In the simplest terms, a business continuity plan lists the steps and details of actions to be taken to ensure that business operations will continue, or resume as soon as possible in the event a major catastrophe occurs. If you don’t have a plan, your business faces the risk of not being able to continue selling goods and services, shipping products, etc., leading to revenue loss. This sudden business disruption may also make it difficult to recover at a later stage, once things have calmed down, and can also negatively impact your brand reputation.
The biggest threats to business continuity are global pandemics, like the Covid-19 situation we are facing right now, natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, fires; power or internet outages (major), war, cyber attacks like hacking, data theft, ransomware, DDoS, and SQL injections. The disruption can be in the form of loss of product, supply-chain disturbance, or something else.
So, you need to have a plan in place to deal with how you will communicate with your team, who will work from home, how you will ship products, and so on.
Benefits of Business Continuity Planning
Business continuity is essential for any business who wants to deflect the risk of unforeseen disruptions. Without this you could face financial losses, reduction of goodwill and brand value, and loss of morale among employees. Business continuity planning helps you to:
- Keep your business operational
- Improve customer confidence, and their trust in your brand
- Mitigate financial risk and minimize financial losses
- Protect your supply chain
- Preserve your goodwill
- Steal a march over your competitors
Things to Consider when Crafting your Business Continuity Plan
It’s not the most exciting thing you’ll do, but it is critical. You need to keep in mind:
- What your objectives of the plan are – business continuity should cover all your important business functions like HR, public relations, and of course, main operations (trading, selling, etc) This is important as each business is different; only you know what goals are the most important for the way your business operates. Your risk assessment, continuity plan and recovery plan all depend on this.
- An Emergency Team – make a list of managers or team leaders who are capable of contributing to the business, and capable of taking decisions if required to keep business operational.
- Assess your risk and conduct a business impact analysis – point out the biggest threats to your business and study them thoroughly. Discuss with your staff about cutting or altering certain services, and possible repercussions, and document them.
- Define your most essential business functions – you have to decide how you will maintain these essential services in case of an emergency. The usual essential services are inventory management, continuity of supply, fulfilling orders, shipping products, continued customer service, keeping your ecommerce store updated to handle sudden surge in number of customers, displaying out of stock products and so on. Its best if you can draw up a plan for each essential service, and plan for alternate suppliers to avoid unfulfilled orders, and so on.
- Ensure that you have prepared for every business function, and that it has been covered under your continuity plan. Your staff should be not just aware of the plan but also trained in it so that they can quickly act in case the disruption should occur.
Once you have your plan in place, here are 7 ways to get the most out of it:
1. Maintain Good Hygiene and Limit Travel
With a pandemic like the Covid-19, maintaining hygiene and frequent washing of hands and sanitizing them, wearing masks, and limiting travel and contact with others is of critical importance – for you as well as your team members. You have already defined how to communicate with team members and work from home, now put it into practice. Stay safe, so that your business can continue to run. Stay in touch with team members through project management software, ERP, and instant messaging apps. If you must open your office, ensure that only the most essential staff come in, and keep sanitizers at the entrance, and keep washrooms properly stocked with soap, paper towels, etc., and make sure they are disinfected every day. Use masks and gloves and maintain distance .
2. Leverage Remote Work for Business Continuity
A sudden shift to working from home may not be easy for some employees; you or your HR department should take the necessary steps to ensure that the transition from working in the office to remote working be as smooth and hassle free as possible. Provide team members with necessary tools and equipment. Allow employees to work flexible hours – after all, everyone is at home, including kids. When some flexibility is granted, productivity will not drop. Team leaders and managers should also be trained in managing teams remotely
3. Evaluate Work Performed By A Team and Check if it Needs To Stop Or Continue
Pandemics like the coronavirus affect people; and while HR focuses on people, it needs to balance their needs with those of business continuity. Check out where teams are, and their risk of exposure; identify the work they do and check if it can be paused or continued, or if they need to be relocated.
4. Define how to Approach to Problem Solving
You need to be proactive about addressing employee fears; this will help assure them and motivate them to stay loyal and be productive. Also, it’s important that employees at every level convey the right messages and take the appropriate actions. The plan crafted by you needs to be implemented in such a manner as befitting the company’s culture and approach to resolving problems
5. Clear, Quick, and Supportive Communication
With half the world panicking, it’s absolutely imperative that you support your employees; communicate with them without delay, without ambiguity, and be supportive. Keep two-way lines of communication open so that you can receive feedback; you could even conduct small-scale surveys. Stay in touch regularly with your employees so that they know you have their backs; don’t punish them for having to go into quarantine, or for feeling unwell. Assure them and help them stay safe, and encourage them to work from home.
6. Have an Open-Door Policy to Facilitate Asking Queries
Include a page on your website that has FAQs about the pandemic situation, or whatever crisis it is that your company is facing, and update it frequently. A scared employee is an unproductive employee; make it easy for them to ask questions if their queries are not resolved by the FAQs. Provide as much support as you can, be transparent, and you will find them focused, happy, and productive.
7. Provide Meaningful Input for Business Continuity Planning
HR departments have detailed information about employees, like health conditions; we know that those with certain medical conditions are the most vulnerable in this pandemic. HR departments must use this information to help team leaders take critical decisions like altering sick leave policy, allocating resources, decisions on locations, and so on. This will also help mitigate risk and ensure business continuity.
Of course, this is not meant to be a definitive solution, but guidelines – after all this is an unprecedented situation. However, it makes business sense to plan for continuity in this pandemic situation.