Man Up

Business continuity turns its focus to manpower

An increasing number of business continuity professionals and disaster recovery experts are discovering that the most vulnerable links in the continuity- of-operations chain are the people a business serves and the people who serve them. While this seems intuitively obvious now, for decades, resolving the fragility of technology had been the exclusive focus of the industry.

Focusing on Needs
The greatest need of a business during adversity, crisis or disaster is manpower. The business able to mount the best response will be the business with the most people responding.

The natural instinct of people during and after a crisis or disaster is to gather those most dear to them, then partner with those most useful to them. In the modern age of organized disaster response, emergency services and volunteer aid, the window of opportunity for a business to be useful or even relevant is small. However, when a business has built relationships with employees and customers, collaborating for needs of their respective groups, the business becomes part of the group and everyone benefits. The problem is that the same is true for people and those close to them. This creates the first conflict: the group needs manpower and your business needs manpower, but in light of limited resources, the individual employee must choose where to place his or her other attentions. In this equation, the business is predisposed to lose.

Changing the equation means changing the perception from the belief that manpower must be allocated to the group or business to the viewpoint that manpower can be allocated to both simultaneously. To accomplish this feat, the business must partner with the individual to provide one or more of the group’s survival needs in each of the two survival functions—safeguarding and sustaining.

Safeguarding: The Most Basic Human Function
Before an individual employee or customer will leave a group and journey to the business, that person must be assured that the group is safeguarded. For a business to partner with the individual to safeguard the group, the business must not only ensure a safe and secure environment at the business site, but must assist the employee in providing that safety and security for the rest of the group, whether it accompanies the individual to the business site or remains elsewhere.

This explains why individuals will venture out, even before roads are safe, to purchase building supplies at the local hardware store or obtain medical care at the emergency room. Similarly, hospitals and emergency shelters have long known that if they offer staffs’ families services and shelter at the work site, absenteeism falls precipitously. Shelter assistance, home repair services, alternate housing sites, travel assistance, even transportation and “disaster daycare” are a few suggestions that businesses should consider to lay the foundation for partnering with the group.

Sustaining: The Most Obvious of Needs
The key to becoming a partner for sustaining the group is to become as essential as the things that sustain each member of the group. In times of crisis and disaster, groups of people seek to become like a spacecraft, selfcontained vessels protecting that which sustains life: air, water, food, clothing and fuel.

Most business disaster plans, continuity of operations plans, pandemic plans and business continuity plans, if they address survival needs, seek to make the business site like a space station to sustain the individual. The business owners that become a true group partner provide for those their business seeks to attract in the same way they provide for their own group. In this way, they identify the sustenance unique to their locality. Few hardware stores are in the business of selling canned foods and camping meals, but when a hurricane threatens, these stores stock the shelves with water and canned goods, knowing that this will attract more customers.

Most supplies that sustain the group are commonsense items easily stockpiled and even more easily distributed. This is one area where business continuity professionals and disaster recovery experts excel, but it must be remembered that, like the food at the hardware store, these supplies only attract people if they believe their group is safe. Moreover, these sustaining supplies only attract people to a particular business if that business is associated with the group’s safety as well.

Show You Care
Give disaster “go-paks” to employees and their families. Include valued clients, suppliers and your own family. Such kits can easily be made for very little money in house or ordered from such vendors as 1-800-Prepare and Guardian Survival Gear. Ensure that the go-pak comes with a disaster preparedness guide such as “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Disaster Preparedness.”

This article originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Security Today.

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