Posted by: Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA) | March 30, 2011

Employee Readiness = Company Readiness

Companies continue to stage a welcomed recovery from the financial blows that were incurred during the economic crisis.  Debate as to the factors that contributed to the crisis and speculation on the key drivers required to make the recovery sustainable span the continuum – and persists without consensus.  While much has been offered around the elements needed to ensure the incremental gains evolve into sustained growth, there is one critical component of a company’s recovery strategy that is typically not given the attention – or credit – that it deserves – the employees.

Whether a company manufacturers a product or provides a service, the entity’s ability to thrive or merely survive rests in the hands of the employees.  Accordingly, it is imperative that organizations ensure each member of the workforce is equipped to make the greatest possible contribution to the sustainability and success of the organization.  This is a particular urgency for companies operating in fragile industry sectors.  In an environment where companies are asking employees to do more with less, it is even more prudent to take proactive steps to ensure that the company is positioned to survive the impact of any crisis, business disruption or disaster.  This proactive effort should start – and end – with the employees.

Are your employees ready?

In the majority of organizations analyzed, Firestorm has found that a company’s failure to infuse resiliency into its infrastructure via the training of its workforce ranked as #2 among the five common failures identified in a crisis of disaster.  The top five list yields a failure to:

  • Control Critical Supply Chain
  • Train Employees for Work and Home
  • Identify and Monitor all Threats and Risks
  • Conduct Exercises and Update Plans
  • Develop a Crisis Communications Plan

The ultimate value of your company lies in its ability to deliver critical products/services and generate revenue.  These objectives are achieved through the organization’s execution of business strategies that are designed to provide the optimum combination of risk and reward.  While achievement of the desired targets often require the introduction of very sophisticated risk modeling approaches, employees must represent the core component in the overall strategy.

While the number of losses incurred during the economic downtown is only matched by the number of theories that have been offered as to the cause(s), many on the sidelines have questioned why certain presumed causational actions were permitted to proliferate and why no one ‘saw it coming’.  Similarly, when workplace issues result in violence, questions abound as to how the perpetrators were able to remain with the company and why no one ‘saw it coming’ – given the behavioral red flags that preceded the incident.  During the post-mortem on crises that have resulted in significant company losses, the question ‘If employees had been provided the information necessary to recognize the potential consequences of certain actions/inactions, would the outcomes have been materially different?’ is often pondered.  Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for companies to overlook key risk mitigation steps that greatly enhance the chances for employees to serve as the strongest possible stewards of the company’s health and future.

How do you know?
Employee strength yields organizational resiliency.  When you consider your organization’s human capital:

  • Are your employees positioned to survive a crisis or disruption?
  • Given the strength of your employees, where does your organization stand today?
  • What does your organization need to do in support your employees’ ability to better perform?
  • Do you follow best practices in the training of employees?
  • What are your training/preparation gaps?

What steps improve company readiness?
A fundamental component of a comprehensive risk mitigation program is the identification and analysis of the threats and vulnerabilities that have the potential to greatly impact business operations. Whether the threat stems from the intentional or unintentional acts of people, failed systems or natural disasters, it is generally accepted that well-trained and crisis ready organizations gain a strategic advantage.  Notwithstanding the source of the threat, as a company’s first line of defense, the employees play a pivotal role in the company’s ability to continue as a going concern. Therefore, the sooner an organization enacts policies, processes and procedures to educate, train, guide and support employees in the execution of their daily duties, the greater chance the organization has at avoiding the failures that contribute to or materialize during a crisis or disaster.

Before your organization finds itself on the receiving end of the next crisis, take steps to confirm that employees are fully trained for work – and home.  Employees who are properly trained make fewer errors during the discharge of professional duties and have the knowledge to make sound decisions when the application of judgment is required.  Further, training investments translate into a higher quality of work product, increased productivity and morale.  Similarly, employees who have been trained on personal readiness/preparedness to protect their families at home are more likely to be available – physically, and equally as important, mentally – to help a company sustain itself during a crisis event that extends into the community.

Can your business survive a disruption or crisis?
Most organizations believe they can – until one occurs.  Every organization faces critical decisions that have the potential to impact its resiliency.  Whether to allocate resources to train employees during a period of downsizing and rebuilding is counted high among those difficult decisions that could have enormous consequences.  Take steps now to determine whether your employees are positioned to operate at optimum levels during the execution of daily tasks and – if called upon, to respond during a crisis situation.  Although training budgets may be tight, many companies will determine – perhaps too late – that they really could afford to do no less when confronted with the effects of a crisis that threatens the overall existence of the organization.  Ensure your employees are trained on how to execute daily tasks and to respond – before a crisis of any sort tests your organization’s resiliency. Well-trained employees provide one of the most formidable shields against threats and vulnerabilities. 

Are Your Employees Ready? Are You Sure?  How Do You Know?

Gertie Knox is a Principal with Firestorm (www.firestorm.com), a recognized leader in crisis management, threat assessment, vulnerability analysis, risk mitigation and business continuity. For more information, contact Gertie at gknox@firestorm.com.

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