If disaster struck tomorrow, how prepared would your organization be to deal with it? This depends on how much attention you paid to business continuity planning.
There are all sorts of disasters and crises that can impact on a business. Whether you’re caught up in a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, a financial crash, a security breach, an IT meltdown, a governance scandal or a major legal complication, how you prepare for emergency situation and handle it can mean the difference between your business surviving or ceasing to exist entirely.
This is the unfortunate reality for many businesses. Statistics show that as many as 43% of businesses that have been affected by a disaster will never reopen. And another 29% will close within 2 years of the disaster occurring.
When a business is disrupted it costs money – this means lost revenue. Depending on the length of the disruption and the costs of solving the problem the losses could be huge, and insurance may not cover the true cost of the disruption and it certainly won’t bring back any customers that you have lost.
Regardless of the type of disaster that could potentially befall your business, by allocating resources, developing business continuity plans and training employees in disaster preparedness, your business can be more resilient and therefore more likely to survive a disaster situation.
When creating your business resilience strategies, these are steps you should undertake to help inform it:
1. Conduct a detailed risk assessment
Carefully examine your entire organisation to identify strengths and weaknesses from a risk perspective, and identify any scenarios that could potentially disrupt your operations. This should include any loss of IT resources and infrastructure (including data loss), loss of buildings and other infrastructure, loss of employees and loss of resources and equipment.
2. Determine your business’ essential services
During an emergency situation you may be faced with diminished staff numbers, unavailability of materials and supplies, power disruptions or transport and communication problems for an extended period of time.
What functions within your organization must be carried out in order for your business to survive? This will differ from organization to organization and from industry to industry.
Generally, this will include activities that are essential for health and safety, or that will have a severe impact on the business’ and could lead to the failure of the business completely if not carried out. In some industries there may also be activities that have to be carried out by law.
By determining these priority services that must continue to function in an emergency, you can allocate resources effectively. For example in a national park service, employees who work in administration roles may be given emergency communication roles or directed to work in visitor information services while the on-the-ground ranger staff is fighting forest fires.
With the remaining functions that your organization carries out, identify if there are any potential issues if this work is not done for a period of time. For example, does this mean employees and suppliers will not get paid? Is there likely to be revenue loss? Legal implications? Reputational damage? How quickly could you overcome any of these obstacles and challenges?
3. Establish a team to deal with emergency preparedness
Form a committee or taskforce internally within your organization, with representatives from different parts of the company and from different levels of staff to be responsible for developing and implementing your emergency preparedness response.
The team should include people with a solid understanding of the company’s functions and objectives and be led by a manager who has influence to successfully embed the strategy within your company.
The team should be responsible for developing the business continuity plan and any relevant policies and procedures that also need to be implemented in the organization alongside the plan to ensure your business can continue to function, in some capacity, during and after an emergency.
4. Determine if you have effective internal communications functions in place
Being able to communicate effectively with your employees during a crisis situation is critical to ensure your business continues to function as you recover from what has unfolded. Without clear direction, employees will not know what is expected of them.
When your business continuity plans are being implemented, it’s important that they know what aspects of the company are a priority for it to function during that period, what the situation is, and when “normality” is expected to be restored.
Having an internal communications tool at your disposal that can reach all employees quickly will help to keep your business functioning in an orderly way following an emergency. A mass notification tool, such as DeskAlerts, is a wise choice because it sends notifications to all staff via computer screens or mobile app, and messages appear regardless of what other software is in use at the time – even on locked PC screens. You can be certain that your communications are reaching your employees, as it’s a more reliable method of internal communication than email and is more time effective than making multiple phone calls.
5. Carry out appropriate training
A business continuity plan isn’t much good if it’s something that’s developed and filed away. To embed business resilience well within your organization, it needs to be front-of-mind and employees need to understand that there are certain risks to the company and certain scenarios that could occur where things could be severely disrupted.
Just as you would communicate plans about what to do in an emergency (for example, evacuating during a fire) – communicating with employees what to do after an emergency is just as important – for example, that same fire burned down your head office.
Employees may have specific roles to play in implementing your business continuity plan, particularly members of the emergency preparedness team. They may need specialized training to fulfill these roles.
Similarly, employees who have “non-essential” roles who may be redirected to other priority work during an emergency may need the appropriate training (and possibly ongoing refresher training) so they can perform in those roles during a business continuity situation.
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