Brexit and the pandemic have created some new challenges when it comes to retaining and attracting staff and its now an issue that figures in the key challenges facing many businesses.
What effect would these current issues have if you are having to manage a business continuity incident against that backdrop? What additional pressures and challenges would this bring to your incident response and recovery? What effect would it have on re-establishing the delivery of your products and services to your customers? If people are your most important asset, is this reflected in your Continuity arrangements and have these been reviewed to reflect these systemic changes in the employment market?
So, let’s consider Business Continuity Planning in the context of our people – our most valuable asset.
Creation of certainty at an uncertain time
A key deliverable of your BCP should be to create certainty for your stakeholders, as it is a lack of certainty that drives us to seek certainty elsewhere; fail to create certainty for customers or your distribution channels and they could seek alternatives elsewhere. The same of course applies to your workforce; Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs highlights safety and security as the most basic need we have, which is why it’s a primary driver for Employee Engagement (Gallup Q12).
So, does your BCP deal with creating certainty for your workforce and key employees? If presented with uncertainty your team are likely to seek certainty (employment) elsewhere and right now there is no shortage of jobs and potentially higher pay or better working conditions. Consider this, a local competitor experiences an interruption to their business. They have a good workforce that would be an asset to your business. Would you target them? The creation of certainty is as important in the invocation stage as it is through the continuity and recovery phases. In many respects, it benefits from its own devoted section of your Incident Response Plan.
Here are some ways we can create certainty where there is uncertainty.
Communication is critical in the creation of Certainty!
Communication is a key element in creating certainty, so your communication plans should address internal communication with your team and external communication with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. If you experience an incident that may be perceived as threatening the business and jobs, a really important question your workforce will be asking, particularly at this time of high inflation “Am I going to get paid?”.
Communication needs to be structured and regular – we all know how frustrating it is when our flight or train is delayed with no update – it’s the uncertainty it creates. And the communication should be an ongoing process, not at the initial invocation, it should repeat/reiterate key messages to reinforce the position of your employees? If you’ve not heard of the rule of 7, human beings on average, need to hear things seven times for them to be absorbed.
And let’s also remember that your team will impart information to your external stakeholders, whether consciously or subconsciously, so it's important that they are getting the right messages that build certainty for them.
And as a leadership team, are you able to communicate consistently your messages to your workforce? And are your communication plans adequate to deal with the effects of communication from other sources (i.e. recruitment companies) to keep your workforce on board? Do you have an established communication channel that all employees are aware of, and is it periodically tested to 1. Make sure it works, and 2. To remind everyone it's there.
You might look back to covid and say, “we did okay” but communication at that time was in the context of a global event that affected everyone. What if it was just your business that was experiencing an interruption?
People are our most important Asset
This is an often used phrase, so how is that reflected in your BCP? Do your plans identify dependency on key knowledge and expertise? Do your continuity arrangements allow for the transfer of specialist IP and knowledge within your team? With the current job market and in many cases significant pay increases on offer at a time of rising cost of living, does your BCP protect you from the loss of key staff? Equally, does your BCP take into account potentially increased timescales to recruit new talent, have you adjusted your recovery times? These will all feed into your Business Impact Analysis and should all be addressed as part of your Programme Design.
Nothing says ‘Certainty’ like a pay packet!
Does your BCP address specifically the issue of how you will pay your staff and what you will do should you have to shut down operations for a period? 3 years ago a view might have been taken to lay off staff and recruit again once back up and running, that’s a way to manage costs. Could you afford to do that today, particularly with the recruitment challenges we are witnessing?
In a recent Scoping Meeting with a client, we identified that getting new staff up to operational speed is a 3 months process, which would add to the recovery time. Could you afford that? Your Business Interruption insurance, if organised correctly, can cover the payment of employee wages during an Interruption, but there maybe other additional costs that need to be considered, such as retention bonuses, travel costs and accommodation at an alternative site? Does it specifically address staff retention through a “down period”- financial aspects of this can form part of your insurance arrangements.
Employee Wellbeing – we care about you!
One of the good things to come out of the pandemic is the increased awareness of employee well-being. Does your BCP have suitable provision to deal with employee well-being, both in terms of the potential uncertainty of job security and also should the interruption to your business involve injury to members of your team? This can have a huge effect on a business, both the workforce and the management team and how the management team deal with the matter will have a secondary effect.
Do you need to review the arrangements you have in place in terms of an EAP or Mental Health First Aiders? Do your communication plans address this particular outcome and communicate the support and resources you can provide?
The make-up of your Business Continuity Team
A BCP written and managed by one individual may fall short of your business requirements which is why the BCP should have a Business Continuity Team actively involved in the process. Your Business Continuity Team needs to reflect all of the disciplines in your business and that includes the management and motivation of people. If your BCP is “process”- based and doesn’t consider (adequately) the people issues, you may have gaps in your arrangements and processes. Ensuring you have a representative of your people/HR function is a must, they can provide the necessary perspective to ensure the 'people' issues are suitably addressed.
Which is why we review the BCP!
Your BCP should be reviewed at least annually or when there are changes to the business or the environment it operates. If you wrote your BCP before the pandemic, how much has changed about the employment market that would undermine the basis of your Business Continuity Objectives?
If your Business Impact Analysis includes recovery time for staff, how different are these now? Would you now include a specific BC objective focused on people that wouldn’t have seemed as important 3 years ago?
The changes in both the employment market and the concurrent effects of inflation warrant a review of the BCP to ensure your business continuity arrangements adequately reflect your business requirements.
More information on Business Continuity Planning
If you’d like more advice on Business Continuity Planning download our 9 Steps to Business Continuity Guide which can help fast-track and focus your BC Planning, with the minimum of jargon and practical tips on how to keep the process effective and productive. Or get in touch for a chat about how we may be able to help you move your business continuity planning forwards.