Many businesses that had expected 2020 to be a further year of hopefully meeting revenue targets have had these plans put on hold, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of looking for growth opportunities, businesses have abandoned plans and are now simply finding ways to survive, serve existing customers and maintain a sense of business continuity.
But before businesses had to close their doors, and ask employees to work from home, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had warned that the situation could have terrible outcomes and that we haven’t seen the worst of the pandemic yet.
Recent WHO guidelines, titled “Getting Your Workforce Ready for COVID-19” recommended that employers develop contingency plans to address how to keep their businesses running, even if a significant number of employees, contractors, and suppliers are unable to attend their place of business.
But while most business leaders are unlikely to read WHO reports, the recommendations may have been little too late for companies to adapt.
Even with the issued guidelines, most company executives had never experienced these circumstances and therefore would be probably unaware how future plans should be positioned and fully comprehend the impact of COVID-19, and how it would affect supply chains, their workforce, their customer base and business, and the market conditions.
Without robust continuity planning strategies during a pandemic, the economy became reactive instead of proactive.
We keep hearing about these being ‘unprecedented times’, so then what would a good business continuity plan look like, now we have a slightly better understanding of COVID-1 and who and what it can affect.
The most crippling way the pandemic could affect a business would be if it were to spread amongst employees, leaving them unable to work for a sustained period.
A dashboard of employee availability can help to find alternative allocations of work while giving employees who are unwell or suffering from virus-like symptoms plenty of time for quarantine, rest, and recovery. With an appropriate framework provision in place for providing remote working options for employees, may allow for employee availability to be synced, and tasks can be automatically re-allocated.
Clear lines of communication between executives, employees, partners, customers, and investors are crucial during a time of crisis. With the speed at which the pandemic progressed and the plethora of available communication channels available, some companies had difficulties getting messaging systems operational to all promptly.
Businesses began sending out COVID-19 related emails in early March, but those who began contacting customers in the first week of April appeared may well have been slow to react.
A business continuity plan should include a checklist of communications items (both internal and external) to make sure none of your key stakeholders should be unaware of your company’s crisis response.
Establishing and implementing a sustainable business continuity plan at an organisational scale requires clarity and decisiveness from the senior management of the business, and a willingness to adapt and support from the rest of the organisation.
Considering the increasingly complex and rapidly deteriorating situations such as the COVID-19 outbreak, decision-makers are hard-pressed to quickly approve trade-offs and near-term costs, and they can only do it with the support and understanding of the rest of the organisation.
Data-driven risk management
We live in times where speed is a critical factor in decision making and having speedy access to real-time data is essential and invaluable. Integrated data channels are always essential to a business, but in a crisis like COVID-19, it is even more important that they are available quickly and easily at all levels of a company.
To ensure your business survives, decision making needs data about core operations, sales performance, customer accounts and contact details, revenue projections, supply chain disruptions, and workforce availability and productivity.
Confidence depends on smart leadership
A continuity plan isn’t merely about the logistics of keeping a business running, it’s also to maintain the confidence of your employees and customers during the situation. For many of us, the coronavirus pandemic is the biggest challenge we will have faced in our careers to-date.
We do not need to have all the answers, but with a strong business continuity plan in place, we have procedures in place, understand personal responsibilities, ask the right questions, and not neglect critical tasks. Employers and stakeholders need to be sure that their leadership is prepared for the challenges that lie ahead, and they have a plan to support everyone through difficult times.
If you need help with business continuity and crisis management, contact our team today.