A business continuity plan (also known as BCP) involves establishing procedures that will keep your business operating as normal after a disaster or unforeseen event has occurred that means typical working practices are changed. For example, workers may be asked to work remotely or to use different tools and processes in order to continue working.
It is worth noting that BCP differs from Disaster Recovery Planning (DRP) in that DRP is more concerned with restoring normal business operations after a disaster has taken place.
In times of crisis, many businesses will be challenged to safeguard and support employees while continuing to deliver the services needed to keep the business operational and revenue flowing.
During periods of uncertainty, HR is often the first port of call for many employees. From seeking advice on working practices to finding out what policies are being enforced; it is often the case that HR departments are overrun with queries from concerned employees.
So, what can HR departments do to support business continuity planning during what can be an incredibly testing time for a business?
Have a business continuity plan already in place
While not a task for HR in isolation, it is clear that HR teams have a key role to play in Business Continuity Planning to ensure staff are supported throughout any changes to normal working practice.
Don’t wait until you’re in the throes of disaster to create a plan for ensuring your business continues to operate as normally as possible. All departments should work collaboratively to understand their processes, risks and business impact should the worst happen.
From an HR perspective, employees must be clear on what they should do in case of your business continuity plan is enforced.
Think about where your employees will be working, how they will get paid, what hours they are expected to work and how they can communicate with colleagues and management during this time.
Secure your HR records
It is important for HR to ensure all employee records are kept safe and secure during any times of crisis. An employee’s personal file will contain sensitive information such as bank details, emergency contacts, NI numbers and much more, so these must be kept secure and away from prying eyes. Unexpected flooding, storms or disasters could potentially destroy paper-based records so look to HR software providers that can safely host your employees’ records in cloud-based, secure environments to prevent a loss of confidential data.
Reassure employees after any unexpected event
Implementing your business continuity plan will often be accompanied by a period of uncertainty for your employees. Depending on the type of event you have experienced, employees may need help in coping with the aftermath.
It is essential that you keep employees well-informed of the ongoing situation and what is or will be expected of them both now and in the future.
Keep an eye out for any signs of stress or burnout among your staff. If you have one, remind them of your Employee Assistance Program or any in-house counselling support your business may offer. Crises can often affect morale and thus, productivity may be impacted.
Unexpected events or disasters can sometimes mean changes to business’ budgets and procedures. As such, staff may need to be retrained or reassigned to new roles to support the continuity of the business.
Use available technology to support employees
In your continuity planning, technology can help you to prepare for and make it through any event that directly affects your team’s ability to work as ‘normal’.
Using cloud-based software can help massively when it comes to surviving and recovering from any kind of disaster. Where landlines, infrastructure and internal communication networks can be destroyed; cloud software is hosted away from your business and is remotely accessible from any internet-enabled device.
As an HR manager, keeping your employees informed throughout the situation is key. From sending SMS notifications to your staff to provide updates to using tools like Slack, Zoom or Skype to continue collaborating on projects, using technology to communicate with your team is a major part of any good business continuity plan.
With technology, your HR department will be able to continue to support employees (even if they have been displaced or are working remotely) and provide core services during times of crisis. This is even more pertinent if you have multiple sites and only one is affected by disaster. A good business continuity plan will ensure that all staff, whether they have been affected or not, have access to the tools and key business personnel without disruption.
Take a people-first approach
During any times of uncertainty, it is imperative that HR departments lead the way in spearheading a ‘people-first’ approach to your business’ continuity. Your most valuable asset should be treated as such and addressing the ‘human’ side of your business continuity plan is critical.
Think about how an unexpected event might impact your HR policies and procedures? Will employees have to be retrained or relocated? What support mechanisms will you need to put in place? Do staff have the correct tools to work remotely for a prolonged period of time?
Of course, there will be other considerations that are unique to your business but mapping these out before disaster strikes will help it, and your people, to recover after the worst is over
The UK government has produced a helpful guide on business continuity plans entitled ‘Expect the Unexpected: Business continuity in an uncertain world’.