My sister lives in Houston, and many of you have asked if she’s fine. Short answer: Yes. She’s safe. It’s been a stressful few days for our family, but nothing compared to what she’s experiencing. And, since she has the capacity and a bigger heart than her older sister, some extra people and dogs are staying with her.

Tragedy brings out the best in some people, which is why I’m hoping my colleagues in human resources all over America start thinking about how they can assist the residents of Texas once the immediate tragedy subsides.

HR can save the day. Here are some ideas.

Pay people for as long as you can.

    Most Americans don’t earn enough to cover a $500 home repair, let alone a flood that wipes out their entire existence. And, yet, the individuals who have the least give are giving the most. If you work for a major corporation, give everything you can and pay people for as long as you can. Especially those retail and restaurant workers. Continue your direct deposits as if nothing has happened. When the water recedes, write checks and hand out cash to employees without bank accounts. Can’t afford to pay people who aren’t working? Ask executives to forgo bonuses and pay people to stay home and clean up their lives. Don’t demand anything in return. It’s the kind of investment that pays dividends down the road.

Double down on remote work and transfers.

    The best antidote for personal pain is the distraction of a good and meaningful job. After a tragedy like Harvey, some families will have no choice but to move in with relatives and friends all over America. If you can accommodate remote work, do it. If you can transfer somebody from one retail or restaurant unit to another, make it happen. Give people something to do other than obsessing about what they’ve just lost.

Think creatively about PTO.

    We all know that unlimited PTO is a lie. But people are going to need some time off. Daycare and eldercare are disrupted. School schedules are jacked up. Somewhere between a total free-for-all and a coal mine, you should give your workers space and freedom to take care of personal issues. If you don’t let your people address the logistics challenges in their lives, small problems can turn into ongoing nightmares and stressful mental health challenges.

I’m not saying that the entire function of HR should stop what it’s doing and rush to the aid of flood victims in Texas, mostly because we have no idea what some of these individuals will need in the days and weeks to come. But when it’s possible to implement humane policies proactively, you should do it.

Tomorrow is too late. Start today. Harvey is an opportunity to show the growth of your industry and doubling down on the “human” part of human resources.


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