Organisations can improve as recovery grows

30 January 2013

A University of Canterbury researcher is looking at how organisations can improve their response and recovery in disasters and provide local businesses with best practice.

Organisations can improve as recovery grows

Dr Joana Kuntz

A University of Canterbury researcher is looking at how organisations can improve their response and recovery in disasters and provide local businesses with best practice recommendations in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes.

UC organisation lecturer Dr Joana Kuntz says she is working with a team of national and international researchers to draw on their expertise in disaster recovery, management, psychology and business engineering to identify how organisations can improve their response and recovery from disasters.

"We want to provide Christchurch-impacted businesses with best practice recommendations in the aftermath of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. We are also involving students through summer scholarships in data collection for this large-scale project.

"Our group’s advisory team includes a group of academics from several universities and research institutes in the United States that have been affiliated to the Katrina Research Centre, New Orleans.

"From their research and experience – largely focused on building infrastructure resilience – we have learned about strategies that significantly contribute to post-disaster recovery and increase the resilience of local businesses.

"Partnerships between organisations, shifting from a reactive culture to a proactive culture and greater involvement of businesses with the community are some of the measures that have expedited business recovery in the aftermath of natural hazards,’’ Dr Kuntz said today.

One of the most interesting findings of the research conducted in other disaster-hit areas from the US to China was the variety of reactions observed from workers, and the fact that these reactions depended largely on the strategies employed by the organisations to manage their staff.

She said while some organisations reported low morale, productivity and attendance after the disasters, others actually noted an improvement in employee engagement and performance.

"This information, along with data collected locally in the past couple of years, provides us with useful knowledge of the management strategies that make positive contributions to staff attitudes and performance and those that fail to draw out positive results.

"People definitely hold some individual responsibility for developing resilience, as community members and as professionals. Organisational leaders and managers have a crucial role in facilitating changes in staff attitudes and behaviours at work.

"Exhibiting supportive behaviours such as granting leave to employees whose personal lives were affected by the earthquake, involving staff members in the new direction of the company, making appropriate changes to policies and safety procedures and fostering cooperative behaviours are some of the strategies managers can employ to reconnect employees with their work and with the organisation.

"My research projects focus primarily on organisational responsiveness to disasters. I am interested in employee perceptions of the quality of responses provided by their organisation in the aftermath of the earthquakes.

"I am developing a survey along with UC psychology lecturer Dr Katharina Naswall to distribute to a variety of Christchurch businesses across different industries. The survey aims to identify behaviours and strategies that contributed to improved employee wellbeing and performance after the disasters and resulted in lasting positive effects for businesses and staff.

"The results of this large-scale research project will hopefully provide Christchurch organisations with the necessary tools to become more flexible, proactive and resilient. This will allow local businesses to adapt to the new post-disaster reality,’’ Dr Kuntz said.

For further informationplease contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Communications and External Relations
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168
kip.brook@canterbury.ac.nz

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