Season 1, Episode 3: Protecting People Is Most Important discusses the significance of always taking care of your employees and community, whether that is in times of success or crisis. Join Manager of Advisory Services Kim Hirsch, Senior Director of Product Marketing Paula Fontana, and VP of Product Marketing T.J. Kuhny for a back to the basics discussion. In this episode, you will learn about: the risk of reduction of workforce, duty of care for your employees, and the importance of fostering a culture of resilience. Learn more about Fusion Risk Management and see how technology can help with the basics. Discover what's possible and request a demo!
Paula Fontana (00:00):
Welcome back to Building a More Resilient World, sponsored by Fusion Risk Management, where we discuss the basics of business continuity and risk management. This is Paula Fontana here, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Fusion. And, I am again joined by Manager of Advisory Services, Kim Hirsch and VP of Product Marketing, TJ Kuhny. In episode two, we discussed the importance of understanding your business as a part of your broader organizational resilience effort. Today, we'll focus on protecting your number one asset, your people. So Kim, take us through why protecting your people is so important in business continuity.
Kim Hirsch (00:35):
I think that's a really important concept that sometimes people miss, you know, sometimes you're given the project to make your business more resilient. You get caught in thinking that that's not only just the most important thing, but maybe the only thing, but life safety is always most important. Whenever I work with clients, I always tell them that that's the first thing that I think they should talk about when they're getting into their planning. Because when you're in the crisis space, you have a duty of care around protecting and helping employees. Maybe you have a separate emergency management program, maybe of corporate security where they're kind of taking care of that for you. But if not, it's probably going to become one of your responsibilities. That's just kind of how these things end up working. Somebody has that duty of care. It's probably going to fall to you if it's not already formalized in the company and whether you own it or not. It's really important that you don't forget that it's gotta be the first focus in any crisis. Beyond that there are also the people that are going to be part of making sure that your BC plans are implemented successfully. So you need to make sure that people know that you care about them and what's going on in their personal lives when you get into these situations so that they will also want to kind of jump in and be helpful where the company needs them after that.
TJ Kuhny (01:46):
I think it's safe to say that really your organization's viability is really predicated on a healthy and available workforce. Really your goal needs to be, like you said, first and foremost, protecting your most precious asset, you know, your employees. So at the same time, it feels like there's just so many risk factors out there. So how do you really tackle this challenge to really just think, how do I keep my people say if you know, where do you start?
Kim Hirsch (02:13):
Yeah, it is a big topic because it's such an important one. But I think that what we started talking about in episode one is that business continuity discipline has a way of kind of breaking things down into easier pieces. So if you kind of think about those four impacts, the first one that we talked about for all hazards is the loss of workforce, so a pandemic is a classic example. Planners use a reduction of workforce by saying that you might actually have for planning purposes, 40% of your people not available. That includes people who are sick. People are caring for the sick and probably some people who are too scared to go to work. So if you kind of think about like, if you're in a meat packing plant environment where you have very close quarters with people, a lot of people don't want to return to those kinds of work sites when, when there's some sort of illness going around because they know how easy they can catch it. So, you know, we kind of say, well, we think about that kind of loss of workforce. It gives you that kind of parameters to think about how you're going to help keep people safe and able to work. So, as I said, we kind of used 40% for planning purposes. It's just kind of a standard in the industry. But, the thing to keep in mind with that is you don't get to pick which 40% you're going to lose. So, what if it's your whole management team? We tend to work in kind of clusters of people when we're in the office and you tend to be around the same people all the time. You know, you have a big ELT meeting where some sort of germ gets passed around virus. You might have all the people who are usually your decision makers out. So, part of planning is to say, you know, who's going to be in charge of the people that you're not used to making those decisions aren't available. Something else that I think is kind of unique to the business continuity industry is, you know, we're not infectious disease experts, but we know about social distancing before it was big because we know that that's a way that you plan for, if you have to keep people separated at work, because there, there are some sort of infectious