Omission Accomplished: When Front-Line Workers Are Excluded from BCM Training 

Many organizations seem to go out of their way to provide business continuity training to everyone—except the front-line workers who would most likely be the ones tasked with responding to a disruption.  

Confusing Effort with Accomplishment 

Last week, MHA Consulting CEO Michael Herrera published a blog on the BCMMETRICS site called, “Fooling Yourself: When BC Professionals Confuse Effort with Results.” In it, Michael discusses the difference between activity and accomplishment. Many BCM practitioners think if they are completing a large volume of business continuity–related work, then they are doing their jobs and protecting their companies. But what really matters is not the number of BIAs conducted or recovery plans written but whether the organization can be recovered quickly in the event of a disruption.  

The mature BCM professional has to be tough-minded about recognizing and meeting the higher standard. There are no A’s for effort in business continuity. The stakes are too high. A BC program has to be able to recover the organization swiftly and smoothly. 

Excluding Front-Line Workers from BC Training 

In thinking about the issue of activity versus accomplishment in terms of my clients, the area that stands out for me is training. A lot of companies I’m familiar with do a high volume of work in the area of training but don’t actually achieve their goal of being truly prepared to deal with an event.  

What are these organizations doing wrong? And are there any common denominators to their inability to turn their hard work into meaningful accomplishments?  

In many companies I’ve worked with, one issue comes up over and over. The organizations invest a great deal of time and effort in training people on how to implement their recovery plans. But only a limited subset of the staff receives the training. In many cases, training and participation in recovery exercises is limited to company leaders and the people who wrote the recovery plans. That’s fine as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go far enough.  

In most if not all cases, front-line workers—people far away from the BC office—have a critical role to play in implementing recovery plans. But those people are often not educated about the plans or trained in their use. Often they aren’t even alerted to the plans’ existence, informed of their responsibility to implement them, or told where they can be found. 

No wonder organizations that overlook these workers underperform at recovery when the chips are down. 

An Inability to Recover 

The reason why front-line workers do not receive adequate training in BCM varies from organization to organization. Some companies are reluctant to take their front-line staff away from their ordinary work to do training. Some lack respect for their front-line workers and don’t think it’s worthwhile to give them special training. Some have confidence that their workers will be able to figure things out on the fly.  

Whatever the reason, the result is the same: an organization that spends a lot of time and effort on its BCM program and BCM training, but still lacks the ability to recover efficiently in the event of an outage. 

How to Close the Gap 

So how can organizations close this gap? How can they prepare their front-line people to execute on their recovery plans?  

Companies should identify all workers on all shifts who might conceivably be called on to play a role in helping the organization recover from an outage and train those people—through classroom training and mock-disaster exercises—in how to implement the recovery plans. 

Such training doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. The material can be broken up into five- or 10-minute chunks and shared a little at a time as a part of the weekly departmental meeting.  

An annual tabletop exercise might take up an additional hour or two a year. The organization that cultivates a culture of continuity will discover that disseminatingthe necessary skills and knowledge to everyone becomes second nature.  

Training Every Worker 

Given the high stakes of their work, BCM professionals cannot afford to make the mistake of confusing effort with results. A common example of this is when companies invest a lot of time and effort into developing recovery plans and training people in their use but are still unprepared to deal with an outage.  

It is frequently the case that the cause of this underperformance is a failure to extend BCM training to front-line workers. Companies should identify every worker on every shift who might be called on to help implement recovery plans and ensure that those people receive adequate classroom and hands-on training so they can play the part envisioned for them in the company’s recovery plans. 

Further Reading 

For more information on business continuity training and other hot topics in BC and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from MHA Consulting and BCMMETRICS: 

About
Richard Long
Richard Long is one of MHA’s practice team leaders for Technology and Disaster Recovery related engagements. He has been responsible for the successful execution of MHA business continuity and disaster recovery engagements in industries such as Energy & Utilities, Government Services, Healthcare, Insurance, Risk Management, Travel & Entertainment, Consumer Products, and Education. Prior to joining MHA, Richard held Senior IT Director positions at PetSmart (NASDAQ: PETM) and Avnet, Inc. (NYSE: AVT) and has been a senior leader across all disciplines of IT. He has successfully led international and domestic disaster recovery, technology assessment, crisis management and risk mitigation engagements.
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