An effective business continuity plan could be the difference between survival and bankruptcy for your company when a crisis hits. According to global consultancy firm Mercer, 51 percent of companies had no business continuity plan in place to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Having a plan in place can allow you to act quickly to protect the health of both your employees and your business.
Here are five steps you can take to create a business continuity plan.
1. Form a Continuity Planning Team
An organized team with strong leadership is necessary to create a solid business continuity plan. Assign a leader who understands how the various functions within your organization might be affected by a disaster. It’s not a bad idea to assign a backup or assistant leader in case the primary leader is out sick or otherwise unavailable.
The continuity planning team should be composed of a diverse group of people from different functions to ensure many perspectives are included in the planning process. Once the team is created, they should decide when and how often they will meet to formulate the continuity plan.
2. Perform a Business Impact Analysis
Perhaps the first order of business for the planning team will be to perform a business impact analysis in which they outline every mission-critical operation and consider how those operations could be impacted by various crisis scenarios. A large-scale crisis like a pandemic will likely impact every function, including:
- Human resources
- Supply and delivery chains
- Contractual obligations
- Customer and public service commitments
We’ve seen how a pandemic can drastically increase the rates of employee absenteeism, so it is wise to consider how your company would deal with up to 40 percent employee absence. And when a crisis hits unexpectedly, it is crucial that employees, customers, and the public are kept informed of how your business is responding to the disaster and what they should be doing as a result. Your analysis should therefore consider the best way to communicate information to your entire team.
3. Design and Implement a Plan
After performing a business impact analysis, your planning team should have a better idea of the steps your organization can take to ensure continuity. In a critical event scenario, they should decide which information they will turn to in order to assess crisis levels. For example, in a global health crisis, will you base your employee health decisions on the recommendations of the World Health Organization?
The planning team should create backup plans for all crisis scenarios and implement any common sense solutions immediately. If it is possible for some or all of your employees to work remotely, you might consider updating any relevant technology to make that transition as smooth as possible.
For example, transfer some of your workflow to the cloud and get your team trained on remote project management software if they aren’t already. You might also consider implementing or upgrading your critical communications system so you can keep your team apprised of every relevant business decision, no matter where they might be located around the world.
Supply chains are likely to be negatively impacted by many types of disasters, so it makes sense to update contracts with your suppliers and include a crisis clause that specifies what will happen in case of crisis. You might want to consider diversifying your suppliers, so that if a crisis hits one region, your business can keep running by leaning on other suppliers. Consider ways to pivot your business, such as increasing online or curbside sales. You can prepare for a lockdown scenario by updating your website and marketing your delivery services, if relevant.
The planning team can also consider any health precautions the organization can put in place in case of a disease outbreak. To help prevent outbreaks in the first place, you could try:
- Incentivizing flu shots
- Encouraging employees to stay home if unwell
- Bolstering health benefits to increase the overall well-being of your team.
If possible, you can also stock up on appropriate personal protective equipment and create a plan for sanitation and social distancing in the office if your team can’t work from home.
4. Train and Educate Employees
Once a plan has been created and approved, employees and leaders at all levels should be aware of the plan’s details and know what to do when crisis strikes. You might consider testing the plan in advance to make sure it will work. For example, have your entire team work from home once a month to make sure your systems can handle the extra strain.
If you’ve implemented critical communications, you should also test your system to make sure you can rapidly reach the appropriate people at the right time. Have employees respond to an alert, and update contact information for anyone who didn’t receive it.
5. Assess and Evaluate Regularly
As with any cross-functional business plan, you must maintain the systems and regularly evaluate whether the plan will still be effective. Technologies quickly become outdated, so be on the lookout for new or improved solutions that could more effectively accomplish your goals.
Create a schedule to conduct regular emergency response team briefings, during which you can assess your company’s preparedness and discuss any actions that are being taken to better prepare the organization for disaster. Aim to conduct a comprehensive review of your continuity plan annually to ensure it is up to date.
Streamline Your Communication Strategy
Communication is crucial when you’re in the midst of a crisis. Request your personalized demo to see how OnSolve can help your business get the right information to the right people so they can take the right action in any critical event or emergency.