It’s hard to believe that Mr. Bartender and I have lived in North Florida for about a year. While living in Fort Lauderdale was nice and there are things I miss about living there, one thing I don’t miss is hurricane season. Every year from June 1 to November 30, the mere mention of a storm keeps you on edge. Even when a hurricane doesn’t form or directly impact you.
The hotel I worked at in Fort Lauderdale was in an interesting situation. It was located in the West area of the county away from the coastline. When storms threatened the area, we weren’t required to evacuate. In fact, the hotel got busy with everyone else evacuating. This created a difficult scheduling situation – employees wanted to leave to secure their homes and be with their families. The company wanted that too BUT they had all of these extra guests showing up.
Use debriefs as a guide. There’s research that shows teams who conduct debriefs perform better. At the hotel, we used to conduct a debrief after every hurricane activity. Even if the hurricane didn’t happen. If we activated the committee, we did a debrief. And we used those old debrief notes to make recommendations for the future. This practice applies in any situation, not just emergencies.
Start cross-training employees. Flexible staffing would be so much easier when employees have the skills to do it. Organizations can expand their scheduling options by cross-training employees to do other things. Not only would this help the operation when unexpected activities occur, but it could help employees every day with shift trades and taking time off.
Conduct practice activities. When the organization sees an opportunity, use it as a teaching moment for managers. For example, ask managers how they would adjust their schedule if X-situation happens. The manager doesn’t need to rewrite their entire schedule. Just have them say, “I would do this…move this group here…etc.” This will get managers thinking about the unexpected and have the ability to react when necessary.
Most of the time, dealing with the unexpected isn’t fun. The last thing we want is to be managing an unexpected situation and be understaffed at the same time. Organizations can mitigate the surprise by starting preparations early.11