Corporate Crisis Preparedness: Critical Focus Areas

February 28, 2020 | Activate Learning, Reskill Your Workforce | 4 min read

A recent study by PwC found that when it comes to crisis management, nearly 7 in 10 (69%) leaders have experienced at least one corporate crisis in the last five years. Chances are you too will face a crisis, but you don’t have to go it alone. A proactive approach to crisis management can ensure that everyone understands their role and is ready to respond.

You may ask yourself, what is a corporate crisis in this instance? The study defined a crisis as a disruption in normal business operations triggered by significant internal and/or external factors that have the potential for reputational harm or damage.

Even with high profile events such as active shooter, environmental disaster, pandemic and cybercrime making the headlines, crisis management continues to be an overlooked area of planning for businesses. Contingency planning for crises can make a big difference. In fact, according to the report, companies that take steps to prepare for a crisis fare considerably better post-crisis than those who do not.

The impact of a crisis can be grave. It can affect the financial stability of a business, its business relationships, reputation and workforce morale. The worst crises affect jobs, the economy and people’s lives.

So how can an organization be prepared? The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has been publishing the standard on continuity, emergency and crisis management, known as the NFPA 1600, since 1995. It’s a universal standard that can be used to prepare and protect their people, property and businesses. FEMA, the International Association of Emergency Managers, and the National Emergency Managers Association all endorse NFPA 1600. These organizations work with the NFPA to develop and update the standard, which is widely used by public, non-profit, non-governmental and private entities on a local, regional, national, international and global basis. NFPA 1600 continues to evolve as a vital standard for the development, implementation, assessment and maintenance of crisis management and continuity of operations programs.

Preparedness has two large components with the first being a plan. A crisis management plan helps to establish the steps for dealing with a crisis: how the organization conducts a situational awareness exercise and exactly how it would respond should it face a crisis. It identifies a process for declaring a crisis and who’s responsible for managing it. It outlines how the organization handles communications, both internal and external, to ensure the proper handling of employees, stakeholders, media and the community. And, depending on the size and scope of the entity, it may outline details of what you need to do for each location.

The second part of preparedness involves proper training for employees. While employees may not have a direct hand in the management of a crisis, it is important to establish an understanding across the workforce of what employees should expect in the face of a declared crisis.

Even disaster response teams like the American Red Cross use training programs to provide employees and volunteers with an understanding of how to deal with different scenarios. “Our goal is to ensure that everyone at American Red Cross knows what to do when a disaster happens,” said Sheila O’Connor, Disaster Action Team Supervisor for American Red Cross. “Online training helps the American Red Cross team respond consistently, regardless of location when a disaster occurs. All of our responders are certified using online training that includes real-life examples.”

Of course, each crisis is unique, and each organization has differing crisis management needs. For example, a software company and a chemical company would have very different needs around crisis management. This makes it important for each business to evaluate their risk and understand what types of crises employees could be exposed to and build an appropriate training curriculum.

An important foundation for employee training includes providing them with a comprehensive understanding of what the organization considers a crisis, who to go to for questions, what’s expected of them, and what to expect from the organization in terms of communication and when. For some industries and types of crises, training around personal protective equipment or cleanup are a must. Preparing managers to manage in a crisis, including how to manage difficult conversations and crisis communications are also critical.

A corporate crisis is impossible to predict, and the best line of defense is a good offense of planning, preparation and training for your workforce. Learn more about Skillsoft’s business continuity, crisis and emergency management training by requesting a demo today.

Read course descriptions of some of the most popular courses on corporate crisis preparedness: