Mourners place flowers and pictures in the name cut-out of Kyung Hee (Casey) Cho at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, in New York. Americans are commemorating 9/11 as a new national crisis in the form of the coronavirus pandemic reconfigures and divides anniversary ceremonies and a presidential campaign carves a path through the observances (John Minchillo/AP/Shutterstock)

Remembering 9/11: What Companies Can Learn About Addressing Crisis

On the 11th day in September 2001, when 19 hijackers took over four West Coast-destined planes, 2,977 people, ranging from 2 to 85 years old, died. 

Three hundred and forty-three were FDNY firefighters, 23 NYPD, and 37 were Port Authority officers. An attack that experts say cost approximately $500,000 to plan and execute resulted in the $123 billion economic loss the first four weeks after the first plane crashed.  

Nineteen years later, younger employees may hardly remember the attacks, others can recall every detail of the day and may have even lost loved ones as a result. Addressing the event that changed America’s national security, industry and morale is important in ensuring your workforce knows that even as time passes, our country will never forget those who lost their lives on 9/11.

Response to Sept. 11 offers insights into crisis communication — wisdom your organization can continue to glean nearly two decades later. Here are three ways to address 9/11 in your workplace in 2020.

Focus on employee morale.

In a 2002 issue of the Harvard Business Review, author Paul A. Argenti wrote about the importance of employee well-being and morale. Argenti explained that before businesses contemplated how to reassure customers and investors, they must prioritize their workforce. These lessons apply in 2020, especially as we face a different crisis: COVID-19. Check in on your teams, especially on the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. Encourage reflection. Success begins from the inside and starts with employees feeling supported and heard.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), support in times of crisis help employees perform at their best. “A wealth of research shows that a supportive work environment enhances health and well-being, especially during times of crisis,” the APA states.

Offer resources beyond your own internal communications.

Post-traumatic stress and other anxiety reactions can affect many in the wake of a crisis. Those with vivid memories of 9/11 might feel those traumas reignite on the anniversary. Make clear any resources your company may offer to help them cope with the difficult day.

In regard to addressing crises, the APA says, “Professional mental health counseling from a qualified professional should also be made available and encouraged but should not be mandatory.”

As a result of COVID-19, many companies have offered resources to employees in the form of wellness-tracking and support apps — technological offerings not nearly as available in the early 2000s. Kaiser Permanente introduced the myStrength app during the COVID-19 crisis and Marriott recently introduced the meQuilibrium app as well. These resources available to employees gained traction as a result of the pandemic, but are positive tools moving forward as well.

Communicate.

In the early 2000s when the fear of further foreign attacks on the U.S. was palpable, employees wanted to be sure their leaders could communicate with them when crisis hit. “Whether natural or man-made, disasters often disrupt normal flows of communication,” Argenti wrote. “Phone lines and power lines may be destroyed. Computer networks may go down. Groups of employees may be stranded or isolated. This was certainly the situation many companies faced after 9/11.”

Although technology is more effective nearly 20 years later, communication through various channels is still important — and the fear of disaster continues to loom in this volatile global environment. Since most employees are likely still working remotely as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, now might be the best time to get creative with how you might want to reach out to them to discuss the anniversary of 9/11 and the emotions that come with it. Video chats, webinar-like presentations or inter-company forums are all positive platforms to engage in discussion.

Share ways your company has adjusted to crisis-response in a post-9/11 world and discuss how new technologies have affected your crisis plans. Though most organizations are unlikely to directly suffer terrorist attacks, plans that address how to respond to crisis and violence can quell uneasiness and help employees feel equipped to handle uncertainty.

“Involving employees in emergency planning is critical to foster a sense of control, which is essential for employee well-being and productivity,” the APA advises. “Encouraging employees to establish back up plans for themselves and their dependents could further enhance well-being.”

Latest News

Three BASF Women Leaders Honored at the Manufacturing Institute’s 2021 STEP Ahead Awards

Originally published at basf.com. BASF ranked No. 12 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   Three BASF leaders in manufacturing were among 130 women recognized nationally at The Manufacturing Institute’s ninth annual STEP Ahead Awards. Focusing on science, technology, engineering and production (STEP), the program recognizes women…

Wells Fargo Pledges $1 Million to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund for HBCU Seniors

Originally published at newsroom.wf.com. Wells Fargo ranked No. 25 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   Wells Fargo and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) are teaming up to help close the graduation gap for college seniors attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The $1 million Thurgood Marshall…

Hershey Employees and Retirees in the US and Canada Pledged More Than $900,000 in 2021 To Support Nonprofit Organizations

Originally published on LinkedIn. The Hershey Company ranked No. 10 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.    Each year, our Season of Giving campaign encourages Hershey employees to make a difference by supporting nonprofit organizations which they find to be meaningful. Employees and retirees in…

Creating Windows and Mirrors: Hershey’s Amber Murayi on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the ‘World’s Top Female-Friendly Company’

Amber Murayi is the Hershey Company’s Senior Director of Enterprise Strategy & Business Model Innovation & Co-lead of the Women’s Business Resource Group. The Hershey Company ranked No. 10 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.    My position affords me a unique view of DEI…

Author Alice Sebold

Author Alice Sebold Apologizes for Her Role in the Wrongful Conviction of the Black Man Charged With Raping Her

In her acclaimed 1999 memoir Lucky, author Alice Sebold told the story of being raped in 1981 when she was a student at Syracuse University. The case resulted in a Black man named Anthony Broadwater being convicted and sent to prison. Sadly, Broadwater was innocent and wrongfully convicted — and…

Black renters

New Study Reveals Landlords Consistently Discriminate Against Potential Renters With Black or Hispanic ‘Sounding’ Names

In the largest study of its kind ever conducted, researchers with the National Bureau of Economic Research have uncovered what many people of color already know when hunting for an apartment or home: most landlords consistently discriminate or harbor bias against non-white individuals looking to rent their property.  Bloomberg’s Kelsey…