Human Resources Management in Disaster Preparedness and Response

Süleyman İslamoğlu
Turkish Red Crescent Deputy Director General

The world went through a process of comprehensive change and transformation in 2020, the effects of which have been felt in every field. While talking about wars, disasters, poverty, refugee problems, human rights violations, and crises caused by climate change, COVID-19 made itself known at the start of 2020 and caused radical changes in many areas by quickly transforming into a worldwide pandemic.

While the “New Normal” created living conditions alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, this situation reshaped work life, especially human resources; concepts such as flexible work, remote work, digital workforce, and mobility (workforce area of movement no limited to space) quickly entered our lives. The importance of digital infrastructure that will provide work sustainability and increase efficiency in parallel with these changes and innovations in work models has increased on one hand, while on the other, investments in employees’ health and safety have become a priority.

As the epidemic reaches dangerous dimensions, various regulations, in particular the understanding of social distance and curfew restrictions, have been implemented to prevent the epidemic in many countries and protect public health. While institutions have attempted to continue their work, they also struggle to comply with the restrictions; in this process mobility and working from home have become an urgent solution to the business community. This situation has made technology’s inclusion in business processes an inevitable necessity and accelerated the efforts of institutions to redesign their digitalization practices and business processes.

Making new regulations applicable to employees as a result of the changes arising in work models has become obligatory beyond being a necessity in many areas such as reshaping business processes, strengthening digital infrastructure and ensuring data security, sustainable work environments that support occupational health and safety, designing communication and information flow reshaping leadership, strengthening the business and corporate culture and employee adoption, empowering institutional sense of belonging, an maintaining the balance between work and life.

 The main goals of the Turkish Red Crescent have been to create awareness of people, time, place, and property in disasters requiring an overall struggle and excessive reinforcing of their place in our lives with the new paradigm in 2020, as well as to ensure business continuity in all situations and conditions through all work models. Aside from the disasters that have emerged during the ongoing pandemic, programs conducted on safe blood supplies, social assistance, and disadvantaged groups that ensure the continuity of humanitarian aid and need to continue uninterrupted have adapted to this situation in a short time through the Red Crescent’s technological infrastructure and workforce despite needing to work intensively from the field and the office; by implementing the prepared alternative risk plans, no cuts have been experienced in humanitarian aid.

While the Red Crescent has continued to respond to the pandemic, it has also served in coordination and collaboration through the work teams and volunteers in many areas, especially providing services for the earthquakes in Elazığ, Malatya, Van, and İzmir, the flooding in Giresun, and nutrition to our citizens taken into quarantine in KYK Dormitories, especially the duties within the scope of the Vefa Support Groups.

The investments Red Crescent has made in its technological infrastructure in previous years and the structuring of human resources to meet the instantly changing needs have been a facilitating factor for the Red Crescent in this process. In this context;

  • All Red Crescent business processes are prepared in a way that protects work teams and the Red Crescent volunteers by preparing the Emergency Preparedness and Business Continuity Plan, which contain various action plans against pandemic situations in January 2020, which were the first days the pandemic’s trend was observed to be spreading throughout the world
  • Necessary measures were taken with the first cases seen in Turkey through work-in-shift and remote working models, especially Red Crescent employees in risk classes by accelerating measures for protecting human resources
  • Arrangements were made within the scope of COVID-19 measures in work offices, dining halls, personnel services, and all indoor spaces
  • Red Crescent employees were given regular trainings on how to protect from the COVID-19 outbreak
  • Red Crescent professionals and volunteers who came down with the virus due to the service they performed in the epidemic were provided support in their treatment and recovery processes
  • Business processes have been redesigned to be carried out on online platforms
  • All kinds of travel and activities for Turkish Red Crescent employees are carried out within the scope of COVID-19 measures
  • Teams have been set up for measuring people’s temperature at workplace entrances and exits, querying HEPP codes, taking temperatures during the day, and reviewing work environments in offices. These teams play an important role in regularly observing daily work environments, informing staff, and raising awareness.

The feedback received from the field while implementing these measures were discussed with great care; intervention quality for possible future scenarios have been developed to increase interventions at more effective levels. These improvements are not only considered as a process but also examined in terms of system, job requirements, and training and awareness areas; we act with the determination and effort of being constantly ready for tomorrow’s unknowns.

What’s been experienced in 2020 reveals the need for various activities to interact with each other and constantly renew within the expanding scope of the field of humanitarian aid. In addition to the change being experienced, the need is seen in institutions for new competencies, skills, and work models. Meanwhile, employee motivation, corporate culture, and corporate belonging are among the issues that need to be studied academically in institutions while implementing these new work models.

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