2020 has been an unprecedented year for threats to business continuity. From the COVID-19 pandemic on a global scale to civil unrest and natural disasters at the regional level, businesses across the United States have been subject to the whims of outside forces. There will always be events outside of our control that threaten our business plans. However, planning for business continuity helps us fill gaps before they occur.
One of the keys to maintaining operational continuity in times of uncertainty is a resilient talent strategy. Having the right people in place to execute your organization’s business plan could be the difference between losing ground to the competition or thriving through change. And as HR leaders, it’s up to you to orchestrate talent management plans to support continuity.
“Many organizations believe that business continuity is an operations matter, but more importantly, it’s a talent matter,” says Carla Patton, PHR, co-owner at The Career Salon. “A plan is only good as the people who execute it.”
It’s time to take ownership of your role in preserving operational continuity through times of turmoil and transformation. Here’s how.
Offer Integrated Talent Support
HR can’t serve the business if the department functions in a silo. Since people are the single thread running through every operational point, HR can connect departments through talent support. “As long as HR is not fully aligned with the organization’s values, business outcomes, goals and metrics of success, nothing HR does will make sense,” says Enrique Rubio, founder and CEO of Hacking HR, “because you don't know, at the end of the day, if those things will be aligned with ensuring the success, sustainability and profitability of the organization.”
To integrate and align across the business, HR leaders must build relationships with peers across the organization to support hiring, pipelines, succession planning and more in each department. “If you have gaps in talent, you will struggle with a plan of continuity because the business will be preoccupied with building an ad hoc talent strategy on the fly,” Patton says. HR is pivotal in hiring, reskilling and training talent to fill potential gaps before they appear. Fostering relationships allows you to support resiliency at every point in the organization, which, in turn, supports business continuity in the face of change.
Demonstrate Entrepreneurial Initiative
Once you’ve established connections across the organization, demonstrate initiative in continuity planning. Don’t wait to be invited to the leadership table: Get out there and show your value. “Business leaders need to know that human resources has the foresight to plan and anticipate needs, and prepare processes and procedures for the continuity of work and the safeguarding of the people they support,” Patton says.
Embrace an entrepreneurial mindset and approach continuity planning across departments as though you’re proving your value to a potential client. Demonstrating this mindset means taking ownership of the unique value and expertise you bring to bear when integrating technology with human processes. Be assertive — the life of the business might depend on it. If you see impending gaps in talent that could affect operations, don’t wait for the manager or department head to approach you; bring solutions to them.
Develop Tools to Evaluate Shifting Needs
Work isn’t returning to the way it was before COVID-19, and preserving business continuity depends on embracing this new reality. “There’s a high level of pressure for HR to be able to iterate and change quickly,” Rubio says. “HR has to be prepared to let go of things that worked in the past but may not work anymore.” It’s incumbent on HR to stay on top of people processes across the organization and facilitate change where necessary.
Talent management will be particularly subject to change in the coming months as companies continue adapting to long-term remote work. HR plays a pivotal role in helping all departments adapt to shifting priorities. Agility is critical, as a process that worked last week may not work next week.
Find ways to develop or adapt effective people processes, no matter what economic situation you’re responding to, and share your expertise with your peers across the business.