Why people are at the heart of business resilience during a pandemic
We can all testify that, without a doubt, COVID-19 is having a profound impact on almost every aspect of our daily lives. At a personal level we are quarantined to our homes, separated from the outside world and forced to find new and innovative ways to communicate with our friends and families. From a business standpoint, organisations are facing supply chain disruption, staff shortages, travel restrictions and new challenges around home working.
It has always been people, not processes, that manage a crisis, and one of the unique challenges of COVID-19 is that first and foremost, it affects people.
So, how do business leaders look out for their staff, while also protecting their business? How do they look out for family and friends as well as their own health? How do they reassure external stakeholders whilst preparing for recovery?
In a pandemic your company is full of stakeholders who are nervous, unsure and seeking reassurance and so communications, both internal and external, need to be clear, concise and informative. Ask yourself what the purpose of each communication is, what do your stakeholders need to hear from you? The sheer volume of information on COVID-19 is overwhelming, and you need your message to cut through the noise and resonate. Your communications should be based on and reflect your company’s core values and ethos, let these guide what you do and what you say to your stakeholders. Use this opportunity to be proactive with your communications, share insights about how you are managing the crisis and recognise that you, like everyone, don’t have all of the answers. Make sure you’ve got all communications channels covered and be prepared to acknowledge and respond to queries from different stakeholders across different platforms.
Planning for and managing a pandemic such as COVID-19 is incredibly difficult but breeding a culture of resilience throughout your organisation from the start is a powerful tool. Your people are the most important asset when navigating a crisis and it’s their loyalty, commitment and advocacy that will play a pivotal role in your organisation’s post-crisis recovery. Encourage bold and dynamic thinking, and an environment built on collaboration and openness where people to do the right thing, at the right time, because they want to. Ask yourself what your ExCo can learn from employees at other levels of the business. Your organisation’s principles and values should always guide actions, and this is especially true in a crisis. Empower your employees to act in accordance with your principles and your wider stakeholders will recognise this and help champion your story.
While it’s the people that manage a crisis, it’s important to remember that process is still a fundamental element of crisis response, and all processes, procedures and policies should support your management strategy. Clearly identify the roles of the crisis team and ensure that appropriate deputies are appointed. Ensure that you have enough resource to manage a long-running crisis, such as a pandemic, and ensure that you build capacity to allow members of the crisis time to rest and recover.
What we’ve seen as COVID-19 has developed is human beings adopting a far more “primal” mentality. Through uncertainty and fear people are acting for self-preservation and in unexpected ways. This is even more reason to ensure that your organisation’s business continuity planning asks the right questions and takes into consideration the breadth and depth of human fragility. Breeding a culture of preparedness will help your employees feel reassured and ready to help your organisation face challenges such as COVID-19 and whatever else may be coming our way in these testing times.
To measure your resilience against industry best practice, including your approach to communications, culture and people, register for CrisisOptic https://instinctif.com/expertise/risk-crisis-management/optic/.