I hope you’ll join Richard Lowery, Chris Mullen, and me for the SHRM webinar: Learning from Times of Uncertainty: HR's Critical Role in Business Continuity on Tuesday, April 7, at noon ET. We look forward to having a candid conversation about HR’s vital role in business continuity with the HR community!
I marvel at just how many areas of business we as HR professionals influence. I am awed by the sheer number of challenges we take on in our profession, and how every company is unique in the ways they apply their people processes to align with their culture. Best practices abound, but no one method of process delivery is right for every company. 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.
As an HR professional, business continuity is something you ensure each day, probably without thinking about it. It’s what we do, HR. Is there anything more critical to business success than ensuring that the most important asset--people-- are taken care of so that goals may be achieved, they take care of your customers, and that business may continue even in times of crisis?
Creative onboarding, wellbeing programs, unique employee perks, and a rewarding company culture all shape the experience you provide your employees. For many years now, the employee experience has generally been built around a stable economy, wide-open job market, and an overall feeling of positivity for the future. A time of prosperity is generally what we have known as a society since the economy bounced back from the 2008 recession. As HR professionals, we 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.
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 a bit more important. During a crisis, the experience you provide 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 the back burner 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 us?
It’s never too late to get proactive – even if you feel like your organization is behind the 8-ball 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!?”
--Do you have the core elements of a solid business continuity approach?
--Are leaders from core teams (including HR) actively participating in these plans and communicating to their respective teams?
--Is your organization truly prepared to leverage technology to manage different aspects of business continuity? (Or, more pointedly, do you even have the right technology available?)
--Has your organization had conversations with your local public officials, vendors, and relief organizations about contingency planning?
--Are you confident you know the questions you should be asking?
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 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 antiquated communication systems are spotlighted in businesses, and are at the apex 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 fourth bullet above about caring for employees!) Hindsight is 20/20 but being proactive now will position your organization for success once the next crisis hits.
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.
Let’s continue the conversation surrounding HR’s role in business continuity. I hope you’ll join Richard Lowery, Chris Mullen, and me for the SHRM webinar: Learning from Times of Uncertainty: HR's Critical Role in Business Continuity on Tuesday, April 7, at noon ET. We look forward to having a candid conversation about HR’s vital role in business continuity with the HR community!