You have to feel sorry for risk managers as the coronavirus has thrown a new and brutal spotlight on their work. Organisations are rightly keen to learn from the coronavirus pandemic and put in place measures to contain risks as the ‘new normal’ unfolds.

Here’s our take on what risk managers should be doing right now to strengthen their businesses. Of course, true risk management looks to the future so our next blog will look at seven points that they can consider strategically.Seven Immediate Priorities for Risk Managers:

 

  1. Business Continuity Planning (BCP)

As the Government has found to its cost, there’s no point carrying out simulations or practice exercises unless you’re willing to act on the outcomes, however unpleasant your findings may be. Now is the time to facilitate an open and honest review of how your business has handled the coronavirus crisis so you can learn lessons and strengthen your business for whatever may happen next!

Good questions to ask:

Was it clear who made up the management team?

Did they communicate effectively?

Did they have access to the information and resources they needed?

Did your BCP prioritise the right areas? If not, what changes need to be made?

Are you now more resilient than before the crisis?

 

  1. Communication and information

Strong communication engages audiences and builds relationships, even in a crisis situation. You need to understand if your communications with key stakeholders, such as employees, customers and suppliers, met your audiences’ needs or left them feeling vulnerable, frustrated or angry.

Good questions to ask:

Did the management team communicate effectively?

Did employees feel ‘in the loop’ or ‘out on a limb’? Have our communications enhanced or damaged employee engagement? How do we know this? Should we be surveying our employees?

How did we communicate with suppliers? How can we find out if we got it right?

How did we communicate with customers? How can we find out if we got it right?

What new communications systems and protocols may be needed for the future?

How difficult was it to find information relevant to our business?

Which sources of information were most useful?

Did we waste valuable time sifting through irrelevant information?

As part of this process, you should map your internal and external stakeholders and be clear about who communicates with whom, how they do it and how often.

 

  1. People

Now is the time to look after your people. Being a caring employer with a visibly caring outlook will pay dividends in the long run by boosting employee loyalty and recommendation. Evaluate recent events from your employees’ perspective so you can understand how well you have met their needs.

Good questions to ask:

Were we able to follow all the government advice? If not, why not?

Were employees able to voice concerns about their personal safety and feel understood?

Did we encounter difficulties acquiring sufficient and appropriate PPE?

Were our stocks of hand sanitiser sufficient?

If buildings were left unoccupied for several weeks, were/are air conditioning and water systems appropriately recommissioned to avoid Legionella contamination?

What will our new rules be for leading teams remotely?

What collaboration software (and training) is needed?

What will be the normal protocols for travel (the forthcoming international standard in this area, ISO31030, will provide guidance)?

How are our employees’ aspirations likely to change? Will we see a demand for remote working?

Were we able to identify all vulnerable employees quickly?

What training do we need to re-equip our employees for the future? Will we need additional resources? How will we hire them?

If we have furloughed staff, how is this likely to affect their loyalty to the business?

How did we support employees in the transition to home working? Do they have the right equipment ?

How can we support employees who have lost a loved one?

Are we likely to lose talent early, e.g. by staff bringing retirements forward?

Can the virus cause long-term effects which may prevent full-time employment?

Are our HR policies still fit for purpose?

 

  1. Customers

You may have understood your customers a few months ago, but what matters most to them now could be very different. Make contact to find out what needs you can help them meet (you may even find some new opportunities). Focus on your most important segments, in terms of margin, length of relationship and your contractual obligations.

Good questions to ask:

Have our customers’ needs and expectations changed? If so, how?

How can we survey our customers to find out what we could have been done better or differently?

Were we transparent in the decisions we needed to take and open about how they would affect customers?

 

  1. Supply chains

Just ten minutes on LinkedIn is long enough to prove that almost every business has been affected by coronavirus, so your supply chain is more vulnerable than ever. According to The Institute of Supply Management (ISM), “In early March, more than 80 percent [of firms] believed their organisation would experience some impact due to COVID-19** disruptions. By the end of March, this increased to 95 percent of organisations who will be or have been impacted by coronavirus supply chain disruptions.”

Good questions to ask:

How resilient was/is our supply chain?

Which suppliers kept us informed and which left us in the dark?

Are we likely to lose a key supplier/s? If so, how can we replace them?

How can we improve our supply chain?

Should we maintain stocks of critical items?

How did prices fluctuate? How did price changes affect our profit margin?

 

  1. Technology

Many employees have had a crash course in remote working, having been provided with laptops and virtual meeting capabilities for the first time. It’s important to understand the impact that this has on productivity, data security and cyber risk.

Good questions to ask:

Do we have the right technology in place to support productive remote working?

Do employees understand how to use virtual meeting technology safely? What are the cyber risks? Do we need to provide training?

How are we updating the IT equipment used by remote workers?

How will we update the equipment of furloughed employees before they start work?

How are we warning employees about the rise of coronavirus related online scams?

How can we be confident that we are remaining compliant with GDPR now we have more remote workers? Are employees printing at home? How is confidential material being disposed of?

Do we have robust IT policies re the use of company equipment for personal use?

 

  1. Insurance

Many businesses have found to their detriment that Business Interruption policies don’t provide cover for pandemic conditions. Your insurance broker will have been monitoring the situation carefully and can provide advice.

Good questions to ask:

Is our insurance still fit for purpose?

Can our broker suggest alternative policies?

Is all our new IT kit appropriately insured?

 

 

Our next blog will look at the world of ‘horizon scanning’ and how risk management can help you prepare for a more certain future.