Investment managers need to learn a lot about business continuity planning. The SEC not only highlights the importance of being able to access critical systems and applications during a disruption, but also the priority of effective communication.
In business continuity planning it is important to communicate with your employees before, during and after an incident. By doing so, you set the wheels in motion by creating the guidelines for the firm’s recovery.
Effective communication should include, but not be limited to:
- Accounting for employees;
- Implementing workload expectations; and
- Providing recovery status updates to employees.
Let’s take a deeper look into those strategies.
Accounting for Your Employees
At the first sign of any major disruption, accounting for your employees should be at the top of the to-do list. At the core of every product or function within a firm are the people. And ensuring those people stay safe should be one of your company’s main concerns. Ask yourself critical questions:
- Who isn’t in the office today?
- Do you have emergency contact information in case you can’t get in touch with someone?
- Were there any employees near the affected area?
A designated member of the Incident Response Team (the firm’s leaders who oversee the incident) should work with Human Recourses to track down and reach out to every employee, ensuring their safety. If employees are in an affected area, determine whether the firm will offer assistance to those in need. Accounting for employees’ safety will illustrate to employees that the priority is not only resuming business operations, but also ensuring the safety of the firm’s staff. Once employees are safe and accounted for, workload expectations should be set.
Implement Workload Expectations
Have you ever been left in the dark wondering what was happening? Leaving your employees to wonder can cause confusion about their responsibilities and next steps and ultimately lead to downtime. By reaching out to employees at the beginning stages of an incident, you are able to demonstrate the firm’s awareness and set the workload expectations for the organization as a whole.
Here are some more critical questions to ask:
- Will staff be allowed to work from home?
- Is it safer to keep them in the office for the time being?
- Will you be sending employees home in waves or all at once?
Setting these expectations at the first sign of disruption will demonstrate to your employees that someone within the firm is in control of the situation and that they needn’t worry. Once these expectations are set and business operations resume, the incident response leaders should focus on providing timely updates ensuring awareness of the firm’s recovery efforts.
Providing Recovery Status Updates
By providing recovery status updates throughout the incident, employees will calmly be able to support the recovery efforts. Depending on the severity of the incident, it should be communicated to employees that these status updates will be provided in a well-timed manner.
For instance, during Hurricane Sandy, some firms set the expectation that status updates would occur every few hours. These high-level updates should include a recap of the event, what the firm knows and what response leaders are proactively doing to recover. If there are multiple offices, employees traveling, etc. those updates should be included in how they are being affected by the incident. Once the incident has been resolved, the last recovery status communication should be an incident recap.
Provide answers to the following critical questions:
- What happened?
- What did the firm do?
- How did the firm react?
- What was successful?
It is extremely important to have a communications plan outlined prior to an incident occurring. Delegating who will communicate to employees and what will be communicated is a vital piece to any business continuity plan and any firm’s successful recovery. By communicating effectively, your firm demonstrates its proactive approach to not only your employees, but external business partners as well.