to be kind to one another.

So remember: don’t wait for a tragedy in your business to appreciate your employees as people.

You should also take some time to think about how your company will address 9/11.

Some suggestions include:

• Offering grief counseling to employee’s who lost someone on that day.

• Publicizing external resources and support groups.

• Releasing a statement from leadership or memo from the CEO expressing his/her thoughts on the day.

• Taking a moment of silence for all the lives lost in the attacks.

We all carry the scars of that fateful day. What are you memories from that day? How has your life and/or work changed since 9/11? How do you plan on commemorating the tenth anniversary?

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about the author: Amy Letke

Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success.