I think it's fair to say that last year, most HR teams weren't nearly as involved in their organization's business continuity plans as they are now. COVID-19 really brought to light how important it is to keep HR and payroll processes running during a crisis, and many of us had to learn on the fly to make that happen.

So now that we're returning to offices and getting back to more standard operations, what have we learned? How does HR take the business continuity planning and management knowledge gained and apply it more generally to be ready for the future?

Let's explore three key business continuity takeaways that we can carry forward with us as we rebuild and reopen.

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1. Understanding impacts based on roles and responsibilities

One thing that's become clear very quickly is how important matching our business continuity plans to the people performing the various business functions that make up our organizations is. Different roles will need to take different steps when a crisis occurs, and HR needs to understand how best to support everyone in ways that fit their expectations.

As we've worked through what makes sense in this area, several key focal points have emerged:

  • Remote vs. in-person processes: Strong business continuity plans have clear guidance around which employees are essential or need to be in-person to do their jobs. But it doesn't stop there. Once you define those groups, you need to dig into what specific needs they have to make your plans fit. For example, in-person team members need clear workplace safety standards and options for staying productive and engaged while remote employees will prioritize clear, frequent communication, development opportunities, and schedule flexibility. There are also some areas like psychological safety that will be important across the board.
  • Mobile access: Delivering critical HR and business continuity information anytime, anywhere on any device has become a major priority. Having this option not only ensures constant communication in emergency situations, but also helps protect and engage your people through clock-in options that minimize exposure to others, easy access to pay, a continuous connection to employee assistance resources, and other similar benefits.
  • Upskilling and reskilling: This is something many companies think of as a perk, but it also makes a big difference when it comes to having contingency plans for business functions in a disaster or emergency. Knowing which of your employees have transferable skills or interest in other areas of the business beyond their own day-to-day ensures you can reshuffle responsibilities and recover in times of uncertainty.

2. Recognizing the importance of payroll processes

As we've started coming out the other side of COVID-19, two trends have become apparent — people have shifted what they value about their jobs toward practical, tangible benefits and the amount of financial stress has increased due to the strain on the economy. What all this means is you need to make sure your payroll processes are rock solid.

Payroll is one of the areas marked as critical in any disaster recovery strategy because of the effect it has on employee wellbeing and safety. That's why HR needs to be in lockstep with payroll when it comes to business continuity and ensure that paychecks keep getting delivered through emergencies.

Below are some of the things we've learned about how pay and business continuity connect:

  • Easy access to direct deposit gives your people the power to quickly deliver their paychecks to the right accounts from any device, helping them keep their financial stability even in times of crisis.
  • Same-day pay and pay card options give the flexibility to tackle unexpected costs more easily and provide alternatives for employees who may not have access to traditional bank accounts.
  • Electronic pay statement access anytime, anywhere increases employee psychological safety and helps reduce burnout by letting your people confirm they're being paid correctly and access any tax documents needed for financial records or large purchases.

3. Aligning HR's needs with business processes

When building a business continuity plan, it's also important not to forget about HR's own needs and how they fit into the wider business strategy. As HR has gotten more involved in business continuity discussions, it's generated a great opportunity to realign strategically with the wider organization and improve processes.

There are several key areas where HR can weave larger strategic goals in with business continuity efforts:

  • Compliance: The importance of automating regulatory compliance was showcased through all the legislation around COVID-19 over the past year. Having an HR system that can follow the right rules in areas like leave, accruals, attestation, compensation, and even disaster relief is a huge advantage that frees up HR to focus more on strategy.
  • Process improvement: When you get more automation around things like compliance, it opens the door for HR to learn from the experience of crisis management and business continuity planning to make strategic adjustments to broader HR processes. There are a ton of possibilities here, but some ideas include streamlining asset management, deepening your tracking of employee milestones, and forecasting scheduling needs. All of these positively impact both business continuity and wider organizational needs.
  • Employee wellbeing: Of course what matters to HR most at the end of the day is supporting your people in the best way possible. In addition to all the payroll processes we talked about earlier, business continuity planning lets you take a deeper look at how you identify employees who are likely fatigued or flight risks through people analytics, expanding absence policies to include things like mental health days or days off to support family members, and setting up easy-access hubs for employee resources.

Conclusion: Business continuity isn't just about operational efficiency

Out of everything HR has learned about business continuity over the past year, the biggest takeaway is that it has a human side. There are many steps HR can take as part of the process that both ensure safety and support employees not just during the crisis at hand, but sustainably in the long term.

If you need more options for making your business continuity processes stick, feel free to check out our playbook for HR technology in times of crisis. It's full of practical ideas for you.

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Published: Wednesday, July 7, 2021