What does your business continuity plan say about the underlying culture of your organisation? Is it entirely practical, focusing on areas such as IT systems and telephones? Or perhaps it displays a strong customer focus; with plans for a return to business as usual concentrating on areas of customer service at the expense of internal procedures. Or does it evidence a wider focus, setting the business in the midst of a supply chain web or emphasising the impact which a disaster may have on the local area.
And then there is the elephant in the room, the one area which far too many business continuity plans omit; the employee dimension. It’s perhaps understandable, but not excusable. When we sit down to draw up a business continuity plan which will mitigate the effects of a disaster and promote a swift return to business as usual, it is far too easy to concentrate on the physical and the practical at the expense of the emotional.
So we look at systems and structures, at transport and delivery, and at communications. And when people come into the equation it is generally on a practical level, checking that they are all safely out of affected premises, finding alternate workstations and making sure that they understand what their role is in the reconstruction.
But people are far more than mere chess pieces to be moved around the continuity board. People have thoughts and emotions and reactions and all that other messy complicated stuff which makes us human. And if our business continuity plans don’t take that into account then we could lose far more than some of our business, we could lose the people who are the backbone of our business success.
Quite simply, when we draw up our business continuity plans, we ignore the people dimension at our peril. And because we understand that people are different and will have different reactions to disaster scenarios, our plans should include helping each individual on their own journey towards recovery. There is no one prescriptive answer but plans may well include a suite of recovery services such as:
- the provision of one-to-one counselling
- group discussion and therapy sessions
- the provision of an online suite of self-help resources
- encouragement to attend external support groups
- additional paid leave or the availability of flexible working
- greater line manager visibility
- a relaxation of work targets
- optional reassignment to another area of the organisation
When disaster occurs the natural business instinct is to get back to business as usual, to return to profitability as quickly as possible. But it may just be that putting people before profits in the short term can in the long term lead not simply to business as usual but to a far stronger business culture in which engaged employees do their utmost for the business which has shown that it cares about them. What does your business continuity plan say about the future of your organisation? Let’s hope it is a strong one built on employee care and engagement.