Crisis Recovery - Planning for Business Resumptions

Wednesday, 29th April 2020

Crisis situations don’t just happen nor does the recovery from them. When organisations are in crisis mode it is highly unlikely that they can just return to pre-crisis activities, nor should they. This blog outlines some sensible actions that organisations can take to proactively prepare and manage their resumption of business activities.

Crisis Recovery - Planning for Business Resumptions

Trident Manor has for several years worked with clients on crisis management planning and activities. We have responded to political instability, incidents of violence and the current pandemic to ensure the safety of client’s staff and operations in the UK and internationally. With some clients a crisis management maturity model has been created that meant stages were identified and proactive actions taken to reduce the risk and organisational expose before the pandemic impacted their operations.

That is an ideal situation, but unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world and many organisations were caught unaware by the size and scale of the COVID pandemic. Some businesses have not survived the initial impact, many others will not be able to survive the ongoing effects and changes that the ongoing crisis will bring.

We are seeing governments slowly starting to ease restrictions by reopening some businesses and allowing increased access to public spaces. This is a sensible approach by governments with the key factors being that restrictions are being ‘eased’ and not just ‘lifted’, there is a distinct difference as the former demonstrates a degree of control as opposed to a free for all.

It is important that businesses follow suit and take time now to plan and prepare for the resumption of some activities during the ‘Crisis Recovery Phase’ (CRP). Anybody who thinks that normal business activities are just going to resume just like the flick of a switch are unfortunately sadly mistaken. Supply routes, customers, staff and resources have all changed and will continue to change over the months and years to come. A failure to correctly plan the resumption of activities by creating a clearly defined exit strategy could result in some or all the following:

  • Increased financial costs
  • Lack of operational capabilities
  • Increased welfare issues
  • Duty of care failings
  • Loss of clients/competitive edge
  • Unnecessary death of staff members.

By planning the CRP, the likelihood of adverse impacts caused by the above are reduced and a controlled return to business activities achieved. The following are some areas that organisations may wish to consider:

1.Identification of business-critical roles and activities.

2.Timelines established for the resumption of activities.

3.Phased approach agreed.

4.Clear communications across the organisation.

5.Continued welfare support.

6.Periodical reviews of recovery strategy.

1.Identification of business-critical roles & activities: What is your organisations core business? Which roles are needed to enable the organisation to function? What roles generate income or are a financial cost with limited benefits? These are the sort of questions that senior management need to be asking to decide how best to identify staff criticality. As a rule of thumb, staff who have not been furloughed (or similar enforced actions) must have been identified as critical. It is worth re-evaluating whether that is still the case as they may not be adding the level of value that was expected Some roles that may fall within this category include, finance, operations, maintenance, security, and IT.

It is sometimes helpful to categorise the roles. I normally use a music analogy by asking clients to separate roles into “Rock Stars” (Critical), “Supporting Acts” (Necessary) and “Spectators” (Important). All play a vital part in the concert, but some are needed more than others to ensure the success of the event.

Another consideration is whether staff physically must return to work, (premises, offices, factory etc.) or whether their role can be undertaken/continued remotely. Coupled with this should be a consideration about the cost of returning individual roles for example the Director of Customer Relationship can continue to work from home. They cost more than the Health and Safety Manager who needs to ensure the premises are fit for purpose and staff can operate in a safe environment (social distancing etc.).Whilst both roles are important the criticality and cost of the Health and Safety Manager may put them into the ‘Rock Star’ category whilst the Director remains as a ‘Supporting Act’.

There are no hard and fast rules about the criticality of roles as each will differ between organisations but the fact that the identification and categorisation of roles has taken place is an important part of managing the risks caused by an unplanned return.

A similar process can be adopted for the categorisation of business-critical activities which will again help with the resumption of operations. For example, consultancy services will differ to the delivery of retail sales. Consultancy services are generally reliant upon knowledge and expertise of an individual or group whereas retail sales are reliant upon the supply chain, transportation, and often fixed premises. Therefore, fewer critical activities exist for a consultant to resume activities as opposed to a retail outlet opening for its customers.

2.Timelines established for the resumption of activities: Once critical roles have been identified then timelines need to be established as to when an organisation thinks it is appropriate to resume business activities. In some cases, this will be driven by governmental policies, but it is prudent for organisations to identify which activities are deemed more urgent than others which can be resumed over a longer period.

As has been mentioned previously there is not going to be a sudden resumption of ‘normality’ (whatever that may look like) so it is prudent for business resumption activities to take this into account and ensure that realistic timelines are applied. I suggest a year planner/App. etc. is used to plot the resumption of roles and activities over a realistic timeline.

Rushing in too quickly and the earlier risks could become a reality, being too cautious could result in loss of clients and missed opportunities. It is a fine balance which will vary according to organisational structure and services/goods provided but an important consideration.

My strategy would be adopting a cautious approach where an evaluation is taken following the introduction of activities and roles to confirm that they viable and manageable. At Trident Manor, our strategy is crisis driven and viewed over the ‘Short’ (1-3 months), ‘Medium’ (3-12 months), and ‘Long’ (12-36 months). In normal times the timelines would have been extended to 1-12moths, 12-36 months, and 36-60 months respectively, but we are not in normal times and the dynamics of the current situation and possibility of future outbreaks have caused me to shorten my strategic timelines.

