“It’s time for Final Jeopardy!”
“We’re ready for the Showcase Showdown!”
Don’t these lines bring back memories from some of our favorite game shows? Chances are, you read those renowned statements from Family Feud, Jeopardy! and The Price is Right, and automatically knew the context because we are so familiar with all these nostalgia-evoking game shows. But there’s a new game in town, and it’s inherently more difficult than any other we’ve ever come across – The Post-Pandemic Game.
No, it’s not a real game show, doesn’t have a perfectly groomed and entertaining host and doesn’t boast any signature skinny microphones a la Bob Barker. But it is somewhat of a hybrid between a quiz show and a puzzle show. When thinking about getting your credit union back into a routine and enacting some “normalcy” – whatever that may look like following this massively disruptive global crisis – there are certainly some questions you need to be prepared to answer to piece together a plan that works for your institution.
- Since you enacted your initial pandemic plans, have you spoken with your staff to find out what was done well and not so well, and what could have been done better? Your staff are the ones who feel the effects of your institution’s response the most. They are the ones working directly with members in some capacity, as well as adhering to and enforcing your new COVID-induced policies. And in those roles, they may have some very valuable feedback to offer decision-makers. Ask if by-appointment and drive-thru only interactions have been sufficient to meet members’ needs. Ask if you’ve provided enough resources to make them feel safe at work or to properly conduct their job duties from home. Ask if there are improvements that could be made to current processes for increased member satisfaction. Then take the answers you receive and update your pandemic plan/BCP plans accordingly.
- If there is another wave, are you prepared to handle it? What have you put in place to prepare? Although information is constantly changing, it’s been discussed at length that there will likely be a second wave of Coronavirus cases happening later this year. As much as we hope that’s not true, the saying “better safe than sorry” comes to mind. The answer to this question may lie in what you learn from the one above – what have you already done that works, doesn’t work, etc.? Learn from these answers and come up with a game plan if/when the second wave strikes. Be one step ahead so you don’t get caught off guard, as we all were to an extent when the first wave came crashing through.
- What changes are you planning to implement when you begin to further open your credit union to protect the staff and membership? Obviously, (most) businesses are strictly abiding by CDC guidelines as far as performing more frequent cleaning and sanitizing of surfaces, putting up plexiglass barriers between the teller and the member, taking temperatures when entering the building, limiting the number of people in an area at one time and requiring personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves. Determine if these measures, or additional ones you deem necessary, will be enacted as you reopen branches and begin accepting more in-person interactions.
- What will you do if someone on your staff tests positive after returning to the office? While the curve may have started to flatten, new cases are still popping up. You may have likely already discussed this question, as some essential staff have been needed in the office/branches for certain job tasks throughout the crisis. Do you have a requirement that anyone who tests positive must self-quarantine for the recommended 14-day period? Do you know who they were around or came in contact with, so that you can notify them of potential exposure? How will you deal with the branch closure while sanitizing? If a staff member can’t be in the office, do you have workarounds or other staff to back them up and complete those tasks? Create policies that list specific steps for what to do if an employee tests positive. Having these contingency plans/policies is a necessary part of working through a pandemic so that your credit union can stay open and operate as normal.
- Do you have provisions/plans in place for employees who are unable to come to work because there is no daycare available? So much has changed as a result of the pandemic, including the availability of childcare. Before the crisis started, we may not have realized how crucial childcare is to staff who have children. With widespread school and daycare closures over the last few months, many people are also playing the role of teacher, supervisor and entertainer, as well as credit union employee. With that in mind, your institution should have some ideas or concessions for those who are unable to physically come to work. For example, providing the ability and resources needed for remote work might be helpful for staff who no longer have access to childcare.
- How will you control the number of people in your branches? How will you enforce social distancing requirements? For many credit unions, drive-thru access and appointments have curbed the amount of people in a branch at a time. With many businesses reopening and shelter-at-home orders being lifted, however, it’s likely that more people will be coming in to your credit union to perform face-to-face transactions. You might find it useful to continue in-person interactions by appointment only. You could also take a page from retail and grocery stores by having an employee keep track of the number of people that come in, marking the floors with six-foot wide standing room and adding barriers to your teller stations. Whichever avenues you pursue, keep in mind that social distancing guidelines are meant to protect the health and wellness of everyone, even if the things we need to do to enforce them aren’t particularly appealing.
Here’s the thing about playing The Post-Pandemic Game…there are no right or wrong answers. What you decide is best for your credit union and your members and meets the standards you have set, will be fine, but try to base those decisions on these questions and guidance from the CDC, OSHA and your state department of health. There’s no weakest link here, and there are definitely lifelines available to you (just phone a friend at Vizo Financial, for example).
The important thing to remember is that this actually isn’t a game – it’s serious business. Planning for a post-pandemic world is no easy task, no matter how experienced and responsive your team is, because you just don’t know what situation is going to arise behind door number two. The best way to come up with a plan for moving your credit union forward is to ask the hard-hitting questions like the ones above. If you do, you’ll be prepared to handle the ups and downs that are sure to follow this odd and complicated time.
Always keep in mind, there is no true “final answer.” The trick to this post-pandemic “game” is flexibility. The only rules to abide by are these: take precautions, revisit these questions as new scenarios unfold and do the best you can in the interests of your employees, your credit union and your members.
Mark Clarke works as the business continuity administrator for Vizo Financial Corporate Credit Union. In this role, Mr. Clarke supports the performance of business continuity planning, business impact analysis and business continuity training for the Corporate and the credit union industry. Mr. Clarke also delivers tailored consulting services for credit unions, assisting them with their specific business continuity needs.