It seems like a whole lifetime ago that we lived a in relatively worry-free Covid-free world. But, though it’s certainly not the existence we wish to have, the pandemic has taught people and businesses alike to be resilient – not just stable, but resilient. That’s why we at Vizo Financial have spent the last two years shifting from a business continuity focus to a business resiliency focus.
Resiliency is more about successfully adapting to changes to keep your business on track versus continuity, which has a more singular business survival approach. Both are important, but resiliency allows businesses such as credit unions to think ahead and make decisions with longevity. The pandemic has certainly altered the need for resiliency over just continuity and forced credit unions to remove the rose-colored glasses that suggest an incident is just a once-and-done kind of deal. Instead, we now know that an incident can last far longer and be more intrusive than we had ever been akin to experiencing before.
As we continue to adapt and operate in a post-pandemic world, four things have come to light about the process of business resiliency. It’s these things that become the basic building blocks and the foundation for a business resiliency stance that truly ensures what the word encompasses – flexibility and fortitude.
Know Your Vulnerabilities and Strengths
The first step to addressing your vulnerabilities and amplifying your strengths is simple – find out what they are. When the pandemic first forced lockdowns, many workplaces were scrambling to establish remote working conditions – trying to get enough supplies for employees to work from home, put remote technologies and securities in place, etc. This is probably one of the biggest vulnerabilities highlighted by the pandemic, but it has since become a strength for many businesses.
- Many, if not most, employees are now working remotely. At Vizo Financial, we distributed laptops, monitors, etc. to all those who would have remote capabilities. Not only has this allowed us to continue operating throughout the entire pandemic, but it’s also given our employees a better work-life balance.
- We implemented additional security measures to ensure that a remote work environment wouldn’t create hurdles in terms of protecting sensitive information and securing access to systems and servers.
- We have plans in place to adjust to a variety of situations, whether it means operating in a more “normal” work environment or during times of lockdown. In these plans, we’ve established precautionary measures in an attempt to make it business as usual regardless of the situation.
Confront supply chain liabilities.
Ask yourself, what vulnerabilities lie within our supply chains? Are we able to count on vendors to get us the information and materials we need, even during a crisis? Can we still access the goods and equipment necessary to function successfully? If there is any doubt whatsoever, these issues need to be addressed because they could quickly become liabilities that hinder business. We’ve seen supply chains break down over the past two years, and particularly in the last several months. It puts a huge damper on business and service. As credit unions, our services are imperative to members’ financial lives, so our reliance on open and reliable supply chains is critical.
Start by identifying all areas of your supply chain – from technology providers to office supplies – and get to know them better. Spend time gathering a better understanding of the structure of your supplies and how you can work around bottlenecks if they come up. This might mean researching alternatives or analyzing data to determine if any current supplies are actually necessary. Basically, gather as much information as you can and look at the big picture, so you can create mitigations for when times are tough.
Be transparent with your vendors and vice versa.
Nearly every business utilizes outside vendors to conduct and support their processes. What became apparent with the onslaught of the pandemic was the realization that we may not know just how much we rely on our vendors. And, beyond those dependencies for service, are we aware of their preparations for emergency situations and how they could affect us? This building block suggests taking a more open approach to vendor management so that all parties are on the same page.
Why is this so important? While your credit union may be actively practicing business continuity standards, your vendors may not be as prepared, which will create a whole new source of issues. You’re only as good as your team, and your vendors are absolutely part of that team. Be proactive in your vendor relationships by establishing a framework of transparency and like-mindedness from day one. It’s also advisable to conduct risk assessments on your vendors so you can pinpoint their strengths and vulnerabilities, in addition to your own. Once you have those distinguished, you can work together to offset the collective strengths and weaknesses and stay as adaptable as possible in the post-pandemic world (or any sort of crisis situation).
Keep your staff engaged and happy.
“The Great Resignation” is well underway, with many businesses struggling to attract and keep workers. Employees are arguably the most important part of your operations, and especially for credit unions. They are the face of your institution and driver of your operations. If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that employees are our most valuable asset and they need to be treated as such. They have officially come to realize their worth and will move along if they feel their value isn’t being met.
In this new world, virtual work is a deal-breaker. Luckily, where possible, many businesses have already set the stage for an indefinite remote work environment, which, as previously mentioned, also appeals to employees’ desire for a better work-life balance. However, there are other issues that need to be addressed if staffing does become an issue.
- Cross-training should be a priority. Make sure multiple employees are trained to perform certain tasks or work within specific systems. In the case that employees resign or are on some kind of leave, others will be able to take over their duties without hesitation.
- Implement a workplace culture that extends beyond the office. Office-centric thinking is no longer relevant in a post-pandemic world, so your attention to a more personal and intentional form of workplace culture is a necessity. This will keep employees engaged so they will want to stay as part of your organization and fulfill your mission.
- Prepare for the reality of knowledge loss. The Great Resignation is seeing many people who have been in tenured positions retire, as well as high turnover rates. These provide the perfect opportunity for specialized knowledge to be lost in translation as newer employees take over. Establish procedures and have an actionable plan that will keep this knowledge in the right hands so it can be passed from one group of employees to another.
When it comes to building your business resiliency strategy, remember the building blocks. They are the driving force that will ensure adaptability in your plans by keeping those burning questions top of mind. With these four cornerstones as your foundation, your credit union can achieve business resiliency in a post-pandemic world where nothing is certain – except for your ability to change course, if necessary, and remain sustainable, of course.
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.