3.Phased approach agreed: Whilst senior management teams can make business decisions on behalf of organisations it is always better when recovering from a crisis that agreement and buy-in from key stakeholders is agreed. Key stakeholders can be internal and external parties which could include financial institutions, insurers, unions or even clients.

The provision of clearly defined frameworks that identify roles, activities and timelines will add confidence that things are under control, have been carefully considered and are being correctly managed.

Phases will differ between organisations, but I would identify existing activities and functions as being the starting point. Evaluate which of your organisations critical roles are operating effectively, what gaps exist, what resources are needed to close these gaps and what are the positive impacts of doing so? If your organisation can effectively function by continuing to use remote working why would you increase the danger to staff by bringing them into an office and risking breaches of social distancing?

However, it could be that partial return to premises is needed to resume business activities, this could be identified as the next phase in the resumption process. If this has been identified as the next phase the priority must be to ensure that a safe and secure environment is created that considers government guidance, health and safety and duty of care matters.

Your organisational phased approach could include returning the ‘Rock Stars’ during month 1, ‘Supporting Acts’ during month 2 and everybody else during month 3. However, the likelihood of this being an effective strategy is questionable as the placing of roles and activities into neat time-slots is unrealistic due to the fluid nature of the pandemic, its continued global impact and the fact that no vaccine yet exists.

The ideal scenario is that phases are identified and are followed in a logical sequence. The reality is that some phases may be delayed or need adjusting because of social, operational, economic, or regulatory requirements. This should not cause undue concern as the strategy is based around a planned resumption of business activities and the phases should be used to enable re-evaluation processed to be undertaken.

4.Clear communication across the organisation: Once the strategic approach has been established it is important that it is clearly communicated across the organisation. Everybody within the organisation should be aware of the strategy and approach that the organisation is going to take to resume business activities. The communications must be honest and informative for the individual, team and departments, allowing all to understand the direction that is being taken, roles, and timelines for resumption of activities. It is possible that a series of communications will be needed to disseminate to an operational level the strategy being adopted and expectation of the staff.

By being open, honest and transparent (even if means informing staff of the potential for future job losses) the organisation is in a defendable position should the resumption of activities be delayed, or redundancies forced to be implemented. In a crisis, poor communication strategies can compound and prolong the risks an organisation faces, cause unrest and uncertainty across the workforce. Also resulting in poor services or a loss of productivity; all of which can directly impact the survivability of an organisation.

5.Continued welfare support: The last time the world faced a crisis caused by a global pandemic was over 100 years ago, few could have predicted the harm and death that has reaches so many families. The fact that more people have died as a result of COVID-19 in the USA that during the Vietnam War is a stark reminder of the scale and impact the virus is having and which will only worsen until a vaccine is found.

As such, far more people have been impacted than would be expected from a localised crisis and the effects could be far more reaching than organisations comprehend. Organisations are a microcosm of the world we live in, as such staff may have, or continue to experience one or more of the following:

  • COVID-19 virus
  • Bereavement through COVID-19
  • Critical care for self or family
  • Mental health concerns
  • Increased stress
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Financial worries
  • Alcoholism
  • Domestic abuse
  • Workplace violence
  • Anger and rage

The list could go on, but the fact is that many staff have gone through/are going through an experience that most would never have anticipated happening, or that they were fully prepared for. This can cause individuals to react or display behaviour in ways that are not normal, or which have been previously experienced.

It is important that organisations recognise that individuals as well as the world we live in have been. and continue to be affected by the pandemic. By recognising this, proactive steps can be taken to reduce the risks posed by welfare issues and concerns thereby minimising the wider organisational harm to individuals and teams. Some steps include:

  • Ensuring a safe working environment
  • Counselling services
  • Pastoral access
  • Flexible working
  • Group briefings
  • Introducing a ‘buddy’ system
  • Medical assistance and support
  • Creation of quiet spaces/contemplation areas

By introducing welfare opportunities, the organisation is supporting the individual, meeting its duty of care obligations and minimising disruption within the workforce. By demonstrating inclusiveness and that staff are valued disruption is minimised, productivity increased, and a resumption of business activities expedited.

6.Periodical review of recovery strategy: By introducing a phased approach periodical reviews are almost by default established. However, it is important that throughout the recovery process continual reviews take place to confirm that progress continues to be made and milestones are being met.

The review process allows readdressing and re-prioritisation of recovery activities to be undertaken. These reviews could be scheduled fortnightly during the short term and then monthly thereafter, but only if normal business activities have or are returning. Reviews should also be undertaken if there are significant changes that can directly or indirectly impact the resumption of business activities, examples could include a spike in outbreaks, reintroduction of lockdown, or loss of critical services.

The above is not a full and comprehensive Crisis Recovery programme but hopefully it will help organisations consider some of the wider issues that can impact them when resuming business activities.

Trident Manor is always available to support and assist organisations during crisis situations, especially to support and assist in business recovery and resumption. For further information and advice about how Trident Manor can help you manage and minimise your organisational risks during the resumption of business activities feel free to contact us or review our consultancy services on the website.