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Getting Started: Vaccinations and Your Business Continuity Management Strategy

Five Considerations for Risk Managers

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout escalates across the globe, many risk managers are asking how vaccinations play a role in their overall business continuity management strategy, especially as their companies seek to reopen or go to a hybrid in-person/virtual working model. Employers must factor safety and risk mitigation into their business continuity strategies, including the role of vaccinations, and quantify potential impacts to the business should an outbreak occur.

Your business continuity management strategy should focus on reducing the impact of any potential vaccination risk to ensure continuity of your organization’s critical business operations, processes, reputation, financial stability, and more.

Here are five considerations for risk managers as they proactively build upon their existing strategy:

 

1. Establish the foundational questions. 

For many, the biggest questions are whether vaccines will be a requirement and, if they are, what type of verification or credentials will be required. To be able to answer these questions effectively, employers should consult with legal and HR experts and leaders and understand the protective actions their vendors/suppliers and customers are taking. The vaccination rollout will affect every business and industry’s business continuity planning differently. It’s critical that the organization’s business continuity management plan be able to respond and flex to meet these requirements -- for instance, whether business continuity requires people to be onsite or interacting with one another and customers versus an all-virtual strategy. Employers will need to make reasonable accommodations to keep their employees safe and mitigate risk.

COVID-19 will change the way companies operate for years. Among the top priorities for companies seeking to reshape their business are the new and accelerated use of technology, redeploying resources, workforce planning and rethinking the future of work, among others. How companies across the globe address new challenges and prepare for the future will be deeply intertwined with their approach to risk and resilience.

 

2. Continue testing and risk mitigation strategies.

Employers should comply with CDC or local health regulations and encourage employees to continue testing, mask-wearing, continuous cleaning, and social distancing, where possible. Effective business continuity management strategies don’t rely too heavily on any one risk mitigation measure, but rather a robust plan that considers various angles and considerations. In a public health crisis involving a highly contagious virus, for instance, employers need to consider not just their employees coming in contact with one another and customers, but also their spouses, children or other members of the household; how they get to and from work; and other aspects of their lives. Employer decision-making should track closely with their local community infection rates.

The most effective organizations will be willing to reprioritize risk and resilience, innovate and explore new solutions. In the insights that follow, we examine how some organizations are responding, recovering and reshaping to emerge stronger and more resilient.

 

3. Determine where your company can be more agile.

The pandemic has altered the way many companies operate, and importantly, the way they approach and implement business continuity strategies. One of the themes that’s emerged in successful business continuity management is agility. As the vaccine rollout continues -- and more data on efficacy and long-term protection emerge -- companies should continue embedding flexibility into their business practices. By incorporating data and analytics and digital technologies such as artificial intelligence and automation into the operation, organizations will be able to build resilience and agility while managing the ongoing vaccination considerations.

 

4. Collaborate for better outcomes.

There’s an opportunity to build a consortium among large organizations to learn from one another and establish a set of best practices and guidelines based on learnings from COVID-19. This collaborative approach proved valuable in the initial COVID-19 response. And because the role of vaccinations in business continuity management is not isolated to one organization—public and private entities should collaborate to build a wider-scoped BCM approach to help organizations and communities build operational resilience.

 

5. Communicate with clarity.

Since the start of the pandemic, employees have looked to their employers for information on their response, safety and risk mitigation measures, and other guidance. Many employers looked to government resources such as the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Public Health Agency of Canada along with experts, local government leadership, and other businesses to develop timely and relevant messaging, bringing in their HR, Legal, and Operations teams to help create consistency. These proactive practices should continue with the vaccine rollout. There are established resources for business and employers from the same groups, such as the CDC, the Public Health Agency of Canada and local councils that can provide more information at the local and regional level. Employees will continue looking to their employer as a trusted source of vetted information, so employers should ensure their communication strategies, channels, and frequency are sound. Doing so will support overall business continuity management not only during this time, but in the future. Further, employers should encourage employees to make decisions based on accurate data and information sources.

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The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has a number of implications for an organization’s business continuity management plan, and that plan will create resiliency in the face of challenges brought by the vaccination rollout. By taking a thoughtful approach to the needs of the business and employees, employers can maintain a robust business continuity plan even in the face of uncertainty.