What lessons have we learnt about business continuity during a global pandemic

When COVID-19 descended around the globe in 2020 it proved to be the ultimate test in business continuity. Although most businesses have a business continuity plan in place, the scale and severity of the pandemic caught many by surprise and forced rapid changes in almost every part of an organisation. In order for businesses to continue operating, old ways of thinking had to be challenged. For example, what was once a far-fetched idea – hiring a person without physically meeting them – is now the norm thanks to video interview tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. So what has COVID-19 taught us about preparing for future business continuity, and how can we learn from these lessons to build stronger organisations for the future? We will explore four areas of learning below:

1. Employee Engagement can improve during a crisis

In a time of extreme uncertainty and anxiety, open and transparent communications with employees is a must. Organisational leaders need to be proactive in keeping employees informed about company, team or job role changes. Regular webinars or live broadcasts from senior executives can help employees feel connected to their company and it’s broader vision and purpose. Strong leaders also regularly check in with their team members to make sure they are doing OK, as highlighted during the recent R U OK? Day. Employees who feel valued and have a sense of belonging will feel more engaged. Companies who have done this well during COVID-19 have reported that employee engagement has actually increased whilst staff have been working at home this year. (1)

2. Striking the balance of remote versus on-site working

One thing this pandemic has taught us is that remote working can work well even at a large scale. Most would agree that there will be permanent changes in where employees choose to work in the future, but what will this look like? Hybrid options can allow employees to come to the office to collaborate and socialise for part of the week and then undertake remote working for the rest of the week. This option could allow workers to “get the best of both worlds”. Leaders will need to ensure that the office space is safe for all employees to return to. Installing hand sanitizer stations and performing temperature checks may not go far enough, as there’s also the issue of how people congregate in elevators and move around large buildings, such considerations will become the norm.

3. HR Management Technology helps execute continuity plan.

HR management technology, and technology in general, has made remote working and collaboration possible. Hiring software and video platforms have allowed recruitment to take place remotely. Onboarding software enables new employees to have a smooth start at the company, all from the comfort of their own home. An important consideration for ongoing remote work will be ensuring all employee data is completely secure, even when accessed remotely. Cyber attacks have been a real issue during the pandemic, so adequate IT security is crucial to protect all sensitive data.

4. HR Strategies drive growth in digital

HR strategies and particularly digital transformation strategies have only accelerated during COVID-19. Having the ability to automate repetitive tasks through technology not only supports business continuity, but it also frees up HR leaders to focus on higher value input to their business. Defining the types of data and insight needed to track and report the effectiveness of HR initiatives to senior management can also be enabled by smart use of digital technologies.

COVID-19 has taught us many lessons in business continuity to take forward for our workforce and technology investments. The key question is which changes to carry forward permanently once we move to a new COVID normal.

(1) https://www.afr.com/technology/co-existing-with-covid-19-at-work-20200901-p55reh

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