The intention of the Foundation’s series awareness@work is to shed light on how leaders within business organizations are responding to those impacted by a crisis in the workplace. Whether one person (customer, employee, family member) or a group of people are experiencing trauma, many organizations are initiating change in how their employees respond.
Awareness of how distressed people's needs are best met is rising dramatically with the evolution of Care and Special Assistance Teams throughout the world. Once cautioned against approaching a distressed survivor due to liability concerns, many companies today encourage employees to contact them without fear, expressing sorrow, and thereby showing genuine compassion toward the impacted individual.
This month’s article is based on an interview with Katrina Raynsford, Manager, CARE Team & Incident Support at Carnival UK (P&O Cruises and Cunard Line). Known as “Kat”, she was there from the very beginning of the program and was part of the team that created the program.
What is initiative? I'll tell you: It is doing the right thing without being told.
Napoleon Hill, American Self-Help Author (1883-1970)
In 2008 I met the Carnival UK leadership team and was impressed by the way they embraced the concepts of Care. Even back at the beginning, there was never a time when I as a trainer felt that I was “selling an idea” or trying to talk anyone into a new way of doing things. In fact, caring for guests, crew, and employees was already a priority. The answers below summarize Kat’s perspective on the growth of humanitarian assistance programs.
CVC: Since you first started your work involving humanitarian assistance in the workplace, what changes have you noticed in how people are responding when trauma or any suffering takes place?
KR: I believe there is greater emphasis on the humanitarian side as people have become more aware of its importance. Now in large responses, you’ll often see a reference to deployed Care Team or Special Assistance Teams when a company spokesperson is giving a briefing to the media. Sometimes you will read a social media post confirming the same.
Information sharing about the tragedy is critical of course at this time, and by acknowledging the emotional support and connection required by those affected in the trauma, the company is demonstrating they care about the people involved. In the past ten years, I have also seen more volunteers sign up to assistance programmes in which they can help others in crisis.
Resistance from organisations has also decreased with changing attitudes. Where there was initially fear in engaging with people involved in an incident, now organisations with Care Teams pro-actively contact those involved including their families, to extend immediate support.
CVC: To what do you attribute any positive changes?
KR: I think it’s only natural that organisations and people’s behaviour within those organisations evolve over time and social-consciousness has increased. Sadly, there have been many tragedies where lessons have been learnt from failings in a response, particularly around how families have been left feeling about their interaction with companies. Let’s not deny, it has also taken a few lawsuits along the way to prompt new understanding, guidance, and on occasions, legislation for changes to happen.
I do believe however that intrinsically ‘everyday’ people do want to help others in times of crisis and perhaps weren’t given the knowledge and skills to do so previously. Or they may have lacked confidence in case they said the wrong thing. Perhaps this is also influenced by greater awareness and focus on general well-being in our lives day-to-day, both physically and mentally; just look at how many apps are now available on your smart phone in this area!
CVC: Where do you see the greatest challenges going forward as we try to help companies respond from compassion instead of fear of lawsuits and/or questions about increasing liability by employee response?
KR: Organisations, especially those that are yet to experience a tragic event in their company, may question the need for this level of service or indeed responsibility that can be placed on their employees at all levels. They may also be mindful of costs involved especially in the current economic climate following a global pandemic.
Challenges are also there from the general public in a way they may not have been before. People have access to news 24/7 and I feel that those watching an incident unfurl now expect an all-encompassing empathic response from the organisation involved.
I would encourage any company big or small, to invest their time in ensuring they are ready to respond compassionately to any event affecting their organisation whether this be a disaster appearing on national news or something impacting only the employees internally.
Not only is it the right thing to do, but a company that demonstrates it cares by its tone when a spokesperson is speaking, its language in messaging, and of course by its actions, will gain respect and loyalty from its employees, customers and their families - that in itself is priceless.
I do believe however that intrinsically ‘everyday’ people do want to help others in times of crisis and perhaps weren’t given the knowledge and skills to do so previously.
Kat’s comment about people wanting to help others in crisis, but not knowing how, summarizes a major theme in Human Services Response™—and it certainly applies to her company. The desire was there, and it took very little from the outside to help the company move the philosophy along. Watching the Care program grow at Carnival UK has been a validation of the Foundation’s work and a great model for other companies who are initiating a Care Team to follow.
Kat also serves on the Business & Industry Advisory Board for the Foundation’s new institute dedicated to improving International Humanitarian Response. More information on the Family Assistance Education and Research Foundation (FAERF) Institute will be forthcoming.
For more about the Foundation and our programs, please contact Cheri Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at fafonline.org.