Your company has been navigating the COVID-19 pandemic for at least half a year. The whole enterprise, management and staff, may still be trying to find their footing through one crisis meetings as changes arise from the different stages of the lockdown, initially in the office and later online. So let’s talk about crisis management because confronting something like COVID-19—a crisis without a clearly defined end or any easy-to-follow response plans based upon prior crises.
At best, senior executives have a rough sense of the concerns that coronavirus puts in front of them: employee health, supply chain instability, financial liquidity, facility closures, and so forth. They understand that solutions have to be developed: new ways to communicate with clients, tools to monitor suppliers, controls on expenditures, to name a few only.
Tying issues and solutions together in the right way to keep the enterprise sustainable amid prolonged uncertainty and volatility—that’s the hard part. It’s also where the capabilities and experience of a strong corporate compliance function can be invaluable. For example, one of the most important resources the C-suite will need during crisis management is accurate, reliable data from the workforce about what’s really happening in the business, to the business, what competitors are doing, what new business opportunities are showing up, etc.
Let’s consider a few critical areas in crisis management:
A strong, real-time internal reporting system can provide that intelligence. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve seen that pattern emerging already in your reporting system: more questions about sick leave policy, or complaints about insufficient protective equipment on the factory floor, or concerns about how to interact with customers, or issues regarding working from home.
Each organization will need to find its own answers to those issues, but an effective internal reporting system is the mechanism by which those issues can be brought to management’s attention. It must receive real-time internal reports, and then analyze and distill all that data into the most urgent priorities management must take.
Better risk assessments will be crucial in months following a crisis. COVID-19, for example, has forced companies to discard so many of their standard, well-understood business operations. As companies improvise new methods to keep going during coronavirus, they’ll need to understand the new risks that come along with those substitutes.
For example, work from home policies can reduce employees’ exposure to COVID-19, but they also introduce other risks the company will need to address—everything from data security, to fraudulent transactions, to data privacy breaches, to cyber-crime.
As your company develops its – daily - response plan for COVID-19, it will need to implement those ideas as policy—and to measure how well those new policies actually work.
Policy management won’t be easy, because businesses will need to strike the right balance between a coordinated, enterprise-wide response, and flexibility, so that each operating unit can respond to the conditions and regulations it faces continuously. Senior executives on the crisis management committee will need to know what policies are in place across the enterprise, and which ones will or won’t cause additional headaches.
For example, the company might want to implement a requirement to collect health data from employees; how can that be done quickly, and where will the company need to interact with data privacy rules?
Companies are improvising new ways to do business and new ways to govern risk. They’re also doing this with many employees working from home or managers in one location and employees in another. This is a tremendous challenge for employee training. We at EITSC have just developed new customized training methods, incorporating the needs of companies!
Most likely, the HR team will take the lead on training needs during this crisis. New training materials relevant to whatever new policies the company is deploying need to be developed and you’ll need to assure those materials get delivered, likely by computer-based learning.
COVID-19 is testing personal leadership skills like never before. COVID-19 is putting all those best practices to the test. But the fact remains that corporate ethics and integrity are not for sale! Not only will companies still need to do that during times of crisis, they will also need to do more of that. Leading employees is going to be more challenging, with so much change, volatility, and risk swirling around us.
Enjoy ‘crisis management’ or ‘chaos management’ as things change daily and uncertainty is the name of the game.
Contributed by: Henry J. Schumacher, President of the European Innovation, Technology and Science Center Foundation (EITSC)
Feedback would be appreciated, from consumers and from business leaders; contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official view or position of DPEXNetwork.
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