September is National Preparedness Month. Find out how competencies can strengthen your business continuity and disaster recovery plans and processes.
When the discipline of business continuity emerged in the 1970s, the primary goal was to minimize disruptions to large mainframe computers and their cooling systems. Since then, technology has evolved enormously. So, too, has the discipline of business continuity, which now broadly aims to deliver uninterrupted business operations during and after an incident. Disaster recovery is the distinct but intertwined discipline of guiding a business through a return to normal operations as quickly as possible after a disaster.
Business leaders and risk managers recognize that ensuring delivery of products and services after a disruptive event requires preparation and planning across a company’s property, infrastructure, and people.
September is National Preparedness Month and many organizations commit to reviewing, updating, and testing their business continuity and disaster recovery plans and programs annually in September. Key to those exercises is preparing for the most-anticipated threats and hazards – and ensuring that you have the skilled personnel, robust processes, and needed tools to respond to disruptions and to customers. If you’re reviewing your programs this month, keep in mind how competencies can strengthen your business continuity and disaster recovery plans.
Monitoring Evolving Threats for Today’s Businesses
It’s not just technology that’s changed in the past fifty years. The landscape of threats and hazards have evolved – and continue to evolve. Here’s a small sample of the many critical issues that have arisen in the U.S. over the past few years that need to be factored into your business continuity plans:
- Climate change. Climate change is generally considered responsible for the sharp increase in the frequency and severity of hurricanes and wildfires, as well as the geographies affected by these events.
- COVID-19. As this infectious disease moves from a pandemic to an endemic situation, companies are starting to grapple with long-COVID as a health condition they may need to address for their employees.
- Monkeypox. While the current risk of monkeypox for the general public is low, employers are tracking the condition as a potential temporary disruptor for their workforce.
- Hybrid work. Cyber threats and cyber attacks continue to evolve rapidly. If you have a remote or hybrid workforce, malicious cyber actors now have a much larger “attack surface” for you to protect.
- Workplace violence. Sadly, mass killings at corporate offices, retail spaces, and schools continue to be a threat. The chances that any one workplace is affected is small, but most business continuity planners are starting to account for the possibility.
Assessing a Cross-Section of Threats
Your company’s risk management team likely includes personnel or advisors who are certified in business continuity and disaster recovery. Those specialists can lead your team through an annual evaluation of potential threats across categories, including:
- Weather Events. Wildfires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, blizzards, landslides
- Health Events. Infectious disease outbreaks, pandemics
- Civil Unrest and Violence. Terrorism, mass shootings, workplace violence, arson
- Information Technology. Outages, cyber attacks
- Accidents. Construction failures, train derailments, airplane crashes, manufacturing or lab accidents
Given what you know about the location and nature of your business and operations, which threats are most relevant? Which are most likely to occur?
For most businesses, a train derailment is unlikely to disrupt your business, for example. But if you have operations next to a rail line on which cargo trains transport hazardous materials, the threat may warrant higher priority for mitigation.
Aligning Workforce Competencies with Your Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans
When you review, test, and revise your business continuity and disaster recovery plans, check to ensure that your workforce competencies are aligned, so your company can minimize disruptions and recover quickly.
- Update Required Skills. As you’re updating policies, note any required skills related to emergency response or disaster recovery that you should add to your skills inventory. For example, are there different communications skills needed now that you have a hybrid workforce? Do you need your workers to know what to do in an active shooter event?
- Monitor BCP and DR Certifications: Check to ensure that your certified personnel are keeping their business continuity planning and disaster recovery certifications current. Ideally, your learning management system is tracking expiration dates and you are enabling access to the required coursework and experience for your personnel to stay compliant.
- Record Flexible Job Roles: In addition to primary job roles, be sure you’re tracking the secondary and informal job roles – and related skills – of your employees. You may have a designated “fire drill marshal”, for example, whose day job is to write code but who takes responsibility for ensuring that all employees leave the building during a fire drill.
- Designate Back-ups. Disruptive events can happen at any time. For each member of your risk management and emergency response team, is there a designated back-up? Are the skills of your primary and back-up team members up to date?
- Conduct Skills Assessments. If you haven’t done a recent skills assessment, this is a good time to check the current skills of your business continuity and disaster response professionals, your broader risk management team, and their back-ups. In fact, it’s a good time to assess the skills of your entire workforce, so you have a current snapshot of which employees have what skills – and where there are gaps.
- Model Potential Impact. As part of your drills and table-top exercises, model what it would look like if any of your primary responders were unavailable. Do their back-ups have the skills you need? What if a portion of your workforce was unable work due to an outage or health issue with extended leave? Who else on the team could step in to manage finances, serve customers, or build your products? What and where are the most critical skills gaps you need to address?
When you have a competency-based approach to business continuity, disaster recovery, and general workforce management, your business will be in the best position possible to recover from disruptive events.
Is your organization ready to align your competencies with your business continuity plans? Download our Competency Management Toolkit to see how to define and measure the skills and competencies you need. Or contact us to find out how Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™ competency management system could help.
5 Important Questions to Answer Before Building a Competency Model | Avilar
Business Continuity Plan | Ready.gov
Business Continuity Planning Suite for Businesses | Ready.Gov
Do You Really Need to Prepare for an Active Shooter at Work? | Avilar
How to Create a Skills Inventory and Why Its Important | Avilar