Building Business Resiliency: People

A resilient business starts with resilient people.

By Cindy Bush

This article is the first in a series on business resiliency. We’re covering what resiliency looks like in a business for its people, property, product and planet, and how you can use scenario planning tools to equip your business for the next what if.

It’s hard enough running the day-to-day operations of a business. Being ready for anything that may happen down the road is even harder. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s the value of looking ahead – planning for what to do when a “what if” happens. There are a lot of names for this planning: business continuity, emergency response, succession planning, disaster recovery, etc., but the theme is the same: how do we respond to any crisis while keeping the business alive and thriving.

A well-thought-out response plan can make the difference between shutting down or staying open. Companies with solid, rehearsed plans (that have communicated those plans to their employees) are far better positioned to survive the worst scenarios.

Here are three areas you’ll want to pay attention to in your response planning:

The reason you’re planning in the first place: Life Safety
Your first priority as a business is the life safety of your employees. Before you worry about increasing production or improving your bottom line, every one of your employees needs to be able to leave work as they arrived. This is a fundamental reason your plan exists.

Your plan will serve as a playbook – a script for handling different types of crises. Outline who will go where, who will call which emergency services, which areas of your building will need to be secured and more. This should be distributed or available to all of your employees and incorporated into your training programs.

How you make it happen: Training
Onboarding is changing. Employees are leaving jobs far more quickly than usual. Good leaders can combat high turnover rates by making sure every team member knows exactly what their job is and what it means to have (and keep) a job at that company. Clearly outline your terms of employment, any rules employees are expected to follow, and what success looks like at your company. Itemize what your employees must do to complete their jobs safely and responsibly, and have an open discussion about their rights and benefits. Don’t assume your new hires know these things intuitively. Be clear and upfront about your expectations.

Pay close attention to your methods of training, too. Reading a list of rules from a screen and providing a signature or taking a one-time, several-hour course won’t work for everyone. Make sure you’ve provided alternative training options to accommodate every person’s learning style. Allow time to address any open questions. Document all training. To borrow the famous line, “so it is written, so it is done.”

Everyone has an onboarding program, but not all onboarding programs are equal. Take the time to evaluate what you’re doing to equip your employees for success at your company. Check your new hire and annual training to see if they cover how to handle emergencies, exit paths, injury first aid services, and in the event of a true emergency, how to call 911.

Surviving and thriving: recruitment and retention
Planning for continuous recruitment and retention under any circumstance elevates your contingency response plans from functional to successful. This year brought challenge after challenge on the recruitment front, particularly in the manufacturing industry. Laid-off employees received generous unemployment benefits and childcare virtually disappeared overnight. Everyone was encouraged to stay home as much as possible to avoid exposing their loved ones and themselves to the virus. Employees were concerned about being on a crowded manufacturing floor.

Companies got creative, and we saw three trends emerge:

  • Virtual job fairs: Innovative organizations and new software programs make virtual job fairs more user-friendly than ever before. Companies sign up for virtual “booths,” and participants can either make appointments in these video chat “booths” or pop in for a quick, casual conversation. Links to marketing materials and recruitment flyers can be posted alongside the booth and representatives can talk to potential employees from the safety of their own socially-distanced offices or homes.
  • TV and social media: If you want to tell people about your openings, you’ll have to find them first. The easiest way to find people is to meet them where they are. This year, we know exactly where people are: at home, doing things like watching TV and scrolling through their social media feeds. Creative HR departments are leaning in to these mediums and posting videos and information about their openings to these audiences.
  • Changing the public’s perception of the industry: There are good jobs out there and good people to do them. The same people who’d shy away from a “factory” job wouldn’t from a “manufacturing facility” job. Your benefits, culture and pay don’t reflect the image of tired and sooty turn-of-the-century factory workers – give your business a better chance by making sure your language doesn’t either. High school grads with an interest in engineering but no money for college might be perfect candidates for your equipment positions, or aspiring chefs might be able to leverage your roles as stepping stones to the career of their dreams if you’re a food manufacturer. Broaden your lens to ensure you collect applications from the best candidates.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a set of unique and still-evolving challenges to the forefront of business leaders’ minds. Leading our companies through these challenges might be the first level of success, but emerging from it better prepared for future crises is the next.

Navigating these challenges safely and responsibly will help us build a better future – for our people, our properties, our products and our planet.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Building Business Resiliency in Property.


Cindy Bush is senior vice president, manufacturing risk specialist at OneGroup. She can be reached at 585-450-1170 or [email protected].