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How To Build Resilient Organisations During A Pandemic- Part 2

Posted on 15 June, 2020 at 06:02

By Epaphras Chinyakuza

As we continue to establish key strategies to survive during the pandemic below are some of the steps;

         i.            Develop a robust communication strategy (including social media)

Effective communications during any crisis are crucial to maintaining beneficiary trust, restoring employee morale and confidence, and retaining operational stability. While some organisations have a Communications Strategy or Policy and designated points of contact to engage with internal and external stakeholders, often times the messaging is inconsistent and untimely.

All channels must reconcile (e.g., social media, organisational website, public relations releases).

Additionally, events like a pandemic can add another layer of complexity due to circulation of false news and narratives on social media. To provide cohesive and timely messaging, organisations must establish a robust communications strategy that clearly lays out process and protocols to engage with a wide set of stakeholders (e.g., beneficiaries, implementing partners, regulators, employees, Government, media, health officials) inclusive of any legal and jurisdictional considerations.

Furthermore, it is important that employees receive training on the characteristics of a pandemic and how pandemics differ from traditional disasters that might occur to an organisation. 

       ii.            Team with public sector, state and local agencies and health officials

Pandemics are a public issue first. Hence, it is important for the all sectors come together to provide an adequate and comprehensive response to a pandemic event. organisations can leverage advisories, resources and health safety measures prescribed by international, national and local agencies and health officials, and refrain from distributing conflicting materials as this can lead to confusion and fear among employees and communities.

Organisations must closely coordinate on any direct efforts (e.g., providing PPE or any supplies) to support communities with local agencies to avoid chaos, and to not impede any public assistance efforts underway. Communication strategy and channels to engage effectively with local and national authorities should be established.

     iii.            Increase rigor and complexity of testing

Although this is common in the corporate world, due to the increase in transition by many organisations to venture into Social Enterprise, organisations must elevate the complexity of existing scenarios used for testing and simulations to assess preparedness for pandemic events. This includes testing against scenarios that evaluate their response to extended periods of outages, total shutdown of a major operational areas, increased absenteeism (the number of employees available), multiple outages and so on.

Organisations should also include critical third parties (funding partners, beneficiaries, employees, service providers) in simulations to gain a better understanding of interdependencies and points of coordination, and to assess effectiveness of their resilience plans. In addition, organisations must practice crisis management governance and response, including delegations of authority, so that delegates are well prepared to execute timely decisions in the event primary decision-makers are not available, for example, Programme Managers allowing programme officers to make certain decisions.

     iv.            Leverage pandemic command center to prioritize and govern effectively

As time goes by, a widespread pandemic event will assert more pressure on existing resources, infrastructure and technology, resulting in slow implementation of programmes. As resources become constrained, organisations must constantly re-prioritize service deliveries that are absolutely critical to meet beneficiaries needs.

Board Members and the Senior Management Team should have a thorough understanding of activities that must be de-prioritized to allow effective repositioning of available resources. Organisations must have a clearly documented prioritization framework, inclusive of associated risk tolerances, supported by a robust governance process to make risk acceptance decisions during an event, Risk Management Strategy/ Framework/ Policy.

The Government operationalised a 24-hour Covid-19 Command Centre that assists the National Taskforce in making timeous decisions. The Command Centre is managed by the Civil Protection Unit. It is also important that organisations partner with the pandemic command center setup. This may assist in enabling rapid decision-making, drive clear accountability, provide heightened event monitoring and reporting, and disseminate cohesive enterprise messaging, internally and externally.

       v.            Establish crisis management exception approval process

In the event of a crisis, there are instances when organisation need to deviate from standard policies and procedures to best meet the needs of the communities they serve and employees. For instance, an organisation may not have stringent policies with regard to remote working, organisational debit card usage, however, these policy exceptions may be necessary and permissible during an actual crisis.

All potential changes to existing policies should be carefully reviewed by risk management, compliance and legal prior to being finalized and should take into account what risks are appropriate to accept and any legal obligations. 

     vi.            Apply a people-first mindset

It is also important for organisations to prioritise the safety and well-being of its workforce during the pandemic. Employees are unable to focus on work responsibilities when their well-being and that of their family are in peril. Hence, the critical question organisations must address at the onset of a pandemic event is whether their employees are safe, followed by whether they are available to perform critical functions. It is important for organisations to be able to monitor the situation, provide a safe workplace and offer their employees the support that they need. For example, KFM Consultant has a Doctor on standby to attend to any of its employees who need medical assistance during the crisis. 

To enable timely two-way communication and employee tracking and to disseminate critical information, organisations must validate that emergency notification systems are in place and tested on a routine basis. Alternative communication channels such as social media may be used, especially if the telecommunication network capacity is strained.

In addition, organisations should deliver pandemic-related training to enhance employee preparedness and alleviate any concerns. KFM Consultants provided pandemic-related training sessions to a number of organisations before the National Lockdown was announced.

However, it is also important for the Board to evaluate how well the organisation has responded to the crisis. There is need for a Board evaluation and organisational evaluation with fifty-nine days into the National Lockdown. After the evaluation, organisations can still implement some of the response strategies highlighted above.

NMap Technologies