HR – A Vital Player in Business Continuity Planning and Execution

I often think about how many areas of business HR professionals influenceI’ve been fortunate to have been working with Arbetsförmedlingen (Sweden’s Public Employment Agency) HR division over the past year, before, and during the COVID-19. I am in awe of the sheer number of challenges, they have taken on in their profession, and how in generalorganizations are each unique in the ways they apply their people processes to align with their culture. So, when I think of the areas of HR influence, several things come to mind, including benefits, employee relations, training and development, communications, compensation plans, and business continuity. 

Wait…, business continuity? 

Yes! HR plays a very important role in the continuity of business both in good times and in challenging times such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. As an HR professional, business continuity is something you ensure each day, probably without thinking about it. It’s what you do, HR.  

Is there anything more critical to business success than ensuring that the most important asset – people – are taken care of, so that prioritized activities vital for prioritized services and deliverables may be achieved? People take care of your customers, so that business may continue, even in times of crisis. 

From the new normal to a new future 

A time of prosperity is generally what we have known as a society since the economy bounced back from the 2008 recession. As leadersCEOs know that even when times are good, it is challenging to ensure that the experience you are providing is doing all you want it to do in order to attract, engage, and retain workers. This is where HR strategies come into play. 

When disruptions occur, the experience you provide to your workers is just as important as the one you provide in a stable environment, and maybe even more important. During a crisis, the experience you provide to your employees is critical to overall business continuity, and how you treat your workers will be remembered when the dust settles. In times of uncertainty and adversity, employees will look to HR leaders to provide communication, information, and a sense of safety. 

What experience are you giving your employees in a time of hardship and ambiguity? 

It might seem easy to put something like a business continuity plan on hold and classify it as a nice-to-have strategy that would be completed when things “slow down.” Well, HR, when do things ever slow down for you? 

It’s never too late to get proactive – even if you feel like your organization is still catching up right now. After all, what we learn today will only make us stronger for tomorrow. 

A truly effective business continuity plan must include ways to tackle a variety of potential crises. Ask yourself: in a time of a public health crisis – like we’re all dealing with now – cybersecurity threat, or a natural disaster, what steps are in place for you to take in order to maintain business continuity? 

Let’s do an on-the-fly audit: which of the following questions can you answer with a resounding “yes!”?

  1. Do you have the core elements of a solid business continuity approach? 
  2. Are leaders from core teams (including HR) actively participating in these plans and communicating to their respective teams?
  3. Is your organization truly prepared to leverage technology to manage different aspects of business continuity? 
    – Or, more specifically, do you even have the right technology available? 
  4. Has your organization had conversations with your local public officials, suppliers, and relief organizations about contingency planning?
    – Specifically, do you have a grand strategy that involves all these stakeholders? 
  5. Are you confident you know the questions you should be asking and the requirements to put forward and respond to? 
  6. Are you prepared to handle the human impacts of a crisis? Are there measures in place to show employees that their safety and well-being is as important as the needs of the business? 

An essential part of the plan should be a communication strategy. Perhaps it is cliché to harp on about the importance of effective communication in business, but now, more than ever, an effective communication plan is vital for business continuity. In times of hardship, ineffective, one-way, underutilized, and outdated communication systems are spotlighted in businesses and are at the top of a positive or negative employee experience. It also needs to be backed up with the measures that, hopefully, you have in place in response to the sixth bullet point above about caring for employees! Hindsight is always a precise science giving the right answers but being proactive now will position your organization for success when the next crisis hits. That’s right – WHEN – not IF. 

HR is positioned to truly understand business impacts during a time of crisis and hardship. HR is also positioned to lead once this crisis is over, and better plan for whatever comes next in the future. HR can also take a lead role in sharing lessons learned from the crisis and see what business processes can be changed or improved in order to advance business results and improve employee satisfaction. Is your HR team ready? 

Pay it forward! 

I started this post by mentioning my work with Arbetsförmedlingen and will also wrap up doing so. The HR division under the helm of Lena Hadad has done a fantastic job in both handling the COVID-19 and at the same time providing instrumental HR services supporting the transformation of the organization in line with the “Digital First” strategy. 

BCMS Framework

CCG, we have been trusted with facilitating the workshops for this transformation and this has given us a complete portfolio of templated services that we now can offer to other organizations. Thank you Arbetsförmedlingen for this trust! We will now pay this forward! 

If you want to know more about how HR data is best managed particularly to steer the organization through a crisis, read my previous article on “The critical HR data you need for business continuity planning“.

At the pen 

Pierre Wettergren, CEO & FBCI

 

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