In the face of a global crisis, if your business is well-prepared, you can help protect your workers and your bottom line.
As the coronavirus pandemic has worsened, you’re bound to be concerned for the welfare of your people and your organisation. Writing for Strategy+Business, Melanie Butler and Kristin Rivera say the key to managing any crisis is preparation.
They outline seven actions you can take to ensure your organisation is in the best shape possible to withstand what’s ahead.
1) Review workforce locations and travel. Do any staff need to be repatriated? Can they work from home? Upcoming travel plans will need to be reviewed, rescheduled – and, most likely, cancelled. Policies should be in place to address sick leave, site visits, travel restrictions – and for working parents following school closures. Refresh and update these policies as circumstances evolve.
2) Revisit your crisis and continuity plans. You may have a continuity plan – even a pandemic plan – but nothing tests theory like reality. Generic plans need to be adapted and tailored to cope with the specific challenges of a pandemic. Is there enough bandwidth for employees working remotely? How will communication be managed? How will data flow?
3) Evaluate the supply chain. A clear understanding of your supply chain will help identify vulnerabilities. Begin with the most critical products and look beyond first- and second-tier suppliers, right down to the raw materials, if possible. If your products contain a component from a country that’s isolated, is there a secondary supply?
4) Identify potential points of failure. Who are the teams and individuals on whom critical processes or services depend? Are there workers with the right skills who could step into critical roles if needed? Can steps be taken to reduce the level of human interaction, such as staggered shifts or remote working?
5) Get communication right. Disinformation and confusion have spread along with the virus. Employees and other stakeholders will look to you for reassurance that they’re being protected and that the business is prepared. Consistency and accuracy of messaging is key, as is reassurance from the top. Your workers need to know that their welfare is paramount.
6) Use scenario analysis. Scenario planning is a critical tool to test preparedness. What are the best- and worst-case scenarios, and are you equipped to cope? What could be the impact in the longer term? Some sectors could see a rise in demand if more of the population spends more time at home – are you prepared for this?
7) Don’t lose sight of other risks. COVID-19 isn’t the only threat – and often organisations are at their most vulnerable when dealing with a crisis that dominates their attention. The other risks that your business faces aren’t diminished by a pandemic. Cybersecurity should always be top of mind.
We don’t know what the next few weeks and months could bring. You’ll need to be agile to respond. The response window for a crisis is measured in months, while recovery is measured in years. But if you’re well-prepared, you’ll recover more quickly.