Can businesses and organizations be resilient on their own?
By this I mean is it enough for a business organization to build resilient internal processes, IT infrastructure, facilities, and even third party relationships and rest assured they're prepared for the next big event that comes along. To answer this question, I think we have to look at what businesses rely on to operate - both inside and outside of the company. Of course, there are external needs, like utilities (electric and water), transportation and roads, police and fire support and many others. However, the one I'm going to focus on are its people. Specifically, employees and what they need to do to personally prepare for disasters so they can return quickly after a disaster and help your business recover.
Around this topic of people, Business Continuity (BC) disciplines tend to focus on employ safety, ensuring people can do their jobs after a disruption and determining which employees are "critical" to recovery efforts and to operating the company as a whole. However, I don't think we focus enough on other aspects of employee preparedness that can significantly affect whether employees can and will stick by the company and help it recover in the aftermath of a disruption. After Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, an estimated 300,000 homes were destroyed or otherwise made uninhabitable. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy plunged Lower Manhattan into darkness, flooded the subway system and left more than 8 million people along the Eastern Seaboard without power. When the 2003 European heat wave struck, it resulted in a health crisis in several countries as well as a drought which led to crop shortages. Thousands died, with most casualties resulting from old people in nursing homes or single family homes with no air conditioning systems.
We always focus on the dollar impacts of disasters. However, these examples highlight real impacts devastating disasters can have on employees and their families outside of work. My proposition today is that without the personal preparedness of individuals and families, our businesses are vulnerable. This is a tough topic to handle because most organizations don't know where to start and can barely get their arms around their own resiliency and recover planning. However, the more a business organization focuses on its people and encouraging their personal preparedness, the better off its business will be.
There's not much our employees can do if the subway is down or power is off across the city, but there are ways they can make at least short term plans, and there are many resources available to your employees to help them build personal preparedness, like support groups, churches, websites, federal and state government resources, and many other groups devoted to emergency preparedness. What companies can do is incorporate this into their messaging and communications and encourage employees to build personal preparedness. Companies can and should be supportive and point employees to resources that will teach and help them build personal preparedness.
The better prepared our employees and their loved ones are for disasters, the better able they'll be to get their houses in order and jump back in and help the company recover as well. For more information or input, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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