Looking for guidance and best practices for business crisis response during the coronavirus pandemic? Our six-part virtual event, Resilience 2020, held March 16-17, covered current hot topics such as supply chain disruption and vendor risks, remote workers, business continuity best practices, data privacy and the impact of the outbreak on our organizations.
With our industry experts at the helm, we did a deep-dive into some of the in-the-moment critical issues affecting organizations, sharing our insider knowledge and expertise with attendees. Below we’ve highlighted key takeaways from each of the six webinar sessions in Resilience 2020.
What was the resonating theme we heard across our two-day event? Communication. As we all determine how to react to the pandemic – while doing business from home – it’s imperative to share information widely and as transparently as possible with employees, customers, partners, vendors, suppliers and other collaborators and stakeholders who can help your business work towards resilience.
1. Reality check: Time to forge stronger links with vendors
With organizations across most industries struggling to manage the pandemic’s growing operational impact and disruption to supply chains, the days of working in silos is over. In our Coronavirus: Vendor Risk and Supply Chain Disruption session, James Green and Terence Lee talked about how this disruption puts you and your organizations in crisis management mode – and how it’s not realistic to conduct a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) in the middle of incident response. The coronavirus health crisis has taught us that robust vendor and supplier monitoring systems are a fundamental requirement. This means organizations need to develop stronger and more robust methods of mitigating disruption in supply chains.
Takeaway: Although it may be too late to conduct an elaborate test with your vendor right now, it's not too late to ask for their status and develop a deep map of your dependencies. Get executive buy-in for your business continuity management (BCM) program, give up working in a silo and get a plan in place to maintain resilience through this massive supply chain disruption.
The situation is changing hourly, make sure you know:
- Where are your weakest links/risks in critical processes?
- Which vendors are critical and how to communicate with them?
- What are your alternative and workaround plans in the event of a disruption?
2. Lack of communication tools could spell trouble in a crisis
Clarity is the key to good communication. And in this time of global crisis, having the right tools in place to keep lines of communication open with your stakeholders, especially your people and customers, is vital. During our No Business Continuity Program is Complete Without an Effective Crisis Communications Plan webinar featuring Jamie Goodloe from OnSolve, we were struck by the fact that a high percentage of organizations don’t have an emergency mass notification system (EMNS) tool. This could cause critical delays when notifying employees or clients of emergencies such as announcements, policy and procedure updates and breaking news. One problem that you don’t want to face in the middle of crisis response, Goodloe said, is inaccurate or siloed contact information for the audiences you need to reach.
Takeaway: Communication cadence and data are two of the biggest crisis communication challenges, and a best practice is to secure executive buy-in and support for a comms plan. If you don’t have an EMNS or tried-and-tested communication tool, you may not be communicating effectively with all your employees, customers, and partners. Key details to consider:
- Ensure you have up-to-date and accurate employee contact information
- Develop concrete methods for communicating with employees and clients
- Best practices are to test your system and ensure that your users are well trained
3. Remote working: Nurture a dynamic workforce
With most employees now working from home with an indefinite timeline of when they’ll be returning to the office, many questions arise around how organizations can not only empower their people to be productive but to ensure their mental well-being. In the Coronavirus: So Your Company has Decided to Work Remotely, Now What? session, our CMO Paul Johns discussed why employee mental health and well-being should be an essential consideration for all employers.
Takeaway: It’s clear from what we are hearing from our customer community – we are all under more pressure than ever before as our teams are confined to their homes. Adding to that is how we balance our working lives when our family members and children are home with us. As organizations, we need to acknowledge and alleviate the pressures and anxiety levels of our people. So, in order to nurture productivity and curate company culture, you should be aware of these strategies:
- Separate your workspace from your home space
- Stay connected to co-workers and use video conferencing
- Factor in your non-commute and don’t overwork yourself
4. Why resilience is the key to future security
In the Next-Gen BCM: The Convergence of Risk and Continuity session, Terence Lee highlighted that resilience comes from the power of merging risk management and business continuity. Right now, the greatest threat is coronavirus – but what about tomorrow? How does the business continuity professional manage this destabilizing threat and keep their organization resilient?
Takeaway: Coronavirus is our greatest current risk; but we cannot stop managing other risks, such as cybersecurity, natural disasters and loss of brand reputation. Focus on what matters today as details are changing rapidly. BCM professionals need to know:
- Critical vendors, locations and what goods and services they each provide
- The latest news about your critical vendors
- Back-up plan for your critical vendors
5. Cybersecurity – don’t make a catastrophe out of a crisis
The direct impact of the coronavirus pandemic is a wide quarantine policy that has compelled organizations to allow their workforce to work from home in order to maintain business continuity. This inevitably entails shifting a significant portion of the workload to be carried out remotely, introducing an exploitable opportunity for attackers.
It is little wonder that some 83% of respondents to our first poll in the Data Privacy: Remote Workers and Compliance session told us that they believe the risk of data breaches is higher when employees work off-site than from a corporate office. Most organizations are using virtual private networks (VPNs) to help secure their vital data. But in addition to using protective VPNs, home workers should stay vigilant for malicious emails regarding remote access and fake websites aimed at ensnaring unsuspecting remote workers, as SAI Global’s John Ambra and Secure Ideas’ Jason Gillam discussed in detail.
Takeaway: Ensuring data privacy and compliance for remote workers is achievable by updating your workplace policy, providing security training, discarding physical material and ensuring employees know who to call. For full data privacy and compliance for remote workers, make sure to:
- Ensure you employees have adequate bandwidth
- Provide employees with contact information for the IT department
- Communicate accurate and necessary information to all your stakeholders
6. Emotional resilience – we’re all in this together
As an industry, business continuity needs to build resilience; human skills and expertise are at the heart of this. But as this unprecedented crisis continues to unfold, how are the people at the center of protecting the resilience of our organizations, coping?
Our pandemic expert James Green broached the heart of this subject during our 3 Key Skills of the Modern Business Continuity Manager Facing a Pandemic session. He candidly discussed how emotional resilience is a top concern as everyone is working around the clock on response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Takeaway: Resilience is not just your ability to bounce back, but also your capacity to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances, while maintaining a stable mental wellbeing. Social distancing therefore does not mean social isolation:
- Make time to talk with family, friends, colleagues and co-workers – and the BCM team from SAI Global is available to talk, too
- Take regular breaks and use downtime to destress and relax
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help or utilize your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
SAI Global offers a full suite of technology from integrated risk management to business continuity software to support BCM and crisis response teams. But at the end of the day, as James Green noted in his final talk, BCM and DR practitioners are people who instinctively jump into a problem and lead the way to a solution.
We hope this in-the-moment webinar series on best practices for handling the many problems arising from the COVID-19 pandemic has been insightful and actionable. James, Terence, and the entire SAI Global team is standing with all of you to support your success.
Whether you need technology, advice or just a knowledgeable ear to listen, we’re here by your side.
Visit our pandemic resource hub, which includes reading materials, podcasts, and other best-practice guidance around business continuity, compliance and risk management. From an EHS and workforce management perspective, please also see our health and safety tools as we all consider how to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on our employees and organizations.