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Crisis Management Guidance

Expert advice for organizations and employers

Recommendations for your company in a pandemic

For companies and employers, the pandemic poses an extreme challenge. Officially imposed restrictions on the movement of people and goods and the consequences thereof are beyond the control of individual companies. The health of employees, their families, customers and partners can only be influenced to the extent that they are within the company's radius of action. In the midst of a pandemic, companies must cope with external influences in an appropriate manner.

It is important to remain calm and avoid making decisions reflexively or from the gut. In a stressful situation, however, people naturally react less strategically and find it difficult to assess the complexity of the situation. An in-depth white paper on this topic is available here for those interested (Hurry Up and Slow Down: The Executive Dilemma). In the following sections, DEKRA provides helpful tips and recommendations on how you as a company and employer can better master the current situation.

3 Phases of Crisis Management - Evaluate, Act, Communicate

Before defining your goals and deciding on appropriate courses of action, a company must first assess both its current situation and probable near future developments. The company’s industry and function must be kept in mind here. Companies serving the public interest, i.e. health, safety, utility supply and waste disposal, transport, etc., are expected to maintain continuous service with adjustments where necessary. Companies that provide daily necessities such as grocery stores, bakeries, butchers, etc., are expected to be available at a reasonable distance and at reasonable times. In contrast, requirements for other companies are determined more by customer demand.

Companies must first make decisions about which services they must, can and want to maintain and at what level of security and quality. Are there any processes that are not absolutely necessary in the short term for the fulfilment of services? These vary from company to company, but might include negotiations, sales and marketing activities, projects, innovations, etc. In the end, each company must make its own assessment and decisions. Put the goal in writing, as this will help in the decision-making process.

Determine which measures are necessary to achieve the goals that have been set and determine how the measures will be implemented, who will implement them, and by what means.

In situations such as the current one, it is particularly important that a risk assessment be prepared or updated before activities are started or continued. Risk assessments help identify risks for employees and other groups and determine suitable protective measures. Protective measures must be in force before activities start or continue. In a pandemic, protective measures against infection and spread are of course particularly important, but the "classic" risks to safety and health must not be neglected either. A reduced level of protection for employees must not be allowed even in crises (the exception being temporary changes prescribed by the authorities).

Good action planning includes thinking about the concrete effects the courses of action might have and how to measure or at least assess their effectiveness objectively. For each initiative, it is helpful to document what effects are expected and how efficacy will be measured.

Employee commitment, willingness and qualifications are crucial to maintaining safe operations in a crisis. Employers should take into account their employees’ needs, fears and obligations and should actively involve staff in decisions and processes. If, for example, employees have to look after children temporarily during working hours, this should be taken into account during process planning. Other employee needs and requirements must also continue to be considered during the crisis. If employers and managers lead in an authentic, fair, respectful and prudent manner and actively involve their employees, the proven result is increased staff motivation and commitment. More detailed information on this topic is available in the following white paper: Is Worker Engagement a Mistake?

Engage in an active exchange with your employees, who may make suggestions and offer solutions from which you can benefit. In addition to specialist departments and line functions, other units and divisions can also provide valuable support. Social partners/works councils have a special role to play in a crisis as well and can, among other things, help ensure a fair and healthy balance between the company's interests and those of its employees.

In consultation with customers, companies can clearly identify which services are required and set priorities. It makes sense to identify in advance possible business interruptions or restrictions that customers may experience so that one's own planning can be adjusted. As customers first plan and implement their own measures for weathering the crisis, they may not initially be available for joint planning. A proactive approach can win valuable time here.

It is important to inform and involve your own suppliers and partners at an early stage regarding any restrictions on your side and which services you require from them. If, for example, facilities are to remain in operation during a pandemic, adjustments to the cleaning schedule should be agreed with the cleaning service provider, if necessary. In this case, the service provider needs lead time to carry out its own assessment of the safety and health of its employees and, if necessary, adapt processes and equipment.

Before starting implementation, it is essential to consider not only "what" is to be implemented, but also „how," "by whom" and "when." Discuss and explain the new measures with those involved and make sure that they have understood the task and have the appropriate qualifications, processes, technology, equipment, materials, etc. to meet expectations. Communication is an important feature of implementation, since the measures taken can lead to unforeseen consequences. Document the measures, including those relating to health and safety, so that you can carry out an evaluation after the crisis and better understand which adjustments are necessary.

This means assessing how well the measures you put in place to reach your goals are performing. If, for example, protective dividers between employees and customers have been installed, there must be a mechanism in place to check their efficacy post-implementation. A good place to start is asking the employees concerned directly for feedback. If objective measurements are possible and useful, however, they should always take precedence over subjective assessments. Document the results of efficacy assessments and initiate improvements if you cannot confirm the effectiveness of the original measures.

Your employees will appreciate open, transparent and straightforward communication. Communicate the steps described above: what the goal is, what courses of action have been decided on and how, which protective and quality assurance measures have been adapted, how effectiveness is being measured and how customers and suppliers have been involved.

Customers will also need information about your services and, if necessary, adaptations, and will usually require relevant information regarding the safety and quality assurance of products and services.

Keeping suppliers informed allows them to adapt to changing requirements at an early stage and in return, they will advise your company about any developments that need to be taken into account.

Even in crisis situations, it is advisable to set aside time to obtain feedback, especially from employees and customers, on the direction and approach of your own activities. Feedback to suppliers will also have a positive effect on the services received from them.

Social Distancing at the workplace

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Crisis Management Recommendations

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