situation that that's one of the ways that you do it. So I think if you, if you kind of go back again and kind of look for those information resources that we talked about, that that are out there around pandemic planning, you'll see that there are all kinds of dangers that your workforce might face and ways to mitigate risk that we already kind of know about. We're not reinventing wheels when we're putting plans together. We're saying what's tried, what's true. What's worked for people and that's how we approach it. Lots of work also has a really profound impact on people. Some people are really happy to work from home. You know, I'm kind of one of those people that I'm trained to be a hermit my whole life. I like being at my house and I've worked when I'm not out in the field with clients, from my house for a very long time. So making that kind of transition for me was pretty easy. Some people aren't. Almost everybody found whether they liked it or didn't like it, that their productivity decreased for a variety of kind of individual reasons when they were just suddenly forced to work from home. So, knowing that going forward, you have to plan for, for how you're going to mitigate that kind of thing. People are kind of social beings. And, and when you think about planning, you can't just say what's best for the business, but you have to say the people who I'm going to rely on to make these plans effective, what's best for them. So that they'll be kind of inspired to do their best work during these, whatever the difficult circumstances is. And then beyond that, you know, just kind of always keep in mind that, as you said, TJ, we're looking for a healthy and available workforce, what do you need to do to keep people most safe? We've got lots of ways that we know that we could do that and be very effective at that. So if you kind of look around for that kind of information, you'll see that a lot of that work's already been done for you. You just have to kind of apply it to your own specific work situation.
Paula Fontana (05:38):
I think that's a really important point and something that shouldn't be overlooked. I tend to be an ambivert. So yeah, the transition was relatively easy for me, but I know some of my extroverted friends are really having a hard time with this. So how do you protect your employees and yet keep them motivated?
Kim Hirsch (05:58):
It's a little bit difficult because I think that there are different answers for different kinds of businesses. Um, when we talk about these topics, a lot of times what we're talking about are people who are making a shift to working from home because they're trying to keep them safe or loss of workforce or because they can't be in their workplace for some reason. But, you know, think about people who are at manufacturing facilities, environments, where they can't shift to working from home. I think the thing that you have to keep in mind is, is what we're talking about today. It's about people's safety and making them feel as if you were taking care of them when you're asking them to go and perform a job for you. So I think that, you know, if you put that kind of safety thought first and foremost, it's really, really important. I was talking to a client earlier today who said that something, some questions where they weren't really sure what the right thing to do was they actually went out and surveyed their employees and said, what of these two situations are these two solutions that we have to keep you safe? What one do you prefer? And they got overwhelmingly told that there was one that their associates really wanted to focus on. That's great. You know, then that, that that's going to also be motivating for people that are going to feel like you listened to them and took their fears and their, and their preferred solutions into account when you did your planning. And I think that's just great. I also think that you have to kind of focus in on the stuff that people might not want to talk about as readily. I think that in our culture, especially, there's kind of a, just suck it up when you're at work. You, you just have to take whatever's coming at you and figure out a way around it, but that's not really productive in times where people need a little bit of extra assistance. So if morale is low, are there things you can do to help? Fusion's been just a stellar, stellar example of this to me that even though we had kind of a strong work from home culture, we had a lot of people who are not in the office a lot, because a lot of us travel a lot. There was very quickly and understanding that we do have a lot of extroverts and a lot of people that miss being in the office. So what can we do to help? So some teams do social hours in the morning, or, you know, quick half hour just to kind of check in with people over a video chat. Pretty much weekly, we have a couple of people who are on our staff who love to perform and, and, uh, play a guitar piano. They put on a concert, completely voluntary if people want to join, but we get a really big participation level because people are kind of craving that kind of thing. So, um, even though, again, you're thinking about how to keep your business safe, but part of the job is how to motivate people to keep on working. And for that, sometimes you have to go, it's not about business, it's about people and their needs and what can I do to help them.
