This week’s bulletin has been written by Simon Freeston, a consultant at PlanB Consulting, who discusses the importance of ensuring your staff are trained appropriately for potential incidents and are looked after during and after an incident.
During Business Continuity Awareness Week, resilience has been talked about in several different forms, from supply chain resilience to cyber resilience. One of the most important, and in my opinion sometimes overlooked, forms of resilience is personal resilience. Personal resilience focuses on an individual’s ability to bounce back from setbacks and persevere in the face of adversity.
Personal resilience is critical in business continuity as it enables individuals to cope with unexpected changes and disruptions. During incident management, personal resilience can be tested for many different people, from business continuity managers and business continuity response staff, to affected staff members, or staff members throughout your organisation.
Some incidents can be extremely fast-paced and become overwhelming for all staff members involved. Therefore, it is important to both prepare staff and improve their personal resilience in the lead-up to an incident, as well as ensure staff welfare is not only monitored, but also championed at all levels of the response.
How to prepare staff before an incident
Personal resilience has also been closely linked to mental health and well-being. There are many ways to prepare your staff before an incident, these include training staff on the importance of personal welfare, and ensuring that strong relationships are built within teams. This could be as simple as promoting staff to actively undertake personal self-care routines or ensuring staff members of any incident response team get to know each other before an incident, to start building those relationships. Another good way to prepare staff before an incident is to undertake more intense incident exercises which closely imitate how a real incident happens. This can be done through command post exercises or simulation-based exercises, which both offer great benefits. Firstly, it increases the confidence of the response staff so when they respond in real-time they are aware of the stress that may be put on them. It also provides these groups with a shared experience which helps to solidify those important relationships between business continuity response staff.
During an incident
The next stage where personal resilience is important is during the incident. As we have discussed earlier, strong personal resilience will allow your staff to quickly adapt to, and manage, the stresses of an incident. However, it is important to understand that this isn’t an unlimited pool of strength. From personal experience in dealing with complex and high-stress incidents, you can easily push yourself too hard, particularly incident managers and response staff feeling like you need to be involved, or want to be pulling your weight during an incident. It is also very easy for operational and tactical staff to become blinkered on the response and lose sight of other important aspects, such as personal welfare.
This is where the Gold Team comes in, ultimately the welfare of both customers affected by the incident, but also the staff involved in the incident response, comes down to the senior manager in charge of the response. The Gold Team should ensure that the response is appropriately staffed and that response staff, including managers, are supported. As a senior manager, the last thing you want is to be one week into an incident with all your trained response staff burnt out and off work with stress, when you could be in a response element for an extended period. It is important for all levels of the organisation to be looking out for each other, ensuring that the different levels of the response are appropriately staffed, but ultimately it is down to the strategic leader to push this, and make sure it is given the appropriate consideration in response planning.
After an incident
Once the incident is over it is important to help staff strengthen their personal resilience, but also provide medium and longer-term support to staff if required. This depends on the nature of the incident and could just involve conducting structured debriefs to ensure that staff can talk about their experiences. In more complex and impactful incidents where there may have been fatalities, this could take the form of a longer-term humanitarian assistance strategy, involving different resources such as trauma councillors and support groups. This phase is as vitally important as the other two as it can both support your organisation’s recovery, but also make your staff feel like they are looked after and supported in the aftermath of an incident.
In conclusion, the promotion of personal resilience within your organisation is key, not only to improve the effectiveness of the response, but also to support the recovery of your organisation from a business continuity incident, by making sure staff are able to persevere and adapt in the face of adversity.