Crisis management during the pandemic

At Royal IHC, the Corporate Crisis Management Team (CCMT) uses an integrated approach to ensure careful decision-making, coordination and communication. ‘In the unprecedented corona crisis, scenario planning has proven to be a crucial tool for taking the right measures quickly. Consistent and regular communications were also essential to give confidence to our employees in these uncertain times.’

Hans Greve is Royal IHC’s PMG Director Mining, as well as Chairman of the CCMT. This team consists of a permanent core of seven employees from disciplines including HR, Operations, SHEQ and Communications. Additionally, colleagues from different departments fulfil specific support and backup roles within crisis management, and there is also an international CCMT.

According to Hans, all these employees are well trained and prepared for crises, but the COVID-19 dynamics brought many complexities: “The situation and information were constantly changing, and it was a huge challenge to understand what the crisis meant. To anticipate all possible effects, we developed various scenarios. As a result, we were always able to switch quickly and take appropriate measures.”


“We immediately repatriated employees who were detained abroad and implemented a strict travel policy,” continues Hans. “We also purchased extra disinfectants and protective equipment such as masks. The corona measures announced in March, such as hygiene rules, keeping your distance, and working from home as much as possible, had to be tightened up immediately.

“At the end of March, we started taking temperature measurements at Royal IHC locations, which made employees even more aware that they could not come to site if they were not feeling well. Through our dashboards, we have insights into indicators such as the number of infections, the disease percentage, and absenteeism. When we could see the number of infections increasing rapidly during the second wave, we acted swiftly to close certain sites for a week-and-a-half.”

I-CARE Coaches

A big challenge was the distance rule: how do you stay 1.5-metres apart in work-related situations? “Halfway through the year, we increased our focus on the yards which required a great deal of extra attention,” adds Hans. “Many of our people work in locations with limited space or with many colleagues and subcontractors on a ship. This required special measures that can differ per location. 

“Additionally, the scope of control is more limited for subcontractors: new teams are always being put together. They must also take sufficient precautions and responsibility for all measures we take on site. All of this makes it fairly complex, and to this end, we used announcements, posters and I-CARE Coaches who were involved in the workplace.”


Royal IHC gave employees the space to organise their professional and private lives. The company paid attention to the impact of the corona crisis on mental well-being. For example, the CCMT asked managers and supervisors to catch up regularly with their teams on an individual basis.

“In this way, we tried to reduce the pressure on people,” says Hans. “A positive aspect of this period is that we have learned to find each other and work together differently. Our employees also took many initiatives upon themselves to maintain contact, such as organising online ‘pub quizzes’. I hope that these fun initiatives continue beyond the corona situation.”


According to Hans, one of the most important rules is – and will continue to be – clear communications: telling everyone in the organisation, what and why something is being done in a timely way. “Between June and September, we were able to offer people the opportunity to work in the office again: with an occupancy rate of up to 25%. These rules were communicated and explained in toolbox meetings.”

The announcement of the reorganisation plans was also supervised with great care. “All employees receiving bad news were invited to the office for a personal meeting. We also set up a scenario for this so that it could take place in a safe setting while limiting the number of people in the office at the same time.”

Hans concludes that tremendous hard work went into tackling the challenges together. “In some cases, we could have been stricter, but we didn’t know how quickly the virus would spread. You can never be satisfied because every contamination is one too many. In January 2021, Royal IHC gave all employees a COVID-19 inconvenience allowance. I thought that was a nice token of appreciation for their great commitment, flexibility and perseverance. All of our employees deserve a big compliment for this.”