Mastering crises professionally –

Good preparation and the necessary specialist knowledge are important in order to survive crises with as little drama as possible for companies and employees, and ideally to use the opportunities that always lie in crises.

The 2020s have been tough so far. After the global Covid pandemic, the next crises followed without a breather: the war in Ukraine and the energy shortage. The challenges for companies are great, ranging from economic turbulence to crises that threaten their existence. This also affects the employees. “Crises bring with them uncertainties, since the consequences (what are the concrete effects that will have on me?) cannot be assessed immediately,” says Alexandra Cloots, professor at the Eastern Swiss University of Applied Sciences OST. “Anxieties about the job, position, salary, future developments and the associated consequences for private life can arise. Crises can bring with them a great potential for exhaustion and have a negative impact on the health of employees.”

take chances

That’s one side, but every crisis also harbors opportunities that can be used for positive developments: “The term crisis often conveys a negative image of change,” explains Alexandra Cloots.

“But crises or changes can also contain something positive: We come out of our comfort zone and learn a lot in reflection.”

During the corona pandemic, for example, employees reoriented themselves, home offices and new working models were able to establish themselves and the digital transformation in companies received a strong boost.

The destructive potential of crises on the one hand and their creative potential on the other make crisis management a success factor for companies. What does it take in principle for companies and employees to be as well prepared as possible for crises and to survive them in the best possible way? “A culture of trust in organizations is an important basis,” explains Alexandra Cloots. “If an organization has a stable starting point here, everyone has already benefited a lot. If employees have confidence in their organization and are involved in the development of solutions and are well informed, this helps enormously in crisis situations.»

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Raise awareness of crises

For companies, this also means that they have to develop an awareness of what crises can trigger in employees. “We are looking for answers to questions such as: What does the crisis situation mean for us as a company and, as a result, what does this mean for our employees and how do we deal with it?” Alexandra Cloots explains. “Solutions should be worked out together with the employees. Good, i.e. transparent, communication is also required. The organizations should have a preventative crisis communication plan in place to train managers in how to deal with crisis situations and how to pick up employees’ thoughts and develop solutions together.»

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Scientific perspective with high practical relevance

Professional crisis management also calls for professional training. Corresponding know-how is in demand and offers good prospects in the job market. At the OST, for example, crisis management is an important aspect of the further training offer (CAS) New Leadership in team and self-leadership. The School of Engineering at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) offers specific training courses (CAS) in crisis management and crisis communication. “The students benefit from a comprehensive consideration of risk and crisis aspects,” explains Dr. Christian Zipper, Director of Studies MAS Integrated Risk Management. “These are examined from a scientific perspective in the ZHAW courses, but always with a high level of practical relevance. This allows everyone who completes our courses to apply what they have learned directly in their everyday work. The network between lecturers and students proves to be a valuable addition.»

Rare events with serious consequences

Crisis management and communication are cross-divisional and cross-departmental issues in companies and the target group for training is very diverse. “Our courses are aimed at executives in companies and protection organizations, employees in safety, risk, communication, quality and environmental management as well as members of the management board,” explains Christian Zipper. “Employees in communications departments who want to expand their skills in dealing with crises professionally also benefit from our courses. Representatives from consulting, controlling and compliance are increasingly represented in our classes.»

Luckily, crises are rare occurrences, and both the companies and the vast majority of employees have correspondingly little experience in crisis management. “That’s why the courses also show how you can develop a realistic idea of ​​possible emergencies and crises,” explains Christian Zipper. “Here you need the courage to deal with events that you would rather not think about at all, such as a killing spree in a public building or a power shortage lasting several weeks.”

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