With the current COVID-19 situation, companies have become more aware of the intricacies of ensuring business continuity in the case of an emergency. Ensuring the safety of employees whilst protecting customers and shareholders is now at the forefront of every business leader’s mind. Effective crisis management and planning and thus business continuity measures are now becoming essentially integrated into workplaces.
Here at Shireburn, we firmly believe that companies should aim to be well prepared for unexpected emergencies that may occur to ensure that customers always receive the first-class service they have come to expect. Following our latest successful crisis simulation exercise held on the 5th March, which was carried out without our customers even noticing, we believe that there are 3 main competencies that ensure an effective crisis management plan: preparation, communication, and observation.
Organisations must aim to always be ready with a contingency plan for potential emergencies as the integrity and reputation of the company can be heavily influenced by their reactions during a perceived crisis. A successful crisis management plan will include clear roles and duties as well as any company-wide procedures.
Ensuring contingency plans are in place is key to properly preparing for an emergency situation. However, contingency plans alone are not sufficient, drills and exercises to ensure that all players know their part should such an event arise need also take place. Such drills will allow the organisation to also evaluate the tools that will be used should the crisis management procedures be triggered.
Ensure that you are up to date with liability issues and local laws that cover any contingency plans. For example, by local laws, is the employer liable for ensuring a safe environment for employees working from home?
Any points of failure or weakness should also be understood. It is easy to understand the constraints of your workforce but the management should be looking into all critical systems and suppliers. If any of the suppliers were to suffer a loss of service, how would this effect the service levels? Ideally, suppliers should also share their plans on how to mitigate your risk.
It is also in the company’s best interest to gain awareness of nearby resources available for healthcare and emergency supplies.
Such crisis management plans would be rendered useless if they are not communicated both vertically and horizontally across the entire organisational structure, ensuring that all employees are aware of their role in case of emergency.
Communications regarding the crisis should be carefully scripted and kept factual to ensure that the employees are well informed of the situation and are able to better assess any risks that they may be taking. It is important that all communication is conveyed in as calm a manner as possible not to incite panic.
Firstly, the management team should be educated on the crisis at hand and any relevant procedures should be re-iterated and highlighted to all stakeholders. If the crisis calls for extraordinary procedures to decrease the risk to your employees or customers, these should be emphasized. Given the current situation, policies such as re-enforcing that symptomatic employees should stay home and that no punitive measures will be taken if they are genuinely taking preventive measures should be especially communicated. This allows all team members to take the proper preventative measures and reassures them that there are processes in place to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure at the workplace.
When preparing announcements for external distribution a media reaction plan should be followed. Although such a plan should identify a company media representative, all Crisis Management Team members should also be trained in how to respond to the media so they are well equipped to do so should the situation arise.
Bearing in mind that your customers may be in similar situations and thus doing your utmost to make their life easier, support them or be open to changing your methods to allow some flexibility, is good business practice at these times. It would also be appropriate to assure your customers that they will be kept informed of any potential impact on agreed service levels. Such communication should be very carefully scripted to ensure that customers are kept at ease.
Following a drill or an actual emergency, the best crisis management leaders will see the opportunity to learn from the situation to fine-tune and improve the procedures in place and ensure organisational resilience. This will allow the company to react better and faster to any possible future threats.