CLAREMORE, Okla. — There’s a country song that says, “Life’s a dance, you learn as you go; sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow.”
While those lyrics make for a great country song, we need to assure that we are leading our employees and customers when it comes to planning for a crisis that affects our business. That dance of making it up as we go is not going to work well.
As David Griggs wrote recently in this column, the massive flood that affected his business impacted many employees, customers and assets.
Recently, businesses along the Florida Coast were impacted by Hurricane Ian. Fires in California, tornadoes in Oklahoma, polar vortex freeze-outs across the Plains—at some time or another, your business is going to be impacted by a crisis. Even if it’s only on a minimal level, you should have a plan for how to protect your people, assets and business.
We learned a lot during the Great Pandemic of COVID, and in a way, it was a dance—just not a dance we prefer to repeat—and we learned as we went.
Now during this quieter and more peaceful time, with COVID seemingly behind us, I would encourage you to sit with your team and start to shore up your defenses in preparation for the next time something unexpected hits. A few areas of attention that will help include:
Employee Records: How long has it been since you updated employee emergency contact information? Numbers change, people change and the info they provided for emergency contacts when they hired in 15 years ago is likely different.
Set a date each year when you collect updated emergency contact information from each employee for the files.
Records Security: Those files with the contact information are no good to you if they are under 6 feet of water, burned in a fire or blown away by a tornado.
Consider updating your storage systems for important employee and customer records (service contracts, communications, etc.) to an electronic format with cloud storage accessible from anywhere. Many cloud-based HR services are available to choose from for these records.
Emergency Supplies: Remember the scramble in 2020 to find supplies for cleaning, sanitation, face masks and gloves? That run on the world supply could impact you again, so take stock and manage your supplies and inventory accordingly.
Same goes for winter weather supplies (salt, ice melt, snow shovels)—don’t wait until the afternoon before a big snowstorm to run to the local big box store for this stuff!
Cross-training: Plan for employees to be impacted and maybe not at work when the next crisis comes around. Take the time now to formalize, and reward, a cross-training plan so you can cover essential and important jobs in the plant and on route. Certify, recognize and reward employees who complete formal qualifications for multiple jobs throughout your operation.
Communications: When certain disasters hit your plant, communications may be down as well. Consider a service utilizing a toll-free call-in number where your employees can get updated messages on work status so they and you can communicate when plant phone services are impacted.
Building & Asset Security: Refresh your building access and security practices. Learn to limit access and provide more secure working conditions for your team.
Gone are the days, unfortunately, when we could run a building that is wide open to anyone coming down the street. Too many tragic instances occur every year where simple building security practices could have helped prevent access.
The Bottom Line: Planning ahead and being prepared takes time and a focused effort. But when that plan is needed, it gives you relief that you have a guide for getting through the crisis, no matter what level it is on.
You will find the stress is considerably relieved by having a plan to work to, instead of trying to dance through it as you go.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].