Preparing for Non-Pandemic Health Related Impacts

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Tim Korsmo, Advisory Consultant, MHA Consulting

As business continuity practitioners, we have Pandemic (or Epidemic) Plans in place, but what if we lost key personnel due to non-pandemic events?

When we lose a key team member for an extended period, we immediately think:

  • Which remaining staff can perform the work of the lost resource? Anyone? If not, where do we go to find the lost skills and knowledge?
  • Do they have the same skills, with knowledge of the affected processes?
  • Can they perform at the same capacity/skill level?
  • Can they perform in both roles, or will we need to backfill with another resource?

If this happened tomorrow, would your organization be ready, or would it experience an interruption in services?

The primary distinction between pandemic and non-pandemic loss of personnel is that pandemic losses will affect more team members over an extended period while non-pandemic losses are limited to key personnel or teams.

Examples of non-pandemic causes include long-term disabilities, non-communicable diseases, and injuries on or off the job. I have a good friend who suffered a serious injury while doing yard work. This injury took specialized surgery and kept him out of the office for weeks. He was able to work from home for limited periods, extending time to the office as his healing progressed.

So, how can we prepare for non-pandemic loss of key personnel? First, analyze which positions have/don’t have succession plans. All positions supporting your organization’s critical processes should have at least two staff identified to fill the role of the lost resource. These personnel must have the appropriate training and demonstrated competency. This, like all training, should be kept current in your HR Management System, recovery plans, and call trees.

Consider the following steps to prepare for non-pandemic loss of personnel:

  • Identify critical processes within your organization and identify the positions currently owning/performing them.
  • Identify the necessary knowledge and skills required to support the critical processes.
  • Identify those staff within the organization with the required skills and knowledge. If none exist, this role presents a single point of failure. Consider seeking outside resources if needed.
  • Identify strategies to assign selected staff to the role or assign the duties of the role under existing staff.
  • Create or update succession plans to incorporate these strategies and call them out in your business continuity plans.