If you choose to become a company family liaison representative, and unfortunately have to perform that role one day, reason number one: it will probably turn out to be the best thing you’ve ever done in your working life. Not because it’s good for your CV, or because others will witness it and think you are wonderful, but because you’ll have supported a grieving family through the darkest and most difficult days of their lives. You’ll have provided a shoulder to cry on and a practical, honest account of what’s happening at any given point. You’ll have helped to make the unbearable bearable.
I know this because I’ve seen first-hand the impact a family liaison officer can have. As a police officer for more than 30 years I also performed this role. It was a slightly different role to the company family liaison representative (FLR), which you would be, but it is similar, and this blog is intended to share my experiences to help you make a decision on whether or not to become one.
There is no doubt that it takes a particular type of person to carry out this role. The support and empathy shown by FLRs cannot be over stated. Often people who are bereaved feel completely alone and isolated but by providing information to the families, you could help them take even the smallest steps forward. That’s reason number two. And, reason number three, FLRs can assist in ways that other family members cannot. One lady from Aberdeen whose husband was murdered told me how she listened to everything the police FLOs told her but couldn’t remember things family members said. She engaged with the police FLOs who visited every day, listening and communicating with them, but had difficulty remembering anything between their visits or anything anyone else spoke to her about. This wasn’t just because they were police officers; it was because of their specific role and because they weren’t family or friends.
Company FLRs were used for the first time, albeit none of them trained, in the helicopter tragedy on 1 April 2009 in which 16 people died. There was one company FLR and two police FLOs allocated to each family. All families spoke very highly of the relationships formed with the company FLRs and the essential role they played. Reason number four: most families stated that they would not have got through those first few days without the support of the FLO/Rs.
Families tell us it is far better to be supported by company employees who know the company, but not the family. Best practice states that the FLR should not know the family as the lines of the professional relationship become blurred. It also prevents the FLR from exiting the role, which is a really important part of the process for all involved.
The role of the family liaison representative is important in helping to bridge the gap between affected families and the company, and it can have a huge bearing on how families deal with their grief. That’s why training for this role is so important – you would not be expected to walk into a situation without it. A typical one-day training course talks you through how to speak with the families. You’ll consider the impacts of sharing particular pieces of information, the tone of voice you use, your turn of phrase, whether you should hug them or not. So reason number 5: your own development.
But at the end of the day, you make the decision as to whether you become an FLR. It’s an incredibly important and worthwhile role that can make all the difference to an individual or family during a very difficult time. And that's reason enough in itself.
If you would be interested in learning more about Family Liaison Training or other Care for People courses offered by Restrata, download our course guide: