HR Business Continuity Planning: Make It a Part of Your Strategy
Sharlyn Lauby

By: Sharlyn Lauby on June 4th, 2020

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HR Business Continuity Planning: Make It a Part of Your Strategy

HR Operational Efficiency

Est. Read Time: 3 min.

As more organizations think about reopening, increasing production, and bringing employees back to the workplace, they’re beginning to debrief on what’s taken place over the past few months and how they can be more prepared for incidents in the future. If your organization hasn’t done this yet, consider asking just a couple of questions:


What went well? It’s important to ask this question first because sometimes we’re so focused on what went badly that we forget to take time to recognize the things that went well. Even if the organization was completely unprepared, chances are there were some things that went well. Be sure to discuss and celebrate them.


What would you do differently next time? Please note: I’m not saying anything went “wrong.” It could simply be that if faced with a similar situation, the organization would have made a different decision. Or that the organization would have made the same decision but executed it differently. 


An example of an outcome from a debrief might be that the organization should have an HR business continuity plan in place. Some organizations already have continuity plans for situations like natural disasters or terrorist attacks, but many say that they didn’t have plans in place for covering a pandemic. As such, it might does make some sense to have an HR business continuity plan for public health crises. Granted, what we’ve faced with COVID-19 has been truly unique and, hopefully, we’ll never face anything like this again. But it doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t have a high-level plan to start with.


Main considerations for an HR business continuity plan

There are two main considerations for an HR business continuity plan: 1) furniture, fixtures, and equipment (also known as FF&E) and 2) talent. In general, businesses are very good at creating plans for protecting their FF&E, the hard part is putting together the talent component of the plan. And, this is where the input from human resources is critical. Here are a few things to consider:


1. Give human resources a key role in developing the plan and being a part of the response team. This is also a time when job descriptions are not as important as having individuals with the ability and willingness to do the task. It takes agility and commitment to be on any type of emergency response team. Organizations will want to get buy-in from anyone asked to take on this role. 


2. Examine organizational best practices when it comes to existing emergency communications. There’s no reason to recreate plans. Some of the communication strategies that the organization currently uses for hurricanes, snowstorms, flooding, etc. could be used here as well. There does need to be a hard look at what currently works and is considered a true best practice. 


3. Designate common sites for employees to find information. During any type of emergency, one of the things that every employee is looking for is information. To facilitate the flow of information, organizations can use HR case management software to manage employee questions. Employees can self-serve through a knowledge portal and HR can more efficiently route specific cases to the right specialists.


4. Maintain HR technology. A key element to providing employees with timely information is keeping the HR department up and running! For instance, during COVID-19, HR departments were declared essential functions of the business. Even if HR departments are working from home, digital file management keeps files safe and accessible from anywhere so HR can continue to keep employees in the loop. 


This type of HR business continuity planning is the foundation for all of the organization’s planning efforts. The organization can use technologies to keep HR connected to the business, employees, and candidates. Then, HR departments can outline a communication plan to disseminate information, which might change based on the situation. For example:

    • During a hurricane or other natural disaster, the communication focus might be on preparations and how to stay informed if the electricity goes out.

    • If the company has an accident or incident, the communications might include updates regarding what’s being said in the media.

    • And in a situation like COVID-19, HR can communicate public health updates as well as work-related safety information. 

The good news is that since most employees have some sort of technology device, HR technologies will allow the company to stay in touch with employees in the face of an emergency. According to Pew Research Center, 96% of Americans own a cellphone of some kind. 81% of those are smartphones. 


HR departments continue to demonstrate that they’re critical to organizational success and they should be a key player in any kind of continuity planning. If the organization is creating a plan for the first time or revising the one they have, human resources plays a key role in its development. 


Make sure your HR team is set up to access digital employee files anytime, anywhere. Learn everything you need to know in The Complete Guide to Digital HR Document Management.

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About Sharlyn Lauby

Sharlyn Lauby is the HR Bartender and president of ITM Group Inc., a Florida based training and human resources consulting firm focused on helping companies retain and engage talent. Sharlyn sees human resources as a strategic partner - the marketing department for a company’s internal clients rather as administrative. During her 20+ years in the profession, she has earned a reputation for bringing business solutions to reality. Prior to starting ITM Group, Sharlyn was vice president of human resources for Right Management Consultants, one of the world’s largest organizational consulting firms. She has designed and implemented highly successful programs for employee retention, internal and external customer satisfaction, and leadership development. Publications such as Reuters, The New York Times, ABC News, TODAY, Readers Digest, Men’s Health and The Wall Street Journal have sought out her expertise on topics related to human resources and workplace issues.