Preparing for cybersecurity crisis communication

Coherent communication with employees during a crisis is essential to effective incident response. As such, HR’s role in crisis management should focus on swift and clear team conversations.

Coherent communication with employees during a crisis is essential to incident response. A business’s staff is one of its most important assets. As such, HR’s role in crisis management should focus on swift and effective team conversations.

1. Communicate Resource Availability

Research shows that people are less likely to seek stress recovery when they need it most. Employees may feel exhausted or worried during a cybersecurity crisis but keep it to themselves because they don’t want to be a burden.

Chronic job-related stress can cause burnout, causing employee performance to drop significantly. Additionally, the chance of workplace accidents drastically increases. To mitigate these events, HR professionals must alleviate their symptoms through intervention programs. 

Comprehensive HR communication is essential to the success of crisis mitigation because it gives staff consistent support. They may not be aware of the available assistance — like mental health days or temporary copay reduction — so it’s imperative to inform them.

2. Initiate Contact Immediately

How soon should a business inform employees of a cybersecurity crisis? Although it depends on its severity, notifying them as quickly as possible is essential since they must understand the gravity of their employer’s situation. Additionally, they need to know if their day-to-day operations change.

3. Anticipate Potential Questions

HR professionals in finance, health or retail must be particularly well-versed in crisis communication because those sectors are the most common targets of cyberattacks. For instance, hackers often pursue commercial banking businesses since they store personally identifiable information like addresses, contact information and Social Security numbers.

Since cybersecurity incidents are standard in many industries, there is a wealth of previous concerns to draw from. HR professionals should search for frequently asked questions, use the relevant ones to create a list and provide in-depth answers. These preparations can make staff feel more confident, lending to better reactions. 

4. Keep Communication Open

Openness is one of the most important traits an HR professional can have during times of crisis. Thoughtful planning often pays off when people are flustered or shaken. In response to a cybersecurity incident, clear communication can reduce frustration and save them from constantly fielding the same questions.

Communicating with employees during a crisis is essential, even when they seem fine. The HR department should schedule meetings, provide opportunities for team roundtables and give staff a way to raise concerns anonymously.

5. Be Completely Transparent

Although HR professionals may feel inclined to keep concerning or particularly damaging information to themselves, transparency is crucial. Cybersecurity crises are common, so it’s unlikely staff will level judgment. Data breaches impacted over 281.5 million people in the United States in 2021. 

The HR role in crisis management involves effective communication to support the workplace. Without transparency, how will employees know if their reactions to the situation are appropriate? Additionally, honesty is crucial because misinformation results from people attempting to find answers themselves.

6. Directly Address Rumors

Most HR professionals are familiar with workplace rumors, but the issue becomes more concerning in times of crisis. Employees deserve to know what they are dealing with, even if the information is negative. The knowledge can help them feel structured. 

Effectively communicating with employees during a crisis involves misinformation mitigation. Directly and swiftly addressing gossip assures them that their leadership is competent and in control. A display of calm authority can also discourage further rumors from spreading around the workplace. 

7. Share the Incident Details

Sharing the details of a cybersecurity incident is a vital part of HR’s role in crisis management. It may feel intimidating, especially if it compromises any staff records. Still, professionals must be transparent and share relevant information once they validate it. 

Consider if ransomware locked most people out of crucial platforms essential for their jobs. What would happen if the HR department initially told them it was for maintenance, only to admit later an attack was the culprit? Staff would likely feel frustrated and misled. 

Understanding the true nature and details of the crisis can help them feel secure and confident in the business’s incident response. Additionally, it allows HR professionals to promote a unified, actionable message. Discussing specifics can help them communicate clear mitigation strategies.

8. Guarantee Confidentiality 

HR professionals should guarantee confidentiality as soon as possible to increase the chances of gaining insight. For example, say an employee knows that a senior individual’s negligent behavior was the root cause of the crisis. Would they feel comfortable coming forward or think their job is at risk?

Confidentiality is imperative when communicating with employees during a crisis because they need to feel secure. Even if they only approach HR with minor complaints or concerns, they should still feel comfortable enough to do so. Integrity in a high-stakes situation can establish a sense of lasting trust for the department. 

9. Establish a Cybersecurity Culture

A culture of cybersecurity is instrumental because it helps ensure a crisis doesn’t occur again. Although no preventive measure has a 100% success rate, increasing employees’ understanding can strengthen the workplace against similar incidents.

The HR role in crisis management is significant since more than 95% of cybersecurity incidents occur because of human error. Employees are often the root cause of data breaches — a single misclick on a malicious advertisement or scam email can have lasting repercussions. 

Cybersecurity awareness will be at an all-time high during a cybersecurity crisis, making it an ideal time to communicate the importance of basic online safety precautions. HR professionals should use it to prepare workers for other scenarios and better understand the gravity of alternate situations. 

10. Mediate for Upper Management

HR’s role in crisis management often involves acting as a liaison for upper management and staff. They must address each party’s concerns and determine how to align their capabilities and goals. It can be complex and time-consuming, but supporting them to deliver clear messages and expectations can help everyone handle the crisis effectively.  

11. Establish Assistance Policies

Most HR professionals have many assistance programs at their disposal, but a crisis may necessitate new policies. For example, they can introduce remote work options if staff feels uncomfortable dealing with the event’s publicity. 

This approach can also benefit the workplace, which is incredibly helpful when everyone must take on significant workloads due to the incident response. According to one study, 88% of HR professionals feel their offerings of mental health programs increase employee productivity. 

HR Communication Is Key for Incident Response

HR communication is a vital part of a business’s incident response. Their department may not deal directly with cybersecurity incidents, but their work is foundational to the integrity of a workplace during times of uncertainty. Swiftly and efficiently communicating with employees during a crisis is imperative for success.

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