HR Lessons from Hurricane Ian

On Monday, September 26, 2022 at 4:06PM, my colleagues and I received an update from Raymond James CEO Paul Reilly announcing the closure of our headquarters in St Petersburg, FL.  You see, the Tampa/St. Pete area was in the consensus track for a direct hit by Hurricane Ian. I live in “Zone A”, the first of several zones to be included in the mandatory evacuation issued by Pinellas County.  My neighbors and I left our homes in search of higher ground and safer space.  I took a video of my home, packed important papers, some photos and several days’ supply of food and retreated to an Orlando hotel.  In an odd twist of fate, it happened to be near the Typhoon Lagoon theme park.  Really. 

I was lucky – upon my return to St. Petersburg, I found my home relatively unscathed.  Yet, weeks later I continued to follow tragic stories of fellow Floridians who had lost their homes, their livelihoods, and a lifetime of personal belongings.  As I reflect on what could have occurred, I am in awe at how vulnerable we all can be to life’s twists and turns.  While tragic situations like Hurricane Ian, a sudden disability or life-threatening disease cannot be predicted, individuals need to plan for and insure against the risk of such occurrences.

Now more than ever, American workers turn to their employers for financial support. In fact, nearly 70% of workers said that “I wish my employer would recommend financial strategies to me based on my financial goals.”1 We know that the number one driver of retirement plan distributions during the onset of the COVID pandemic was a participant’s lack of emergency savings to support a disruption in their cash flow.  From an employee’s perspective, the 401(k) is a logical place to look but as HR professionals we know it’s not ideal.  Retirement savings should be for retirement and longer-term financial independence.

So it begs the question:  Anticipating some type of disruption (including today’s volatile and unpredictable markets), what are you doing to help your employees manage the following risk mitigating tools?

  • Emergency savings
  • Disability insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Loans/Hardship Withdrawals from Retirement Plans

It’s open enrollment season – let’s use this opportunity to educate our employees and remind them of all the available resources through the various corporate benefit programs.  And importantly, let’s challenge ourselves to offer our employees even more over the next 12 months.

1 Source: Franklin Templeton's 2022 Voice of the American Worker Survey. Q305a: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements? (Top 2 Box, n=1,005)

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