TJ Kuhny (08:24):
You're really talking about taking care of your people, keeping them protected and getting them safe as your most important asset. And I'm at the same time, I'm thinking about trying to get people to care about overall this culture of resilience, right? And that's really the ultimate goal is that you get people caring about the program in a way it's going to help the business, but it's also going to keep them safe. How do you think this whole topic of employee safety and caring for them ties into building that culture of resilience?
Kim Hirsch (08:56):
I think that when people feel that their company cares about them as individuals and wants to help protect them, that that gets big, pay off. You know, the more that the people feel like you're willing to do for them, the more they're going to be willing to do for you in return. I've seen this in action in some really, really bad situations. After 9/11, I worked for a company that was headquartered across the street from the world trade center. They were in financial center, which also was heavily damaged. Um, and also had people vetted with other companies that were at the trade center. We also happen to have call centers. The very first thing that the company did was, um, they, they switched their call centers from dealing with clients, to calling every single employee who works out of those locations to see if they were okay and what they needed. People that were forced out of their homes were given hotels that were paid for by the company. It shows people that there's a level of care about them as people that paid off. The woman that I worked for at the time, she was actually thinking about leaving. She was applying for other jobs. She was a, she was a fairly highly placed vice president, but her family lived in the zone and were put up in a hotel for, I think it was six weeks. No questions asked by the company except for calling them every once in a while to ask if there was anything else that they needed. She stayed there for years after that, she, she became very, very loyal after she saw what the company was willing to do for her. And if you think that's kind of an extreme example and you say, well, yeah, but that was after 9/11 when, when a lot of people kind of understood this extreme situation, I've seen it happen time and time again. I worked at an entirely different company when tornados flew through Joplin did the same thing. The company I worked for had a call center. We tried very hard to reach out and find people, you know, we gave them a line to call into. That's a great, another great business continuity practice to kind of have an emergency number that people know that they can call for information or to check in after a disaster, but not everybody did that, and you might not be able to find your ID that has that phone number on it. So we took HR records and, and tried to call people's emergency contacts and find them. We also had people who were the managers in the field there that had gotten trucks and put plastic totes in the back of them and rode around and tried to find people who were trying to sift through the tornado records for their belongings and said, here's some plastic boxes cause we know that you need someplace to put it. So, you know, this is the kind of things where you just kind of go, I'm a human, having a human response to something that's affecting the people that I care about. What can I do to make the situation better for them? And you're going to find out that people will have a reaction that breeds loyalty and where they really want to help your company succeed themselves after that disaster. So I think it's something that you, can't only just not discount, but something that should be in the front of your mind, whenever you start your crisis response. Are my people safe? What do they need me to do to help them that's within my power to do for them.
Paula Fontana (11:41):
Thank you, Kim, for your insights. Could you take us through some of the highlights of what we just discussed?
Kim Hirsch (11:47):
Yeah. You know, I think at the end of the day, the important thing is to just remember that people are important to your business, your ultimate success, your success in implementing it and kind of a plan to don't overlook them, make sure that you're making their safety, their resilience, that you can help with part of your actual business continuity planning. They are going to be a key part of your plans being successful. If they're worrying about what's going on at home or their personal life, they're not going to be able to focus on business. So do the solid thing and help them out in kind of the opposite way first, before you expect them to actually be there and focus so that they're able to give you a hundred percent at that point. Remember that when we're talking about contingency events, that you could have a situation where up to 40% of your people, aren't there, that's a standard in the industry for a reason. So this is kind of a serious part of business continuity planning. It's all serious, but when people's lives are at stake, it's, it's even more important that you get it right. So make sure that you're putting a lot of time and attention and detail into these parts of your plan. And it's really going to pay off at the end as well.
Paula Fontana (12:47):
All right. Wonderful, Kim, thank you so much. And thank you, TJ, and thank you all for joining us for today's episode of protecting people is most important on Building a More Resilient World. See you next time.