Skip to content
17 March 2023
Read time
4 minute read

What to do when business continuity plans fail

Hong Kong street view
There is no rule book for situations like the global pandemic, and even the best-prepared firms must think on their feet. However, there are steps businesses can take to help plan for, and navigate, these types of unexpected disruption.

Fail to plan, plan to fail. The old adage is certainly sage advice, but even the best laid Business Continuity Plans (BCP) are likely to be found lacking in the face of the huge disruption and uncertainty caused by global events on the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Even the worst anticipated scenarios – such as war, cybercrimes or natural disasters – have historically been more localised, without the global impact on people, processes and systems that these crises are causing.

As a result, businesses across the globe are having to rethink their strategies fast. The question therefore is how can businesses ensure effective, efficient and agile responses during this crisis?

Putting people first

Employees must be the priority for every business. Measures to protect and support them must be put in place if they are not already in the plan. The crisis will likely affect large numbers of staff in a variety of ways, so consider the mitigating actions that can be taken now to carry the company through to the longer term.

When it comes to operating global payroll, tracking local legislation is key to ensuring the business is operating within local rules and regulations. Things are evolving by the day so it’s important to keep on top of, and be responsive to, the changing landscape. With so many people still mainly working from home, managers need to consider different techniques to keep their teams and support staff through difficult personal situations, with social distancing and potential sickness in their families or even housed in temporary shelters.

Communication with employees is vital. Creating a transparent atmosphere in which staff feel comfortable giving leaders an honest picture of their individual situations, professional and personal, will be key to navigating the best course forward. Equally, leaders must be clear, upfront and reassuring with employees— keeping teams connected and pulling in the same direction.

Building resilience

It is crucial to take stock and identify problem areas if a BCP is not working. In crisis mode, blind spots can appear, and it can be easy to focus on problems that are simple to fix but less pressing. Creating a cross-functional committee, with people from different parts of the business, will help curate a variety of input and ideas when looking for solutions to problems.

In a global context, head offices need to collect information from the localities to understand and track what is happening on the ground. Central policymaking in areas such as global payroll can help inform standards and create a single, company approach to avoid duplication or cross-working. However, local differences need to be considered and regional innovations fed back in a process of continuous improvement and knowledge sharing.

Flexibility will create resilience. This is true for staffing plans. Ensuring there is a wide base of knowledge and no information silos is imperative since there could be problems if people must take time off. Flexibility with technological access is also essential, for example scaling up infrastructure to accommodate a higher proportion of staff remotely logging into servers.

Companies may be particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks at this time since there will be those seeking to take advantage of the chaos of the situation. Phishing attempts and social engineering scams are reportedly on the rise.

Thinking ahead of the curve

Once firms have ensured that their essential processes can function normally, it’s important to think ahead of the curve.

Identify the minimum viable service level and make sure backup is available to keep these critical operations running amid any further turbulence. With global supply chains under threat, businesses need to create plans to work around any potential disruption.

The work environment must be considered too. Where and how people do their jobs has changed, and managers may need additional training in how to lead their reports remotely. Think ahead about the ways people will be able to keep in touch – how can marketing and sales teams best generate and nurture leads using a new blend of online and in-person interactions?

Economically the impacts of the current crises are likely to drag on long after they come to an end. Companies must retain additional liquidity and have a keen eye on cashflow maintenance. Where necessary, they should have early conversations with creditors and ensure that negotiating breaks from debt is done from a position of transparency before payments start being missed.

As governments roll back emergency business support measures – such as allowing delayed filings and a hiatus on corporate tax – it is vital for businesses to keep on top of their obligations.

Some industries will undoubtedly be worse affected in the short- and medium-term, and the degree to which individual companies suffer will depend on multiple factors, including how much cash they have in the bank and how agile their working processes are.

The organisations that will endure are those that adapt and pivot their business, continuity planning strategies as crisis situations evolve. If you need help in understanding how to mitigate risks of non-compliance in your payroll processing, whether your business has a single employee or thousands around the world, visit our global payroll services page. Maybe we can help. 

Global payroll guide

Browse our global payroll resources and read our latest insights into the changing international payroll climate.

Explore Topic
Guide to successful payroll outsourcing

Check out our payroll outsourcing resources and read the latest insights into global payroll outsourcing best practice.

Explore Topic