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Employee Resilience for Improved Organization Resilience

By Andrew Witts, CBCP, Senior Director of Alliances, Infinite Blue:

Business Continuity Management is a company-wide obligation. Ensuring the organization continues to function despite whatever slings and arrows may be thrown against it requires the unequivocal sign-off from the C-suite, the commitment of every division and the shoulder to the wheel of its day-to-day managers.

Wholly effective follow-through doesn’t stop there. Yes, it’s the job of management to create a corporate culture that has a plan for stability, but it also requires employees who buy into the same thinking.

That thinking starts with understanding the organization’s challenges. For instance, take the case of the remote employee providing a conference presentation for prospects from his home. PowerPoint presentation, check. Microsoft Teams implementation, check. Freak weather event killing his home’s power? Uh oh.

But he was prepared to continue. He had a home generator, others may opt for a universal power supply (UPS), powering the room with his key electronics, and even persuaded his spouse to keep the generator fueled until the event was over. Talk about resilience.

That’s the instance of an employee whose personal resilience — ensuring that he had a plan for his home should it lose power in a storm — paid off for his employer. A webinar with scores of prospects went on as booked, preserving the schedules of everyone involved (and, incidentally, highlighting the potency of disaster planning). In the realm of possibility, an employer might have expected the presenter to have a backup computer, or a backup thumb drive for his presentation, or perhaps know how to create a hot spot with a cell phone for a scaled-down presentation. But this employee’s commitment to being ready in his personal life saved his company.

Given that so many companies these days are transforming their way of doing business — work product more often requires human brain power and computer power, whether in manufacturing or service — workforce versatility is the fulcrum of success. And, as always has been the case, self-reliance is critical. Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who commanded Joint Force Katrina in the aftermath of that disastrous storm, noted that residence relied on infrastructure that couldn’t serve them, like ATMs and their home faucet, when having cash and bottled water would have enabled them to ride out the challenges a little less bumpily. In the event of a hurricane, FEMA can help, but you will have your boots on the ground before anybody gets to you from Washington. (Honoré is retired today and devoting himself to disaster preparedness, response, and recovery activities.)

Embracing Resilience
If you have employees who embrace that thinking, you’ll have employees who are better able to make your operation resilient. In this way, perhaps the concepts employed by Infinite Blue in enabling its clients to plan for business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) can be adapted to personal use. At enterprise level, operational resilience is the ability to absorb or recover from an incident or event that can damage or impact the operations or functions of an organization by collecting the data, understanding the metrics, and identifying the gaps that can present a problem. Individuals may not be able to automate everything that a business continuity management (BCM) software solution like BC in the Cloud can, but focusing on those issues will resonate in their own lives. They too, can look at what in their home lives can be devastated suddenly and make their own contingency plans for dealing with those troubles. Gen. Honoré would recommend emergency supplies and go bags in multiple locations.

In BCM, decisions are needed faster and with more reliance on data as they grow. This is true for individuals as well — as their families grow, as they acquire more assets, as they earn more responsibility from their employers and in their communities. Just as Infinite Blue’s business continuity planning includes auditing, every individual should be assessing their own ability to withstand what others may not plan for. Infinite Blue’s BC in the Cloud synchronized recovery platform tracks and produces effective solutions dynamically. In the average person’s life, addressing their issues periodically and before they’re a problem — maintaining and replacing the water heater before it explodes, for instance — leads to healthier living and employable resilience.  For its organizational clients, Infinite Blue provides relational business continuity solutions that preserve institutional knowledge; at home, everyone needs to know where the important papers are or the spare key is hidden. But that needs to be done while protecting the data; if the basement has flooded, that may not be the place for everyone’s birth certificates and passports.

At Home and at Work
Toward that end, encouraging that behavior in your employees will pay off for your company. First, it means your employees are healthier, better-prepared, and clearer thinkers. They’ll be able to see how what they do at home makes for a better, safer, happier life for their families. They’ll see how their preparation makes for a better community, as they plan for better schools or hospitals or organizations. And they’ll bring those positive impacts to their workplaces.

Part of employee resilience is making a commitment to their personal lives. Yes, they should be prepared in their personal lives in ways that will make their home lives and their work lives more productive. But part of that resilience comes from a solid work-life balance. Evidence shows that happy employees are more productive.

Management Options for Resilience
Recommendations to employees for their resilience can be made or shared by the company, but managers should be cautioned to avoid crossing the line into between suggestion and commandment. Adding a link to mental health and productivity apps on your company intranet can be fruitful. So could be reimbursement for some of these.

One thing managers can do is relate community-wide recommendations to their employees. For instance, in regions prone to earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, or tornadoes, obtaining and sharing materials from local agencies in company newsletters, intranet, and email will reinforce the importance of personal responsibility during challenging events. Encourage and reward employees who take classes or earn certifications for skills such as CPR or lifeguard — or even disaster planning and business continuity.

There’s really a reciprocal relationship between employee resilience and business resilience, one that’s been well-established. When an employee works to be fit, to schedule life in order to care for family and be present for the people the employee values, that’s reflected at work. An organized private life makes the employee’s work time more effective. And the preparation people make in their personal lives — planning their finances or disaster planning — creates skills that osmotically transfer to the workplace.

Similarly, helping employees to be more resilient everywhere will pay off at the workplace and at home — only reinforcing the employee’s ability to be of value in the workplace in thinking about continuity and what-if scenarios. According to health provider Kaiser Permanente, a resilient workplace can even attract top talent. Those employees also communicate better, avoid burnout, handle pressure better, and succeed at new challenges.

In building your business continuity plan, don’t overlook the value of having employees who are able to function during challenging times. Employees who are able to structure their lives so that their personal life can withstand the whole run of challenges life provides — from a stranded automobile to a cancer diagnosis — can apply that same resolve and those same skills to ensuring that a factory remains productive when a key machine suffers down time or a supervisor can’t work for months. Seek those employees out, learn about their ways to attack their personal challenges, and foster those abilities at your facility. Conversely, encourage your employees to apply the continuity skills they’re learning about at work to their home lives. The result will be better for them at home and work — and for your business.



About the Author: Andy Witts, CBCP, Senior Director of Alliances, Infinite Blue

With over 17 years’ experience in the industry, Andy works with partners and alliances globally in maturing and building continuity programs. 

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