Resiliency Tips: How to Disruption Proof Your Business
Written by: Renee Bigelow, VP Marketing Align
In the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, we have heard from several clients around the world that business has been disrupted by the disease. Conferences have been canceled, supply chains disrupted, and more and more areas are telling employees to stay home from the office. Businesses that prepare for the uncertainty ahead will be able to better weather whatever comes and emerge in a strong position to capture opportunities after interruptions have passed.
Living in New Orleans, I, along with many of my colleagues at Align, experienced the major business disruptions following the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. I learned a valuable lesson in the aftermath: Some disruptions are marathons. You need to prepare as much as possible ahead of time and be ready to adjust course on the journey back to normal.
Among the businesses that were not physically destroyed by the storm, the recovery period created a tale of two cities for businesses. On one side were businesses that thrived, expanded and emerged as category leaders. On the other side were businesses that were not able to regain their footing and lost market share or closed.
There was no handbook for how to restart a business in a city with almost no people. The savvier business leaders adapted quickly and created plans that put their people first. In turn, their employees became devoted to helping ensure the success of their workplace. Business owners and employees worked together to adapt to market conditions, to retain market position and to find new opportunities for growth.
At Align, we are putting these lessons to use and putting our people first. Even with no known outbreaks in our locations, our CEO has made all business travel for our employees voluntary – no questions asked. We had planned to bring all of our employees from multiple locations together for our quarterly planning session and community service project later this month. Now just as in our daily and weekly huddles, our employees not based in New Orleans who choose not to travel will join us via video-conference for the day-long planning and a virtual happy hour afterward.
We put together a set of recommendations based on CDC advice and our own experiences to help ensure your business is prepared to keep both your employees and your critical functions operating as planned.
For updates and information, be sure to follow reliable news sources such as government sources like the CDC, Ready.gov, FEMA, USDA, or Mediline Plus (NHS) and major outlets with in-depth health reporting like The New York Times, BBC News, Washington Post, or STAT from The Boston Globe.
Preparing Your Office for Disruptions
The following steps are a good start for preventing the spread of any disease, reacting to outbreaks in your area, and for keeping your offices safe and intact:
- Follow all CDC Guidance
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home (Avoid presenteeism)
- Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene where they are likely to be seen.
- Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
- Perform routine environmental cleaning
- If you have more than one business location, provide local managers with the authority to take appropriate actions based on the condition in each locality.
- Take laptops, chargers, and essential files home every night in case you need to telecommute for a long period. TIP: I can’t stress this simple one enough. During Hurricane Harvey, the continued business operations at the Houston division of the company I worked at the time were severely hampered by the fact that employees did not take laptops home with them over the weekend and didn’t have access to them later.
- Ensure responsible individuals know what they are tasked to react on.
- Think now so that you have a plan in place that can be enacted quickly.
- In the event you are advised to stay home, share who is in charge of the facility in your absence, as well as their contact information should internal or external people need access.
Planning for Workflow Disruptions
If, for some reason, employees are forced to stay home for long periods, having solid plans for the bullet points below can ensure that business does not come to a screeching halt. While this is much easier for office staff, it is also critical to figure out how to make a plan for all types of businesses or departments. During Katrina, the company where I worked included a physical plant for manufacturing, and we were one of the first in the city to reopen because of the constant communication between team members and a plan for how to cover employees and get the lines moving again even with a short staff.
- Ensure personal contact numbers and emergency contact numbers for employees are up to date. TIP: During the last hurricane season rather than create a company directory that would need to be stored elsewhere, We asked everyone in the company to update the contact info in their profiles in Align and in Slack since all employees could easily access those from anywhere.
- Clarify Leave Policy: Do you have a system in place to handle payroll while normal business is in flux? Determine your plans in advance so that you can keep employees informed on what to expect.
- TIP: Don’t underestimate the value of this. I watched an incredibly talented staff walk out of one competitor because the owners could not communicate any kind of plan for business continuity, and employees felt unsure of their own futures. It took them years to build their talent bench back up.
- Do managers have regularly scheduled check-ins with their teams?
- Do you have tele/video-conferencing set up for huddles and meetings?
- Are all processes assigned to accountable employees?
- Are tasks and progress being tracked somewhere? And are they visible to all employees? Everyone should know where projects stand if the person responsible must be out.
- Perfect the responsibility hand toss through communication as multiple people may have to step in to keep projects moving forward.
- TIP for Align users: Make sure that your team is recording their huddle updates in Align using full sentences rather than bullet points for an excellent record of what has and hasn’t been addressed. This small step creates a good record of the status of any projects in case anyone is absent unexpectedly, and someone else has to step in to help.
- Have your strategic plans and goals documented. Now is the time to revisit your plan with your executive team and to look for where you are exposed and what opportunities you can find to replace normal business.
- TIP for Align users: Set up an interdepartmental or executive team to create a secure One-Page plan. Have that team work out different scenarios for their strategy for the next quarter and the remainder of 2020.
Weathering Disruptions to Doing Business
Supply chains, especially for businesses relying on Asia, have already been disrupted by the spread of Coronavirus. As of this writing, reports are that some 30% of Chinese small businesses have not reopened either because of supply or staffing shortages. While it is challenging to prepare for all disruptions to business, the following points can help with disruption proofing your business’s ability to get work done despite the nature of the disruption.
- Establish communication channels for communicating threats to customers and suppliers.
- Cross-train personnel to perform essential functions so that the workplace is able to operate even if key staff members are absent.
- TIP: Make sure these employees know they are backing each other up and are familiar with each other’s roles, have access to files and systems needed, and a list of what needs to be done. Most importantly, make sure the back up knows where to go to get questions answered while they are filling in for someone else.
- Be prepared to change or adjust your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations.
- Ensure your plan is flexible and involve your employees in developing and reviewing your plan.
- Review your Insurance policy, particularly business disruption insurance.
- TIP: Pay special attention in advance to what you might need to document in order to make a claim.
- Back up all data in a secure place that is also accessible to designated employees remotely.
- Be aware of SBA disaster funding and whether you may qualify.
- Prepare communications ahead of time. If a disruption occurs, there will be a million things on your mind. If you have a notice pre-drafted for employees, customers and vendors, you will be able to easily fill in the blanks with the newest information without having to start from scratch in the heat of the moment.
- If you have critical supplies for operations, make a plan for how you are going to keep your supply chain disruption minimized through tactics like advance ordering or backup vendors.
- TIP: In today’s world of just-in-time inventory, you may also need to think through storage capacity as part of this planning.
Have anything to add to the list? Share them with me and others here on LinkedIn.
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