The NZ Herald asked Zac to contribute to an article on what businesses should do to prepare for the effects of coronavirus — below is the article in full, or you can read it on the website HERE
Don’t panic but get cracking on a coronavirus plan: expert advice for businesses big and small
By Andrea Fox
Experts say the basic rules for preparing your business for a coronavirus hit are much the same for a small workplace or a corporate juggernaut — have a clear crisis plan and communicate, communicate, communicate.
The Institute of Directors is encouraging boards to ensure their organisations have crisis response plans in place, while business services firm Deloitte says with cases now confirmed in New Zealand, businesses should be talking to their staff and planning for staff sickness and how to support them.
“Business continuity plans and supply management are not just issues for multi-nationals or large companies,” said Delottie strategic risk and reputation partner Jane Fraser-Jones.
“Smaller businesses can still conduct a risk assessment to understand where issues might lie in terms of employees and contractors, seasonal or overseas staff and the goods and services they rely on. Agencies like MBIE, MPI and NZTE are providing the latest information – often updated daily – to help small businesses manage as the Covid-19 situation evolves.”
All advisors to business approached by the Herald said close communication — with staff, customers and suppliers, and between directors and senior management — was a priority.
Deloitte’s Fraser-Jones said while following the Government’s public health advice was the first step for businesses, they should be actively monitoring the situation and providing clear advice to employees, outlining the support they’ll provide and their expectations of staff.
“That internal communication is important so that everyone in an organisation is on the same page. It’s also equally vital that customers and suppliers are communicated with.
“If there’s a problem, or a delay, be transparent. Organisations need to manage relationships closely in times like these because in fast-moving situations, it’s easy for rumour and speculation to fill the vacuum if there is no proactive communication.”
Institute of Directors chief executive Kirsten Patterson recommended boards take the time now to clearly define crisis-reponse roles for directors and management.
“In any evolving situation and where you need to be responsive, clarity of roles is vital.”
Patterson said boards should also make clear their expectations on reporting during a crisis and how regularly they needed updates.
“The Covid-19 situation is rapidly evolving and boards need to understand how their organisation is being affected….
“Panic is not helpful but clear and direct communication is essential. Boards should seek to understand the approach the organisation is taking to its communications and ensure that the organisation is striking the right balance,” she said.
The aim was to ensure stakeholders were kept informed about any important impacts.
Business growth and profit specialist Zac de Silva of Business Changing urged effective internal communication and education at this time.
“Who knows what information your team has taken in around looking after their health?”
He suggested business leaders inform and educate to reduce the likelihood of people catching bugs.
“Make sure there’s hand soap in the kitchens and bathrooms. Open windows for fresh air.”
Institute of Directors chief executive Kirsten Patterson said boards need to understand how their organisation is being affected by coronavirus. Photo / Supplied
De Silva recommended all businesses now create a proactive risk management plan specifically for Covid-19 and the impact it might have on them.
He also suggested preparing for staff to work remotely and getting an “irreplaceable” or “major cog” in the business whose skills were vital for its operation to train and mentor another team member now.
“If they end up being off work, someone else in the business can do what they do. This is good business practice anyway — having people like this in the business leaves you vulnerable if they decide at leave at short notice, especially if it’s on bad terms.
“The same goes for the teams in your business — make a plan that if a whole team goes down sick, another team can cover…”
Human resources advisor to medium-sized businesses, Alan Pettersen, director of Positive People, also recommended having a plan and close communication with employees at this time.
Medium businesses often don’t have a health and safety manager, so a key step would be to appoint one person as a co-ordinator now, so staff have a central contact point, Pettersen said.
He said looking after employees during sickness should be priority for an employer.
“We all know that if you look after your team they look after your organisation.”
Pettersen also suggested that if the coronavirus issue developed, company leaders “brainstormed” with their staff on how to reduce illness risk at work.
The IoD’s Patterson said the organisation’s director sentiment survey last year showed 65 per cent of boards had discussed crisis management plans in the past 12 months.
“This is a good number but we need all boards to be prioritising their organisation’s crisis response needs,” she said.
“Board leadership is vital — both in preparing for unexpected crisis and supporting management during a response to a crisis. From management teams to all levels of employees — the way a board anticipates and takes care of their people is even more important when a crisis strikes. This is part of directors’ health and safety obligation.”
Patterson said if boards hadn’t already done so, it was best practice to evaluate and anticipate the potential financial and operational impacts that a global health crisis such as Covid-19 could have on their organisation.
“This is important not only for the present situation but also looking out to the future.
“It is important not to under-estimate the role of uncertainty and stress on your organisations and to think broadly about how to implement mitigations that will help your organisation remain resilient. Any action should be based on reliable and official sources.”
The Institute of Management and Leadership said it was not advising members to make any changes to their business processes at this stage.
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