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Updating Your Business Continuity Plan: Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic

Traditional business continuity plans built around natural disasters and cyberattacks were based on assumptions that business could return to normal within days or weeks. Recent history has created a need to revise those assumptions and proved that business continuity should address both short-term and long-term circumstances. As COVID-19 has provided the world with a crash course on extraordinary policies and procedures, here is our shortlist for the most significant and impactful continuity considerations to keep your organization on track, no matter what comes next.

Factors Your Business Continuity Plan Should Take into Account

Every business continuity plan should take the following into account:

Inventory Office Equipment – During the initial wave of shelter in place orders and the scramble to get employees up and running at home, some organizations adopted a “take what you need” approach to company-owned office equipment. Monitors, keyboards, and other pieces of equipment found their ways into employee homes, making it difficult to know just where these items live. A business continuity plan should include a strategy for disseminating necessary office equipment to employees and an organized methodology for tracking the assets distributed

Keep Track of Employees and Extended Workforce – The coronavirus pandemic forced organizations to quickly determine what approach to staffing an office made sense to them. Some organizations had the ability to keep the majority of their employees at home, while others took the approach of bringing different sets of employees in at a time to minimize exposure. In any crises, however, it is important to know who needs to be where to safely run the business. A business continuity plan should include a game plan for staffing for different contingencies. Having a clear, real-time picture of your organization's staff and hierarchy is especially helpful for both developing and executing a game plan. Additionally, being able to understand the bandwidth and availability of your extended workforce during emergency situations provides options and flexibility that can fill critical gaps.

Determine Which Employees Can Work Remotely – Remote work has been on the rise for years, but the pandemic has pushed the trend forward dramatically. As a result, organizations are seeing just how effective some roles can be worked remotely. For example, payroll teams have been able to process payroll completely remote, finance teams have been able to close their books while working remotely and learning & development teams have been able to continue developing employees remotely. Given the safety concerns of bringing employees back to the office, and how difficult it may be for some organizations to follow all of the CDC’s recommendations for office spaces, some organizations are opting to only bring back those employees that absolutely need to be in the office. The lesson here is that business continuity plans should include a strategy for bringing employees back to the office or, if necessary, keeping them remote.

Ensure Policies are Up to Date – It is important that organizations review their existing policies at a regular cadence, ensure that they are all up to date, and make all employees aware of the changes. Internal changes, such as a shift to remote work, for example, may be cause for an organization to review its work from home policies. External forces, such as the CARES Act, also have required organizations to make policy changes. Making sure that all of your organization’s policies are always current and compliant will save it the trouble of having to make adjustment in the middle of a crises.

Plan on Employees Being Out- In the case of a crises, an organization may find itself suddenly without certain key employees. If your organization’s web designer or an accountant is injured or unable to work, would the rest of the team be able to take on their responsibilities for weeks at a time? If your organization doesn’t have backups for its key positions, then cross-training can help ensure work still gets done when an employee is out. This will require that you have a comprehensive idea of your workforce’s skills and an easy way to search that data.

Collaborative Solutions had a customer in the healthcare space that needed to identify which of its workers had nursing skills and could speak French to send them to Haiti to provide humanitarian aid. With its legacy system, the entire process took about two weeks. After adopting Workday’s HCM and having it configured by Collaborative, the client had the ability to generate this type of list within 20 seconds.

Many organizations are looking at how optimizing strategies with contingent workforces or automation can help to bridge functional gaps where absenteeism would put their continuity plans at risk. In some cases, the use of solutions like Utmost for total visibility of extended workforce capacity has allowed organizations to leverage their scalable, non-traditional resources to compensate for FTEs. In others, we have seen Robotic Process Automation solutions like Automation Anywhere create bots to either reduce the workload of affected employees or automate new tasks that have arisen around demanding new regulatory needs created in the wake of the pandemic.

Consider Regular Health Checks – In the case of a pandemic, how will your organization ensure that sick employees don’t come into the office? Some businesses are requiring that employees attest that they are not exhibiting any symptoms every day they come to the office. These health checks create mountains of data that may be important for various and unexpected reasons. Powerful analytic solutions (we use Workday Prism) can help organizations to track, understand, and glean insight from the health information that they are receiving and managing from their workforce every single day. Having an analytic solution in place that is ready to handle the quantity of data created by any number of interrupting situations that an organization may face can be a differentiator that promotes survival.

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