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business continuity planning

HR considerations for business continuity planning

from  February 8, 2021 | 5 min read

Although today’s businesses are more digitized, automated, and data-driven than ever, they are still not immune to the age-old problem of disruption.

Whether it’s a natural disaster, utility failure, willful damage, or cybersecurity attack, a major disruption can have serious negative consequences on business operations. What’s more, business owners can easily make things worse depending on how they handle the situation.

Covid-19: an unprecedented disruption

The issue of business disruption is especially pertinent today as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to cripple entire economies. In Singapore, economic growth shrank by 41.2% over the previous quarter, plunging the country into a recession. While “circuit breaker” measures have been lifted since June, the government has advised employers to ensure that employees whose work can be done remotely continue to do so.

However, there are serious risks to this arrangement, especially for companies with no experience in work-from-home setups. There are also security concerns when handling company data outside the workplace, not to mention, potential productivity loss when deviating from standard work practices.

In fact, a Cigna survey found that 63% of employees working from home in Singapore reported higher levels of work-related stress in April—a 5% increase over January, before quarantine measures were initiated. Respondents expressed concerns about being “always-on” at home and having a poor work-life balance.

The coronavirus pandemic is just one of many types of major disruptions that can result in a loss of revenue, losses related to recovery costs, and a substantial drop in profitability. Although it’s impossible to completely avoid crises, companies can protect themselves by planning for it.

This is where a business continuity plan comes in.

What is a business continuity plan and how can HR support it?

A business continuity plan, or BCP, is a system of procedures, measures, and activities that outline how a company of any size can prepare for and recover from potential threats to the organization.

Your BCP ensures that your company’s most critical processes stay running so that the organization can continue to operate and recover from disruption. Take human resources (HR) and payroll, for example. During a crisis like a pandemic, your BCP needs to account for your HR team’s ability to track work hours, process timesheets, and continue paying employees on time.

Although there are different schools of thought when it comes to business continuity and its impact on your HR operations, your plan should, at the very least, do the following:

Identify all threats to your company and human resources

Every BCP must define the most likely contingencies the business may face. According to the Business Continuity Institute’s (BCI) Horizon Scan Report 2020, the leading causes of disruption over the past 12 months are:

  • Health incidents

  • IT and telecom outages

  • Safety incidents

  • Lack of talent/employees with key skills

  • Cyberattacks and security breaches

These issues are a great starting point for your plan, but you should also prepare for outliers. If anything, Covid-19 has taught us that there’s no such thing as overplanning.

Although the pandemic is a textbook example of a Black Swan (an event with a low probability of happening but has a massive impact that seems obvious with hindsight), it’s also true that businesses with existing remote work policies have had an easier time maintaining normal operations.

Implement safeguards and procedures to mitigate these risks

Again, these safeguards and procedures will differ from company to company, but you can cover some general examples of measures to include in the scope of your BCP:

  • Create a list of tasks and contingencies to keep operations moving in the event of a threat

  • Provide explanations of where to go and what to do during emergencies (e.g. evacuation protocols during fires and earthquakes)

  • List the procedures for backing up and storing company data

  • Include protocols for maintaining and updating the plan when necessary

  • Keep an updated list of contact information of key management personnel to liaise with during emergencies

Constantly test and review your business continuity plan

Continuity plans can’t exist in a vacuum. Many companies make the mistake of having a plan in place but no system for testing it. This can lead to problems like HR managers knowing contingency procedures in theory but not in practice or employees having a hard time complying with emergency plans.

It’s just as important to have the BCP reviewed regularly, ideally on a monthly or quarterly basis. Bring together a group of department heads, managers, and team leads to discuss the plan, particularly its feasibility and relevance to the organization’s current needs.

Things to consider when creating a business continuity plan

There are two primary factors to consider when creating and rolling out a BCP.

  • People: Any threat to the company will almost always affect your employees the most. As an employer,  you need to understand how your employees work, what resources they need to perform their duties, and how they can be kept safe during times of crisis.

  • Process: For best results, companies should engage in business process mapping to identify, list, and determine who is responsible for tasks in your organization. This step makes it easier to make them BCP-ready.

How to leverage automation in your business continuity plan

Covid-19 has also highlighted the value of automation for business resilience. According to a recent Harris Poll survey, 92% of business leaders agree that “to survive and flourish, companies must enable digital channels and process automation in the workplace.”

Automation offers a way to ensure your business processes keep running with little to no human intervention. For instance, as entire workforces stay home due to the pandemic, automation can take care of payroll and compliance seamlessly, giving HR managers one less thing to worry about.

Automating your HR infrastructure also usually means using a cloud-based system. This lets you safely secure sensitive data on an offsite server, allowing you to access it anywhere and anytime. Look for an HR solutions provider that provides administrator features for HR managers and self-service facilities for employees.

This lets your HR department configure HR policies and workflows to automatically process claims and reports. Meanwhile, self-service features allow employees to take control of their personal information, leave and claim applications, and attendance verification, among others.

Now is the best time to update your business continuity plan

Business disruptions naturally cause a lot of fear and anxiety, but an effective BCP can inspire confidence in employees and other stakeholder groups. Creating a BCP also makes it easier to embrace business continuity as a core principle of your organization, making you better equipped to handle a crisis when it strikes.

Unit4 can help you set up an environment where operations can resume as usual. Our Prosoft HRMS can handle payroll management to ensure your employees are paid on time (which is more important now than ever). We also provide solutions for leave management, allowing your employees to get the physical and mental health breaks they deserve.


Unit4 Prosoft

Unit4 Prosoft have been serving customers in Asia for 30 years and is trusted by over 1,000 businesses across the APAC region in the manufacturing, healthcare, retail, construction, and professional services industries. Unit4 Prosoft HRMS has modules that support every aspect of your HRMS programs and allows you to manage people’s entire hire-to-retire cycle with a central control center and database. Your people get the flexibility and freedom to have what they need—how, when and where they need it.