No one predicted the COVID-19 pandemic, so naturally, nobody was prepared. The virus put the entire world in a difficult position because everyone had to adapt to change overnight. It has become a surprisingly useful lever for enhancing a company’s resilience in the face of infectious disease, and also other common catastrophes—like cyberattacks, earthquakes, hurricanes, climate change, and economic downturns.
The pandemic has been around for a while, and we’ve all seen how it can affect businesses and organizations. Some companies have pulled ahead while others have fallen behind because of how they’ve responded to the situation’s unique challenges. 41.3% of small businesses have closed temporarily, while 1.8% have closed permanently.
There are four essential learning points for businesses.
1. It’s Crucial to Quantify Risk
The practice of quantifying risks is almost as old as the practice of taking risks for financial gain. Risk plays a vital role in the way you manage your company. Successful businesses make continuous efforts to change or update their in-house policies and frameworks to allow for potential risks in their business operations.
The coronavirus pandemic has taught us it’s important to conduct business risk assessment. This involves looking at your entire organization and determining which functions contribute most to the bottom line. You analyze the threats to each function and bolster the most glaring vulnerabilities first.
Some business owners have a gut feeling that a crisis probably won’t happen during their tenure as CEO. They make decisions based on their gut and don’t rely on a scientific approach to minimizing risk—like using quantitative evidence supported by logical decision-making models.
Another misconception business owners have is that during a catastrophe, loss is inevitable. But the thing is, some losses are preventable. A loss can have a permanent effect on the bottom line, market share, overall value, and investor confidence. Therefore, it’s better for you to prevent a loss than to wait and experience one.
There are seven risks every business should plan for:
- Economic risk
- Compliance risk
- Security and fraud risk
- Financial risk
- Reputation risk
- Operational risk
- Competition risk
Identify all the risks and prioritize them according to their probability:
- Very likely to occur
- Have some chance of occurring
- Have a slight chance of occurring
- Very unlikely to occur
Your team should have statistical data showing the probability of the risks occurring and the potential financial damage that may result from the occurrence of those risks.
2. Plan Ahead for Lockdowns
In uncertain times, effective leadership is critical because it enables businesses to be prepared and minimize the impact of the catastrophe. Although you may not be involved with the minor details of shutdown planning, you must understand that one of the biggest and costliest mistakes is waiting too long during a crisis to cease operation.
Many businesses lost millions during lockdown because they simply waited too long to halt production. Make sure you have a contingency plan for lockdowns and embrace a loss-prevention culture.
Identify your critical business processes so you can protect them during a pandemic. The best way to go about it is by conducting a business impact analysis (BIA). A business impact analysis helps you to determine the criticality of business functions to ensure operational resilience and business continuity during and after a business disruption.
You don’t need a 200-page document detailing what you’ll do during a pandemic. While it’s okay to give a little background information about virus transmission, let the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) write the lengthy scientific explanations. All you need to do is create a brief plan that focuses on practical steps and is easy for people to understand and execute.
You can create a team to manage the company’s response to the crisis. Team members should meet regularly and have centralized leadership. If there’s no centralized leadership, differing solutions will crop up, resulting in confusion, inconsistency, and duplication of effort.
Here’s what your company needs to do to prepare for a lockdown.
- Review your response and update your pandemic plan: Understand the pinch points of your business’s response so you can address them in your business continuity plan and be better prepared
- Evaluate the risks to your supply chain: Know the impact a lockdown could have on your supply chain and take actions to reduce the impact
- Improve your cash flow: It’s critical to have the cash reserves required to continue operating
- Understand customer needs and communicate with your clients: Restructure your marketing approach and adapt your messaging to reach your target market.
- Upskill and cross-train your employees: To ensure business continuity, cross-train the workforce so you can redeploy staff as needed
- Review and reinforce your IT infrastructure: Optimize your IT system to support the long-term sustainability of working remotely
- Support the mental health of staff: When preparing for a lockdown, employee wellbeing should be the main priority
3. Use Technology to Improve People’s Roles, Not to Replace Them
The businesses that had traveled furthest down the digital transformation journey before the pandemic struck have adapted better to the crisis than their counterparts. They include software companies providing collaboration tools, software as a service (SaaS) companies, and cloud computing service providers. Their working processes and business models allowed them to pivot more rapidly and to speed up changes that were already underway.
Organizations that lacked an online presence or a robust digital backbone have struggled, as have those that provide physical products—like companies in the retail, transportation, tourism, and energy sectors.
Technology has made us rethink how we perform basic activities during a pandemic. The UK has created a virtual parliament and stock exchanges are still operating. Many companies around the world have embraced remote ways of working, and some use artificial intelligence to maintain high levels of customer service.
Many of the technologies we’re all having a crash course on—like Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams—allow companies to do a lot more. Technology isn’t meant to replace people but to enhance their roles so that organizations can deliver better products and services, achieve productivity gains, improve the working conditions, and drive higher economic growth.
For example, adopting writing software like ProWritingAid can help improve your team’s workflow. Because the app isn’t limited to a single platform, your staff can use it anywhere online. Their emails, reports, memos, business documents, and even casual interactions will be clear and highly impactful.
4. Anticipate Employee Needs and Create Policies That Address Them
COVID-19 has changed how businesses operate. The world’s largest work-from-home experiment is unfolding right before our eyes. Most employees have embraced working remotely, something they had never done before.
Employees still working in an office setup must be protected from known hazards that may be likely to cause serious physical harm or death. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), makes this very clear.
During the outbreak of any infectious disease, everyone has a shared responsibility to prevent its spread. So, take the necessary steps to protect your team. If you don’t, they may fall ill and take time off work, resulting in lost productivity.
According to research, unwell employees cost American companies $530 billion in lost productivity every year. Create policies that protect the health of employees. It is the best way for your company to protect itself from lawsuits and retain its existing team.
For example, you can give employees paid sick leave. That way, they won’t be torn between staying at home to prevent the spread of disease and going to work to support their families. Assess your policies and ensure they provide enough support during times of crisis.
Review your systems to ensure they promote a safe workplace. You will build trust with your employees. You can also create policies on how your company will respond to similar threats in the future.
When updating your company policies to minimize the impact of a pandemic on your workforce, consider the following issues:
- Protecting private company information
- Working from home
- Taking days off work
- Looking after dependents
- Hazard pay
- Returning to work after the crisis
- Personal protective equipment and safety training
- Lawsuits related to the pandemic
As You Prepare for the Unexpected, Adopt Writing Technology
Many countries and businesses are still in the crisis management phase of coronavirus, but some are already exploring how they can begin the journey to growth as they come out the other side. They are prioritizing the wellbeing of staff and business continuity, but are also checking whether their policies and strategies remain fit for purpose.
After the worst of the crisis has passed, we won’t go back to our old ways of working or doing business. The future is certain to be very different, and that’s why we must begin reframing it today. Written communication has become more important than ever. Invest in your team's writing skills by giving them the tools they need to succeed and grow.
ProWritingAid highlights any writing mistakes and offers detailed explanations with every suggestion. Your employees will improve their writing skills as they go about their work. You can also create a team Style Guide to ensure all communications maintain your companies preferred tone and vocabulary while your team is working remotely. ProWritingAid offers great suggestions for making writing more clear, polite, engaging, and inclusive.