Business continuity planning: 6 steps for HR and People leaders to consider

Charlotte Nicol
Last updated on 3rd November 2020
3 min read

How can you plan for the unexpected?

While it’s difficult for organizations to prepare for every eventuality, writing a business continuity plan (or BCP) means organizations are better prepared when something unexpected happens.

Typically, a business continuity plan sets out key principles and planned emergency procedures that can speed up response and help minimize impacts, taking into consideration certain scenarios such as what would happen in the event of fire, flood, power outages, cyber attacks, technology failures and other major incidents.

Effective business continuity plans helped companies during the global pandemic to initiate crisis communications, provide remote working access and keep their staff informed. It meant that organizations who had plans in place could review, adapt and flex, as a result.

HR’s role in business continuity planning

While a business continuity plan may not always be owned by HR and People teams, they have a vital part to play in creating and acting upon them, should the need arise.

Ultimately, when unexpected events hit organizations it always impacts people, so HR and People leaders will be in the frontline of incident management and responses. In addition, HR and People leaders are also uniquely positioned to highlight the impact on employee experience, morale and company culture.

Whatever the nature of the incident, HR have a role to play in communicating to employees, providing guidance for their health and wellbeing. To maintain business operations, employees need to know how and where they should work. They’ll need system access, contingency plans and management communication to be able to work effectively during a crisis.

So what’s involved in creating a business continuity plan? Here are six key steps for HR and People leaders to consider:

1. Engage the leadership team

Every business function should be involved in putting together a business continuity plan. From operations to finance, HR to customer service, every part of the organization should input into the business continuity plan.

Leaders should take ownership of relevant sections to their function and contribute actively to preparation, approval, testing and carrying out the plan.

This is something as a team you may want to consider writing into the business continuity plan itself; who is responsible for each section within the plan.

2. Decide the scope

 What do you need to cover?

Together, as a leadership team, consider the kinds of scenarios that could change the way your business operates. These could include natural disasters, emergencies on your business premises, power or technology crises, issues with transport or critical supplies.

Understand how each of these could change how you operate. From then, as a team, identify and prioritize the most critical and time-sensitive activities and processes in your business and consider what the impact of disruption might be on each.

3. Brainstorm

Discuss and agree ways to mitigate risk, reduce impact and temporarily adapt your business.

For HR, some of the main considerations are likely to be around how you operate. For example, can employees work remotely? What do they need to make this possible? What alternative premises, suppliers or resources could you use?

Set priorities and designate responsibilities for each aspect of your business continuity plan and you’ll want to understand how HR and People have a responsibility within this.

4. Write it up

It’s time to put pen to paper. The business continuity plan must be concise, digestible, easy to refer to and clear, with no ambiguity.

There may be more detail behind the overall plan, but it must stand alone so that everyone can understand and buy in to it and it’s easy and fast to act on. Include contact details and communications protocols, so you can contact the leadership team and all your employees.

5. Communicate the plan

It’s vital to make sure that the plan is well communicated to those who need to be aware of it, in order to minimize disruption.

Also, consider as a team where you should store the plan. It should be easily accessible to those who need it. You may also want to save it in several places so that it’s easily retrievable.

6. Test the plan regularly

Test, test, and test again is the only way to know if your business continuity plan really works.

The test it when you draw it up and refine it using what you learn. Then, continue to test it at regular intervals. For example, if you use text messaging to inform your workforce, send out a test to make sure their contact details are correct.

However, it’s important to keep it updated to reflect changes in your business and in the market. A business continuity plan should be a living document and not gather dust, in order for it to enable the business to flex successfully.

Driving resilience for your people

No organization ever wants to have to use their business continuity plan, but having a clear plan is vital for enabling your business to become resilient in times of change.

With HR playing a vital role in the creation of the plan, it means in the event of you needing to implement some of these measures, your people within the organization will be guided and supported through these changes.

After all, your people are your most valuable asset, and no one knows better than your team as to what your employees will need in order for your business to adapt and flex.

Less than one in three HR leaders state they’re organized around speed, agility, and adaptability. Are you? Explore the eBook to find out how HR can adopt more agile ways of working.

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