The COVID 19 global pandemic has disrupted businesses worldwide. Many companies are facing unprecedented challenges. In an in-depth conversation with People Matters, Kamal Dutta talks about how businesses can work towards business continuity in crisis and he shares Skillsoft’s resource kits that are now available for free to help businesses navigate the future.
Kamal Dutta is the Managing Director India, Skillsoft. Prior to Skillsoft, Dutta was Managing Director of Asia Growth Countries for HPE Software, which included India, SEA, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea.
The COVID-19 pandemic cases are rising across the world and a huge impact is expected on the world economy. Several businesses are expected to be affected as a result. What are the top focus areas on crisis preparedness that companies should focus on?
Every business is susceptible to a crisis. Be it a financial, technological or a global pandemic like the ongoing COVID-19. When hit with a high-level crisis, businesses are faced with the challenges of continued business operation and growth. For any organization to be able to operate while dealing with disruptive incidents like COVID-19 is to have a business continuity plan (BCP) in the first place. A proper BCP document, helps define how your business will continue to operate while addressing contingencies for every aspect of the business area that could get affected.
In case of high-profile events, the key focus areas for businesses should be its employees, customers, partners with an overall crisis management plan that helps establish detailed steps to deal with and resurface post-crisis in a much better way. There should be a process for declaring a crisis, a team with clearly defined roles, internal & external communication plan and how they plan to keep all the other offices follow the same protocol.
Customers should be well informed about how the company is taking measures to address their challenges while demonstrating value. Companies need to find out any which way to reach out to their customers and help them get through this situation together. Safety and well-being of a company’s internal customers – its workforce should be a top focus. By keeping the communication lines open between employees and the management, a lot can be accomplished.
Several immediate workplace shifts are required – work from home, virtual events and collaboration, leading remote teams. How should companies rethink work processes? And what are the best practices in virtual work?
Everything around work and business has evolved in the last few years. So much so that how we work, where we work and the work itself have witnessed tremendous changes. People have started to question how the future of work and the worker will look like? In fact, organizations can look at it as a huge opportunity to rethink their existing processes, come up with new ones, take a broader perspective to add value to these and develop processes that ultimately lead them to new horizons. Thanks to the fourth industrial revolution, technology has already begun to change the way jobs are undertaken. Automation, AI, ML, Robotics and other digital technologies have replaced people when it comes to repetitive and routine jobs. Organizations need to rely on design thinking to redefine roles, processes that require new wave of capabilities and skillsets.
When your teams are required to work remotely and collaborate over sophisticated virtual tools, ensuring effective virtual communication requires following these guidelines:
- Establish a virtual cadence: Stand-ups, huddles, meetings and other planning sessions should follow a predictable cadence (weekly, fortnightly, etc.). Set expectations around how to participate virtually.
- Use the Right Tech Tools: Only use those collaboration tools that match to the task, are easy for everyone to use and is accommodated by your IT infrastructure.
- Camera on Policy: Ensure that people turn on their cameras when participating in a virtual meeting to create a level of collaboration and human interaction that is otherwise lost in the traditional “conference call.”
- Real-time interaction: The team should be expected to be available in real-time during standard operating hours. Set a policy and expectations around this.
Communication is going to be critical during crisis. Research suggests that intentions are not always clear with text-based communication, as the room for interpretation is higher. What are some of the behaviour that can help become responsive, and supportive while staying in sync?
You must make intentions clear, there is no second thought about it. We cannot leave room for others to interpret in a wrong way when relying on text-based tools. Remember, assumptions can lead to major misunderstandings and lead to issues that can affect the team and the business.
Proper information is the key and one of the critical responsibilities is to constantly provide updates to all the employees via e-mails. The HR staff can instruct the do's and don'ts around the situation via e-mails urging people to stay calm, organized, and safe. Internal stakeholders might feel overwhelmed with the inflow of emails from top level executives but receiving timely updates and globally policy statements can be a morale booster. Make sure the timing is important and the information vital, so your workforce is updated and reminded.
Follow these to help be more responsive, and supportive while everyone is synced in:
- Crystal clear intentions will make sure everyone is on the same page
- Keep your messaging accurate, consistent and regular
- Emphasize important information, highlight parts of the message that require attention
- Separate requests into multiple emails to increase the salience of each one
- Putting up posters in and around office premises keep reminding everyone to follow safety guidelines.
What is the role of leadership during a time like this? With a distributed workforce, what challenges should they be aware of? And how can they lead remote teams effectively?
Leadership needs to look at all the other critical functions including customer support from a business continuity point of view and invest in the development of business continuity plans for each of these functional areas. Leadership review on business continuity plans with key stakeholders is the next step. Plans are good but how good are they? They need to be tested out. In case of COVID-19 outbreak, employees are instructed to work from home and not allowed to travel for business meetings. How will the support function handle the inpour of customer calls when there are no team members available to take calls or say the tools are not accessible to perform the basic tasks? Leadership needs to get such plans developed by every function to evaluate the best options in case employees are instructed to work from home during such out breaks. Another challenge to overcome by the leadership is the feeling of being disconnected when all the teams work from home. They need to ensure effective virtual communication guidelines are followed by every team member.
Skillsoft has made their business continuity course content available for free on YouTube. What are all the modules covered? And how will these courses enable businesses during this difficult time?
With the employees instructed to work from home and restrictions to any work-related travel, has led to an immediate need for organizations to rethink their processes to ensure the safety of their employees and successful continuation of the business. While companies can rely on collaboration tools to set up virtual teams; engagement, productivity, and technology training are legitimate considerations, especially for those without established remote work policies.
These courses will ensure the safety and health of their workforce, while facilitating business continuity as organizations adapt in real time to ensure remote teams are engaged, virtual collaboration is productive, and necessary compliance standards are met.
Here's a list featuring some of the resources from the channel, to help our customers lead through crisis:
- Managing in a Crisis
- Expert Insights on Adapting to Change
- Expert Insights on Collaboration
- Expert Insights on Managing Risk
- Facing Virtual Team Challenges
- Establishing Effective Virtual Teams
- Leadership Insights on Leading Virtually
- Virtual Leadership: Practical Strategies for Getting the Best out of Virtual Work and Virtual Teams
- Faster Disaster Recovery: The Business Owner's Guide to Developing a Business Continuity Plan
- Business Continuity from Preparedness to Recovery: A Standards-Based Approach
- Business Continuity Management: Building an Effective Incident Management Plan
- Business Continuity Planning: A Project Management Approach
- Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster
- The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership
Recommended Reading List
- Corporate Crisis Preparedness: Critical Focus Areas
- Have a Plan: Business Continuity During a Global Crisis
- Leading Remotely
- Five Ways to Improve Communication in Virtual Teams
Business Continuity Training Videos
- Leading More Effectively Remotely
- Infectious Disease Impact: An Overview of Infectious Diseases
- Contingency Response Strategies
What was the intent behind this initiative and how do you feel this will help organizations and employees keep their focus on learning?
It’s an opportunity for us to help our customers address a significant business challenge out customers face while demonstrating the value of what they have already purchased from us. Business leaders need to ensure continuity of business operations and a positive work environment with less direct influence. While we're uncertain of the disruption’s duration, as a company we're offering organizations support to help make business continuity a certainty. The Skillsoft Content Organization has published a Business Continuity channel into Percipio to support our customers as they think about the business implications raised COVID-19.
Skillsoft has curated 24 high-quality content videos of 80 mins for organizations to deal with COVID-19 pandemic. This is being offered free of can be seen more as social responsibility and something everyone in any business going through disruption can benefit from.