Protecting the Employees Protects the Business
- Published on October 28, 2007
Amongst the more than one hundred dead were four senior personnel from Israel Aircraft Industries. On Wednesday, July 17, 1996 a TWA flight from New York to Paris crashed off the shores of Long Island. Some two dozen company employees headed for vacation perished in that crash. No, neither IAI nor TWA faced a total work closure due to these incidents, but there certainly was a cost to the work product. Even in the best run companies, productive employees with extensive experience cannot be replaced overnight. As a result, an effective recovery plan should take such fatal accidents into consideration.
It is almost always impractical to forbid a group to travel together. Although it would prevent loss of numerous employees in the same accident, this approach, however, could have very negative effects on the team work effort, particularly where transportation between destinations is problematic. Extending such rules to ground transportation would transform logistics into an operation more complicated and time-consuming than actual work.
That taken is not to say, however, that no contingency planning steps can be taken. A cornerstone of sound business planning is to document all work for various company reasons. Such a procedure can ease the burden on new employees hired to replace someone who has passed away. In a situation in which no one can help 'break in' the new employee, at least they can fall back upon full and concise records. Better business says not to dash from the meeting room to the airport.
It is always better to summarize the meeting while details are still fresh in mind. Disaster recovery planning say drop a copy of the notes or the negotiated contract into the mail. That is insurance not only against major disasters which include loss of life, but also against smaller incidents such as lost or stolen luggage.
In cases of Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and TWA, the loss of personnel and experience was hard, but business must continue, and so it did. It is not enough to worry about papers, contracts, and records. A key factor is the company involvement in recovering and identifying the bodies of the deceased, returning them home for burial, and assisting the surviving families to adjust to their loss. Such involvement can serve as a comforting model to other employees who will also be called upon at some future date to travel for the company. For IAI that meant not only sitting with the families to tend to their needs, but also sending a representative to the crash site in the Comoros.
It should always be remembered that it is not enough that a disaster plan be technically correct; it must always take into consideration humanitarian concerns.
Dr. Jay Levinson resides in Jerusalem, Israel.