Hurricane Harvey has massively disrupted business, including contingent workforces. Staffing suppliers continue to scramble to make sure their staff and contingent workers are safe; contingent workforce client companies closed as flooding made roads impassable.

While the impact of this event is considerable, it was by no means unforeseeable, and serves as a reminder that having a catastrophe plan for contingent workforce operations can help you navagate stormy waters as well as possible when a devastating event occurs.

“Every contingent workforce program should have a catastrophe plan,” said Frank Enriquez, senior manager, contingent workforce strategies and research, at Staffing Industry Analysts.

It doesn’t really matter where you live; businesses anywhere are at risk of some sort of event, Enriquez said. It could be hurricane, tornado, earthquake, blizzard or something of a technological nature. The focus is to formulate a plan that keeps business as usual to the extent possible.

“It’s not easy to come up with that for sure, especially if you think about this situation in Houston,” he said. “The bulk of the contingent workforce headcount, staff augmentation or SOW is going to be in the area, so everybody is impacted trying to get to work.”

Some things contingent workforce managers need to look at is how to contact contingents to alert them of closures, how managers can be contacted to gain direction and whether operations can be done at a location outside the affected area, among other things.

“Getting rid of the doubt, of the unknown — somehow you need to do that,” Enriquez said.

The plan should tell people what to do when a specific event happens and should vary depending on the event.

With Hurricane Harvey, several staffing suppliers reported offices closures in the area as workers could not reach them due to flooding. Some suppliers also shifted operations to locations outside of the impacted area.

For example, Kelly Services’ Houston-area offices were closed and its headquarters in Michigan and offices in other parts of Texas are working to provide assistance to contact employees and process payroll among other things.

Staffing suppliers also checked to make sure their workers were safe.

“Right now, everybody is just trying to help everybody out and protect,” said Rick Burnett, VP/regional manager at Burnett Staffing Specialists, whose offices were also closed the early part of this week.

Of course, while Hurricane Harvey brings a lot of concerns, it could spur hiring of contingents in its aftermath as cleanup and rebuilding get underway. The US Department of Labor yesterday announced an initial grant of $10 million to help Texas assess its workforce needs and assist with cleanup, demolition, repair, renovation and reconstruction activities.